Germans call it Spätburgunder, Austrians talk about Blauburgunder. And the Italians - not very surprisingly - put Pinot Nero on the label. Criss-crossing Europe, Pinot Noir leaves its mark. We make a little tour. Only this time we leave out France for once. - TEXT EVELIJN VAN HEUVEN


Pinot noir flaunts itself on the list of the world's oldest grapes. It is also in the top 10 most planted grapes, with a loyal fan base of hardcore fans. Small in size, but big in stature. A tricky gentleman that drives many a winemaker to despair. For, with its thin jacket, it is easy prey to fungus and disease in the vineyard. So how come you still find pinot noir in all corners of Europe? What's on our shelves? And what about homegrown pinot noir?

Coveted Burgunders at neighbours (Germany)

We start our European tour in Germany. For a reason: it is the second largest producer of Pinot Noir after France and the United States. Which is just as well, because our eastern neighbours make Spätburgunders to lick your fingers at. They create a furore with light bubbly wines, medium-bodied multi-purpose varieties and wood-aged 'dinner-burgunders'. Increasingly, they also flaunt them on menus of Dutch restaurants and bars, and are ubiquitous in shops. The Germans have a phrase 'Kein Bier vor vier'. We say: 'Then have a nice glass of Spätburgunder with lunch!'


You might wonder where the name comes from anyway, because Spätburgunder does not remotely resemble Pinot Noir. We'll start at the back: burgunder is the German name used for the entire pinot family. So they call pinot gris grauburgunder and pinot blanc weissburgunder. And then the front: spät, or 'late'. A late-ripening grape? That seems strange, because pinot noir is actually known to ripen relatively early. Yet in a country like Germany with a cool climate, it is slightly different. There, it does ripen relatively late, or spät.

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