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The wines of Rainer Lingenfelder
Weingut Lingenfelder, Haupstrasse 27, 67229 Grosskarlbach, Germany
wine@lingenfelder.com Web: www.lingenfelder.com

Editor's note: for a more recent (December 2004) review of Rainer Lingenfelder's wines, see here

The Pfalz is Germany's warmest wine region, and although it makes a lot of very undistinguished wine (about half the total production of Liebfraumilch comes from here), there are a few estates who really excel. Lingenfelder, a family owned 15 ha estate, is one of these. Rainer Lingenfelder, who explained these wines to me, is an entertaining chap who speaks very good English and comes across as an intelligent and slightly eccentric wine producer, committed to achieving the best quality. Overall, I found the three Rieslings full of interest and complexity: they are fuller bodied than most of their Mosel counterparts, with higher alcohol and a pronounced citrus fruit character, although they still retain a lovely delicacy. Those unfamiliar with German reds will find the two examples here surprisingly full bodied. They are both very good wines. But the star of the show was the sparkling Satyr, which really is an unusual beast: an experimental wine that I hope will see a commercial release soon.

Facts for the anorak
15 ha estate, with four vineyard sites: Freinsheimer Goldberg (South-facing slope, partly terraced, very light sand soil); Freinsheimer Musikantenbuckel (South facing slope, sandy soil partly gravel); Grosskarlbacher Osterberg (slight slope, loess, sandy subsoil); and Grosskarlbacher Burgweg (sandy calcareous soil over limestone rock). Grape varieties grown: 40% Riesling, 20% Spätburgunder, 10% Scheurebe, 10% Muller Thurgau, 8% Dornfelder, 5% Sylvaner, 5% Kerner and 2% Portugeiser. Average production is 13 000 cases.

The wines

1999 Bird Label Riesling, Pfalz
Made specifically for the UK and US markets, the bird label Riesling has been a great success. First made in the 1998 vintage, Rainer Lingenfelder's intention was to produce a serious wine in a friendly, easy-to-understand package, targeted at non-German-wine buffs. It is a blend of Kabinett and Spätlese wines, with some estate grapes but mostly fruit bought from growers in the neighbourhood, and sells for £4.99 at Oddbins. The nice, open citrussy nose has some honey and apple notes. There's a lovely fruity character on the palate, with some sweetness on the finish. Very good, and an accessible introduction to good German Riesling in the Pfalz style.

1999 Riesling Kabinett Freinsheimer Musikantenbuckel, Pflaz
The nice lemony, herby, honeyed nose has a delicate character to it. The palate is medium dry with citrus and apples dominating, good acidity and quite a light, delicate texture. Very good+

1999 Riesling Spätlese Grosskarlbacher Osterberg, Pfalz
Delicate and aromatic on the nose with lemon, spice and mineral notes. There's a nice herby, waxy character to the palate, with lemon and grapefruit flavours. Finishes with some residual sugar and high acidity. Quite a light wine, but with good concentration at the same time. Very good/excellent

1998 Onyx (barrique-aged Dornfelder from the Osterberg vineyard in Grosskarlbach; a Qualitatswein)
Apparently 1998 was a leaner year, and this Dornfelder was aged for 12 months in barriques, 50% of which were new. Bright purple/pink colour (striking and youthful) with a slightly shy nose showing some sweet strawberry and cherry fruit. The palate displays pungent cherry fruit with a nice sourness from the acidity and soft spicy notes from the oak. Full but savoury. Very good

1999 Ganymed Spätburgunder (cask sample)
A premium Pinot Noir named after the sommelier to the Gods, this has an unusual label with a cartoon of Ganymed and Bacchus on it. It comes from the Grosskarlbach Burgweg vineyard, but this isn't on the label because the wine is classified as a humble Tafelwein. 1999 was a ripe year and this wine is unchaptalised, weighing in at 13.5% alcohol. A bright red purple colour, the nose is ripe with pronounced sour cherry and herb notes. The full, ripe, concentrated palate has savoury berry fruit backed up with spicy oak. Quite tight at the moment (as you might expect for a cask sample), there's plenty going on here and it may develop in interesting ways. Good acidity. Very good+, possibly better

This is Rainer's experimental sparkling wine, which he reckons is unique because at no point is any sugar added, unlike Champagne. He took a 1994 Riesling Kabinett as his base wine, and then added yeast and some freshly pressed Riesling juice in 1995. This was left in the bottle for five years, and he used 2000 juice as the dosage. The result? It's a fizz with a fine mousse and a heady nose of citrus fruits and apples, with a touch of honey. The palate is very lively, with high acidity and lovely pure mineral and fruit flavours. It finishes with a touch of sweetness. Noticeably Riesling and quite different to Champagne, this hasn't yet been released commercially, but I really like it. Very good/excellent

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