Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

Dornfelder, the most popular German cross, bred in 1956 by August Herold, who had unwisely already assigned his name to one of its parents, the lesser heroldrebe, and so Dornfelder owes its name to the 19th-century founder of the Württemberg viticultural school. A helfensteiner×Heroldrebe cross, Dornfelder incorporates every important red wine vine grown in Germany somewhere in its genealogy and happily seems to have inherited many more of their good points than their bad.

The wine is notable for its depth of colour (useful in a country where pigments are at a premium), its good acidity, and, in some cases, its ability to benefit from barrique ageing and even to develop in bottle. Producing wines that are velvety textured, slightly floral, and sometimes with just a hint of sweetness, Dornfelder is easier to grow than Spätburgunder, has much better resistance to rot than Portugieser, stronger stalks than Trollinger, better ripeness levels than either, earlier ripening than Lemberger (Blaufränkisch), and a yield that can easily reach 120 hl/ha (6.8 tons/acre) (although quality-conscious producers are careful to restrict productivity). It is hardly surprising that it continues to do well in most German wine regions, especially Rheinhessen and the Pfalz, where results are particularly appetizing. Germany’s total plantings had reached a national total of 8,197 ha/20,246 acres by 2012.