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The Dornfelder Grape


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About Dornfelder

(Synonyms: Weinsberg S 341.)

Background

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 does not get a lot of love from professional wine critics. Granted, a lot of the bottlings are icky-sweet plonk; yet there are decent dry versions. They, however, seem all tarred by the brush of “Dornfelder = junk”, which is unfair. I don’t suppose the variety’s best friends (which includes us) would ever say it makes truly great wine—but it can and does, in the right hands, make pleasant, civilized drinking.

(It is interesting to see, for the few Dornfelders with both critical and user reviews, how much higher the user reviews typically are than the critics’ reviews.)

Very, very few good specimens can be found in the U.S. retail market, and all but one are not notably available. That one we list below.


Gerd Anselmann Dornfelder

• This wine’s Wine Searcher “Reviews” 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 Sunday, 17 October 2021, at 2:02 am Pacific Time.