It’s time to get down with spätburgunder!
Spätburgunder doesn’t roll off the tongue, but it tastes delicious. Better known as pinot noir, spätburgunder wines come from Germany’s Ahr Valley—located half an hour south of Bonn—and pinot noir lovers will want to descend upon this up-and-coming red wine region on their next European wine journey.
Carved by the Ahr River, the land explodes with slate cliffs and steeply terraced vineyards, and, between the medieval German towns and the castle ruins, a wine tasting journey through the Ahr Valley radiates romance. If you said you could taste the castle ruins in the wines, I might believe you.
I was lucky enough to taste a selection of wines brought back from the 1st International Spätburgunder Symposium by Rudy Marchesi, winemaker of Montinore Estate. As an Oregon-based writer, I drink a lot of pinot noir, and the Ahr Valley pinots were stunning. But you don’t have to take my word for it: Decanter magazine ranked the pinot noir made by Weingut Meyer-Näkel the best pinot noir in the world in 2008—it beat wines from Burgundy, Oregon, Chile, and New Zealand.
The Ahr Valley is full of highlights, and below I’ve included a selection of my favorite wine producers with tasting room hours and tasting room fees. The entire valley is only 15 miles long, so it’s easy to navigate. Moreover, there’s a Red Wine Hiking Trail, which is mostly paved and lets you walk from tasting room to tasting room among terraced vineyards.
The Ahr Valley makes for an easy day trip from Bonn, but there are numerous reasons to stay overnight. The tiny medieval towns, such as Rech and Dernau, have a few inviting hotels, including Pension Kramer and Jagdhaus Rech. Further, the Ahr Resort and Spa in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweile offers relaxation replete with thermal spring water and Eifel mud. Cycling is also popular (it’s a great way to see the castle ruins), and the ruins of a Roman villa can be toured in the town of Ahrweiler.
In terms of wines, the Ahr Valley produces spätburgunders, reislings, dornfelders, portugiesers, pinot blancs (aka weissburgunder), and frühburgunder (an early ripening mutation of pinot noir). The demand is high, and few Ahr Valley wineries export their wines out of Europe, making this an excellent ravenous adventure into the heart of Germany’s most famous red wine region.
Note that many locals are most comfortable speaking German, but their hospitality is a universal language.
Wineries in the Ahr Valley
Jean Stodden Winery offers free tastings when buying wine. Longer, more complete tasting, which last two-and-a-half hours, are offered for a fee. Email the winery for details. Open: Mon.-Fri. 9am-12pm and 1pm-6pm, Sat. 10am-2pm
Bernhard Huber offers wine tastings of six wines for 12€ or eight wines for 16€. Appointments are necessary. Open: Mon.-Fri. 10am-12pm and 2pm-6pm; Sat. 10am-12pm
H.J. Näkel Kreuzberg offers free wine tastings if visiting to purchase wines. More involved wine tastings cost 25€/person. Open: daily
Weingut Meyer-Näkel offers wine tastings (price unknown) everyday that the winery is open. Open: Mon.-Fri. 9am-12pm and 2pm-5pm
Weingut Burggarten offers free wine tastings if visiting to purchase wines. More in depth wine tastings are also offered, but note the winery does not have a translator. Email for details. Open: Mon-Fri 10am-12:30pm and 1:30pm-6pm; Sat. 10am-3pm
Weingut Rudolf Fürst offers free tastings if buying wine. A wine tour and wine tasting costs between 25€ to 40€ and must be scheduled in advance. Open: Mon-Fri 9am-12pm and 2pm-6pm; Sat. 10am-3pm
Weingut Sonneberg offers wine tastings with a tour for 18€ (tour and tasting takes two-and-a-half hours.) Open: Mon-Fri 10am-12pm and 2pm-6pm; Sat. 10am-2pm; Sun. 10am-12pm
Written by the Ravenous Traveler, Mattie Bamman for EuropeUpClose.com