TheWineRambler "A German wine label is one of the things life's too short for" - Kingsley Amis

Bernhard Huber, Malterdinger Bienenberg Spätburgunder, 1992

Posted by Julian 24 Jan 2010

Whenever the invitations to those '47 Petrus and '86 Lafite tastings go out, somehow our names seem to get passed over. Shame, but that doesn't stop us from embarking on the adventure that is aged wine from time to time.

Today, an 18 year-old german Pinot Noir. This ol' boy comes in a light, cloudy cherry red with brown edges. If you want to know how great decaying leaves, wet earth, manure, marinated cherries and smoked bacon smell when mixed together, I suggest you stick your nose into this.

In the mouth, it brings freshly acidic cherry fruit, coffee, as well as a little burned rubber, cold smoke and ash. It's clearly approaching old age, but not yet there. To my surprise, it was even better on the second day, clearer and more focused. It paired wonderfully with a bolognese sauce with extra chopped carrot and parsnip.

I rate this a highly subjective marvellous, but I won't deny that there was a radically dissenting voice in my own household: "Stinky and thin" was one of the nicer things she had to say.

We will review older wines under the "good ol' boys"-tag from time to time, and to kick this off in style, we bring you Waylon Jennings, singing the eponymous "Dukes of Hazzard" title track. Take it away.

I'm staggered it was in good condition

My experience of German Spatburgunder could be broader, but even the best examples I've had (a small subset of a small group) have never struck me as being structured for ageing anything over the short to medium term. Indeed, the examples I've had at around 5-7 years old have generally aligned themselves with the comment 'Stinky and thin'; too thin too often that is for sure. Finding a 92 that you consider marvellous I feel will be a rare event. Glad you enjoyed it and thanks for reporting its surprising quality.

My favourite novelty-region Pinots come from Sancerre. I've had some quite old red Sancerre from Vacheron and most of them have been of surprisingly good quality, although I think they are best at around 7-10 years. I recently popped a bottle of his 2002 Sancerre Rouge la Belle Dame and found it to be quite charming and full of life.

Beautiful little Pinots like the Vacheron 02, and I suppose your 92 Spatburgunder, may not be exploding with hedonistic excess, but they can be so attractive, and a delight to drink. We cannot, nor would we want to, drink Richebourg every day, but a light-bodied Pinot Noir will often be a charming drink that does not ask too many questions of you.


german pinot

David, thanks a lot for your comment.
First of all, let it be stated that we would happily drink Richebourg every single day at the Wine Rambler, if that could conveniently arranged.
You're very right about the dubious ageworthiness of Spätburgunder. I would never recommend any that is older than six years to anybody. I took a gamble on Huber, though, because he was one of the very first in Germany to consistently set his sights on Burgundy, both in style and in quality. In fact, while Germany is no longer, by any standard, a novelty-region for red wine, it arguably still was one in the early nineties. I like your Sancerre-rouge-reference, because the Huber's exceptional freshness actually reminded me a little of those few Loire reds that I've so far had.



If Wine Rambler drinks Richebourg every day then the Elitist Review editorial team demand La Tache! Twice a day! Yeah, that's what I want. I'll have words with M. de Villaine and sort this out.

Clearly I must taste more German Spatburgunder; as a Pinotphile I feel a burning need to try all forms of my favourite grape.

Thanks again for sharing this fascinating wine experience.


Now that we have managed to lure a Pinotphile to our site, maybe you could help us with our Wine Rambler new year's resolution Nr. 1...

Good, cheap Burgundy


Only too happy to help, old bean. You could have a look at my recent blog post about affordable Burgundy. The wines I recommend are all for sale in the UK, but should be possible to buy them elsewhere. My suggestions should largely be under €30 a bottle.

Resolution 9 will be a fruitless task, I'm afraid. I know many people claim to enjoy some English wines, but every single bottle I've tried, and I've tried a lot (too much) of the stuff, I've found to be repulsive and I've hated them. Germany is the cool-climate wine country of choice, England should stick to making top bunny beer and cider.


re: good, cheap burgundy

Yep, this looks like the kind of thing we need!
Resolution Nr. 9: Let's hope against hope, then....

English wines

I would really like to contradict you here, as I enjoy fighting for the underdog sometimes, but then I cannot. I have had a few wines from England, and while several of them were quite drinkable and not bad at all, I felt they all were a bit too expensive for what they were. If they age well I could not say, but in terms of good value I would not look to the UK.

Having said that, if anyone out there could convince me, I would be so happy to sing the praise of English wine!

English Wine

There are quite a few good (even VERY good) English wines, mainly sparkling. Try RidgeView Estate 2006/7 Bloomsbury, Chapel Down NV and Nyetimber 2003 Classic Cuvee. Bacchus is the best of the still wine grape varieties and Chapel Down's probbaly the best widely available. For more details see and look for the medal winners. As for prices, please compare them to other cool climate areas (Chablis, Sancerre, Mosel etc) when making comparisons.

Stephen Skelton MW

English wine

Stephen, you are right to emphasize the quality of English sparkling wines and I should have made a point to specifically exclude those from my comment - I was only referring to non-sparkling wines.

As far as the price is concerned I was actually thinking of Mosel wine. I can get wine from some of the best Mosel producers (Molitor, Haart, Van Volxem, Heymann-Löwenstein, to name just a few) shipped to my door starting from 8 Euros per bottle, with some of the wines that rate in the 90+ point range still below/around 15 Euro, and I have not yet found an English wine to match that quality at similar prices. But then I have not really sampled English wine systematically, which is why I included that mission in our New Year's resolutions for 2010. So I will have a look at your suggestions!

Some can make it

Also a big thank you for the recommendation from me, David. I have actually been lucky enough to come across a few German Pinot Noirs that have aged well. Markus Molitor has so far been very reliable, for instance a 1999 Spätburgunder I had just a couple of months ago - perfect drinking condition. Even so I will try to find an older Pinot from the Sancerre so that I can better compare.

Another Pinot to look for

Hi Torsten,

I've had Markus Molitor wines a few times and they have always struck me as being pretty good. I'm pleased the 99 you tried was showing well.

If you want to try a real novelty Pinot that can age and is quite agreeable to drink you should look out for Jean-Michel Deiss' red Alsace wine from called Burlenberg. It is not pure Pinot Noir, it contains some Pinot Gris as well, but when I popped a bottle of the 1999 for a Burgundian winemaker last summer (I served it blind, of course) he was sure it was pretty good bottle of from the golden Cote itself.

I have to admit to being a bit miffed that the Burlenberg was so good. Since Deiss stopped making beautiful, refined Rieslings and started making cloying, unbalanced blends of grapes I have really gone off him. It would have been quite pleasing if the wine had been awful and so confirmed my prejudices about M. Deiss.


Thanks, again, David, for the

Thanks, again, David, for the suggestion! It seems like we should meet at some time over both a German and a French Pinot Noir - I really love this grape variety and I do happen to have a few older German ones here... But clearly, I need to try more from France anyway!


Here we are again, another dubios purchase from "that source". It was me who called this one "stinky and thin". To me it looked and smelled more like decaying rose hip or hollyhock tea with something else from that jug where it stayed too long. But those Dukes of Hazzard are gorgeous and almost make up for the disappointment.

I admit I am a bit obscene;

I admit I am a bit obscene; but decaying rose hip in a Pinot Noir sounds strangely attractive.
Not in the way the Dukes are, of course!