2018 Weingut Meyer-Näkel, Pinot Noir “Estate” Ahr, Germany.
The famous Mayer-Näkel estate has gone through a seamless transition from the legendary “Red Baron” Werner Näkel, who is credited for making the world take notice of German red wines, especially Pinot Noir, to his talented daughters, Dörte & Meike Näkel who are making a stellar collection of wine themselves, including this smoothly rich and slate driven Ahr Estate 2018 Pinot Noir. These days, the secret is out that Germany is actually a powerhouse producer of Pinot Noir with many top producers crafting exceptional versions of this grape, they include Becker, Kunstler, Schlossgut Diel, Furst and Meyer-Näkel, who won a historic blind tasting by Decanter Magazine and was named best Pinot Noir in the world, against some of Burgundy’s greatest, to name a few. This 2018, which is less oak driven than Werner’s wines of the mid two thousands, is a deep ruby wine that is fresh and wonderfully textured with a pleasing layered mouth feel and pure Pinot fruit, highlighting the evolving style at this estate in Germany’s northwest region of the Ahr, any area of unique steep slopes, smoky slate and long sunny days to ripen the fruit to perfection. Based in Dernau, the Meyer-Näkel estate is blessed with some amazing vineyards site, some of which are Grand Cru or Grosses Gewachs set on pure slate looking down on the Ahr River, that lies in the rain shadow of the Eifel Mountains, meaning it is drier and with perfect south exposures that draws in the warmth of the sun, even though this is one of the most northerly area of German wine production. At first the 2018 Estate Pinot, or as the locals call it Spatburgunder, gives the impression of soft and creamy simplicity, but as it gets air its true nature comes through and it gains complexity with every sip with red raspberry, strawberry, plum and a core of black cherry fruit along with a hint of flinty/smoke, a touch of sweet florals, tea spices, subtle earthiness and very faint wood notes. There is an elegant sense of transparent purity and energy in this vintage, which is highly compelling, very composed and admirable.
The winery notes, that the name “Ahr“ goes back to the Celtic word “aha”, meaning water. The river has always been cherished here, even in ancient times, it has carved out a deep, steep-sided valley of craggy rocks and chasms on its way through the Ahr Hills and the vines cling bravely to these hyper steep sites. This, according to the Näkels, not only created a wildly romantic, picturesque view, but also the basis for the cultivation of red wine in what is Germany’s “high north” and made for these very special climatic conditions that were enough to convince the Romans to settle here, encouraged by the wine of course, all that time ago. The Ahr Valley, despite being the third-smallest wine-producing region in Germany, has, as the winery adds, the largest continuous stretch of red wine vine cultivation in Germany, with the majority top sites located in Dernau. Meyer-Näkel has a stellar set of sites, including the mentioned top Crus, which are Pfarrwingert, Kräuterberg and Sonnenberg, these are vineyards that rival the elite of the Cote d’Or and produce, in most vintages make for some of the most highly sought after wines in Europe! While this Pinot Noir “Estate” Ahr is more of an entry level offering, it delivers more than enough to be considered a top value and a great gateway wine to gain insight on just how good these German Pinots can be. I first tired the Meyer-Näkel from the 2006 vintage and have been a fan ever since, even bringing some back from Germany in 2009, so it was great to see that Dörte & Meike have continued to put out such delicious wines, like this one, as well as another favorite of mine, their Rosé of Pinot Noir and I can only hope to get a few of the rare GG’s, which are almost impossible to get here in California. Both sisters, Dörte & Meike went to the famous Geisenheim University on the Rhein earning the esteemed degrees in wine cultivation and were well trained to take over the Mayer-Näkel winery, where their mom and dad still lend a hand, but have allowed for their girls to explore their own ideas, which has certainly proved fruitful and the future here is in good hands.
($36 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive