An impressive duo - Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Rudolf Furst
One of Germany's top estates
2021 Spätburgunder Bürgstadter - £140 per 6 bottle case in bond
2019 Chardonnay Astheimer - £190 per 6 bottle case in bond
I am becoming fascinated by the Germany’s potential for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Numerous regions across Germany are today producing far finer examples of each variety than many would have believed possible 25 years ago.
Neither variety is new to Germany – it is said that Pinot Noir has been grown in Germany for over 700 years, while Chardonnay may have been introduced in the 1960s. So, what has changed? Climatic changes are, once more, central to the conversation. Without doubt, two of the hottest summers that Germany has ever recorded are 2018 and 2019, and each has coincided with a highly praised vintage. Germany used to be considered a country with a marginal climate for wine production, a region in which growers had to manage vineyards impeccably to strive for full ripeness. Chaptalisation was commonplace; this is the process where sucrose is added to the fermenting must to bolster alcohol levels and body. This practice is not required in many modern-day vintages as nature is bringing the fruit to full ripeness without the need for intervention. It should be stressed that the key wine regions of Germany remain cool, but the dial is moving.
In recent weeks, I have been exploring the wines of a well-known estate based in Franken, due east of Frankfurt towards the centre of Germany. The estate is Rudolf Furst based in Burgstadt am Main. Paul Furst took over his family estate at the age of 20 following his father’s death in 1975. He had trained at Schloss Johannisberg in the Rheingau and his first focus was to acquire parcels of vineyard in Centgrafenberg, an area that was largely dedicated to Pinor Noir and Riesling. From an initial 1.5 hectares of vines, the estate today extends over 18 hectares on account of Paul’s acquisitions. Paul’s son, Sebastian joined the family business in 2007, having gained valuable experience with such estates as Marc Kreydenweiss in Alsace and Domaine de l’Arlot in Nuits-St.Georges, Burgundy. Sebastian’s focus has been on the estate’s Pinot Noir production. Commentators, such as Stephan Reinhardt, whose superb book, ‘The Finest Wines of Germany’ has filled in many blanks in my own knowledge, cite Sebastian as having been instrumental in elevating the quality of the estate’s Pinot; ‘ (they) have become even more elegant, being both finer and purer’, going so far as to say that ‘in all Germany, there are not many Pinots that can compete on quality or style.’ I didn’t know the Furst Pinot Noir of old, but my recent tastings of the Centrgrafenberg Spätburgunder GG, and the Centgrafenberg Hunsrück GG have only inclined me to explore further – these two GG (Grosses Gewachs) are basically Grand Cru and are therefore very much towards the upper echelons of the estate’s production, but high quality is apparent up and down the scale, which is always an encouraging sign.
The soils across the Furst vineyards tend to loamy and sandy derived from red Buntsandstein and are well-suited to Pinot Noir. They can also prove well-suited to warmer, drier vintages as lower layers of clay and decomposed sandstone provide good capacity for water storage. The 2019s and 2020s that I have tasted have impressed me greatly. There is terrific vibrancy to these wines. Certainly, they present differently to Burgundy, but they are by no means unable to compete, as a head-to-head tasting with the Hunsrück GG proved the other day. There is a slightly rounder mouthfeel, something a touch earthier perhaps, and, most definitely, the structure to age. I get the sense that the Fürsts want to harvest their Pinot a fraction on the early side, as there is a marked freshness and clarity about the styles, which are underpinned by bright acidity. As is often the case these days at many leading Burgundian estates, a proportion of whole bunch is employed as the stems bring a sense of freshness and complexity.
The Chardonnay is equally well-judged. While it is made in a reductive manner, this aspect isn’t overplayed so they are not marked by too much struck match or bacon fat on the nose. Instead they, once again, reveal fine clarity on the palate, and a balance that used to be prevalent in villages Burgundy 20+ years ago.
You are certainly likely to see more recommendations of German Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Atlas next year, so please watch this space.
I have included Stephan Reinhardt’s tasting note for the 2019 Chardonnay, Astheimer alongside my own but just my own for the Burgstädter as Stephan hasn’t reviewed this vintage yet.
2021 Spätburgunder Bürgstadter, Rudolf Fürst
£140 per 6 bottle case in bond
It is apparent that 2021 was a cool vintage, the nose shows fine precision, with attractively ripe small dark fruits, gently fragrant with the merest hint of spice. There is a really juicy accent to the fruit in this Spätburgunder, which shows in a silky, fine textured manner. This is just packed with charm – the tannins are sleek, barely interrupting the overriding supple impression. The dark cherry and red berry nuances pick up a floral lift to the finish, which signifies an incredibly more-ish style. This ‘village’ wine is a great introduction to the Fürst style, and while I am confident it would age over the mid-term, my preference might be to drink it in the first five to six years. Drink 2024-2030. (SL)
2019 Chardonnay Astheimer, Rudolf Fürst
£190 per 6 bottle case in bond
My note from last week
Pale in hue, the aromas here reveal hints of bacon fat, toasted nut as well as lemony, citrus fruit. The fruit here is already expressive, suggesting this style will drink early. It is underscored by a bright, minerally acidity, and gently framed by toast. The sense of balance is really appealing as this Chardonnay reveals a concentration of flavour without any heft. The lightness of touch impresses, a mere 12.5% alcohol, but it is round enough to avoid any sense of leanness. This pure style finishes with a burst of fruit imbued with a saline mineral note. Very appealing. Drink 2023-2029. (SL)
92 points, Stephan Reinhardt, December 2021
The 2019 Chardonnay Astheimer shows a clear and intense, concentrated yet still reductive bouquet with rice and slightly leathery (reductive) aromas. Full-bodied, round and fresh yet still leathery on the palate, this is a charming, fine and elegant, fruity rather than terroir-driven Chardonnay from a vineyard that Paul bought 23 years ago as a Sylvaner vineyard. There is still a bit of Sylvaner there, but the larger part was substituted with Chardonnay in 2011. 12.5% alcohol. Natural cork. Tasted in October 2021.
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