Jakob Sebastian, Heimersheimer Berg, Spätburgunder Auslese trocken Alte Reben, 2006

Jakob Sebastian, Heimersheimer Berg, Spätburgunder Auslese trocken Alte Reben, 2006

In a large blind tasting that pitted a selection of German Pinot Noirs against a wide range of international contestants, seven out of ten of the top ten scored bottles were German. This was widely publicised - not least on the Wine Rambler's Twitter account, of course - and even made some small headlines in the German general press. To be honest, I think you're well advised to take tastings of this kind with a pinch of salt, as they tend to follow their own marketing rules and cycles, and are often designed to fit into a Judgement of Paris kind of narrative. You can't help noticing, in fairness, that no Grand Cru Burgundies of the battleship class were lined up.

But I was pleased nonetheless, of course, because it underscored the validity of the case we've been making since the beginning of this blog: German Pinot Noirs can be very, very serious and deeply satisfying reds. And we have another one of these for you right here:

In the very small German region of the Ahr (about 550 hectares planted), red wine dominates for complicated historical reasons (over 60% of vines planted are Pinot Noir), although it is geographically to the north of even the Mosel. It is also considered to be distinctly pricey, and while that may well be generally correct (and have its own good historical and sociological reasons also), in this case, as we'll see, it's simply wrong:

The old vine-Pinot that the Jakob Sebastian estate has made in 2006 is a dry Auslese, which sounds like a fairly heavy calibre, but a big part of its glory is that it isn't at all. It's not a lightweight either, but its considerable substance doesn't seem to go into body mass, but into the depth of fruit and the persistence of the mineral foundations: You smell wild berries, forest floor, hawthorn berries, but also a more hefty streak of bouillon and lovage. What you don't get is chocolate or oak. This is a purist version of the grape. On the palate, marinated sour cherries, a tickling dose of acidity, and a whiff of finest spices to top it off.

I also need to point out, as we have many times before, the food-friendliness of this type of red. As I can personally (and happily) attest, it makes a wonderfully understated and subtle companion for a tenderloin of venison and red cabbage with chestnuts.

All patriotism and partial fancy aside (spake the incorruptible Wine Rambler): Where on earth can you find Pinot this elegant for less?


Submitted by Barry Fowden Thursday, 22/12/2011

drank this is January this year...very good value

even better is the
Jakob Sebastian Spätburgunder Ahrweiler Daubhaus Alte Reben
Auslese trocken 2006
Ahr, Germany

was € 18,--

The French can't compete with the value in Germany of Spätburgunder


Submitted by Sackbutt Thursday, 22/12/2011

In reply to by Barry Fowden

Nice to see you reviewing this! I visited the winery last March and this was one the wines I took with me. They don't do barrique ageing.. everything done in old vats or stainless steel. I found the wines rather austere on first impression, but at home with the right food and good friends they really have something special. Excellent value and will replenish stocks asap.

Submitted by torsten Friday, 23/12/2011

In reply to by Sackbutt

Thank you all for your comments (and Julian for posting this of course); seems I should source some for myself, perhaps a bottle of the Daubhaus that Barry recommends so highly.

Submitted by Julian Friday, 23/12/2011

Thanks for both of your comments. Good to know that I'm not alone in my judgement.

Submitted by Apicius Sunday, 22/11/2015

Living only 15 minutes away from the Ahr valley, this is the wine that I literally grew up with.

Within this small region, the Heimersheimer Berg is a somewhat special terroir. It is situated in the eastern part of the region, not far away from the estuary of the Ahr into the Rhine. The soil of the Ahr is of vulcanic origin, with slate and grauwacke on the hillsides, but sand, loess and loam in the shallow terroirs near the small river. The Heimersheimer Berg, although a hillside terroir, is being described as dominated by loess and loam, and this makes a considerable difference to the more mineral terroirs that the Ahr is well-known for.

As far as I know, the whole terroir is owned by only one winemaker - Jakob Sebastian from Rech, now owned by Christoph Sebastian - and so all of its wines carry the style and approach of this particular vitner.

From my experience over a few decades, this winemaker always seems to focus on incorporating as much tannins as possible into the wines. When young, Jakob Sebastian red wines all make a fairly herb impression, but they loose that over a few years. While most Ahr wines are supposed to be drunken when young, it is a good idea to store Jakob Sebastin wines for a few years.

The Heppinger Berg Pinot Noir which I had this evening is 6 years old now, and it seems to be at its best now. As most of the Ahr red wines, it is a light one. The Ahr valley is one of Europe's most northerly red wine regions, so don't compare its wines with French Pinots. But I think their lightness can disclose aspects of the Pinot Noir grape that many of the stronger French and other relatives may miss.

I find the Heimersheimer Berg hard to come by. It is a strange crossbreed between an ambiguous Pinot Noir that focusses on complex aromas, and a pleasant, easy-drinking wine. It is quite fruity with a decent pinch of acidity. The bouquet is rather discreet, but I get cherry and mayby some dark fruits on the palate. I would rather not give a food recommendation as this wine stands for itself. Its aromas, its balance between lightness and "serious" approach makes it interesting enough to grant it the central role of a tasting experience. It is an elegant wine, just a little bit more refined than what you would expect from an everyday's food partner.

While I can identify the Heimersheimer Berg as an Ahr wine I'd say it is not a typical one. Today, the Ahr valley is dominated by two winegrower's cooperatives, and three or four ambitious vitners who are out for Parker points. Beyond that, there are some less known vitners who simply provide good value for the money, and still follow their own way. The Heimersheimer Berg is a good example for such an approach.

You may find the Heimersheimer Berg also being referred to as Heppinger Berg. The German wine rules are quite strict, and a few years ago, under miraculous circumstances, the former Heppinger Berg was renamed Heimerheimer Berg (both are neighboring villages). Jakob Sebastian missed the objection deadline, and they had to cope with the fact that their main product was re-branded against their will.