Pinot Noir With an Umlaut

German pinot noirs, rarely leave Germany. foto: NYT
German pinot noirs, rarely leave Germany. foto: NYT

By by Eric Asimov
Published: January 11, 2010
TODAY’S word, people, is spätburgunder. Let’s say it slowly: SHPAYT-bur-GUHN-der. That’s German for pinot noir, and the time has come to say it out loud.

Trouble is, in the United States at least, hardly anybody has tasted it, much less heard of it. Most people don’t even realize that Germany produces any red wine at all, let alone some very good pinot noir. Few wine shops carry a selection of spätburgunders, and even those in on the secret may have only one or two bottles at a time. A strong restaurant culture provides a natural setting for showing off a nation’s wine, but German restaurants in the United States have gone the way of the Victrola, beyond a few beer-oriented rathskellers and old-fashioned oompah joints.

Of course, the Germanic names and nomenclature work against the wines in the usual way.

So I had good reason to be excited last month when two of Germany’s best pinot noir producers, Klaus-Peter Keller of Weingut Keller and Caroline Diel of Schlossgut Diel, came to New York with 19 different spätburgunders from the 2007 vintage. The wines were to be served with dinner at Seasonal, an excellent Austrian restaurant in Midtown Manhattan, in the absence of a German alternative. Now, 19 wines are a lot to think about with dinner, too many, really, for proper evaluation and appreciation. But faced with a drought, a man can’t complain about a deluge.
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