TheWineRambler "A German wine label is one of the things life's too short for" - Kingsley Amis



a deeper well

Our special recommendation. Wines that stand out for their memorable character or some unexpected component in their taste. Highly individual bottles that aren't cheap, but add something extra to what you can normally expect from a wine of their type and price range.
Posted by Torsten 20 Jul 2012

Every hype brings with it the danger of disappointment. I mostly suffer from this with regards to movies (which is why I am staying away from reviews of "The Dark Knight Rises" until I have had a chance to see it), but the same can happen with wine. When it comes to the Saar Riesling from the Van Volxem estate hype was never needed to convince me to buy a few bottles every year as it has been consistently good, and also good value.

Even so I could not help notice the bold headlines that my wine merchant threw at me with this wine - headlines of high praise from respected wine critics for a Riesling that does not even follow the "single vineyard" paradigm. Because of the quality of the previous vintages I was confident it would be good, but would the hype spoil my enjoyment when I would not be quite blown away?

Posted by Torsten 29 Jun 2012

This is a story of failure and sloppiness. My failure and sloppiness, I hasten to add - no such crime was committed by the Salweys. In fact the Baden winemaking family have done everything right. Not only did they make a substantial, interesting Grauburgunder (internationally better known as Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio), they also shipped a bottle of it in the most timely manner when a few years ago I put an order in with them. Since then it waited for a special occasion.

the colour of failure (mine, not Salwey's)the colour of failure (mine, not Salwey's)

And when the occasion came I failed it - by accidentally deleting the photo I had taken before I did my backup, and then only realising this when the bottle was on the way to the recycling plant. So blame me, but please do read on.

Posted by Torsten 11 May 2012

It doesn't always have to be Bordeaux. That's a pretty obvious statement from a blog dedicated to German wine, but it also applies to France. Today, however, is not about German Pinot Noir (nor German Dornfelder, Syrah, Lemberger) and it is also not about Burgundy. Today is about Cahors, and that means the Malbec grape. It is also about slow roast lamb shoulder and Easter, but more importantly of course it is about...

...the first magnum bottle of red wine to be reviewed on the Wine Rambler. It took us very long, didn't it?

Posted by Torsten 22 Mar 2012

There are not many things I like more than a bad pun. Good wine is among them, of course. During rare moments of hilarity, good wines and bad puns come together. This can be in an intentional way, for instance when Mosel winemakers Haart name a Riesling "Haart to Heart". Other brands are unintentionally funny. And then there are good wines with bad puns that really only exist in my mind: when I moved to England I learned that the polite word for "ass" is "bottom" - and now whenever I hear the East Sussex winery "Breaky Bottom" mentioned I cannot help but giggle.

What a "breaky bottom" looks like I'd rather not imagine, but whatever vision I may now have planted in your brain just forget it. Your are looking at a serious sparkling wine that is neither bottom nor breaky.

Posted by Julian 12 Mar 2012

Much as we here at the Wine Rambler make it our business to spread the word about the fine German, Austrian and English sparkling wines, it would be foolish not to recognize which region of the world sets the gold standard in this category. As a matter of fact, If I could give a few pieces of advice to humanity in general, one would be: Drink a bottle of decent champagne as often as finances allow. But then, that means "never" for such a large part of humanity (It means two or three times a year for me, if you must know) that after some thought I keep my advice to myself.

416 Jeroboams, eh? One of those should ensure a pleasant evening416 Jeroboams, eh? One of those should ensure a pleasant evening

Speaking of gold standards, it was with a mind to stress-test my own personal one, Larmandier-Bernier's Tradition extra brut against a new candidate from what could be called received Indie Champagne: Jacquesson's "Cuvée 735". So, is there a new kid in town?

Posted by Julian 04 Mar 2012

If you want to test the German wine savvy of your knowledgeable friends, here's a little experiment you can conduct in the safety of your own living room. Tell them you want them to taste a German rosé, and inform them that it will be off-dry, well over ten years old, and come with a label sporting a coat of arms and cryptic Germanic font. Mention in passing that this bottle will come from the Müller-Catoir winery. 95 per cent of all wine drinkers will at this point have run away screaming, the living daylights scared out of them.

The remaining 5 % will ask for a screwpull without further ado. From then on, listen to those people.

Posted by Julian 25 Feb 2012

Swabian Muscat, anyone? There's no doubt that solid old Swabia (that's "Württemberg" for you, in wine label terms) can do much: She can do somewhat dubious specialties like Trollinger and Samtrot, harmlessly light regional reds, but then she can also come out with powerful Rieslings and surprisingly high-brow Lembergers and Pinot Noirs. But dry Muscat, that feathery-light, elderflower whiff of springtime? Let's just say it takes a certain leap of faith. To be honest, if this offering had not come from Kistenmacher & Hengerer, an up-and-coming winery that has recently impressed us with the seriousness of their old-vines Lemberger, we might not have given it a chance either.

Have they actually pulled it off?

Posted by Torsten 04 Jan 2012

How do you start the year on a wine blog mostly dedicated to German wine? Writing about German wine, of course, I hear you say. This would seem like the sensible thing to do, and yet today we are not sensible and look for Switzerland instead. For some, at least the German speaking part of Switzerland is more German than Germany itself (but please don't let any Swiss hear this), yet the wine I am writing about today is a truly Swiss thing.

Made by the Swiss and in Switzerland of course, this explosion of herbal aromas and flavours is vinified of Humagne Blanche grapes, an old indigenous variety that now is a rarity even in Switzerland.

Posted by Torsten 15 Nov 2011

For stereotypical American or Japanese tourists who also love wine, a visit to Schlossgut Diel has to equal the feeling of a child realising it has been locked in an ice cream parlour for lunch break. After all we are not only talking about one of Germany's top wine estates, we are also talking about a "castle winery", as that is what "Schlossgut" translates to. Castle Layen, where the Diel family has been based since the Napoleonic wars, was built in the 11th century. The wines in the cellar are not quite as old, but rumour has it some go back to the early 20th century, so the both lovers of medieval towers and old wine should be very happy there.

Sadly, I have yet to visit Schlossgut Diel (preferably leading a raiding party), but at least I managed to get my hands on a few bottles of their Riesling - this Kabinett Riesling from the "gold hole" vineyard being one of them.

Posted by Torsten 15 Oct 2011

Whenever I come across good wine from the Württemberg region, I feel some irrational pride - irrational if you consider that while I have been born there, I left my Swabian homeland many years ago and have never looked back. While I went away, others clearly thought it was good to move to Swabia - at least in the middle ages when the noble family of Hohenlohe acquired property in Öhringen, north-east of Stuttgart. They clearly liked it there and after some branching in and out, some pruning etc., there is still a branch of the famous family residing there, the Hohenlohe-Oehringens.

coat of arms - capsule detailcoat of arms - capsule detail

Instead of quelling peasant rebellions, the Hohenlohe-Oehrigens of today are growing wine, organically of course. Like this grand cru Riesling.

Posted by Julian 07 Oct 2011

It's all rather melancholy. It's raining outside, autumn is coming on, and there's only one antidote against heaviness of heart that never fails: 1990 Bordeaux. Chateau Malescasse is said to be one of the very dependable producers of the Haut-Médoc, and in a more lucid moment, I secured this bottle on eBay.

And when I woke up this morning with the rain lashing against the windows, I knew it : Tonight is its night.

Posted by Torsten 30 Sep 2011

Other than many of my British acquaintances, I don't often complain about the weather in London as I usually like it. Today though it has thrown a spanner in the works of the carefully planned Wine Rambler schedule. Expecting autumn to make its appearance, I had opened a Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder) the other day but now England is hotter and sunnier than it has been all summer - and here I am reviewing a wine that most people would rather associate with autumn. Having said that, a good Pinot should always be a great companion, so I hope you can forgive me for appearing unseasonal.

The Pinot in question comes from a highly respected producer in the Pfalz. On about 20ha, Steffen Christmann grows Riesling, Pinot Noir and a range of other grapes including Pinot Blanc/Gris and Gewürztraminer. Christmann is not only lucky to own parts of several very well known vineyards (such as the Ölberg), he also happens to be head of VDP, the leading German association of premier estates.

Posted by Torsten 21 Sep 2011

A couple of years ago I discussed German red wine with a lover of red Burgundy. He was mildly curious, but at the same time convinced that German Pinot Noir, or Spätburgunder, might be acceptable yet would not be substantial enough to age for more than three or four years.

Now, with a Spätburgunder of barely seven years of age to review today I am probably not in a position to change that view (for that I would refer to a 1999 from the Mosel and a 1992 from Baden) - but then we drink wine to enjoy it and not to correct Burgundy fans.

Posted by Torsten 12 Sep 2011

This is a story of failure. Not a failure of the wine in question, quite the opposite of it. The wine was great. Instead it was me who failed the wine, in a way at least. Having said that, perhaps someone else is to be blamed for this ramble being a little different. As it happens, I have a photo of the culprit, and they look like this:

the real culpritthe real culprit

What has a pure, innocent grasshopper to do with an aged late harvest Riesling? Well, it is all about focus and light.

Posted by Torsten 04 Aug 2011

Following my recent Californian adventure I have now paid the US East Coast a visit. At least so far as you can call opening a bottle of wine "paying a visit". I had visited the New York region last year though, and on a tour through Long Island discovered one of its vinous gems, Shinn Estate Vineyards. Among the lessons I learned there was that you can make very strong wines that can still feel light - if you get the balance right.

Now, if the warning of the Surgeon General on the label of the Shinn Cabernet has not scared you away, will the fact that it has 15.4% ABV?

Posted by Julian 24 Jul 2011

I'm always honoured when people who have stumbled onto this blog contact us for expertise on German wine, even while I find myself guiltily hoping that we are not the only source that they rely on, given the patchiness and dabbling character of this our whole undertaking. But here is a piece of advice that I guarantee you will not regret following: When looking for mature-ish Mosel Riesling in great drinking condition, look no further than the 2002 vintage, underrated in many quarters, but in my humble experience as safe a bet for lively, nuanced wines as you are going to find.

Martin Müllen's 2002 Kabinett from the aptly named Paradies ("paradise") vineyard is a case in point. Over and beyond being a minor classic of the neo-traditional style of Mosel winemaking (whatever the hell that is supposed to be), it also has a long and distinguished history in this Wine Rambler's cellar, being one of the very first wines ordered directly from the producer. And I'm happy to report it has never before tasted this good:

Posted by Torsten 05 Jul 2011

It is still Silvaner season at the Wine Rambler. Actually, for us it is Silvaner season throughout most of the year, but over the past few months we have been even more busy exploring this often underrated German grape variety. Today's specimen is a little unusual, even for us, as it is a sweet Silvaner, an ice wine in fact. Ice wine is made from grapes frozen on the vine - a process that helps extract water and thus (relatively) increases extract and sugar levels, making for delicious sweet wines.

This ice wine was made by Pfalz producer Gerhard Klein based in the village of Hainfeld. If you are not familiar with the Pfalz, you may be amazed to hear that among the grapes they grow are Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Now I even read that Kleins also plant Grüner Veltliner! Compared to that, Silvaner is a much traditional German planting, and that's what we will focus on today.

Posted by Julian 27 Jun 2011

We've reviewed wines from Zehnthof Luckert before, and have not so far been disappointed. Today, we turn to Blauer Silvaner, being a blue-skinned variety of Silvaner that is not, as Jancis Robinson's authoritative "Oxford Companion to Wine" proclaims, merely a speciality of Württemberg, but also found along the river Main in Franconia.

If the Luckert family wants to send a bottle of this to Jancis Robinson as proof of that, I suggest they go ahead, because they certainly need not be ashamed of it:

Posted by Torsten 20 Jun 2011

Looking back over the last few weeks of wine rambling, I realise it has been a little while since we have reviewed a dry Riesling. As certain standards need to be upheld (and the world reminded that Germany defines itself more and more about dry), a bottle of dry German Riesling was uncovered from my wardrobe cellar.

As it happens, it was a dry Mosel Riesling, made by winemaker revolutionary Reinhard Löwenstein.

Posted by Torsten 25 May 2011

Sometimes a wine can save your life. I would assume that at least some of you will have had such an experience, but I would also assume that the number of you who had this type of encounter with an English wine may be fairly small. Since recently, I am one of them, and I would like to thank the folks from the Camel Valley vineyard in Cornwall. Yes, you have read correctly. Cornwall.

sparkling wine from Cornwallsparkling wine from Cornwall

How did Cornwall fizz save my life? The story actually begins with me saving something - the European Union.