Tuesday, November 15, 2016

How To Taste A Spätburgunder


Pinot Noir - it takes a lifetime to understand the simple truths it expresses with its clarity of acidity driven fruit. And that's assuming you limit yourself to its homeland in Burgundy. So what happens when your broach its Teutonic counterpart, which the Germans call Spätburgunder, inflicting pain and confusion on spell checkers everywhere?

The late Bernhard Huber was a pioneer and master of the Bourgogne varieties in Baden, which, along with Nahe, is the classic Spätburgunder region (even though producers like Laible make wonderful Rieslings and Scheurebes there). As any lover of Burgundy knows, mastering Pinot Noir means finding ways to let it clearly, subtly, voice the nuances of the vineyard, vintage, even the winemaker's temperament, without forcing the issue or losing sight of the grapes lightness of voice and form. As any lovers of Burgundy will tell you, it's never an easy task.

Bernhard Huber, Baden, Spätburgunder Alte Reben, 2011

After following this over three bottles, I have finally concluded that Huber was very much interested in capturing the lithe, acidity driven structure of a fine Burgundy red, but much less interested in replicating the specific aromas and flavors of the homeland of Pinot Noir. Which means he treated Spätburgunder with great respect, because, above all, the Pinot family reflects land and climate. So, let's play a game. Pretend this was served at a being Bourgogne tasting. Where is it from? Something about the weight and darkness of the fruit would point you to the Cote de Nuits, only you'd be hard pressed to settle on a village. There's nothing exotic or floral about it, so that rules out Vosne or Chambolle. There's a bit of sauvage about it, but also some iron, so you oscillate towards Nuits-St.-Georges rather than Gevrey and realize it's complex and persistent enough to be a Premier Cru. But you still can't really place it - there's a scent of coffee grains impregnating the autumn leaves and a rather serious aspect, so studious, struggling to hide a smirk. Nothing you ever found in Burgundy, really. (Oct. 25, 2016)

35 GBP.

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