…and now for something completely different-German syrah, Knipser 2003

Does this look like a German wine to you?

a German red wine

Doesn’t look like the pale, watery German reds I’ve met in the past but this was no ordinary red, it was a German syrah. The Wine Rambler had done it again, surprising me with a German red the likes of which I had never encountered before, a lovely syrah from the Pfalz, better known for their flinty rieslings then supple reds.  

German labels!

The Knipser brothers have been experimenting with syrah since 1994 when they decided to plant the vine in their vineyards in the Rhineland-Palatinate. The wine is considered experimental because German wine laws are even more dictatorial and martinet about what types of grapes grow where and, since syrah is not considered an indigenous varietal, it falls outside of the wine laws of Germany. Hence the term experimental, although if this is an experimental wine. I can’t even imagine what a non-experimental wine would taste like.

The Knipsers  have been using barriques since the 1980′s so they know a thing or two about oak and it is clearly evident in the Knipser 2003 syrah. The oak is so finely integrated that it’s difficult to know where the oak ends and the fruit begins. The wine was decanted for about half an hour before we tried it but it was starting to open up nicely and got progressively livelier as the night wore on.

The syrah was matured in French oak barrels for 20months and it was apparent on the nose, a toasty vanilla scent with a black fruit profile slowly revealing itself with each sniff. After a bit of time, caramel, cocoa, green peppers and licorice also started to show thru the toasty mist. On the palate, supple and smooooooth….full bodied, which despite the colour was still a surprise. I just couldn’t get over the fact that this was a German red wine. I’ve had Austrian reds before but nothing prepared me for the depth of this wine. Tasting it, baked fruit at first, followed by more cocoa powder and hints of aniseed on a long finish. A fabulous Big Red from the Knipser brothers.

ready for my close-up

Unfortunately, this came from the WineRambler’s private stash so there’s not much left, even in Germany, which is too bad because honestly, that was a red to be had.

11 Comments

  1. Deal! If we wait until autumn, the 2007 Syrah should be ready, from what I hear…

  2. Very much so. Unless you know someone who might know someone – and then you would have to be very nice to that someone…

    Or form a Mission Impossible gang and break into the Knipser vault. That would be my favourite!

  3. For some reason I only now got a notification for some of the most recent comments, so apologies for the late reply. I will surely keep my eyes open for later vintages and wines that might bring something similar to the table.

    Knipsers usually take their time when it comes to releasing red wines. For instance, a 2003 Pinot Noir was only released last December. Their prestigious Medoc style blend X usually takes at least three years before they start selling it and in some years they do not release any if they feel the quality is not up to the level they expect. I haven’t asked them yet, but I assume the same goes for the Syrah. I know they put at least the 2000-2003 vintages on the market.

    I guess it is also important to think about the numbers. There is so little Syrah grown in Germany that it does not even show up in the statistics – apart from being subsumed in the infamous ‘other’ category. In 2008, red wine was grown on 37,227 ha in Germany. Among those, just 654 ha were labelled as ‘other’ – that would be Syrah, but also a large number of other varieties, including ‘Blauer Wildbacher’ or ‘Zweigelt’.

    So basically, there is just not much of that stuff going around…

  4. YUM! Too bad it is so hard to find, because it sounds completely delightful!

    • I know what you mean! It seems even in Germany it’s not available but I think I may be able to get the next vintage to try, looking forward to it :-)

  5. Yes, it is a shame that I did not decide to buy a case or two back then – after this review I could probably have sold it to your readers with an outrageous markup… Seriously though, this is a great wine and I am very pleased that you liked it too. German wineries are showing more interest in producing Syrah and some are also putting out good red cuvées “Bordeaux’-style; Knipser, for instance, make the Cuvée X, made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. These wines tend not to be cheap – but then value and cheap are not the same thing…

    • I think the old adage, “You get what you pay for” is never more true then when it comes to wine. Unless you’re extremely lucky and stumble upon a bargain. My friend once got a case of high champagne (no names but let’s just say it was not a cheapie) for £40 because it was a warehouse leftover and the workers didn’t drink champagne!

  6. I think 2003 would be the vintage of choice for red German wines; it was so hot that year that even in Germany you could get the heat-loving Syrah up to 13.5% alcohol (which I read on the label of this wine). It’d be interesting to taste this wine in a more classic vintage.

    Thanks for the note!

    • I’m getting the Wine Rambler to bring in more of that syrah but a later vintage. I’ll let you know how it stacks up!

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