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Pinot Noir (in Germany: Spätburgunder) goes with more than just game. The experienced Palatinate restaurant manager and sommelière Sybille Bultmann also serves fish, cheese and sausage platters with it - if you open the right wines. She explained to Kristine Bäder what goes best with Pinot.

The current statistics of the German Wine Institute speak a clear language: Pinot Noir is the most important red wine variety in Germany. More than 11,000 hectares of Germany's vineyards are planted with it, which is slightly more than eleven percent of the total area. In the white-wine country of Germany, where almost 70 percent of the vineyards are planted with white varieties, this is not a bad quota.

The history of Pinot Noir in Germany goes back over a hundred years. But with the rationalisation of viticulture between the 1960s and 1990, the red variety mutated into the stepchild of German winegrowers. High-yielding clones, mash heating and ageing in stainless steel or GRP produced thin, light-coloured and inexpressive wines that quickly lost the reputation of German Pinot. Only the initiative of ambitious winemakers, inspired by the methods in Burgundy, brought German Pinot Noir back to the top. Today it enjoys a high reputation, especially in the Anglo-American world. And because German top Pinots are often in no way inferior to the competition from Burgundy, but are considerably more affordable, their popularity on the international wine stage has rarely been greater.

Pinot Noir can do much more than accompany game. But it depends on the origin, the ageing and the age.
© Wikipedia - Prayitno

Elegance with restrained tannins

Sybille Bultmann is one of the best sommeliers in Germany. The "Schlemmer-Atlas" ranked her among the top 50 German sommeliers in 2022. As restaurant manager and sommelière, she shaped the restaurant at Ketschauer Hof in Deidesheim (Palatinate) for many years. With her husband, chef Swen Bultmann, she opened the restaurant "Atable" in Ludwigshafen in 2013. Since 2021, it has found a new home in Freinsheim in the Palatinate.

Already in Ludwigshafen, the Atable followed a concept of classic French cuisine. "We also invited people there to wine evenings with pure Pinot noir menus," Sybille Bultmann reports on her experiences with the red variety. "Pinot noir has many facets, but the outstanding characteristic is its elegant nature combined with the restrained tannins. It is a wine that really accompanies food rather than drowning it out." For her, light and elegant cuisine in particular benefits from Pinot Noir.

Roasted turbot goes perfectly with cool Pinot Noir without barrique ageing.
© Wikipedia - MOs810

Too much fruit makes the combination difficult

For the sommelière, which Pinot comes into the glass is also - and above all - a question of age. "When young, Pinot Noir can taste very fruity. But if the aroma is too intense, it can be difficult with some dishes." A good combination, on the other hand, occurs for her when the food calls for spice. Or with dishes that tolerate fruit as a contrast. "Beetroot, for example," she recommends, "or fish. It can be fried and bring a little power with it." In autumn, Sybille Bultmann likes to go for mature Pinot Noir. With its rather delicate fruit and notes of undergrowth and vegetal notes, these wines go very well with poultry such as guinea fowl and also with mushrooms. Or in winter with wild fowl and root vegetables.

But acidity is also an important factor in Pinot Noirs. "The best German producers are usually on the fresh and light side of Pinot, but it always brings with it a distinct acidity. You have to take that into account when choosing a wine," Sybille Bultmann explains. On the other hand, the tannins are not so dominant, which makes Pinot Noir less suitable for braised dishes, for example. "Unless, of course, you are more inclined to choose wines from Burgundy. There you can still find wines that have been fermented with whole grapes and raisins. They have a completely different tannin structure," explains the hostess. Warmer origins such as South Tyrol and California also offer more powerful Pinot Noirs that can be used quite differently as food accompaniments. "Basically, however, Pinot noir is a variety that is quite uniform in style, because internationally, too, more and more elegance is being sought."

Pinot noir and the cranberry effect

For her, venison and pinot noir are perfect partners. "Lièvre royal, a classic dish in France with a stuffing of foie gras is a perfect dish for a Pommard with its firm structure and spice," she says. "The acidity breaks up the fat of the liver and matches the strong sauce, the fat of the dish in return softens the tannins of the wine," the sommelière enthuses about the combination. With venison or deer, Pinot noir often takes on the "cranberry effect" for her, when it plays the counterpart to the spiciness of the meat with its fruit.

In her experience, the classic, light Pinot Noirs, on the other hand, are less suited to these dishes. "A wine like this from the large wooden barrel, i.e. without barrique ageing, with its juicy and animating freshness is a great companion to the Palatinate snack (traditional sausage platter)." This Pinot is also excellent with fish dishes. Sybille Bultmann recommends sea bass roasted on the skin, served with beetroot, or turbot with red wine butter. "Accompanied by a fine, fresh Pinot, served at 14 to 16 degrees - that's perfect."

Be careful with goat or blue cheese

When it comes to cheese, one still very quickly stumbles across the recommendation of red wine on the internet. In fact, for Sybille Bultmann, Pinot Noir can be combined quite well with a few cheeses. "Food and wines that come from the same regions often go together," is the restaurant manager's recommendation. A younger Pinot from Burgundy with the red smear cheese l'Ami du Chambertin from there goes well, as does a Chaource. "But goat's cheese or blue cheese does not go well with Pinot Noir. It goes better with cheeses with a lot of fat and little acidity." If it absolutely has to be this grape variety, however, you can go for a Blanc de noirs: "It's so primarily fruity, it usually works pretty well with cheese."

It is only with dessert that Bultmann has become sceptical. "I wouldn't do that any more," she emphasises. Her experience: Red Pinots are always completely fermented, plus acidity and tannin - that doesn't work with desserts. But if you find the rare case of a sweet wine made from Pinot noir, the combination becomes interesting: "The red aroma with desserts with red fruits like cherries and with chocolate, that goes great. And how does Pinot noir do as a sparkling wine with food? "You can definitely do that. Pinot noir sparkling wine is usually a little more lush, so it's a good accompaniment to food. As blanc de noirs, I like it with strong starters, as a rosé it's also just an aperitif."

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