Pinot Noir 2018
Spatburgunder. Spat-burg-un-der. Spatburgundah! Learn it. Learn the word. Learn the sound of it. Learn the fall of the syllables across the palate. Learn how it feels to say in the mouth and learn how to properly ask for it in whatever the local tongue of whatever little city you find yourself in, seeking the pleasures of the (grape) flesh.
Yes, it’s German. Yes it’s (almost) always delicious. Yes, it’s gonna save you a pretty penny and (almost) give you everything you’re looking for; that is if you’re looking for affordable Pinot Noir that wont break the bank, an affable softly-spiced red-fruited and floral gem that won’t cost an arm and a leg, an affectionate stroke of inebriation that’ll give you the thrill of red burgundy in the bottle without the electric shock of having to exchange favours with the devil just to enjoy a single glass. You see Spatburgunder is German for Pinot Noir.
Andreas Bender hangs about in Mosel and Pfalz with a heavy focus on Riesling (as is his country’s prerogative). The ideal conditions for running a riesling ranch also lend themselves to the more sensitive, difficult and confessedly harrowing task of growing Spatburgunder. But Bender is more than up to it. Word is he made his first wine at the age of thirteen.
I think the best thing I did when I was thirteen was quit playing football so as to join the local am. dram. society as a means of courting Courtney Buchet who had been cast as Munjojerry in the autumn production of CATS knowing that were I to score the role of Rumpleteazer we’d spend a good six weeks rolling around on the floor together; and learning that dance is quite possibly the hardest sport out there, much harder than tossing balls around, and much more fun. Of course, despite playing Rumple to her Jerry she ended up pashing Rumtumtugger at the opening night party and the whole two week season became a nightmare for me and the poor make-up artist who had to reapply my tear smudged whiskers every time I saw Courtney getting frisky with Rumtum after a big number.
It is not without merit that Bender is coined the ‘Maverick of the Mosel’. His labelling suggests immediately that he is grinding against the machine opting for a much simpler style than the trad information-heavy labels of his ancestral plonk. Another thing of note is his bringing oak barrels out of retirement, a formerly unusual practice for the region. Old oak lending itself to fermentation and a combination of old and new to aging; the cellar hosting French, German, Russian and American barriques, like a UN council drafting peace treaties that only come to fruition when each are thrown together and formalised in the bottle, a heady perfume of struggle and of triumph once it hits the glass.
And what is happening in the glass? Deliciousness! (I might say that too often and too easily, but if it’s true it’s true). It doesn’t over promise on the nose. And that’s a good thing. It smacks of vanilla. Of Brighton rock. Of your Nana’s bathroom; you know, when you pop round to drop something off and over a quick cup of tea she brings you the perfect strawberry jam on half burnt toast with lashings of melting butter, and so you need two cups of tea to properly savour the moment and have to wee before you go and the bathroom has that hint of old potpourri and on the basin is a curling bar of imperial leather.
The wine is shy, at first. Then the mouth and nose open up on first sip, on second sip and all of the olfactory senses overwhelm. I slowed my breathing to catch it all, that the song might end before I’d heard the last verse. Like the shy girl at the party who after a few glasses of punch strips and jumps off the roof into the pool. It’s zippy. There’s a real strawberry tartness to it, some whole bunch dustiness making the mouth feel fleshy, chewy and tasty all at once. And there’s almost something medicinal; the soft candy red frog you get from the big glass jar if you take your needle like a good boy at the doctors; it even smells a little like a fresh plaster, perhaps even with the first drop of crimson. And then it turns a corner and it’s like licking the sugar kissed sap from a cherry tree. There is maturity and youth all at once. There is poise and pleasure all at once.
Sure it lacks the mystery, the haunt, the ethereal reach of Burgundian pinot but we aren’t looking for that here. We are looking for freshness, for minerality, for prettiness, for purity, even playfulness, and this wine is playing with you; pushing you right up against sweet flowers catching afternoon sun and pulling you back with a firm hand to watch the view from a wiser standpoint; that secret spot atop the hill only the locals know about where at the right hour you can glimpse the most majestic view of the city.
It ends perfectly dry, like a good comedy with moral clout, like a long hug goodbye knowing you may never see them again that holds just a little too tight at the very last moment, like the pleasure of pulling your genitals out to piss in the snow and the pain of having to wrangle everything with freezing hands. I’ve fallen off my snowboard and hit the ground hard and this is my medicine. I’ve had a long day being bullied at work and this is my respite. I’ve gambled my life away in pursuit of Burgundy and her beauty and I’ve not even had my first kiss. I’ve been kicked to the ground and robbed and they’ve taken my last dime and I’ve been run over and left for dead and this is the thing that will bring me back to life. Bender!! Spat-burg-un-dah! Save me. I’m drowning. It’s dark. And only your soft red light can lead the way.
tasted February 2021