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Until recently, German Pinot Noir was considered predominantly inferior by most red wine lovers, even in their own country - and in the eyes of many wine lovers, it still is. This is mainly because simple, sweet, uncomplicated wines came into fashion soon after the war. The introduction of mash heating on a broad front additionally ensured that classic, high-quality red wine from mash fermentation became a rarity in Germany.
The variety of desire: Pinot Noir
It was only with the advent of the barrique fashion in the mid-1980s that the ambition to produce internationally competitive red wine reawakened in Germany. But only a few producers have so far succeeded in regularly pressing Pinot Noirs that can compete with high-class growths from Burgundy. Thus, the bad reputation of German red wine recovered only slowly and despite often very good qualities and drastically increasing production quantities, even today no one would think of calling Germany a classic red wine country.
Thus, the knowledge of the old red wine tradition in the country seems to have been almost completely buried in the meantime. The centre of this tradition is undoubtedly Assmannshausen on the Rhine, behind Rüdesheim at the northern end of the Rheingau. The cultivation of Pinot Noir has been documented here since the 15th century, and once again it was Johann Wolfgang von Goethe who left us a testimony to the quality of the Pinot Noir from the Assmannshäuser Höllenbergs in a note from the Bingen Rochusfest in 1814.
The archives of the state winery in Assmannshausen do not go back quite that far. But far enough to offer a small group of guests invited by the wine magazine "Fine" an impressive show of achievements from times long past on a morning in September 2008. 12 wines from vintages between 1928 and 1959 were ready for tasting, having been opened two days earlier, pre-tasted and found presentable. These were wines of an age that is almost only spoken of with reverence when it comes to the very big names from the most famous growing regions of France or to port.
Dieter Greiner - Managing Director of the Eberbach Monastery Winery / Hesse State Wine Estates - presented the wines in a witty and, above all, knowledgeable manner
No hunter of lost wine treasures is likely to have German red wine of this age on his wanted list. But he should. Because what came to the table that morning was remarkable, always amazing, often inspiring. Even the oldest sample still radiated a freshness that one would never have thought possible. One was also left speechless by the qualities that were still produced here in the worst years of the war under conceivably catastrophic conditions. The vintages 1945, 1946 and 1947 in particular form a triumvirate of great Pinot Noirs, as would also suit the most famous Grands Crus of Burgundy. But the aforementioned 28 and the famous 37 also make clear the potential of this great site. The wines from the 50s are also remarkable, whereby the trend towards more residual sweetness is already noticeable here.
And one thing became clear again: if there is one thing that is definitely not necessary for the production of first-class red wines that can develop over decades, it is the ageing in barriques made of new oak wood. The experiences of the last 20 years rather point to the opposite. Perhaps this realisation would bring the many committed new and old red wine producers in the country a good deal further on their way back to more glorious times.
The state domain in Assmannshausen
The rehearsal took place on 11 September 2008 in the rooms of the Assmannshausen domain. Thanks to detailed work reports from that time, the circumstances and data of vineyard work, harvesting and wine processing from almost all vintages have survived to this day.