The Ahr Valley
Visiting the most northerly of Germany's wine
regions, where Pinot Noir is king
Ahr valley is one of Germany's most northerly wine regions, and also
its smallest, with just 562 hectares of vines. While I was in the
Netherlands doing some lecturing, its proximity was too tempting to
resist! My host, Lars Daniel, knows the region well, so we hopped
over the border to take a look.
glad we did, because this region is a hidden gem. Unlike other
German regions, it's devoted to red wines, and the key is that this
is a warm, narrow valley with schist soils, despite its latitude
that would suggest it couldn't ripen Pinot Noir successfully. But it
can, and Pinot has been grown here since around 1650.
predominant soil is slate/schist, and these weathered slate soils
are quite shallow – less than a metre deep – but the vine roots find
their way through the fractures to the subsoil. Summers are usually
warm and dry, making up for the coolness of this latitude. 'This is
grape growing at the edge of possibilities,' says prominent wine
grower Marc Adeneuer of JJ Adeneuer.
the Ahr hasn't been all that interesting until recently. The
proximity of major cities has meant there has always been a market
for the Ahr's wines, and in the past the steady stream of tourists
and local markets lapped up bad wines with little discernment. 'We
used to make sweet red wines here, up until 1985' says Adeneuer.
Quality Ahr wine? 'It's a 30 year story.'
more recently, no one believed the red wines from here could really
be all that good. '10 years ago, people said Ahr Valley wines were
not able to see 5 years,' says Adeneur. This has changed, and now
some very serious wines are being made in this beautiful valley. He
continues: 'The incredible advantage the Ahr enjoys is that there is
very little competition for red wines in Germany, and we are very
close to rich areas, and people are always willing to pay more for
despite its size, it's not a uniform region. 'The region is so
small, but because of the shape of the valley and the soils, the
wines change so much, says Meike Näkel of Meyer Näkel. 'There are
lots of different microclimates.'
visited three of the leading producers in the region, and found a
lot to like. The only regret: the best wines here are quite
expensive, because of the strong domestic market demand. But they
are worth it. This is a lovely region.
Germany's wine regions (series)
Find these wines with wine-searcher.com