Today, we continue our exploration of under-the-radar grape varieties in german wine by introducing Pinot Noir's little brother (come on out, don't be shy): Frühburgunder literally translates as "early Burgundy", so we are dealing with a particularly early-ripening member of the Pinot family. Like any precocious child, this small-berried variety can be difficult to raise, but promises great complexity and aromatics once it really comes into its own. In France, it is known as Pinot Pommier or Pinot Madeleine - except that it isn't really, because it is routinely blended with Pinot Noir without declaring this on the label. In Burgundy, for example, it is often not even known in which of the older Pinot vineyards it exists, and in what proportion. Such ignorance is not for us systematically-minded Germans, of course, and in the 1970s, a winemaking college sent out researchers with clipboards, pens behind their ears (as I like to imagine it), into the vineyards to find out. One of the places where they were pleased at what they found must have been Dr. Heyden's vineyards in Rheinhessen, which have given us this excellent example for the grape's qualities:
Cherry red colour, spiced with a little forest floor and black pepper. Very clear cherry flavours on the palate, with wild blueberries from a mossy forest floor to spice things up, a little cocoa powder sprinkled over them, a light touch of oak. Smooth, light tannins, great balance, neither overconcentrated nor too heavy on the alcohol. A treat.
If you are, like us, a lover of German Pinot you have to give this a try, and if you are an internationalists who doesn't think a nice Villages Burgundy or Cru Beaujolais beneath their dignity, you should too. It's in that price range as well, and that's where it should be, seeing as the people at Dr. Heyden have done a really good job on this polished, but also cosily fruity red. Just one objection from the wine snobs' bench: What the hell is such a quintessentially Burgundian wine doing in a Bordeaux Bottle? But we'll let that pass. Just this once. This is the perfect wine for doing what we here in Munich could do yesterday after two weeks of sweltering heat - listen to the rain roll in. Here's the wonderful Eilen Jewell: