Reproduced from Spirito di Vino Asia, Year 3, Issue #13...
Few wine lovers would deny that Germany is the source of some of the best (if not the best) Rieslings in the world. Could it be possible that is also makes some of the most beautiful Pinot Noirs as well?
The Baden’s sub-region of Kaiserstuhl, in the South-West of Germany, a stone-throw away from Alsace across the river Rhine is a little bit difficult to access. But what a reward it offers once there. Not only from its stupendously elegant wines, but also from the sheer beauty of its terraced vineyards gracing the landscape of this very ancient volcano.
Among its most beautiful gems lie the vineyards of Ihringer Winglerberg and Achkarrer Schlossberg, both considered the warmest locations in Germany. With steep hills, southerly exposure, and constant wind coming over from the Vosges Mountains across in France, it ripens outstanding fruits year in and year out and produce beautifully elegant and delicate wines.
One producer in particular, Weingut Dr Heger, is the custodian of the best sites in each of them. It is not surprising therefore, that its wines are highly praised across the land and today considered Germany’s best-kept secrets.
On a visit there last autumn, Spirito di Vino Asia had a rare opportunity to spend a day with Joachim Heger, grandson of the founder and one of todays most acclaimed winemaker of Germany. As we walked his old vineyard of Hausleboden on the Winklerberg site, he spoke proudly and tenderly of its special features. Directly on the rim of the high plateau, its old vines were planted over 50 years ago from cuttings obtained from Clos de Vougeot in Burgundy, they are grown organically and naturally produce extremely low yield of extreme concentration. The weathered bedrock on which it lies is also an important component of this site as he believes is what gives its wines their “tangible mineral character and unique expression”. Across a small valley lies the famous site of Achkarrer Schlossberg in a small sheltered “hook” of the valley. There he says, “the very old vines planted on the extremely steep slopes of volcanic rocks, crystal, and vein of chalk make the wines powerful and mineral at the same time”.
We tasted the whole range of wines Dr Heger produces in a session carefully prepared for us by the vivacious and passionate Ms. Beate Klingenmeier, herself an important personality in Germany’s wine industry for having founded Vinissima, an association of professional women of the German’s wine industry.
However, it was the Pinot Noirs that especially caught our attention. The Mimus, its most important red, is especially close of the heart of Joachim Heger. When he took over the estate in 1992, he dedicated this wine to his father who died in 2004. “Mimus” was the nickname of Wolfang Heger who “took the estate to the pinnacle of the German wine producing elite” as he told me over dinner. It is made from the very best fruits of the Ihringer Winklerberg site and it is “declassified” so that it can be made with the most flexibility possible in order to make a wine of specific expression. The 2011 Mimus was especially elegant with a stunning intensity. It displayed delicate red fruits and spices with a silky and tender texture. Light, yet vibrant and dense all at once, this wine has a long potential ahead. Its finish was wonderfully vibrant with lovely peppermint spices (91 pts).
Compared to the 2011 which was wonderfully elegant in its youthfulness with lovely aromas and texture (91 pts), the 2012 Ihringer Winklerberg Spätburgunder VDP GG was stunning in its power. Described a “long distance runner” by Heger, here was a wine that was particularily noteworthy for this taster in our flight of 25 wines. Surprisingly pale for a wine of such density and intensity. Deep aromas of raspberries, blackberries, violets and peppermint. Its texture was velvety and vibrant with a long palate, never wanting to let go. A dense finish all in intensity and grace. Surely a keeper for many years to come. Absolutely beautiful. (96 pts).
Only 5 barrels of the the Achkarrer Schlossberg Spätburgunder VDP GG in 2011 and was named the best German Pinot Noir by the National newspaper Algemeier last year. Here was a wine of restrained complexity displaying deep and beautiful notes of cherries and spices. Extremely fresh and silky with a amazingly intense finish everlasting in perfume and in spirit. Another beautiful wine to keep for much much rewards in the years to come (95 pts). Only 3 barrels of the 2012 of the same wine was made and displayed very much in the same personality except that here, density of fruit complemented this wine and promised an even longer future ahead. A keeper for sure (96 pts)
The Irhinger Winkleberg Spätburgunder Häusleboden 2011 showed delicate and complex notes of red fruits, spices, and mint. The nose was fresh and vibrant. With a silky and dense texture, its finish was long, intense and elegant with notes of exotic spices. Worldclass all the way. (94 pts)