Tuesday, 13 July 2010

German Hill

My focus today is on a curious wine I discovered a while back in a shop at Basel SBB station. A Pinot Noir called "Leo". Apparently, it was sourced from grapes in the Pfalz and produced by "German Hill GmbH", a German business run by Austrian winemaker Leo Hillinger. From what I've seen, Herr Hillinger seems to have quite a slick marketing machine in place, name puns aside. I remember him talking on an American news channel a number of years ago regarding the swish new winery building he'd just constructed. The place looked like a designer boutique, and he looked more like a male model than a vintner. However, the substance is in the wines, I suppose.

Here are the Hillinger wines I've tried so far until today: Small Hill red (a pretty lush quaff, full of dark, uncomplicated fruit flavours); Small Hill white (very much the perfumed summer wine); Cabernet Sauvignon (impressed me: more complex and full-bodied, if a little formulaic).

This German Hill business is a bit of a curiosity, though. Based in Deidesheim, according to the wine label, the enterprise seems to have had a dedicated website of sorts, although the link no longer works. Apart from a few comments on forums and blogs, the only official material I've seen is an official notice on the main Hillinger website dating back almost three years. Strange. To all intents and purposes, you would be mistaken for thinking that German Hill have gone downhill.

Today's bottle was one of only three left in store. Over a long period, I'd noticed that no one seemed to be buying them. This being Switzerland, it didn't surprise me. Or deter me. What might have detered me was the vintage, 2006 - a fluctuating, sometimes difficult year in the Pfalz. No matter, it was still worth a try.

German Hill, Leo Pinot Noir 2006, Pfalz
Austrian bottles invariably have the red and white of the Austrian flag on the top of the neck wrapping. This one has the black, red and yellow (sorry, gold) of the German flag. Touché.

Taken out of the fridge fully chilled (due to the weather), poured in a decanter, left for half an hour and then poured back into the bottle. In appearance, quite substantial ruby red - maybe a bit darker than your average Spätburgunder. On the nose, creamy black cherry and some dark forest fruits, with a touch of oak vanillin in the background. On the palate, full-bodied and chewy for a Pinot, yet very smooth. Primary fruit flavours come very much to the fore, and there is some cream and vanilla again. The finish is medium to long.

This is a well-made wine very much in the creamy New World style. What's not to like? Well, I have one minor quibble with this wine. This is a smooth, slick Pinot, yet it lacks character and complexity. Which is not to be mistaken for full-bodiedness. I would hope for maybe a little bit less "designer wine" and little more subtlety and nuance. Due to the style in which it has been made, I doubt it will improve that much with age. Nevertheless, this is very much a wine for the here and now that would go very well with a whole variety of meaty dishes.

1 comment:

  1. We get a lot of Hillinger stuff here in Vienna - he uses Wein & Co. as his main distribution channel.