One of the absolute highlights of my trip to Germany was spending an afternoon with Rainer Karl Lingenfelder at his estate in the Pfalz wine region. It was a very sunny day and almost unbearably hot – a stifling 38° C! Rainer was warm and friendly and incredibly generous with his time and knowledge. His tireless energy is contagious and he’s passionate about keeping German wine traditions alive. He believes that German grape growers should concentrate on grapes traditional to Germany, saying that, “the world doesn’t need more Chardonnay.” His business card sums up what Rainer believes the future of German wine should be – “The Age of Post Chardonnism.” The Weingut Lingenfelder website describes Rainer’s philosophy as a vine grower:
The Pfalz, also known as the Palatinate, is located in the south-west of Germany, in the Rhine River Valley, just north of Alsace, France. The region is the warmest, sunniest, and driest region in Germany – almost Mediterranean. The climate is influenced by the river and by the Haardt Mountains, a continuation of the Vosges Mountain range, that lie to the west of this region. The Romans were the first to bring winemaking to this area, giving the Pfalz a very long history of grape growing. Several ancient Roman graves have been dug up in the area, inspiring the locals to construct a memorial to the Roman viticulturists high up on a hill surrounded by vineyards. Rainer called it “The Tomb of the Unknown Roman Winemaker.”
We spent most of the afternoon bouncing from one vineyard to the next, where Rainer explained the different soils and various viticulture practices for each unique site and different grape variety. The Lingenfelder vineyards grow a variety of grapes. About 40% of the vineyards are taken up with Riesling, then there’s Spatburgunder at 20%, Scheurebe 10%, Muller Thurgau/Rivaner 10%, Dornfelder 8%, Silvaner 5%, Kerner 5%, and a very small amount of Portugieser (2%).
Back at the winery, we were shown around the production area. Rainer stressed his winemaking philosophy. “Wines are not made, they evolve.” At Lingenfelder, they take a completely hands-off approach to winemaking – no addition of cultured yeast, no addition of bacteria for malolactic fermentation, no fining, no stabilization. Rainer still uses a few large 100-year-old barrels to age some of his wines. These barrels no longer impart any oak flavour, so they are usually used for the lighter style of wines. He also uses some smaller barriques for the Spatburgunder. Most of the oak barrels are made with German oak.
We tasted several Lingenfelder wines withRainer, including Riesling, Scheurebe, Grauburgunder, Dornfelder, and Spatburgunder. They were all well made and tasty. I was particularly interested in the Scheurebe (Shoy-ray-be) and Dornfelder as I haven’t had much opportunity to try these varieties before.
2009 Shoy Sheurebe Kabinett: dry with aromas of spice, grapefruit, and a hint of peach. A light and refreshing wine.
2008 Scheurebe Spatlese Trocken: notes of bees wax, honey, melon, and citrus. Viscous on the palate with ripe fruit flavours and cleansing acid. Quite expressive and bold with long length.
2005 ONYX Dornfelder Spatlese: Dark purple colour. Lots of dark fruit aromas (including plum, black cherry, and dark raspberry), spice, and vanilla with a pretty floral note. Sturdy and well-structured on the palate with firm tannins and good length.
There are a few bottles of Lingenfelder wines available in Ontario. Check out HHD Imports for more details.