After exploring in some depth the potential and perception of residually sweet Riesling, we turn, very briefly, to a style of the variety that is hardly known or appreciated outside of Germany: light, basic range dry Riesling. That type of working man's white is most reliably produced not along the more glamorous Mosel, but in down-to-earth Pfalz (the Palatinate), where vineyards are less capriciously steep and the climate more dependable, and it goes by the name of Kabinett trocken. Almost every half-decent winery there produces a few of those from different vineyards, and almost every inhabitant of the region will have one on their dinner table - almost every day.
Reviewed in our Müller-Thurgau report, and updated accordingly:
Light straw colour
Smells like ripe apples, sliced raw Kohlrabi (cabbage turnip?) and maybe a little freshly cut grass. In the mouth, mild acidity, again ripe apple fruit and an earthy, limestony kind of minerality.
Quite an achievement for Luckert to get such power and relative depth out of a grape variety otherwise known for high yields and little character. It could easily pass for a dry Silvaner Spätlese, both in taste and in substance.
a) have had a Silvaner from Franken before and liked it,
Reviewed in our Müller-Thurgau report:
This single-vineyard Müller Thurgau from Stahl's nicely named Hasennest ("hare's nest") vineyard smells of hay, dried herbs, apples and what I always think of as chalk. Yeast and carbonic acid still dominate the palate a bit too much at this point, but behind that white vegetables (celery root, cabbage turnip, radish), beeswax and herbs are lurking - and stay for the finish, which is quite long.
Nice try, Reichsgraf zu Hoensbroech, but you cannot fool the ever-alert Wine Rambler! We know that your whimsically named "Blauer Limberger" is no other grape than Lemberger, known in Austria as - say it with me - Blaufränkisch. In Germany, Lemberger has its home in Württemberg, to which the Reichsgraf's Baden sub-region of Kraichgau is very close.
And yet again I am drinking a Pinot from sun-kissed Baden; this time it is a Pinot Blanc, known in Germany as Weißburgunder (=white Burgundy). As I have written a lot about the producer, the Salwey family recently, I will keep this introduction short and jump right into the wine:
The bouquet is a mixture of melon and apple - Bramley apple, in particular -, with earthy mineral, soft notes of hand lotion and, surprisingly, the faintest hint of petrol. Light, smooth and enticing.
Being about a Litre bottle, the hardest part of this review was, of course, the choice of pun: "Following the litre" is lame, "Take me to your litre" is good, but has already been taken (I can't remember where I've read it). I'll have to come back to you on the puns. First, here's the message: Anyone can make an expensive wine that is at least very good. To make an estate-grown, non-industrial cheap wine that is enjoyable and has character, that's the difficult part. Dr. Heyden has joined the contest for Litre of the Pack (sorry) with his 2008 Silvaner, and we are talking 3,90 € for 1000 ml of it.
Wine, it seems, is still getting more and more alcoholic, a trend to which climate change happily contributes. After all, there is not much that producers can do against rising temperatures. Or is there? Gérard Gauby, a Roussillon winemaker, seems to believe they can. A decade ago he switched to biodynamic winemaking and successfully developed methods to reduce the alcoholic strength of his wines.
I had a 2005 Gauby sitting in my wine rack for a while now, until Julian kicked me into action by commenting on Gauby's 2004: 'Aromatics of overripe plum and dried herbs, but fairly imprecise and unfocused, with sweet and oxidised port notes that didn't work for me. I think very highly of Gauby, but this one doesn't seem to age well. Or maybe a reminder that "natural" wines are at all times capricious, moody fellows?' After reading this it seemed high time to drink up my 2005, in case it had suffered a similar fate. Had it?
It may not be a polite subject, but there's no dancing around the issue: Deep-dyed mosel Rieslings from slate soils can give off a bit of an odour. You expect a bit of a mosel funk, you appreciate a bit of a mosel funk, yet in my humble mosel experience so far, here's the undisputed sultan of stink: Andreas Adams's Kabinett gives you your petrol spill, your car dealership, but throw in used motor oil, a sulphur spring and some rotten eggs, and you're getting closer. Very distinctive, if you like this kind of thing. And I certainly do. Beneath the stink, or maybe it's better to stay borne on the stink, are ripe apricots, deep stony minerality and a whiff of caramel. The fruit is really subdued at this stage of early maturity, the acidity is not much of a presence either, and it's really the hard-core slate minerality that is the blood and bones of this ultra-trad Kabinett.
After several not overly successful ventures into UK supermarket wine I have let my investigation into what is available on the mass market slip. The other day though in Sainsburys I came past an Austrian wine that looked really interesting. And so I grabbed a bottle and was rewarded with one of the best wines I have ever bought from a supermarket. If you are bored by cheap Australian or Italian wines and look for a good refreshing white then look no further and go for Austria this summer.
When you put your nose into a glass of wine and it smells a little bit like a car dealership, but in a good way, you can be fairly certain that you have a Riesling in front of you. This Haart Riesling from the Mosel is not one of the petrol noses, so please don't think of a garage wit lots of oil and grease, but its bouquet has a little of the more refined version of that smell, just think of a BMW car dealership salesroom. Or rather walking through one while eating a peach.
At the Wine Rambler, we have this ongoing love affair with the Silvaner grape. Today's Silvaner comes from the German wine region of Franken, the spiritual home of this grape variety.
This is a textbook Silvaner in the best sense of the word. You get earthy, grassy notes, almost smoky. There is apple, refreshing in the nose and well defined on the tongue. At its core the Silvaner is robust, but smooth round the edges with notable minerality.
Lime, peach, mineral, herbs, peach, lime, good acidity - I do actually feel a little sorry for using these words here over and over again. But what can I do, these German Rieslings are just very good at delivering that - and the 2008 dry Riesling from the Emrich-Schönleber winery is no exception. In fact, it is a good example for a dry, crisp and fresh wine of this type that also comes at a reasonable price (especially if you take into consideration that it comes from one of Germany's most prestigious wineries).
A few months ago I was browsing the web store of one of the Wine Rambler's favourite German wine merchants (Behringer). While going through the Pfalz selection, I came across a dry Riesling that despite having been rated at 90/100 by the German wine guide Gault Millau still sold at only €8. As I needed to resupply on dry 'everyday' Riesling anyway, I ordered a bottle to find out what the fuzz was all about.
It's been a while since I have given Hungary a try, and high time to spread the word about this Kékfrankos (a.k.a. Blaufränkisch, a.k.a Lemberger - you know the drill) from Sopron. It is made from organically grown grapes by the Weninger family of Austria, who has built up a branch of their winery across the border on the other side of Lake Neusiedl.
If I think of a German winery that has lots of experience with blending red wines, the Knipsers come to mind. Just a little while ago I tasted their Cuvée X, a great blend of Cabernet Sauvignon/Franc and Merlot. Even though the Cuvée X can stand up to a good French Bordeaux, it is not exactly cheap either, so I was very curious to try the Gaudenz, a significantly cheaper red wine blend made by the Knipsers. In fact, it is surprisingly cheap. It also is a blend of different grapes, including the German variety of Dornfelder, and is matured in used barrique barrels for about a year.
To the Wine Rambler, Silvaner remains one of the undervalued German grape varietals, particularly as seen from my London perspective. I don't think I have ever come across a Silvaner in a London restaurant or wine shop. This may not mean very much of course as Londoners would also find it difficult to get German Pinot Blanc or Pinot Gris, for instance, but I recently learned that even more knowledgeable wine people can confuse Silvaner with the (Austrian) Grüner Veltliner (Silvaner is sometimes called 'Grüner Silvaner'). Is this Silvaner from the Juliusspital winery going to change all that?
Recently, I have been drinking quite a few Salwey wines, both red and white. So far the wines from the sun-kissed south-west of Germany have entertained me very well, so it was time to try a sparkling Salwey - even more so as I had a few friends over the other night who had not yet tried a German sparkler. Time to change that!
Pop, went the cork and a wonderfully bubbly sparkling wine of the most amazing amber colour foamed into our glasses. I don't think I have seen such a wonderful deep amber in a wine, it was just perfect. One of my British friends described the colour, and this reference may be lost on many, as 'not quite Irn-bru'. This was a most promising start!
Yet again it is back to Baden for the Wine Rambler (this year I seem to drink more and more wine from Germany's sun-kissed southern wine region), and yet again a wine from the Heger winery: a surprisingly fresh and fruity, but otherwise very typical Pinot Blanc, if you want the short summary.
Ink-coloured, almost black, smelling of plum jam, eucalyptus and donkey stable and puckering your mouth all over with overwhelmingly rough tannins, here we have a text book Tannat (note the linguistic closeness to "tannin" as well as to "tanning").
I have written about so many Salwey wines recently, I almost feel bad to pay that much attention to a single producer. Almost, I said, because Salweys know what they are doing and I am in a Pinot (Noir, Blanc, Gris) phase anyway. So I will keep it sweet and short today in order not to repeat myself. Here it is, a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc/Weißburgunder: