|Mature Dornfelder grapes|
|Also called||We S 341|
Dornfelder is a dark-skinned variety of grape of German origin used for red wine. It was created by August Herold (1902–1973) at the grape breeding institute in Weinsberg in the Württemberg region in 1955. Herold crossed the grape varieties Helfensteiner and Heroldrebe, the latter which bears his name, to create Dornfelder. Helfensteiner (Frühburgunder × Trollinger) and Heroldrebe (Blauer Portugieser × Lemberger) were both crosses created some decades earlier by Herold.
Dornfelder received varietal protection and was released for cultivation in 1979. It was named in honour of Immanuel August Ludwig Dornfeld (1796–1869), a senior civil servant who was instrumental in creating the viticultural school in Weinsberg.
Dornfelder has become quite popular in Germany since it performs well under viticultural conditions which traditionally were seen as more suitable for white wine production. Traditionally, the red wines of Germany were mostly pale and light-bodied, but new breeds of dark-skinned grapes led by Dornfelder have allowed the production of more internationally-styled reds. Dornfelder has a depth of colour, good acidity and the ability to benefit from barrique aging and the associated oak flavours. In comparison to traditional red wine varieties of Germany, Dornfelder is easier to grow than Spätburgunder, has better resistance to rot than Blauer Portugieser (as well as deeper colour, more powerful flavours and more tannin), has stronger stalks than Trollinger, ripens earlier than Lemberger, and achieves higher must weights, i.e., higher natural alcohol levels than most of these varieties. Dornfelder can be very productive, and yield up to 120 hectoliter per hectare, but quality-conscious producers typically keep yields much lower.
Higher-quality Dornfelder wines are velvety textured, slightly floral, often show flavours of plums, blackberries or cherries, and are typically oaked. Sometimes the wines have a hint of sweetness.
Dornfelder is the second most grown red wine grape variety in Germany. Steadily increased plantings throughout the 1980s and 1990s allowed it to overtake Blauer Portugieser in 2001. It has established itself in most German regions, and been particularly successful in Rheinhessen and the Palatinate. In 2006, Dornfelder was grown on 8,231 hectares (20,340 acres) in Germany, and no longer has an increasing trend. While Dornfelder has expanded, it has not threatened Spätburgunder as the most common red wine grape and as the dominating grape in most high-priced reds of Germany.
Some Dornfelder is also grown successfully in many northern European regions, such as England, where it was introduced in the 1980s. The grape is used in a 50/50 blend with Pinot Noir at Denbies Wine Estate in Surrey It is also a popular crop in colder locations in the United States.
The only known synonym for Dornfelder is its breeding code Weinsberg S 341 or We S 341.
- German Wine Institute: Dornfelder, accessed on May 29, 2008
- Vitis International Variety Catalogue: Dornfelder, accessed on May 29, 2008
- Wein-Plus Glossar: Dornfelder, accessed on March 6, 2013
- Jancis Robinson, ed. (2006). "Dornfelder". Oxford Companion to Wine (Third Edition ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 235. ISBN 0-19-860990-6.
- German Wine Institute: German Wine Statistics 2007-2008
- English Wine Producers: The Main Grape Varieties Growing In The UK, accessed on May 29, 2008