Appears in
Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

Spätburgunder is the chief German synonym for pinot noir and the grape variety that experienced the most dramatic rise in popularity in Germany in the 1990s. Such is German enthusiasm for red wine that Germany’s total plantings increased from 3,400 ha/8,400 acres in 1980 to more than 11,000 ha by 2003 at which level it has remained. There is considerable dispute over the vine’s importance in Germany during the Middle Ages but in modern times, until the late 1980s, it was cultivated largely in parts of the rheingau (notably Assmannshausen) where it owes its toehold to the same 13th-century Cistercian monks responsible for its rise to fame in the Côte d’Or, and along the steep slate slopes of the ahr. Then the typical Spätburgunder was pale, sweetish (and all too often tinged with rot-related odours). Today it is at least as deep coloured, dry alcoholic, and well structured as a red burgundy, thanks to much lower yields, longer maceration, barrel maturation, and climate change. For many years demand in Germany was so strong that very little Spätburgunder was exported but the best bottles of the Ahr, Baden, and Pfalz, in particular, are increasingly appreciated abroad too.