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Black Tower, Pinot Grigio, 2008

Over the years, we have tasted a wide sample of German wines (though still so much more to explore!). However, my German wine experience is very different from that of most people here in the UK or across the globe. While we mostly drink wine from smaller, family owned vineyards, the UK especially downs the likes of Liebfraumilch by the gallon. So it was high time to get in touch with my inner mainstream drinker and get one of those iconic Black Tower bottles you can see in most British supermarkets.

Black Tower claims to be Germany's most widely exported wine brand, in fact, it may very well be Germany's best selling wine globally - it certainly is in the UK. Reh-Kendermann, who own Black Tower, spent a lot on the brand, particularly researching the design.

While mostly catering for the mass market, they are also about to launch a range of higher quality Black Tower, using the same bottle shape, but a new colour pattern. So, consumers seem to love it. I think it is bulky and ugly and goes against everything I like in a German wine. Furthermore, it has the same shape and glass as the really cheap bottle of schnapps I downed jointly with a Munich girl on my first proper encounter with alcohol a long time ago. Not that the bottle design makes me vomit, it is alright in a way, but it just stands for something cheap and distilled I'd drink with a salami under a tree in the Black Forest or in the mountains of Saxony. All rustic, heavy, 1930s German wholesome farming aesthetics. Nevertheless, I tried to make the bottle appear as nice as possible in the photos, with the help of some London morning sunlight. It certainly is a distinctive little bugger, I give you that.

Anyway, the Pinot Grigio. Black Tower Pinot Grigio is now the UK off trade’s No. 1 best selling non-Italian Pinot Grigio, I have been told, so it must have a massive impact on what the British think about German Pinot Grigio. While the branding may work quite well for this market, I am still irritated that they called it Pinot Grigio instead of Pinot Gris - the German Grauburgunder may be made from the same grape variety as the Italian Pinot Grigio, but stylistically it is a huge difference. But hey, this is about selling wine, not about capturing what is good about German wine.

And now, ladies and gents, the wine. Fresh out of the fridge, the nose did not do very much for me. Let the wine warm up a little and you get floral aromas, orange peel with a bit of citrus - creating a perfumed bouquet -, stone fruit and spicy nut, bordering on wood polish with a benzine subtext. Over time, it feels less flowery and leans more on the spicy side. On the tongue the Pinot Grigio is fruity, with apple but more importantly over-ripe pear, mixing bitter with a good dosage of sweet. The finish adds a little spice and ends on a caramel note.

Despite not being unpleasant, to me the wine never quite comes together. I toyed with the idea of calling it unstructured, but because of the sweetness that isn't balanced by either enough character or the right type of acidity I'd want to go for papescent. While I like the caramel finish as such, it also has a somewhat unpleasant bitter component that to my perhaps somewhat over-sensitive system evoked faint memories of heartburn.

Compared to some of the really cheap German supermarket wines, this one clearly has more character and substance and the bouquet even has its moments. You can drink this Pinot Grigio, but if you care about wine I cannot think of a reason to do so either. For a Pinot Grigio in this price range it my be okay, but if you can spend one or two quid more, I would do so, with dramatically improved results.

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