Curio on the Rhine

What wine lover would question Germany’s world dominance with the noble Riesling? Surely the vineyards of Mosel-Saar-Ruwer are in the esteemed and select company of those in Vosne, Margaux and Hermitage, for each produce some of the best wines of their respective style, serving as benchmarks the world-over for growers and winemakers alike. Yet, when one speaks of world-class pinot the words “Germany” and “pinot noir” are rarely heard partnered in the same sentence. And so it seems for good reason.

Valckenberg 2003 Pinot Noir was very pale in the glass showing extract and color akin to deep rosé. Peach, melon and light strawberry (the sole red-fruit character here to be found) were very much evident to the nose. On the palate this pinot was light, completely lacking in fruit tannin and was syrupy in texture; its mouthfeel was glycerin like that of many white wines. In fact, with its glycerin-mouthfeel and melon/peach on the nose, this pinot would be much more convincing as pinot gris (if only it were true)! While the label’s back copy confirms the complete absence of oak, it comes as little surprise: there simply is too little extract to withstand even judicious employ of oak.

Yet, from the fog of its rich alcohol content and full, glycerin texture a mystery does emerge. Why are most German rieslings typically 8 to 11% alcohol by volume while this pinot noir weighs-in at a hefty 13.5% ABV? I mean, if Germany has a difficult time ripening riesling to levels north of 12% how can they do this so easily with pinot? Let us think for a moment……….do you think they chaptalize? Unfortunately, this German pinot noir does not offer good varietal character whatsoever.

For those of us taken with obscurity and things in the margins, this wine serves as a roadside curiosity, the organoleptic equivalent of a grand circus sideshow! Yet, unlike Houdini’s histrionics Valckenberg Pinot Noir will not thrill or send shivers of nervous anticipation down your spine. Its great sleight of hand is convincing you to open your wallet, happily watching as you part with some hard-earned cash. Not recommended!

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