You may not have heard about the Ahr. It is a small tributary of the Rhine; it is also a valley; and it is also a wine growing region. And a very unusual one too. Despite being located far north between 50th and 51st parallel, the Ahr is red wine country - way over 80% of all grapes grown here are red because of a favourable micro-climate. And one of the producers best know for Ahr red wine is Jean Stodden, "das Rotweingut" (the red wine winery).
It is almost shocking that in over two years of wine rambling we don't seem to have featured a single Ahr wine, and to change that Stodden seemed the obvious choice.
The Stodden family looks back to a wine-growing tradition of over 400 years; they started growing vines in 1578 and set up their own winery in 1900. On a little over 6 ha they do now mostly grow Pinot Noir, but also other red grapes such as Dornfelder or Dunkelfelder. The Pinot Noir JS is made from grapes grown on steep slopes in Rech and Dernau and has been matured in new and oak oak barrels for 17 months. According to the wine merchant who sold this to me it is the entry-level barrique Pinot yet "already a class of its own".
If you now expect a very heavy wine I have to disappoint you. Quite the opposite, the JS smells relatively light and fresh with fresh herbs such as menthol and really lovely cherry. There is also substance, aromas of bread dough, earth and smoky spices. "Würzig" is the German term for spicy - not in a hot but more in a flavoursome way. The wine also smells of red berries and a touch of strawberry jam, which altogether reminded me of a smoky, herbal scone with peppery aromas. Not extremely deep perhaps, but encouraging. Drinking the JS was a similar experience: fresh (nice acidity), smooth and cool, also würzig with nice fruit and some pleasant dough, spice and roast bread flavours. There was also a yeasty mushroominess with a bit of undergrowth that I find a typical sign of German Pinot Noir.
The JS is an easy to drink Pinot that one the first days seemed to miss either a little substance or that kick of excitement to feel more than enjoyable, but felt more flavoursome on the second day. Overall I had expected a little more from Stodden, especially at this price. The JS may need a couple of years to develop its potential.