Subscriber login Close [x]
remember me
You are not logged in.

Wine expert urges UK to avoid comparing German Pinot Noir with counterparts

Published:  03 May, 2018

A German wine expert has urged the UK wine industry not to compare Pinot Noir from Germany with rival counterpart production of the grape variety in regions such as Burgundy.

“Let’s not compare German Pinot Noir with Pinot Noir made in Burgundy or Oregon,” said Jürgen Hammer, German wine expert and sommelier based in Berlin.

“I want to make it clear that climate differences and soils play a huge role - it’s not possible to make a German Pinot Noir wine taste like a Burgundy one,” he told Harpers after delivering a masterclass earlier this week at the annual Wines of Germany tasting held in London’s Soho.

A debate was now raging in Germany over the use of oak in the production of Pinot Noir, Hammer told Harpers after delivering a masterclass earlier this week at the annual Wines of Germany tasting held in London’s Soho.

Numerous young winemakers from Germany seeking representation at the tasting showcased a variety of production techniques, including the use of stainless steel and barrel ageing for Pinot Noir.

Producer Christopher Kohr from the Pfalz region said he ages his Pinot Noir in barrels for two and a half years to “soften tannins” as well as using bâtonnage to extract aromas, providing a creaminess to the wine.

But Hammer, who appeared to favour simpler production of Pinot Noir, said the use of bâtonnage in German Pinot Noir wines was making them “fat” as opposed to light and fresh.

Although many wines showed subtle use of oak in wine production, there were several Pinot Noirs which showed an excessive prominence of oak; a view supported by Damon Quinlan, owner of distributor Swig, who distributes elegant Pinot Noirs made by Johannes Schneider.

Hammer’s comments come amid a surge in popularity of German Pinot Noir, which has developed into a competitive alternative to increasingly expensive Pinot Noir from Burgundy.

Highlighting the growth in demand for German wine in Britain, distributor Howard Ripley told Harpers at its portfolio tasting in London on Monday, that it had added about 40 wines this year from nine producers in Germany – the world’s third biggest producer of Pinot Noir with about 12,000 ha of plantings of the variety.

Hammer, who wished to stress elegance of German Pinot Noir wines, said the quality of Pinot Noir production had evolved since the 1990s thanks to winemaking techniques and global warming.

German wines are expected to account for a 1.5% market share of the off-trade by mid-2019, Nicky Forrest, director of Wines of Germany, told Harpers.

The figure would be representative of the weight of German wine production overall, she said, adding lower end wines from Germany were now “dwindling away.”

"We are now left with top quality wines from Germany.”

Forrest laid emphasis on the prospect for German wines in the independent wine merchants.

“Many in the independent sector, don’t have the right line-up and they are now looking for new German wines,” she said.

Meanwhile, Kate Dowdeswell, senior national account manager at Awin Barratt Siegel, said that in the on-trade, top sommeliers were now pushing the German wine category to provide greater visibility to first class German wines now available in Britain.