Frühburgunder (Pinot Madeleine)
Over the last couple millennia grape varieties have been crossed and changed to make all the modern grape varietals possible, but frühburgunder (/frūeh-bur-gūn-dur/) has remained unchanged for over 2000 years. It stands alone. Frühburgunder is the German name for the grape varietal called “pinot madeleine” in French and also sometimes “pinot noir précoce.” It is by far the oldest pinot and the others, such as pinot noir, pinot gris, and pinot blanc, share no ancestry with frühburgunder. It is a noble grape that is as rare as it is special. It comprises a mere 0.3% of German plantings with just 32 hectares total in the entire Ahr Valley where it is famously grown.
The German name frühburgunder literally means that it is a pinot that ripens earlier relative to other pinots. “Burgunder” is used in German to mean a pinot because pinots are grown with well-known success in Burgundy, France and the German word for early is “früh.” Frühburgunder ripens usually in mid to late September with medium öchsle measurements. That is a couple weeks before the grape varietal spätburgunder (/shpāt-bur-gūn-dur/) (pinot noir) which means the “late pinot.” Frühburgunder is typically an intensely colored medium tannin red wine with pronounced strawberry, over-ripe cherry, blackberry and red currant tones. As frühburgunder ages it typically develops licorice and plum tones and then sweet wood and nutty nougat later. The Winzergenossenschaft Mayschoss-Altenahr has a fantastic frühburgunder.