When discussing German red wine, wine lovers usually think of Spätburgunder (aka Pinot Noir), but many struggle to name another variety. Around one-third of Germany’s vineyard area is planted with red grape varieties, one of which is Lemberger.
Lemberger prefers a warmer climate, and in Germany, it is almost exclusively grown in Württemberg, a wine region in the south. It is dark in colour, has cherry and berry notes, high acidity, moderate tannin and long ageing potential.
Württemberg is Germany’s premier red wine region, but it is more well known for its industrial economy, being home to global players like Bosch, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche. As a matter of fact, four out of five winegrowers cultivate less than one hectare of vines, and most wines are produced in cooperatives. Moreover, nearly all wine is consumed in Württemberg, and very few bottles are sold in other parts of Germany, let alone overseas.
I was excited to find out that Weingut Karl Haidle from Württemberg can be enjoyed in Hong Kong and even more excited to have a recent Zoom tasting session with Moritz Haidle, the third-generation owner/winemaker.
Weingut Karl Haidle stands out for a few reasons. In 1949, Karl Haidle, the grandfather of Moritz, decided to establish a private wine estate instead of joining a cooperative. When the estate was passed to the second generation in 1962, Hans Haidle, the father of Moritz, expanded the vineyard holding from 2.5 to 23 hectares. He also made a few pioneering moves – ageing red wine in new French barriques (most winegrowers used old barrels), making dry wine when sweet wine was the norm and becoming one of the first to plant Lemberger.
Like most Württemberg wine estates at that time, Weingut Karl Haidle planted a few different grape varieties. When Moritz took the helm in 2014, he had the vision to focus only on two varieties – Riesling and Lemberger – Riesling because the village where the estate is located is known for this wine and Lemberger because his father was successful with the wine and scooped the VINUM German Red Wine Award seven times. So far, Moritz has deleted 14 wines from its portfolio.
We tasted four Lemberger wines, ranging from the estate level (Gutsweine, Stettener Lemberger), to Premier Cru (Erste Lage, Stettener Häder Lemberger), to Grand Cru (Grosse Lage, Stettener Berge Lemberger GG and Stettener Gehrnhalde Lemberger GG). Because of the different soil types, placement, altitude and vineyard age, each wine has its own expression. The estate wines are accessible, while the two Grand Crus are more complex. Premier Cru Stettener Häder Lemberger is Moritz’s favourite; it’s fresh, with typical sour cherry and floral notes supported by fine tannin that matches well with braised meat dishes.
Lemberger is also grown in other countries but under different names – Blaufränkisch in Austria and Kékfrankos in Hungary. At a recent Blaufränkisch summit attended by international wine writers and sommeliers, it was agreed that the key to the quality of this grape variety is its high acidity, giving the wine freshness and ageing potential and earning it a place alongside Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo, the world’s great red wines with a similar acidity structure.
We also tasted five Rieslings from the estate, which are as impressive as the Lembergers. You can learn more about Weingut Karl Haidle in Hong Kong at Deco Wines.