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



Bürgerspital Würzburg, Würzburger Pfaffenberg, Bacchus Kabinett, 2009

Posted by Torsten 23 Mar 2010

After having tried a few English Bacchus-based wines I was curious to see what I would make of a German representative of this variety (Bacchus was, after all, created in Germany). However, it is not that easy as Bacchus is not very popular in Germany. It is mostly blended into cheaper wines and not really a variety wine connoisseurs think of a lot, which is probably why none of my online wine merchants sell it. So I was pleased when, while visiting Munich and food shopping for a Wine Rambler committee meeting, I came across a Bacchus in a similar price range to the English ones I had tried. Little did I know what disappointment would lie ahead.

Bürgerspital zum Heiligen Geist (Citizen's Hospital of the Holy Ghost) is the name of one of Germany's oldest wineries. It goes back to the early 14th century when a wealthy member of the ruling class in the Franconian town of Würzburg set up a foundation to look after citizens in need of care. He endowed the hospital with a vineyard. Ever since, the money made from selling wine was used to support the charitable work of the Bürgerspital - today it is both a nursing home and a well respected winery.

I am happy that some of the money we spent on the Bacchus will be used to support charitable work. That is pretty much the only nice thing I can say about this wine.

Let's start with the colour. 'Colour' may not actually be the right word as the Bürgerspital Bacchus is so light it borders on water. In the future, when I complain about bad colour in English Bacchus I will keep that in mind.
The nose is very fruity, exotic in fact, and boringly so. It is not a fruit explosion, rather a non-distinct mixture of various exotic fruit. By 'non-distinct' I do not mean that it was not possible to pick out individual elements such as passion fruit, but rather that the Bacchus smelled as if it could have been made anywhere in the world with any nicely designed yeast culture, and this is also how it tasted. It was very light in the mouth, almost like lemonade. Usually I praise light wine (such as the delightful late harvest Rieslings from the Mosel at around 8% alcohol), but with this one I had to remind myself that I was drinking wine. It was just missing the special something, or rather anything really.

When we were discussing the wine at the Wine Rambler committee meeting, I stood up in its defence and said it would be a nice, non-offensive light wine to offer to guests at a garden party on a hot summer day: light, fruity, easy to down without noticing it too much. While I am sure the Bacchus will work for some people in this way, two members of our group actually asked me to pour their half-full glasses into the sink after I had finished my little speech. So much for 'non-offensive'.

I do not criticise the Bürgerspital Bacchus for having a particular flaw; I criticise it for not having character, edge, soul. For instance, it really made me miss the 'cat piss in carpet' aromas that had given my last English Bacchus a nice edge. In contrast, all of us were really disappointed to see a well respected winery make a wine that was void of character. The Bürgerspital Bacchus may be technically well-made, but who cares when that leads to utter boredom?