Nelles, Ruber Spätburgunder 2010 Ahr


From €10.15, 20.20 Swiss francs, $26.95, £17.99

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Last Saturday I took part in a wine event in the crypt of a church in Clerkenwell, London, in aid of the water charity organised by food writer Sophie Dening, River Café sommelier Emily O'Hare, food writer and wine consultant Zeren Wilson and others. We tasted seven wines representing seven of the 25 new maps in the seventh edition of The World Atlas of Wine (now available as an iBook, too):

Mornington Peninsula – Kooyong, Clonale Chardonnay 2012
Swartland – AA Badenhorst Family White 2010
Georgia – Pheasant's Tears Kisi 2011 Kakheti
Canada – Clos Jordanne, Village Pinot Noir 2009 Niagara Peninsula
AhrNelles, Ruber Spätburgunder 2010
Etna – Fessina, Musmeci 2008
Turkey – Vourla, Urla 2010, Izmir

I think it's fair to say that all wines had their fans (even if the kvevri-raised Georgian was the furthest off the beaten track) but this German Pinot Noir was an enormous hit – as was the glorious Etna Nerello Mascalese, but it costs very much more.

I have not discussed this with our German specialist Michael Schmidt, but I know that as an Ahr Valley resident he is likely to be extremely pleased by this choice of wine of the week. Purple Pagers can read all about the Ahr in their online Oxford Companion. Despite its northerly latitude, it has come to be recognised within Germany as one of the most exciting sources of top-quality Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder), largely thanks to the heat-retaining quality of the steep, rocky slopes there. I have found some of the wines just a little short of juice and heavy on grainy texture, perhaps because of this, but this 2010 Ruber bottling made by Thomas and his son Phillip Nelles (pictured above by David Motion) is delightfully pure and full of subtle fruit. I'm afraid it knocked spots off the poor Canadian – though I served the Clos Jordanne at a dinner recently and, just like the Hidden Bench Niagara Pinot Noir I served at a WSET dinner in New York last month, it opened up most impressively in the glass, which is of little use at a single-glass wine tasting, of course.

In the UK this wine is imported by David Motion of The Winery, London W9D_Motion_in_the_Ahr, who, like Iris Ellmann of The Wine Barn, deserves a major honour from the German government for his efforts to introduce Brits to the fine wine that is truly representative of modern Germany. You can see his van at the bottom of a typical Ahr vineyard here.

Here's what he has to say: '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 Spätburgunder (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 Frühburgunder, 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!

'Ruber is from the steep Landskrone vineyard in Heimersheim, visible from Thomas's house (and more distantly visible from the high motorway bridge that crosses the valley) and aged in old fuders for 12 months.'

Incidentally, I have been asked for an update on the reviled Mosel bridge, will enquire and report.

Only a week or two before the Toast tasting I met a well-heeled couple of London-based wine enthusiasts who had recently chosen a theme for a grand tasting for their friends based on this comparative tasting of German Spätburgunder and top Pinot Noirs around the world. They said that the Germans performed extremely well – although I have to add that they are German.

Many of Germany's most admired Spätburgunders look relatively expensive but £17.99 is a very fair price indeed for this Nelles 2010 – and it's available not just in Germany and the UK but in Switzerland and the US, too.

I see incidentally that London merchant Justerini & Brooks have just emailed their customers with an offer of Rudolf Fürst's 2011 Franken Spätburgunders all based on Michael's notes and scores, and priced at up to £400 per six bottles in bond. 

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