Contrary to the impression given by my recent confessional posting, I do not generally source my aged Rieslings by going through the neighbours' garbage. Here's one I bought absolutely regularly from a Munich wine shop. J. B. Becker is Rheingau winery known for the uncompromising traditionalism of its winemaking and the longevity of its Rieslings.
So while we are on the topic, I thought another little review may be in order:
It is one man in particular that every so often makes me crave American wine: Jim Clendenen, the Californian winemaker behind Au Bon Climat. The ABC Pinot Noir and Chardonnay I have tried so far were delicious and, if you consider how insanely expensive Californian wine can be, reasonably priced. As it has been a while since I had the pleasure and as I love all Pinot varieties I could not resist getting a bottle of ABC's Pinot Gris and Blanc blend.
With a label like this, impossible to imagine in France and probably even in Germany, I don't have to tell you what went into the wine, but for you lovers of more "natural" winemaking I can add that this ABC is an unfiltered organic product of spontaneous fermentation.
For me, the last couple of months were Silvaner and Pinot Blanc (Weißburgunder) time - two of my favourite wines during asparagus season. A Pinot Blanc I was particularly looking forward to comes from Mosbacher, a well respected Pfalz winery. The Mosbacher Weißburgunder SL is made "sur lie", which is French for "on the lees", meaning that the wine spent extra time on the deposits of dead yeast - a process that is meant to result in more depth and substance.
I took the Weißburgunder with me to a four course asparagus menu, hoping it would be versatile enough to go with a range of dishes from asparagus soup to fish with asparagus spears and horseradish hollandaise.
One of the venerable German wineries we have yet to introduce here on the Wine Rambler is Müller-Catoir. Established in the 18th century, the Pfalz estate has been in the same family for nine generations. There is also a generational theme about how I first came across Müller-Catoir - my dad is a big fan, and he always mentions MC when the topic of German Riesling comes up. On 20 hectares, the Catoirs are mostly growing Riesling and Pinot (Noir, Blanc and Gris), but also a range of other wines including the Germanic variety Scheurebe.
Scheurebe is famously aromatic and often made into sweeter wines, but in Germany the trend goes to dry - as with everything -, and so I was looking forward to sampling my first dry Scheurebe in a while.
The Schloss Lieser estate, dear readers, is the one winery that has had more of their bottles consumed chez Mr. Munich Wine Rambler than any other I've never told you about (except very briefly here). Admittedly, this also involves an order I placed twice in considerable confusion, but mostly, it is because Ute and Thomas Haag have been offering arguably the most consistent value in fruity and sweet Riesling for the last seven or eight years. Thomas Haag is known to Mosel afficionados as the son of Wilhelm Haag from the Fritz Haag estate, wine being a family affair in that part of the country. The 2005 Kabinett from the iconic Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr vineyard was the first of their wines I ever got to taste, four or five years ago.
So how has it been holding up?
Neither my co-rambler Torsten nor I have so far been able to warm significantly to Italian reds, especially those from the middle and south of the country. We have our reasons, mainly the predominance of plummy, raisiny fruit and a certain undeniably flabbyness that we think we found in those we have tasted, but to lovers of those regions I'm sure it proves that we are no less capable of prejudice-fuelled wine ignorance than the next drinker. What follows, then, is a little outside of the usual mould of Wine Rambler reviews.
It is to make amends, in a way, but it's also very much a public service announcement: Enjoyable Italian red ahead!
Sometimes you have no idea what you are looking at. The other day I pulled a bottle out of a newly arrived cask of wine that I hadn't actually ordered - nor had I heard of the winery before! Turns out that the wine merchant had sneakily squeezed it into the box as a thank you for a good customer. Herr Behringer also asked me for my opinion.
Following the recent debate on neutrality of wine bloggers I should probably add that this is the first wine we have received from Behringer without paying, that he did not ask us for a review and that the wine is not in his portfolio (I wonder if he plans to change that though). Anyway, Mr Behringer, here goes.
Lukas Krauß, friend of and contributor to the Wine Rambler, insists that his Spätburgunder is a Spätburgunder, and not a Pinot Noir, by which he means to say that if you miss in it the barnyard smells, wet earth, leanness and minerality associated with Burgundy, and find yourself with plump strawberry and cherry fruit and chocolaty richness instead, that's just how it's meant to be.
Spoken like a true traditionalist of german red wine. But do we let him get away with it?
Helmut Dönnhoff is among the most accomplished German winemakers. The same wine merchants who complain about wine critic Robert Parker's bad influence on consumers will happily tell you that "their" Dönnhoff wines have received Parker's prestigious 100 point scores, while others will point to Dönnhoff putting the German region Nahe on the world wine map or rave over the Dönnhoff trademark elegance.
Dönnhoff has also been crowned as Riesling king for his fantastic dry and sweet Rieslings. Today we will have none of that superlative nonsense and instead take a look at Dönnhoff's basic Pinot Gris.
As far as aged wines go, eight years may not seem seriously old, but Pinot Blanc, especially from Germany, tends to be drunk as a younger wine, light and fresh in style. Having said that, some German wineries also produce more substantial Weißburgunder (German for Pinot Blanc), matured in oak barrels, that can and should age a few years. Dr. Heger is one of those wineries, located in the Kaiserstuhl, the warmest wine growing area in Germany with fantastic volcanic soil.
The dry Auslese from the Winklerberg vineyard is one of those more substantial Pinot Blancs. The colour shows the wine's age, an intense honey coloured gold that promises substance and maturity.
For a mercifully long time, you have had no updates on this Wine Rambler's hare-brained and underfunded quest to find impressive and affordable Pinot Noir from Burgundy. I don't deceive myself that many of our readers more wise to the world of wine have secretly hoped that I would have given up, Burgundy being a region for deep-dyed aficionados only. Au contraire, my friends, and tonight, it is time for a new installment in this ongoing story of quixotic determination and befuddled ignorance.
It was up to Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier this time. Could this bottle of Nuits-Saint-Georges Premier Cru finally be the one to open the floodgates to all that near-orgasmic Burgundy magic?
A wine with prominent acidity that is worked straightforwardly into a light, simply, but well structured wine. Here, green apple and unripe melon rule the day, with clear, if not endlessly deep fruit on the palate. In its acidity-driven straightforwardness, this is reminiscent of a good Pfalz Riesling, without quite managing the minerality part. I prefer this latter version at this moment in time, because it seemed more refreshing and drinkable to me and for the completely subjective reason that it works wonderfully with a supermarket food favourite of mine, Flammkuchen.
Covered, with more background information, in our posting on Baden's Tuniberg and wider trends in german wine.
What the **** is Müller-Thurgau, and is it ever any good, we asked, respectfully, last summer in our in-depth Müller-Thurgau coverage. We did manage to answer the question to our own satisfaction at the time, if maybe not to everybody's, and a young winemaker named Christian Stahl played no small part in that particular journey. Neither the grape nor the man therefore need much of an introduction to our readers.
But there is some unfinished business dating back to that investigation in the form of this bottle of single vineyard Müller-Thurgau. So let's waste no more time:
Pinot Gris is a funny thing. If it is called Pinot Grigio it comes from Italy, is meant to be drunk young and suffers from too much cheap plonk on the market. If it has Pinot Gris on the label it is probably from Alsace and may be a substantial wine with the potential to age well. When it is called Grauburgunder it comes from Germany and could fall into any of these categories. The wine you see below comes from a reliable, quality focussed producer and has been matured in oak barrels - so you'd think even when stored in my wardrobe (officially London's most delicious wardrobe) it should be at its prime now. But then there is always a risk, are we looking at a wine that's already faded?
A recent encounter with a Swabian Riesling from the Schnaitmann winery has done a lot to build up my pride in Swabian winemaking. The German wine growing region of Württemberg is mostly inhabited by members of the Swabian tribe, who outside of Germany are probably better known for their engineering than their winemaking skills.
They are also known as very tidy, law-abiding citizens, so it is somewhat unusual that a Swabian wine is called 'Evoé!' - this after all being the battle cry of the followers of the Greek god Dionysus. Are we looking at a totally un-Swabian, orgiastic rowdy wine?
Time to go regional on you again, with a grape variety hardly ever talked or thought about outside of the roughly 35 acres of land where people actually grow it. Tauberschwarz literally translates as "River Tauber black". While this does seem to provide a first tentative clue about the colour of the wine, a bit more remains to be explored: A bit more about what Weingut Hofmann, an estate that specialises in the all-but-forgotten grape, has brought to the bottle, and a bit more about the vinous backwater that has conserved this endangered species.
Yes, it is plain wrong and should never exist. Seriously, a Pinot Noir, any wine in fact, with 15.3% alcohol must be evil. And yet this Californian Pinot Noir was strongly recommended to me when, during a visit to a stylish NYC wine shop, I asked for an unusual American wine below thirty bucks. As I love Pinot Noir and as Kate from September Wines was very enthusiastic about this one I decided to take it home with me (for $27.21, if anyone cares to know).
A few weeks later on a cold autumn weekend in London a pheasant was merrily roasting in the oven. The meal, the atmosphere and the colours around me were quite autumnal, and as the appearance of the Cotturi seemed to reflect that, I decided that the wine's time had come.
One of the effects of belonging to the German branch of the international brotherhood of wine snobs is that hot-climate whites have a hard time winning your approval. We have largely kept our hands off whites from the south of france, for example. We don't mean to say, of course, that there can be no great whites from down there. But I can say with a good measure of confidence that the wine under review today is not one of them. Its appeal for me lies in a completely different place. So this is less a wine review than a brief comment on liking certain wines in spite of oneself, which leads naturally to a melancholy micro-meditation on memory and irrationality.
If I am not mistaken, our readers have had to go without Wine Rambler Silvaner coverage since August 31. That is clearly unacceptable and will be remedied as follows ("quickly and unbureaucratically", as german public officials are fond of saying): The Burrlein winery of Mainstockheim, which we have already featured as part of our Müller-Thurgau report, has consistently turned out over-achieving quality Silvaners to its large customer base these last few years. Has it delivered again?