Merci inderpal singh, Blake Leja, Dustin Chabert, Jeremy Eubanks and Mark Cochard for the Schlossberg Grand Cru photos and info. Very cool on the Trimbach inaugural bottling from '14 on. I had the opportunity to walk the vineyard last year and it's everything that Jeremy Eubanks described and I found that the wines across the board regardless of producer were so consistently high quality that it really validated the classification regardless of size. This is, after all, the vineyard that inspired the classification in the first place.
This week: Ahr Valley
What is this region know for producing and how is this possible given its location?
The Ahr, situated between 50° and 51° of lattitude, is one of the most northerly regions to produce quality red wine in the world. Though white wines are produced, about 85% of the production is red. Spätburgunder dominates the plantings, with small amounts of Portugeiser and Frühburgunder planted as well. Despite its northerly latitude, it enjoys a relatively warm microclimate due to protection from the elements by the Eifel Hills, so while the final wines are never huge, the grapes achieve ripeness and structure is often supplemented through the practice of oak aging. Meyer-Näkel in Dernau makes very tasty Spätburgunder.
Finding enough heat for red grapes in this north of a region should be difficult. The ahr has a few things going for it. The hills Dustin mentioned shield the vines. The river provides some moderation. The slate of the hills holds in heat for a smaller diurnal, as do the rocks of the terraces (which are abundant). I experienced a similar heating phenomena in a striking fashion early this fall at Pride Mtn. They have a rock wall along their caves that was a good 10 degrees warmer than the chilly area just 20 feet away once the sun went down.
Another thing that makes it possible for the Ahr to grow red grapes is the size. It's the smallest region in Germany and they aren't trying to grow red grapes away from the river. They're content in growing just a few high quality vines in the perfect area instead of trying to force lesser quality bottlings out of the areas not adjacent to the river.
Dustin hit the nail on the head, only one Grosslage as well, Klosterberg. Rose's are mighty fine too!
Great stuff. I'll add that there are examples GG Fruhburgunder. Kreuzberg makes one from the Dernauer-Hardtberg vineyard, though I'm not sure their wines are imported to the US.
Also, I think it's important to remember that German QbA wines (including GG!) can be chaptalized, and Spätburgunder from the Ahr frequently is, despite the aforementioned warm-ish climate.
The last element that combines to make red-wine viniculture possible in this extremely northerly latitude is the Gulf Stream. While far enough away from the other German wine-producing regions to keep them cold, the Ahr is actually close enough to the branch of the Gulf Stream that keeps the southern Scandinavian coast free of ice year round to raise the climate those vital extra few degrees.
Also worth mentioning that historically the burgunders of the Ahr were bottled with substantial residual sugar!
Ah, yeah. Fruhburgunder. Early ripening Pinot for a climate that can benefit from early ripening. There's another "how this is possible" to add to the list.
Also worth mentioning is that the clone of Pinot Noir widely used here nowadays is Fruhburgunder, which is early ripening.
Ha, jeremy beat me saying the same thing by a minute! ;)
I was reading the Terroir wine list and a light bulb went off when I saw the Meyer-Nakel he has listed....saw "inderpal singh is typing a reply" as I was typing. Funny it was the same thing.