Producer: Winzergenossenschaft Ihringen
Country Hierarchy: Kaiserstuhl, Baden, Germany
Grape/Blend: Pinot Noir
Food Suggestion: Pork
Wine Style: Red – Savory and Classic
Ihringen is a wine-growing town in the Kaiserstuhl district, in western Germany’s Badenregion. It is located on the eastern side of the Rhine River plain and on the south-western slopes of the extinct volcano of Kaiserstuhl. Achkarren is to the north of Ihringen, across a heavily terraced hill-country landscape, with the city of Breisach to the west.
Ihringen’s red wines are almost exclusively Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir), and are among the very boldest and ripest made anywhere in Germany. Notes of baked, spiced cherries and sandalwood are typical in these wines. The whites rank among Germany’s ripest and most tropical-scented examples of Riesling, Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris) and Weissburgunder(Pinot Blanc). Tasting notes often refer to ‘fat’ and ‘powerful’ wines with aromas of melon, pear, apricot and pineapple.
Terraced vineyards near Ihringen, Kaiserstuhl
Soils all around Ihringen tend to consist of dark, mineral-rich, volcanic bedrock (lava and tuff) covered by a layer of fertile, loose-structured loess. As an aeolian sediment (one transported by wind), loess is naturally fine and loose-structured. Because of this, it has sponge-like qualities, so it absorbs rainwater (preventing flooding) and steadily releases it over time (preventing drought). Importantly, it also has naturally good aeration, essential for the development of strong vine roots and for the overall microbial health of the soil system.
Ihringen’s undisputed top vineyard site is the Winklerberg. This is located just west of the town itself, at the very south-western edge of the Kaiserstuhl hills. Winklerberg is a VDP-classified Grosse Lage site whose steep slopes (which have a gradient of 50%) face perfectly south-west. The 290-acre (117ha) site is one of Germany’s very warmest vineyard locations, and not just because its south-westerly aspect angles it towards the afternoon sun. The porous, black basalt in the soil here has strong heat-absorption properties; it retains heat during the day and warms the vines gently at night. Adding to this effect are the retaining walls that support the terracing here.
The result of all this heat is a much richer and riper style of Pinot Noir than is found anywhere else in Germany. One particularly enthusiastic tasting note from a well-respected critic referred to ‘fireworks on the nose … mouthfilling, chocolatey, macerated cranberry-sweet bitterness … glowingly embroidered, jeweled, silky”.
The Winklerberg rises to almost 1000ft (300m) and looks over the Rhine into France. Clear days here offer uninterrupted views towards Colmar, the wine capital of Alsace. Beyond Colmar lies the key reason for the Kaiserstuhl’s warm, dry climate: the Vosges Mountains. This low-lying range casts a rain shadow over the Kaiserstuhl, reducing rainfall and bringing both sunshine and higher average temperatures.
Immediately north of Ihringen, right at the heart of the Kaiserstuhl hills, lie the villages of Oberrotweil and Achkarren. Just a few miles beyond that, on the lower-lying land close to the Rhine River, lies Burkheim.
Pinot Noir is the red wine grape of Burgundy, now adopted (and feverishly studied) in wine regions all over the world. The variety’s elusive charm has carried it to all manner of vineyards, from western Germany and northern Italy to Chile, South Africa, Australia and, perhaps most notably, California, Oregon and New Zealand. It is the patriarch of the Pinot family of grape varieties – so called because their bunches are similar in shape to a pine cone (pinot in French). Other members of this family include Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Meunier, Aligote and Pinot Noir’s white-wine counterpart, Chardonnay.
Pinot Noir causes more discussion and dispute than any other grape, most of which centers around finding and describing the variety’s “true” expression. Examples from Santenay are undeniably different from those made on the other side of the world in Central Otago, and yet they are all unmistakably, unquestionably Pinot Noir. It takes a great deal of care and skill to make Pinot perform, and the results vary wildly from watery, acidic candy water to some of the richest, most intensely perfumed wines on Earth. This elusive perfection has earned the variety obsessive adoration from wine lovers all over the world.
A cluster of Pinot Noir grapes
In Burgundy (Pinot’s homeland), the traditional vigneron focuses more on soil and climate than on the qualities of the grape variety itself (this is, after all, the home of terroir). Even very subtle differences in terroir are reflected in Pinot Noir wines made there. There are clear and consistent differences between the wines of Volnay and Pommard, for example, even though the villages are separated by just one mile.
The effects of terroir aren’t limited to Burgundy, of course – every region has its own particular terroir, and these are reflected in its wines, particularly when it comes to terroir-sensitive varieties such as Pinot Noir. Although many winemakers in the New World attempt to emulate the Burgundy style, the newer Pinot regions in Oregon, Washington, California and New Zealand have their own individual expressions and interpretations of the variety.
The essence of Pinot Noir wine is its aroma of strawberry and cherry (fresh red cherries in lighter wines and stewed black cherries in weightier examples), underpinned in the most complex examples by hints of undergrowth (sous-bois). Well-built Pinot Noirs, particularly from warmer harvests, also exhibit notes of leather and violets, sometimes approaching the flavor spectrum of Syrah.
The question of oak in Pinot Noir winemaking is frequently raised, as are the length of fermentation and the option of a pre-ferment maceration (cold soak). Cooler temperatures lead to fresher fruit flavors, while longer, warmer fermentations and pigeage result in more extracted wines with greater tannic structure. In order to retain as much Pinot character as possible, many producers have turned to biodynamic viticulture, avoiding the use of commercial fertilizers that may disrupt the variety’s sensitive chemical balance.
Although Pinot Noir earns most of its fame from its still, red, varietal wines, the variety is also a vital ingredient in the production of sparkling white wines. For these, it can be used alone (to produce blanc de noirs), but is most commonly blended with its cousin Chardonnay, and other members of the Pinot family – most obviously Pinot Meunier in Champagne and Pinot Blanc in Franciacorta. The highly successful Pinot – Chardonnaysparkling wine blend has been adopted by regions all around the world, in Europe, the Americas, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
Synonyms include: Pinot Nero, Pinot Negro, Spatburgunder, Blauburgunder.
Food matches for Pinot Noir include:
- Pappardelle pasta with a porcini ragu
- Roasted duck breast with plum sauce
- Seared chicken livers on toast
(sources : wine-searcher)