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German Pinot Noir: Is It Worth the Hype?

German wines are much more than just Riesling. In the past, German Pinot Noir may have been thin and unexciting but today things are different. Now might be the time to give German Pinot Noir

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German wines are much more than just Riesling. In the past, German Pinot Noir may have been thin and unexciting but today things are different. Now might be the time to give German Pinot Noir a taste.

There are many articles on the internet today with titles like Germany Might be Producing the Pinot Noirs Available Today and German Pinot Noir: A Rival to Burgundy with a Difference. With the climate changing around the world, Germany is having a moment in the spotlight with its Pinot Noirs, but are they that good?

Among countries planted with Pinot Noir, Germany ranks third behind France and the United States. According to a recent report by the German Wine Institute, there are nearly 12,000 hectares of Spätburgunder in Germany. The name Spätburgunder translates to “late-ripening Burgundy”. It’s planted in almost every German wine region.

Some of the biggest names in German Pinot Noir hail from the Baden region. We’ve tasted a number of stunning examples from producers like Bernhard Huber and Dr. Heger over the years. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it to the Baden region during our last trip through the country. Our efforts focused on the regions of Ahr, Franken, Nahe, Mosel, Pfalz, Rheingau, and Rheinhessen.

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German Pinot Noir: the Style of Spätburgunder

German Pinot Noir is a grotesque and ghastly wine that tastes akin to a defective, sweet, faded, diluted red Burgundy from an incompetent producer.
Robert Parker, 2002.

Today, even Mr. Parker would probably change his sentiments about German Pinot Noir. Thanks to the changes in climate, Germany is getting warmer which allows red grapes like Pinot Noir to ripen properly. You can even find Pinot Noir planted in the Mosel. Further north, producers in the Ahr Valley are having harvests that their forefathers would have killed for. In the Ahr, Jean Stodden and Meyer-Näkel produce perfumed, cool-climate Pinot Noirs that can reach levels of greatness.

German Pinot Noir Spatburgunder Ahr Valley
Looking down the Ahr Valley.

Further south in the warmer regions of the Rheingau, Nahe, Rheinhessen, and the Pfalz, we came across several examples of German Spätburgunder with a little more meat to them. We were impressed with several Riesling-centric producers like Wittmann, Gunderloch, and Kruger-Rumpf. While producers like Künstler, JB Becker, and Gröhl make serious age-worthy Spätburgunders.

We didn’t make it south to Baden but we ventured down to the Pfalz and Franken, where were blown away by the wines from Rudolf Fürst. There, winemaker Sebastian Fürst is obsessed with Burgundy and sources his 228L Burgundy barrels from his connections in France. He produces German Spätburgunder taken to a whole new level with delicate fruit, grace, and subtle power.

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Go Out and Find Some

With the prices of red Burgundy getting out of control, consumers are looking elsewhere for Pinot Noir. It would be wise to check out German Spätburgunders as you can find fresh, easy-drinking examples at fair prices in addition to complex, age-worthy wines. Here are the German Spätburgunders that impressed us the most during our month in the country.

Check out our thoughts on German Pinot Noir at 7:09.

Wine Recommendations

You can find out more about our scoring system on the WINE RATING page.

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Everyday German Pinot Noir

  • Lehnert Veit, Günterslay Spätburgunder 2016 – Mosel

Lehnert Veit is a small, family-run winery and restaurant that is working hard to improve the quality of their wines, especially Spätuburgunder. The Lehnert Veit Günterslay Spätburgunder comes from one of their best vineyards in the village of Niederemmel.

It has notes of red cherry, fall leaves, pepper, and earth. The wine is medium-bodied with some tannin. This has some concentration and depth with a medium finish. This is a producer to keep your eye on. Score: 88/100

Lehnert Veit Gunterslay Spatburgunder
  • Wittmann, Spätburgunder 2017 – Rheinhessen

Wittmann is a big name for dry Riesling in the Rheinhessen. Lately, the demand for his Pinot Noir has risen. While Philipp Wittmann doesn’t want to dilute his Riesling brand, he is a big fan of red Burgundy. This entry-level bottling has notes of red cherry, pepper, and fall leaves. It’s round, peppery, and fruity with structure and tannin. This has some aging potential and could improve drastically with time in the bottle. Score: 89/100

Find or buy on Wine-Searcher.

Wittmann Spatburgunder trocken
  • Gunderloch, Spätburgunder Trocken 2015 – Rheinhessen

Gunderlock is another big name in the Rheinhessen for dry Riesling. Winemaker Johannes Hasselbach makes small quantities of Spätburgunder for fun. This wine has notes of spice, red cherry, forest leaves. The nose is impressive and pulls you into the glass. The wine is silky on the palate with a medium finish. Score: 89/100

Gunderloch Spatburgunder
  • Kruger-Rumpf, Spätburgunder 2018 – Nahe

Kruger-Rumpf is located at the border of Nahe, Rheinhessen, and the Rheingau. They focus on Riesling but do make small quantities of entry-level Spätburgunger matured six months in the barrel. This has notes of cherry, fall leaves, and pepper. The wine is made with Pinot Noir clone 777. For an entry-level wine, this is gorgeous with its silky and spicy palate. Score: 89/100

Find or buy on Wine-Searcher.

Kruger Rumpf Spatburgunder
  • Kloster Eberbach, Assmannshäuser Spätburgunder Trocken 2015 – Rheingau

The Kloster Eberbach Assmannshäuser Spätburgunder Trocken is an Ortswein (Village level wine) from this monastery in the Rheingau. It has notes of cherry, fall leaves, pepper, and soil. You can feel a little wood on the palate, but it is subtle. The body is round and silky and the wine is low in alcohol. With a small level of tannins, it’s a solid and enjoyable Pinot Noir but lacks the layers, nuances, and complexities to be spectacular. Score: 88/100

Kloster Eberbach Assmannhauser Spatburgunder Trocken

Serious Spätburgunder: German Pinot Noir with Some Bite

  • Gröhl, ‘Hölle’ Pinot Noir Reserve 2013 – Rheinhessen

Of all the wines in this article, Gröhl might be the least well-known name. That should change with the quality of wines that proprietor Eckehart Gröhl makes. The Gröhl ‘Hölle’ Pinot Noir Reserve is a developed red with notes of earth and mushroom to accompany the dark fruit and pepper. The wine is full and rich on the palate and still has the beautiful mountain berry flavor of Pinot Noir. There are some firm woody tannins, but it should help the wine age for a few more years. Score: 92/100

*We also recommend the Gröhl Spätburgunder Alte Reben, a steal at under 10 Euros in Germany.

Grohl Holle Pinot Noir Reserve
  • JB Becker, ‘Wallufer Walkenberg’ Spätburgunder Spätlese Trocken 2013 – Rheingau

We had the chance to drink three vintages of JB Becker ‘Wallufer Walkenberg’ Spätburgunder Spätlese and the 2013 is showing the best now. It’s aged for two years in oak and has notes of cherry, smoke, wax, and fall leaves. This has a lovely texture with a round and silky mid-palate. Long finish and small tannins. There’s a lot of harmony here and for an old-school style, it’s a smashing wine. Score: 92+/100

Find or buy on Wine-Searcher.

JB Becker Spatburgunder Wallufer Walkenberg Spatburgunder spatlese
  • Künstler, ‘Assmannshausen Höllenberg’ Spätburgunder Grosses Lage 2014 – Rheingau

This is the first vintage of this wine from Künstler (the current vintages are classified as a Grosses Gewächs). The Küntsler ‘Assmannshausen Höllenberg’ Spätburgunder is a darker Pinot Noir with notes of sour cherry, spice, and a touch of redcurrant. It’s very savory and earthy in style while being full-bodied with firm tannins and a long finish. Score: 92/100

Find or buy on Wine-Searcher.

Kunstler Assmannshausen Hollenberg Spatburgunder
  • Jean Stodden, ‘Sonnenberg’ Spätburgunder Grosses Gewächs 2017 – Ahr

Jean Stodden is one of the names for German Pinot Noir. The Sonnenberg is one of their Grand Cru vineyards and the wine in the glass speaks for itself. This has a beautiful nose with notes of mountain berry, spice, violets, fall leaves, and a touch of pepper. Full and rich with a lot of texture and endless layers of subtleties. The spicy and long finish left Charine and I speechless. Score: 95/100

Find or buy on Wine-Searcher.

Jean Stodden Sonnenberg Spatburgunder
  • Jean Stodden, Alte Reben Spätburgunder 2017 – Ahr

The Jean Stodden Alte Reben Spätburgunder is made from 100-year-old vineyards. The vines are ungrafted German Spätburgunder clones. It has a distinctive nose with notes of perfume, strawberry rhubarb, pepper, and fall leaves. With rich texture with many nuances, this is truly Burgundian in style. The finish is long and nuanced. Score: 95+/100

Find or buy on Wine-Searcher.

Jean Stodden Spatburgunder Alte Reben
  • Meyer-Näkel, ‘Pfarrwingert’ Spätburgunder Grosses Gewächs 2017 – Ahr

Meyer-Näkel is another big name in the Ahr valley and their ‘Pfarrwingert’ Spätburgunder Grosses Gewächs is aged in 70% new barrique for 18 months. The wood is integrated very well here and there are notes of dark cherry, vanilla, fall leaves, and pepper. The palate is silky on the mid-palate and grippy on the long and tight finish. The wine is for the bigger and bolder fans of Pinot Noir. Score: 92/100 

Find or buy on Wine-Searcher.

Meyer Nakel pfarrwingert spatburgunder
  • Von Winning, ‘Violette’ Pinot Noir 2012 – Pfalz

Von Winning makes big, barrel-fermented Rieslings in the Pfalz. They do produce small quantities of red wines. The Violette is made with fruit from high-density plantings aged in new barriques. There are notes of wax, mountain berry, pepper, and a touch of cedar. It’s a bigger-bodied Pinot Noir with a lot of oak and a long, peppery finish. This is for fans of Sonoma County (California) Pinot Noir. Score: 91/100

Find or buy on Wine-Searcher.

Von Winning Violette Pinot Noir
  • Rudolf Fürst, ‘Bürgstadter Berg’ Spätburgunder2017 – Franken

Rudolf Fürst is a huge name in Germany for Pinot Noir. They produce wines in true Burgundy fashion, all the way to maturing in 228 L casks. The Berg vineyard is Erste Lage (1er Cru). This has a beautiful nose with violets, floral perfume, raspberry, and sour cherry. It’s full in body for a Pinot Noir with subtle power on the backend and a long finish. Score: 93/100

Find or buy on Wine-Searcher.

Rudolf Furst Burgstadter Berg Spatburgunder
  • Rudolf Fürst, ‘Schlossberg’ Spätburgunder Grosses Gewächs 2017 – Franken

Schlossberg is one of Rudolf Fürst’s Grand Cru vineyards in addition to the Centgrafenberg and Hundsrück. The Rudolf Fürst ‘Schlossberg’ Spätburguner Grosses Gewächs is aged in Burgundy barrels for 16-18 months. It’s a charming wine with notes of rose petal, cherry, raspberry, and earth. The wine is soft and delicate on the front with real power on the backend. The finish is long and strung out. Score: 94+/100

*Lookout for the Rudolf Fürst, ‘Hundsrück’ Spátburgunder Grosses Gewachs 2018, we tasted it from the barrel and it is already spellbinding.

Find or buy on Wine-Searcher.

Rudolf Furst Schlossberg Spatburgunder GG


Update: Thanks to you, this article has won the ‘Public’s Choice Award’ in the Millésima Blog Awards 2020.

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