Dornfelder is a black grape from Germany that is growing also outside its heartland Rheinhessen and Rhein-Pfalz in Germany.

Dornfedler is known as tough variety that easily takes on Germany’s continental climate with warm summers and cold winters. It is rich in colour thanks to its fairly thick skin. It comes with good acidity and will improve with ageing in barrique.

Due to its dark colour, it is often used for blending, very often with Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder in Germany). Varietal Dornfelder wines will be deep red wines and are often soft and rich in texture, giving a pleasant experience when you drink.

Aromas and flavours are fruity with cherry, boysenberry, and elderberry, and sometimes also sour cherry and blackberry.

The majority of Dornfelder varietals are “low cost, easy to drink, made for early consumption” wines without too much of excitement. Actually, in its early days, Dornfelder was submitted to carbonic maceration in order to produce a Beaujolais Nouveau type of wine.

You can fairly easily find Dornfelder wines also as dry varietals that have matured in oak. Trying one of these, you can expect to find a wine with more tannins, structure and less fruitiness. This kind of Dornfelder wine is produced in several of Germany’s thirteen regions.

Food pairing
An unoaked Dornfelder varietal is best served at 12-14°C/54-57°F. Pair it with seasoned chicken dishes, turkey, or not too heavily seasoned pork dishes.

A Dornfelder varietal wine that has matured in oak is best served at 14-16°C/57-61°F and will pair excellently with pork or lamb dishes, as well as poultry.

Where is it grown?
The vast majority of Dornfelder plantings are found in Germany. The reports show that the grape is growing in quite a rapid pace. Plantings in Germany went from 3.765 ha/9,304 ac in 2000 to 8.000/19,768 ac in 2010. This means that it is the fourth most planted grape in the country.

Plantings are reported from all regions, but the largest areas are in Rheinhessen (3.407 ha/8,419 ac) and Rhein-Pfalz (3.138 ha/7,754 ac).

There are plantings of Dornfelder outside Germany. Apart from the Czech Republic’s plantings of 119 ha/294 ac, very small plantings are reported from Hungary, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Thailand, Romania, and USA. All of these have been made after the census in 2000.

Dornfelder’s history is fairly short. It was created in 1955 by August Herold of the Staatliche Lehr- und Versuchsanstalt für Wein- und Obstbau in Weinsberg, Germany.

The parents are Helfensteiner and Heroldrebe, themselves both crossings as well. Helfensteiner is a crossing between Pinot Noir Précoce (a Pinot Noir mutation) and Schiava Grossa. Heroldrebe is a crossing between Blauer Portugieser and Blaufränkich. Both parent’s crossings were also made by August Herold, although much earlier (1931 and 1929, respectively).