Body: Light (can be medium to full)
Age: Drink while young and fruity.
Other: While most Dornfelder is dry, some are made off-dry (sweet to taste).
Dornfelder (DORN-fell-der) is a German grape variety developed as recently as 1955 by crossing the varieties Helfensteiner and Heroldrebe, which are themselves crossings of other vines, but it was only approved for cultivation in 1979. It was named after Imanuel Dronfeld who founded Germany’s first Viticultural School in 1868.
Dornfelder was bred to develop a grape with specific qualities suitable to Germany’s cool climate and it has since proved itself to be the country’s most successful red crossing. It is easy to grow, high yielding, disease resistant, has great depth of color, good acidity and the ability to take to oak, if required. These attributes have made it very popular with winemakers, particularly its deep red color (the flesh of the grape is red) which contrasts with traditionally pale German reds.
Most Dornfelder is easy going, everyday red wine that is light in body, with low tannins and crisp acidity (note: while the majority are dry some are made off-dry). Aromas of bramble and red fruits lead to flavors of fresh cherry, blackberry, blackcurrant and plum. In this Fruity style Dornfelder is very approachable, with a youthful fruit character, much like young Beaujolais (see Gamay grape variety in the Fruity style).
Some producers however have opted to reduce yields and produce bigger, full bodied wines that are fermented and / or aged in oak to increase the wines’ tannin and structure. These bigger, Smooth style, wines have a great deal more substance and depth.
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