All white on the night: a man walks through snow-covered vineyards in the southern German village of Kleinbottwar. Photograph: Thomas Kienzle/AFP/Getty Images
Aldinger Lemberger, Württemberg, Germany 2015 (from £11.95, The Wine Society; The Wine Barn) When we think German wine, most of us don’t – to paraphrase a naggingly memorable ad campaign for Côtes du Rhône – think red. Blue, as in Nun, maybe, or black, as in Tower, but most of all white – riesling if we’re lucky, Liebfraumilch if we’re caught in a 1970s Mike Leigh Play for Today. But red grapes, which now account for around a third of the country’s vineyards, have become increasingly popular with German winemakers, and drinkers, in the past couple of decades, and we’re seeing a lot more in the UK, too. The generally cool climate lends a freshness and easy juiciness to many of the wines, not least this rosehip and redcurrant-tangy delight made from a variety, lemberger, better known by its Austrian alias, blaufränkisch.
Weingut Gaul Dornfelder, Pfalz, Germany 2013 (£11.50, Oddbins) Rather more widely planted in Germany than lemberger, dornfelder is sometimes patronised by growers who are a little sniffy about its origins. Unlike so-called noble grapes, that have been cultivated for centuries such as pinot noir or riesling, it emerged in the 1950s, as a crossing of the obscure helfensteiner and heorldrebe. Worse, in some people’s eyes, it was created for prosaically commercial purpose: to stand up to the vagaries of German weather, and to add colour when mixed with paler varieties. But it turns out the humble dornfelder is capable of doing much more than filling out blends. Wines such as Gaul’s example are delightfully supple with notes of violets, dark cherry and plum in a style that recalls Italian dolcetto and valpolicella.
Weingut Braunewell Spätburgunder, Rheinhessen, Germany 2013 (£13.95, Lea & Sandeman) If there’s a frank but charming unpretentiousness to the best dornfelder and lemberger, a feeling that these are wines not to be taken too seriously, then pinot noir is another matter entirely. Germany is now the world’s third-largest producer of the variety (known locally as spätburgunder) and its best bottles, from producers such as Jean Stodden in the Ahr Valley, Rudolf Fürst in Franken and Ziereisen in Baden, can be every bit as graceful and aromatically allusive as a Burgundy. But spätburgunder doesn’t tend to come cheap: credit to London indie Lea & Sandeman, then, for sourcing Braunewell’s effortlessly lithe and pretty creation at a relatively humane price.