When I first saw the picture on the label of Oliver Zeter’s Grauburgunder (Novel Wines, £16.99), it reminded me of the old saying about being ‘like a bear with a sore head’. For those not familiar with the expression, it’s usually used to describe someone who’s in a bad mood and taking his or her feelings out on others around them. This bear certainly looks grumpy – not a creature to mess with; I can only assume that the glass in its paws doesn’t contain some of Oliver Zeter’s delicious wine.
The initial aromas of juicy grapefruit and other citrus fruits mellow after a few minutes in the glass and are complemented by lovely flavours of peach and ripe melon combining to make a rich mouthful with great complexity and exceptional length. The grapes were part-fermented in old barrels but there’s no oakiness here, just pure fruit with, perhaps, a little savoury edge. If I had to compare it, it would be to a very good Chablis, probably Premier or Grand Cru quality.
But this isn’t Chardonnay (as Chablis would have to be); Grauburgunder is the German name for Pinot Grigio – a grape that, so often, yields thin, acidic, anonymous whites yet, when treated well, as here or in Alsace, where it’s known as Pinot Gris, can produce the most delicious wines full of flavour and character.
Oliver Zeter is based in the Pfalz, one of Germany’s warmer regions whose vineyards are, in fact, an extension of those of Alsace to the south. Here, grapes ripen well – this wine is 13% alcohol – and develop a food-friendly richness; chicken or turkey in a creamy sauce or a good brie or camembert would be perfect partners.
I’ve said before that Germany’s wines are unfairly ignored in the UK and here’s yet another example to reinforce my view.