The tiny Ahr valley lies in one of the northernmost winemaking regions of Germany, between Cologne and Koblenz. Romans planted vines here. Some say the sheltered valley has an almost Mediterranean micro-climate. We wouldn’t go quite that far, but there is little doubt that it is the best Pinot Noir (Spatburgunder) region in Germany, these wines displaying the haunting layers of flavour, ethereal smoky perfume and supple texture that Pinot fanatics crave. The valley is also highly prized for white Asparagus, often served with boiled new potatoes and hollandaise sauce and a side of smoked ham or pork fillet.
Adeneuer (Bad Neuenahr)
The Adeneuer family has been making wine for 500 years in Bad Neuenahr. At just over half a hectare, Walporzheimer Garkammer is the smallest named vineyard in Germany. Marc and Frank Adeneuer are the only owners. Their wines are flying out. One of our customers, more used to drinking Rioja said of Cuvee JJ “it’s so good it makes you want to run away from it!”
Nelles’ wines have made a big impact at the shop, from the name of their top wine (B52!), to the striking bold labels emblazoned with the date of the birth of the winery (1479). The vines, mainly Spatburgunder (Pinot Noir) are cultivated on and around the Landskrone at the eastern end of the Ahr Valley – steep slate soils warm up in the sun, storing heat which is released during the night, making some of the wines carry quite a punch! The wines with the “B” prefix are the powerhouse Barrique wines, while Thomas Nelles also makes a beguiling and fragrant Fruhburgunder, known as Pinot Madeleine elsewhere, a small-berried early-ripening cousin of Pinot Noir. The B52 is his highly-prized top wine – nothing to do with bombers, he says. It was the number of his best barrel… a stroke of marketing genius perhaps?! The name certainly stays with you after the last sip, that’s for sure. Nelles’ wines may well convert you to German red wine instantly!
Peter Lingen (Bad Neuenahr)
The Lingen family can trace its wine growing history back to 1599. Generations 9, 10 and 11 live under one roof where the spa town of Bad Neuenahr and mediaeval Ahrweiler blur into each another. Ninth generation Peter-Josef passed over the reins to his son Hans-Peter in 1987. Hans-Peter and his wife Tanja work four hectares of vines in the steep vineyards above Bad Neuenahr of Kirchturmchen, Schieferlay and Sonnenberg. Four hectares, four children, a holiday house in the vines for rent and some wonderful Ahr Spatburgunder. Pure, silky, autumnal Spatburgunder.
Adolf Schreiner (Rech)
It was a tip from a Stonemason at Lincoln Cathedral, who happens to come from Bonn, that brought us to Schreiner’s door. Adolf Schreiner makes unreconstructed, old-school Ahr Spatburgunder in the teeny-weeny village of Rech. Musky, smoky, Pinot Noir reeking of Autumn.
He also specialises in “Der Kaaste” – small-berried Spatburgunder from the original cutting brought to the Ahr from Burgundy in the 1700s. Der Kaaste is a derivation of “Der Kastenholzrebe” (the wooden box grape) which refers to the wooden boxes used to transport cuttings by the nurseryman in Euskirchen, to the north of the Ahr. We also recently found out that Adeneuer’s monopole vineyard, the Walporzheimer Garkammer, is also entirely from Der Kaaste. Schreiner’s is made in the traditional style – ever-so-slightly off-dry, but definitely no sweeter than a Cali Pinot.
Jean Stodden (Rech)
Spatburgunder (Pinot Noir) at the highest level. Sleek, polished, modern, clear and confident, yet still with all the wild excitement of those trademark Ahr-style, smoky, leafy, autumn fruit flavours.
Alexander Stodden has 6.5 hectares of vines in Rech, Ahrweiler, Neuenahr and Mayschoss with a variety of geology. The results are remarkable. Silky, elegant, ethereal, brambley. Occasionally spicy, occasionally floral, always haunting and pure.
Christophe Richter (Ahrweiler) ORGANIC
We are always digging around, looking for new or unknown growers in the tiny valley and got a tip-off from Rudi Trossen’s Danish importer Lasse Kruse about a Bio grower called Christophe Richter. His house and winery are physically in the walls of the town. The winery is a tiny garage. Considering he has barely 2 hectares of vines, it amazes us that, apart from Spatburgunder, he also bottles Portuguieser, Regent and Fruhburgunder. His style is delicate and very natural.
“You can come whenever you like, apart from when Germany are playing. Football is sacred!” Said Peter Kreuzberg when we visited during the World Cup. We had tasted his Fruhburgunder in Steinheuer’s restaurant on our previous trip and resolved to visit him next time. The Kreuzberg style is pure, perfumey Ahr, generally with a touch of spicy oak. The basic Spatburgunder is compact and lean and the wines get lusher and oakier as you climb the ladder.