Portugieser Alte Reben
Here’s the hypothesis we’ll set out to prove: Jochen Beurer may be one of the most important winemakers in Germany.
His wines are pure energy; they have a universal vibration to them. They seemingly do not follow the laws of physics that govern the rest of the conventional wine world. They float.
Among winemakers in Germany, Beurer is revered and his whites and reds are nearly always considered among the greats. Few winemakers are able to achieve such thrust and such purity, from the simpler Trollinger and Portugieser up to Grauburgunder, Sauvignon Blanc and, yes, Riesling.
Yet Beurer’s influence flows not only through his wines, but through his actions. Jochen is one of the deepest thinkers about the environment beyond the vineyards. A tour with Beurer is as likely to include a discussion of his bees, the vegetation and animals surrounding the vineyards as it is to include a discussion of the soil and vines themselves.
I have met few winemakers who seem to see the “whole” as clearly and succinctly as Beurer does. Jochen farms both organic and biodynamic (he is Demeter certified), yet still he does not speak in easy truths; he seems to be seeking a viticulture that is beyond these simple rules, more integrated, more complete.
Jochen is also one of the kindest humans out there; a bear of a man who is profoundly nurturing. A whole generation of young German winemakers has passed through Beurer’s cellar. We’re getting to the heart of why Beurer is so important to German winemaking.
Nonetheless, it’s not shocking that Beurer is less well known in the U.S. First, he’s from Swabia, a southern region only recently created by the importer Selection Massale. Swabia is not part of the old-school, cannonical history of winemaking in Germany. It is a fertile place, with a diverse array of agriculture. Which brings us to the second reason that Beurer is not as famous as he should be: he does not focus solely on Riesling, but embraces the wild and complicated diversity of Teutonic grapes and wines.
Let’s start with Beurer’s reds. The Trollinger (Schiava) is a bright, raspy, complex yet crushable treatise in what we’ll call “Alto Swabia.” The “Rot” is gut (translation: good): a darker, earthier blend of Pinot Noir, Cabernet Dorio, Dornfelder and Portugieser, the latter two being among our favorite Teutonic red grapes, for their lightness and easy transparency. The Zweigelt gets, all of a sudden, much more serious. The Zweigelt flaunts a thrust, a glossy precision that recalls the Rieslings. It is has what we’d call elegance, though it remains stern and serious. An unbelievable wine, honestly – always sort of shocking.