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



Gerhard Klein, Silvaner Eiswein, 2004

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.

The ice wine comes in a somewhat minimalistic half bottle - there is nothing minimalistic about the wine's colour though, a beautiful golden hay. The bouquet is as intense, with lots of deep, ripe fruit and intense honey. It smelled a little like I imagine caramelised grapes with sticky cough syrup would smell, with a fresh sprinkling of the smell of a recently run, clean washing machine. This is a sweet wine, and it is not ashamed to smell the part.

It also tastes the part, although the finish was a little drier than I'd have expected from the exuberant nose. A little caramel, more sugar (fructose) and peach and pear fruit flavours make for a ripe, intense wine with a hint of oxidisation and age. What feels like medium acidity adds the much needed dosage of freshness, all coming together in a lovely dessert wine.

Judging from this ice wine, there is definitely potential for more sweet Silvaner, although the top of the line sweet Riesling wines do not yet have to panic.

Sweet Silvaner

Interesting! I've tasted a couple of sweet versions myself, such as the "Hors la Loi" (ie. outlaw) from Alsace's Seppi Landmann. He's pretty much established himself as a Sylvaner specialist. This bottling is so named because of the legal trouble he ran into w/ the AOC rules that don't allow for Sylvaner in the late harvest category. He also makes an ice wine it seems.

Otherwise, Silvaner goes by the name of Johannisberg in Switzerland, but the sweet version I tasted seemed a bit flat. I definitely prefer Riesling in this category.


Sweet Silvaner

Of course, the French Sylvaner with a "y"... I don't think I have ever tried one from Alsace, so that's definitely something to put on the agenda. Thanks for the recommendation!

Generally I'd probably prefer a Riesling too, especially with regards to acidity, but it has to be said that the Klein ice wine was not bad at all.