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The Dornfelder Grape

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About Dornfelder

(Synonyms: Weinsberg S 341.)


Map showing Germany

Dornfelder is a red-wine grape originating in 1956 at the Weinsberg Research Center in Germany as a deliberate cross made in trying to develop a useful red-wine grape. The new grape—formally introduced in 1980—has been one of the few modern deliberate crosses to rapidly achieve substantial acceptance; there are now over 20,000 acres of it being grown in Germany, plus some in other nations (such as Switzerland, the Czech Republic, and even parts of the U.S.).

Dornfelder produces rich, dark, smooth wines that feel as if they always wanted to be a bit off dry when they grew up, but which are not. As with many grape varieties, vine production needs to be carefully held in check for best results. Better-made examples can benefit from some aging in oak. The aromas are somewhat floral. The quite dark color of the wine is especially prized in Germany, because almost all other red-wine grapes grown there are fairly light in color.

Dornfelder is a variety that can be quite rewarding, but as with many less-well-known varieties, one has to take care not to get a mistaken impression of it from the large number of cheap or otherwise unrepresentative samples out there. Mind, those who quite like sweet wines will probably take to those unrepresentative bottlings, whose chief characteristic is just that: sweetness (our notes on one tasting say “Basically a Sangria”) But if you look out (as we note again farther down the page) for bottlings that are labelled Trocken or its English equivalent, “Dry”, you can find some delightful examples of a distinctive and satisfying wine.

Factoid: Dornfelder is named after one of the 19th century founders of the Weinsberg Center where the variety was created.

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Some Descriptions of Dornfelder Wines

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Some Dornfelders to Try

(About this list.)

Dornfelder wines are available in the U.S. market, but only a few and almost all of those each only from one or maybe two retailers (that are listed on the wine search engines). The one below is the only one with fairly wide availability (all through the Total Wine retail chain). But if you see some other one for sale somewhere, it’s well worth a shot.

But…beware! Not a few Dornfelder wines are vinified sweet, sometimes icky sweet. Make sure any Dornfelder bottling you are considering (assuming you want a dry table wine) is not such a sweet—or “semi-sweet”—rendition: check the label for the word Trocken or its English equivalant, “Dry”. (We identified omitted from the list all we coukld indentify as sweet.) Fortunately, almost every Dornfelder bottling available in the U.S. is quite moderately priced, most under $15.

Gerd Anselmann Dornfelder

• This wine’s Wine Searcher “Tasting Notes” page.
• This wine’s CellarTracker review pages.
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks

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For a Splurge

We could find no reasonably available Dornfelder wines better enough than those listed above as to justify a “splurge” price.

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This page was last modified on Tuesday, 22 December 2020, at 8:44 pm Pacific Time.