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Dornfelder? Ja, bitte.

In follow-up to my most recent article, where I called for wine writers to expose readers to a broad variety of wines, I wanted to alert readers to a phenomenal red wine that I experienced last evening, from a most unexpected source. While I was on my way to Nantucket for vacation last week, I stopped in Boston to visit BRIX Wine Shop. It was great to visit old friends, and also a fantastic opportunity to pick up some wines for the trip. As it was a family vacation, and the majority of our time was going to be spent at the beach, I made sure to stock up on larger format bottles wherever I could, and focused my selections on rosés, whites, and lighter bodied reds.

One of the bottles I selected was a 2010 Dornfelder from Weingut Diehl, in Germany's Pfalz region. I was vaguely familiar with the grape, and remembered it as being slightly similar to Pinot Noir. This recollection, along with the fact that it was packaged in a 1L bottle for $15.99 was enough to convince me to add it to my vacation wine list. Last night, as I was counting down the last few hours of vacation, I finally got around to trying the wine, and could not have been more impressed. 

The wine was light-bodied and lithe on the palate, with subtle acidity that kept me returning to the bottle for another sip. Notes of red fruits, raspberries and wild strawberries jumped from the glass, with flavors of black cherry on the palate. Had I tasted it blind, I could have easily confused it for a fuller bodied Pinot Noir. In actuality, Dornfelder is distantly related to Pinot Noir. It is a genetic cross of Helfensteiner and Heroldrebe, created by August Herold in 1955. Helfensteiner itself is a genetic cross of Frühburgunder (a.k.a. Pinot Noir) and Trollinger (a.k.a. Schiava or Vernatsch). If you're interested, you can see the full genetic history of Dornfelder on Wikipedia. (I cross checked it with Jancis Robinson's Oxford Companion to Wine, and it is accurate.)  

Dornfelder provides another reminder of the benefits of trying new wines. Given it's name, and the fact that it's a German red, it's not a wine that has a lot going for it, in terms of popular appeal. Most people associate German wines with Riesling, and German reds have long suffered in obscurity. For many people, I imagine encountering a German red wine is similar to finding that their favorite burger joint also offers a great salad. Yet, this is why it pays to try new wines, even if you are unfamilar with them. If you are concerned about potentially wasting money on a bottle that you won't enjoy, the best strategy I can offer is to ask your wine retailer about the wine before you purchase it. If you're able to describe the types of wines that you generally enjoy, most good retailers will be able to tell you if the bottle that you're considering will be a hit or a disappointment with your palate. After all, if you're looking for Pinot Noir, and your wine merchant tells you that you can get a liter of Dornfelder for $15.99, you might be a bit confused at first. But if they tell you it's related to Pinot Noir, and offers a comparable drinking experience, I'll bet your tune will change to"Ja, bitte." (Yes, please.)

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