Villa Wolf Pinot Noir, from Vineyards of Sherborne

It's Pinot Noir, it's German, and - for some reason - it's not called Blauburgunder
Posted 18th April 2011        

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It’s Pinot Noir, it’s German, and – for some reason – it’s not called Blauburgunder or Spätburgunder as I’ve been lead to expect.

Is this a nod to the world market – the label is so simple one could hardly believe it German, regardless of the words – or merely an indication of a geographical proximity to the French border?

Well, Mr. J. L. Wolf hangs out around Wachenheim, near the Rhine mountains, directly north of the Alsace region of what I would term (but not in front of a Frenchman) Germanic France, and according to his website “the Villa Wolf label is used for a value-priced line of varietal wines that combine J.L. Wolf estate-grown fruit with grapes from contracted growers”.

That sounded a bit off to me at first, but then, how many smaller growers produce all their own fruit? I imagine it’s fairly common practice to source from around the locality, particularly if you want to ship wines in any bulk, and at any kind of marketable price.

Being just under a tenner, this wine wasn’t dirt cheap, but it’s about as affordable as Pinot Noir gets (unless you’re scraping the barrel/shelf at your local all-night supermarket), and there was no discernible shortfall in quality or shortcoming of character that I would have put down to dillution.

One assumes that – unlike some of the massive-export Australian wine companies – Villa Wolf don’t necessarily make enough to justify sourcing from value vineyards across the country, so the terroir needn’t suffer for the sake of a label.

I found the wine remarkably similar to a Burgundy, actually: or possibly even a New Zealand Pinot Noir, with a measure of spiciness I normally associate with their produce to complement the sweet, tangy red fruits and underlying minerality and earthiness you get from the quality French stuff. This is actually cheaper than most Burgundies you’ll find – especially at independents, where there’s normally more of a mark-up than with the bulk stuff Supermarkets can afford to peddle.

Incidentally, I bought this bottle on a day trip from a weekend break at Summer Lodge Country House Hotel in West Doset (blogged about here) – the bottle pounced upon me (not literally) from the shelf of the ‘German’ section in a charming independent wine shop in Sherborne called Vineyards.

Sherborne is one of the loveliest towns I’ve visited in South England, and chock full of shops you’d not see anywhere else: Vineyards is one of these, and a damn fine-looking wine shop, which I wished I’d had a little more time to look around.

I’d definitely buy this again if I saw it anywhere else – or another from the Villa Wolf range – and I’ll definitely pop into Vineyards next time I’m lucky enough to find myself in Sherborne. Not only did I get service with a smile and a good bottle of wine to take home, but I also got complemented on my dress sense, which is a rare occurrence indeed, believe you me!

Picture of the wine shop by Victoria Keeble.


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Meet the Author:
Alexander Velky
Alexander grew up on Anglesey, almost as far away from civilization as he’d have liked. He studied English at university and subsequently moved to Prague to teach it to Czech people for just long enough that he could say he’d done that. He then returned to the UK to do an MA in Professional Writing, and later moved to London by accident and worked in the music industry for a while. His interest in wine has been developing throughout. He took the WSET Intermediate exam, for which he was rewarded with a certificate and a pin badge, but he probably won't bother doing any more. He now lives in Pembrokeshire with his wife and daughter. He writes, and drinks, for a living. You can follow him on Twitter if that's how you choose to spend your time. Photograph by Léonie Keeble