The new variety from 1955, which was initially used for blending with light red wines as "Deckrotwein", has long been appreciated as a German red wine classic.
Vinyard area in 2022
Vinyard area in Rheinhessen (2022)
Vinyard areaiPfalz (2022)
Cultivation and significance
The new variety from 1955, which was initially used for blending with light-coloured red wines as a "covering red wine", has long been valued as a German red wine classic. From 124 hectares in 1979, the vineyard area planted with Dornfelder grew to 6,812 hectares in 2022, which is around 7 per cent of the total vineyard area. The grape variety is most widespread in Rheinhessen with 3,099 hectares and in the Palatinate with 2,544 hectares, but the variety is also present in most other growing regions.
It is a robust, less susceptible grape variety. If given free rein, it tends to produce high yields. For this reason, many winegrowers cut off some grapes at the beginning of the ripening period in order to reduce the yield and thus support the concentration of the ingredients in the remaining grapes. The grapes grow with loose berries and are therefore less susceptible to rot. The vine makes higher demands on the soil; it is not happy with sandy or stony sites. It is also not suitable for sites that are too susceptible to frost.
Vinification and flavour
The variety is mainly vinified as a dry red wine, sometimes also semi-dry. There are two different styles. The first emphasises the intense fruit aromas such as sour cherry, blackberry and elderberry and is brought to market young. In some cases, the new vintage can already be bought as a primeur. Other winegrowers mature the Dornfelder in large or small wooden barrels (barriques), emphasising the tannins and structure of the wine and toning down the fruit aromas. These are usually full-bodied, smooth and harmonious wines. Dornfelder is easily recognisable by its deep dark colour. It is rare to find Dornfelder sparkling wines or a rosé wine made from Dornfelder.
The deep red-coloured Dornfelder red wines are ideal for the cool season and go well with hearty roasts, game or cheese. Fruity versions from the last harvest are also a pleasure to drink, even slightly chilled in summer.
Dornfelder is the most successful new German red wine variety. Its origins can be traced back to the town of Weinsberg in Württemberg. It was there that the viticulturalist Imanuel Dornfeld initiated the founding of the local viticultural school. August Herold - who lived there from 1902 to 1973 - bred the Dornfelder there in 1955. He crossed the varieties Helfensteiner (a cross between Frühburgunder and Trollinger) and Heroldrebe (a cross between Portugieser and Limberger). It took a few years for the variety to establish itself among winegrowers. Initially, it was used as a "covering red wine" for blending with light red wines to give them a darker colour.
At a glance
- Newly bred in 1955 from the Helfensteiner x Heroldrebe varieties
- Robust, less susceptible variety with high yields
- Second most important red wine variety in Germany Susceptible variety with high yields
- Aroma: sour cherry, blackberry and elderberry
- Flavour: tannic, full-bodied, smooth, harmonious
In which country besides Germany are there still Dornfelder areas?
The Dornfelder is actually of no significance for viticulture outside Germany. Only in Switzerland are there about 21 hectares of Dornfelder vines, as of 2018.
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