German white wine gets all the attention, but Germany also makes a number of impressive red wines that are well worth your attention.
You’ll have more luck finding German reds at wine shops than on restaurant lists around Edmonton because they’re still fairly unknown in this part of the world — with one notable exception.
The Andreas Bender Pinot Noir has infiltrated several restaurant wine lists and shops around Edmonton. You can find it on the menu at Canteen, Red Ox Inn, Tiramisu Bistro and Chartier, and wine stores like Color de Vino and Bin 104 regularly stock it, too.
This is due to efforts made by the wine’s agent, Eberhard Tamm of Enotri Wine Marketing. Tamm brought The Bender Pinot to Alberta a year after he launched Enotri in 2013. Despite German red wine still being relatively obscure to the Alberta consumer, this particular wine is Enotri’s second-best seller — sales of it grew 84 per cent in 2019 alone.
The reason? The Bender Pinot is the best-in-class German red wine, as well as one of the best values of Pinot Noirs on the Alberta market today.
“Andreas Bender is extremely skilled, has a great palate and a good understanding of the consumer,” Tamm says. “His policy of reducing yields and only working with 100 per cent healthy, ripe grapes is paying dividends throughout his range. This Pinot’s tannins are firm, ripe and well-integrated. There is a nice touch of balancing acidity, but not as pronounced as in most French Pinot Noir in that price range.”
The Bender Pinot is a wonderful flagship wine for showcasing what Germany can do with red grapes, given the proper care and region. Though Pinot is a fickle grape to grow, it also thrives in cooler climates; this is why it predominates Germany’s red grape plantings. Here, Pinot is often labelled under its German name, Spätburgunder, though many producers are adopting the internationally known French name instead.
A few other early-ripening red grapes are grown throughout Germany, including Portugieser and Dornfelder. However, these aren’t planted in nearly the same quantity as Pinot Noir and, due to their relative obscurity outside Germany (and tongue-twister names), they are not exported very often.
Still, the local market for German reds has been slowly growing. Juanita Roos, owner of Color de Vino, regularly stocks the Bender Pinot and also brings in other German reds from time to time.
“I can recall at least two requests asking specifically if we had any German red wines, so yes — there’s certainly an increase in interest,” Roos says. “Climate change has resulted in sequential harvests of red grapes that are becoming fully ripened to produce wines that are juicy, ripe and less acidic than in in the past. I’d put a cool-climate Spätburgunder from a warmer harvest on a list for a high-quality, fresh, low-alcohol and delicious Pinot Noir option anytime.”