Wine Talk

Snooth User: Helga


Posted by Helga, Mar 6, 2009.

Why do you think is the red german wine called Dornfelder not so popular like others


Reply by Philip James, Mar 8, 2009.

Helga - you mean why's it not as well known as other grapes from Germany, or other red grapes? I think a grape needs to be widely available to be properly accepted (chard, cab s, pinot gris etc), and to be really accepted it needs to be capable of making exceptional wines (even if people are only drinking $10 wines, they still bond with the fact that merlot, cab and so on, could make great wines).

I'm not entirely sure I've even tried Dornfelder.

Reply by Degrandcru, Mar 9, 2009.

Helga, Dornfelder is very popular, but only in Germany. The reasons are simple:

1) Dornfelder is a relatively new grape (introduced in the late 70´s)

2) Dornfelder is very fashionable in Germany; the reason is that the worldwide trend went to dark colored reds with tannins and fruits, low acidity and oak. As Cabernet and Merlot do not work well in the German climate, Dornfelder was the ideal substitute. So it is the ideal grape for Germany to follow the international trend. No reason so for other countries with a more favourable climate for full dark reds to accept this grape.

I think over the time Dornfelder could gain its small share in the world market similar as the Chilenean Carmenere or Uruguayan Tannat.

Reply by Rodolphe Boulanger, Mar 9, 2009.

I may have had a Dornfelder in the distant past, but I only definitely tried one here in the US a few weeks ago at a wine expo. It is just that rare here.

As Degrandcru states, it is a very new grape. It was commercially released from the Weinsberg institute in 1979 and was instantly very popular amongst growers because it is much easier to grow than Pinot Noir (Spatburgunder) and has been bred to have the best qualities of Lemberger, Trollinger, and Blauer Portugieser. Since it has more depth of flavor and color (its flesh is actually red), Dornfelder can take on a variety of styles including those involving barrel aging which became so popular in the 1980s and 1990s. In fact, it is now the 4th most planted grape in Germany after Riesling, Muller-Thurgau and Pinot Noir. However, the plantings have all but stopped. With global warming having a large effect on Germany, we are seeing more Merlot and Cabernet being planted in Baden. Soon Dornfelder may lost its raison d'etre.

However, most Dornfelder is grown for the German market. Since Germans are now mad about not just red wine, but certain styles of red wine, there's a large demand for these styles of Pinot Noir and Dornfelder inside Germany. Here in the US, we still look to Germany for her white wines made from Riesling... and especially the sweet ones. I would even go as far to say that no major wine producing country has as large a gap between the styles of wine it drinks and those that it exports than Germany.

However, Degrandcru, I don't think your Carmenere & Tannat example is correct. The South American expressions of these grapes in many ways exceed the European one. They occupy a small, but growing niche and they have a real raison d'etre. Right now there's little reason to see Dornfelder outside of Germany and, ifthat changes, I don't see much point in Dornfelder at all. It will become Germany's Red Muller-Thurgau.

Reply by oceank8, Mar 10, 2009.

One of my favorite wines is the Dornfelder from Huber in Santa Rita Hills. It is so fabulous that I had to track them down at their home last time I was in the area and buy a bunch of it. They also use the grape to make a jam and a port (which I was able to try, but isn't bottled yet).

This is the only time I have ever seen it however! What a fabulous color and flavor it has, I'd love to see more of it.

Reply by Degrandcru, Mar 10, 2009.

@Boulanger: I may have been wrong with my comparison to Carmenere / Tannat. To be honest I´ve only had a handful of Dornfelder and none was that convincing, but on the other hand I only had a handful of Uruguayan Tannat and they didn´t blow me away either (Carmenere´s indeed I tried a few very nice ones). Just think that with today´s demand and adventurous consumers every style has its niche.
In my opinion the best results for reds in Germany are delivered by the "Spaetburgunder" (Pinot Noir).

Reply by senippah, Mar 12, 2009.

I think the biggest reason why Dornfelder is not so popular in the States yet (!) is the fact that it has not been around long enough. Everybody knows Riesling and Spaetburgunder (Pinot Noir) because they are grapes that have been around for centuries, even millenia. The same goes for grapes like Cab, Chardonnay & Co.

However, if you consider that all of these and other grapes have gained and lost favor repeatedly throughout histroy, were sometimes neglected or parts of blends, only to be remembered decades later, then you understand that wine is bound to fashion and climates as are clothes. And so, why not think that Dornfelder can become a fashion?! Cabs and Merlots can be boring after a while. At least to me they are. They seem to flood the market and there seems to be no wine maker who does not grow them these days. Why? Why not try something different? Otherwise, why do we have choice?

Also, the average wine drinker's knowledge of foreign wines is very small (except for all you guys here on Snooth & Co.). The styles they drink in France, Italy and Germany are distinctly different from the States' taste. The number of varietals is much larger, too, in Europe. That reflects in the choices and popularity of varietals here in the States, I think. However, Malbec made it. Nero d'Avola is on the rise. Syrah is popular now when it was not a few years ago. I wonder, is it the marketing (do we like to choose only what marketing makes us believe is popular?) or are they truely good wines? I think one can find as many truely good Malbecs and Syrahs as one can find truely good Cabs or Chardonnays.

And one can find just as many truely good Dornfelders. I am fortunate enough to have tried different styles of Dornfelder. Whether dry and smokey, oaked or sweet and soft, I found the big plus for Dornfelder grapes are their versatility. Chilled or room temperature, with hearty cheeses or pork or pasta, Dornfelder has application in so many more ways than most varietals. I love the deep purplish color that says: no mistake, this is a real wine! I love the deep fruit. I love that because of the soft tannins I can drink glass after glass without getting a dry mouth or a drowsy head. I like that the sweetness is not reminding of sugary juice like some wines do.

I think Dornfelder has a great future ahead of it. Like Riesling it has a chance to become a grape so distinctive of its region. If German wine makers are smart enough soon everybody will think of Dornfelder synomymous to Germany. Only in red. A change of colors cannot hurt : )

Reply by 1736swiss, Feb 16, 2010.

Recieved a bottle of Dornfelder Rotwein trocken, produced by Weingut Gernot Reith. Produced in Rheinhessen region. Not availabe in the USA. Deep red color, full body and flavor. Have tried Schmitt Sohne and Schlink Haus, good but sweet, not what I was looking for.

Reply by GregT, Feb 16, 2010.

I think they're not popular here because as others have mentioned, they aren't around. And those I've tried were not particularly exciting. Same with grapes like Regent.

Reply by penguinoid, Feb 17, 2010.

I've not had the chance to try it myself, but I've read it's being grown in the UK to make red wine.
"Helfensteiner x Heroldrebe
"Created in Germany in 1955, the product of a long process of vine breeding. Helfensteiner is early Pinot Noir x Black Hamburger and Heroldrebe is Portugieser x Limburger.
The wine is notable for its colour and good acidity and grows well in the UK, having been introduced in the 1980’s. In Germany it is quite widely grown and capable of producing some very fine wines. Over here it is one of the grapes that shows that good red wine can be made in the U.K. Wines are usually fresh and fruity more like Syrah or Gamay than Cabernet Sauvignon."

I'll have to try some next time I'm in the UK -- and maybe some German Dornfelder wine, just for the sake of comparison :-)

Reply by Cathy Shore, Feb 17, 2010.

I'm familiar with Dornfelder grown in the UK. The main reason it is planted in the UK and to some extent in Germany is that it is a grape variety that can ripen sufficiently in cool climates. Those that I have tried in England are not bad but don't blow me away. I'm sure this is because the UK is a marginal climate when it comes to the production of red wine and although (with global warming and all that), quality is slowly improving, these wines are still a long way behind other reds at the same price point from elsewhere. The good thing about Dornfelder as a grape is its ability to produce soft quaffable reds with great colour, light cherry fruit flavours and low tannins. A good example can be found from Sharpham Vineyards in Devon where it is blended with another grape variety often planted in the UK called Rondo.

Reply by GregT, Feb 17, 2010.

It's not like I've had all that many, but the only grapes that the UK seems to do properly are white and I think they should make sparkling wine. In some areas there are those nice white soils and their climate seems like it would keep the grapes pretty crisp. I've had a few Pinot Noirs and they were interesting, mostly curiosities though. In fact, I think one of them may even have been called something like the Curious Grape or some such.

Dornfelder? Don't know. I'm not sure Germany is where I'd look for high end red wine. Over the past few years I've tried a number of them but again, they remain mostly curiosities. I'm not sure why they try actually because they do such an excellent job with whites.

But I heartily approve their willingness to look into newer varieties!!! Instead of deciding that the development of grapes should stop and that all possible good varieties have been invented, it seems like the Germans, counterintuitively, are most willing to try grapes that do not have 400 years of history. Good for them. There's absolutely no reason we need to be locked into cab, merlot, pinot noir, syrah, grenache, etc. Or chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, muscat, etc. In most areas, crosses between very different parents yield interesting results, so why not continue to see what can be developed? Why not cross barbera with carmenere?

Reply by Cathy Shore, Feb 17, 2010.

You have a point GregT
England does make some decent sparkling wines from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, grown on the South Downs (chalk like Champagne) made in the traditional method with fermentation in bottle. Wines from Nyetimber and RidgeView have beaten real Champagnes in blind tastings. Another one to look out for is Breaky Bottom which uses the Seyval Blanc grape - a hybrid that used to be widely grown in the Loire.
Basically, the UK is too cold to make really high quality reds (at the moment).

Reply by Rodolphe Boulanger, Feb 17, 2010.

From what I've heard from German producers, there were high hopes for Dornfelder 10 to 15 years ago when Germany thought it needed something to please the world's "Cabernet-palates." Now 3 things have happened. The world has moved away a bit from Cabernet mania, Germany is really mad for Pinot Noir (Spatburgunder) right now, and, least importantly, Global Warming has made it possible to grow Cabernet in some sites in Southern Germany.

I've had some really stupendous German Pinot Noirs (and many really insipid ones too). Amazingly, they are now the 3rd biggest producers of PN after France and the US, but they drink almost all of their red production domestically.

Reply by Degrandcru, Feb 17, 2010.

@Boulanger: I think you are 100% right about this. In recent years Spaetburgunder became the red grape in Germany. And thats a good thing. The grape seems to work very well in the climate (burgundy climate is not too different) and it fits the common German taste way better than heavier reds. I was in Germany in October and had some fantastic Spaetburgunders. Dornfelder could never come even close to it.
In my opinion its not a good idea to grow Cabernet in Germany and I think its just some wine makers that want to follow the world wide trend for full bodied reds, but I think its just a fashion and won´t be successful in the long term (not even considering the "global warming").

Reply by GregT, Feb 17, 2010.

Interesting that they're even trying to do cab. But you know, it might be an interesting product too. Sometimes when a grape is grown in cooler conditions than we're used to seeing it from, the results can be quite good, as long as it gets ripe. The difference in syrah from warm California or the Rhone, for example, or Austria. It can be very good in all of those places, just quite different. I don't know if Germany will ever have the sun hours to ripen cab, but if it were possible to grow without having it half-ripe, who knows? I haven't been tasting in Germany for a long long time so all I see is what's over here in the US, but what are they doing lagrein, which seems like a natural, or their own zweitgelt or St. Laurent or blaufranisch?

Reply by VegasOenophile, Feb 18, 2010.

I think perhaps because it's not as widely available. I only found it by accident noticing one called "Sweet Red" from Germany and I know my parents like sweeter served-cold reds, so I picked it up at Trader Joes. Another reason could be that people looking at it who are unfamiliar with the name or wine type and not adventurous enough to grab and try it. One other thing could be that it's rather like a soft lambrusco or Beaujolais Nouveau, which don't appeal to many red enthusiasts.

Reply by Ski often Wine a lot, Jun 10, 2011.

I like Dornfedler when it is well made but I liken it to an Italian Dolcetto.  Nice, but it will never blow you memorable.  Just like an Dolcettto they are very quafable and food friendly.  I have had some from the area known for Dornfedlers namely the Esslingen area.  Very nice.  But it will also play second fiddle to Spaetburgunder, Fruehburger, and my own favorite Schwartz Riesling.  Two good private producers in Germany are Hubert Dengler and Julis Wasem & Sohne.  Prosit. 

Reply by EMark, Jun 10, 2011.

This is interesting.  I had never heard of Dornfelder until yesterday, and today I learn a lot in this thread.

The current issue of Connoisseur's Guide to Califonia Wines reviews Pinot Noir's this month.  Yesterday, I was leafing through it and read about an offering from Ludwig--a 2009 from the Hammerklavier McIntyre Vineyard in Santa Lucia Highlands.  This wine is a blend of 55% Pinot Noir and 45% Dornfelder.  The comments indicated that the Dornfelder is added to add color and depth (despite a subsequent comment that SLH Pinots do not require a boost of depth). 

Based on this and the previous correspondents comments about a grower in Sta. Rita Hills, it looks like there is some experimentation with this new grape in California.

Reply by zufrieden, Jun 11, 2011.

Dornfelder ist Totenfelder - like this thread was until recently - although this is an interesting topic for many of us.  If you live in the Northern USA or parts of Canada (especially the Maritimes or Quebec), there is some usefulness to the grape given its hardiness and good color.  However, it is a less than stellar substitute for its lineage (Pinot Noir, for example, to which it is loosely compared - in the same way that Marechal Foch once was - if you can believe it).  I've had a few examples from Germany, Canada and elsewhere but find the wines a somewhat sweetish, with little elegance and lacking finesse.  They reminded me of the cheap 1 liter bottles of red from German-speaking countries a couple of decades back - good for picnics and little else.

Of course, a good quality wine can certainly be made from this grape just as it can be made from French hybrids.  But why bother?  Most areas at 45 to 50 degrees north latitude can (now) grow Pinot Noir, Merlot or other more "noble" varieties.  I fear that Dornfelder is for Boutique wine enthusiasts only - something like St. Laurent or other similar grapes.

Still, if you have a sentimental attachement to Dornfelder, who am I to steer you in another direction?  And it is fun to try different wines.


Reply by Marie Maryse, Apr 11, 2014.

I received a German bottle of Louis Guntrum - Dornfelder Dry/2011  from the Rheinhessen area of Germany.  The description indicates that it's "soft and velvety, impressive fruit flavours, balanced."  This wine is much more than that.  It's clearly a wine that will make you salivate in a good way.  High alcohol 12.5 and garnet red.  Some salt, cherry, dark berries and stonefruit, a bit spicy with a glossy finish that doesn't last to long yet just long enough that you won't mind.  If I stumbled upon this at a tasting, I'd definitely not shy away from it.


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