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



Weingut Dolde, Silvaner Alte Reben, 2010

Posted by Torsten 08 Aug 2012

Frickenhausen-Linsenhofen - say that five times real fast? I would particularly encourage you to try this after you have had a few glasses of wine, for instance the old vines Silvaner pictured below. While you might have to disentangle your tongue afterwards I can at least assure you that it is otherwise perfectly save to say even in polite German company - unless perhaps the Germans are from a neighbouring village that has a long-standing feud with the Frickenhausen-Linsenhofeners.

Now, despite being born in the area my knowledge of local feuds and other details is scant, but I do know that Frickenhausen-Linsenhofen is home to one of Germany's highest vineyards. And it is here where Helmut Dolde makes a Silvaner from 50 year old vines ("Alte Reben").

As far as some new world vineyards or even the famous Visperterminen vineyards (1150m) in Switzerland go the 530m of Frickenhausen-Linsenhofen may not be too impressive, but for Germany it is still quite high up. Apart from Silvaner Helmut Dolde grows Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc and Müller-Thurgau here, and he also produces spirits and sparkling wine. What makes him even more interesting is that he is only a part-time vintner and winemaker. By day Helmut teaches biology and chemistry, and so he relies heavily on the help of his wife to run the winery and work the vineyards (they have less than 2ha). The Doldes also don't have the resources to invest heavily in capital, so much here is truly handmade.

Dolde's old vines Silvaner is a wine of lighter colour, hay with a light green tint. In a way that also describes the overall impression I had - another description would be apple spritzer with hay tea, citrus and a touch of vegetable. The nose has a distinct hay, camomile tea and floral note, but not in an overly playful style because of a touch of bitterness; there is also ripe pear and if pressed hard I'd say the vegetable aroma reminds me of asparagus. The Silvaner is straightforward, of a lighter style but with surprisingly strong acidity as the grape tends to produce milder wines (2010 though is notable for the higher acidity across the board in Germany). It finishes with a somewhat bitter, herbal dryness on the top of the tongue, more juice fruit on the gum and a lemon spice burn in the throat.

I have to admit that it took me a little while to adjust to the acidity and the light bitter notes which I simply had not expected - and they are more obvious than in a sweeter Riesling for instance. However, with the tuna pasta I had for dinner the Silvaner was excellent. My tuna pasta recipe relies on thyme, chicken stock, cream, capers and lemon, and as it happens the capers were unusually acidic. The Silvaner was strong enough to take it though and in the finish the caper and lemon acid from the food and the acidity in the wine did not just balance each other out, the cheered each other into an exciting mineral spice and citrus explosion.

Now, I had planned to end this review with a pun on Frickenhausen-Linsenhofen, but instead I just recommend the Silvaner as a good food companion (and resist making a joke about lentils, as that is what "Linsen" means in German).

I just bought a bottle of

I just bought a bottle of 2011 Linsenhöfer Silvaner Vulkan (technically a Spätlese) today in a local small wineshop; have unscrewed it and just - while typing this and unwinding from pre-Christmas stress through some allegedly-out-of-my-character kitsch music (Enya !!) - am tasting it.

A very pleasant surprise of remarkable quality, given the legendarily BAD reputation that Neuffener "Täleswein" has always had - and still has - among Swabians (only wine from Reutlingen is badmouthed worse).

Non-autochthonous drinkers should be aware that the region is very near to a an endemic seat of Deepest Pietism, namely to the hamlet of Hülben with a local reputation [*] of slooooooooowwwnessssss, and its legendary or notorious "Hülbener Stund" (a weekly bible lecture and prayer fellowship, maintained and upheld since over 200 years by a single schoolmaster family, the Kullen dynasty), a religious persuasion thus that makes any US Southern Baptist appear liberal and nigh free-masonic... So much for my own pretence of knowledge of local feuds and slurs (ask me about the Swabian meaning of "Hüle" and its symbolic employ [**] at some later time).

Back to the wine. In any blind tasting, not at few tasters would identify this as a slightly acidic overly German style Pinot Gris, with a mere 12,5 % alcohol; however, the as of now yet undeveloped finish and his boyish, very slim hips clarify that the wine can hardly be a pinot family member. While already nicely drinkable, this Vulkan can and will posssibly find a bit more equilibrium (I mean it as I write it: equilibrium; for harmonic is already is) - and may develop what its very pleasing nose already announces. A more detailed evaluation, appreciation or hatchet job may follow later, I have only had the first sips.

(*) The extremely detailed polyhistoric 19th century Oberamtsbeschreibungen (shire descriptions) - all of them now easily internationally available on the 'Net - are your friends.
(**) Between a bog and a small stale pond, more on the bog side. Or, as proverbial Swabian [im]propriety of yesteryear had put it: "them beasts ain't drinkin' it anymore, but for them there folks, it's still good enough!"


Swabian roots

You, sir, are clearly a fountain of knowledge of all things Swabian! I am not sure I have ever tried a Swabian Pinot but I do have Sauvignon Blanc from the Canstatter Zuckerle vineyard - which I have never visited but it sounds extremely cute. Extremely cute is maybe not what one would call Hülben but it does sound like I should one day return to my Swabian roots. I clearly missed much of the excitement as a little boy... Cheers to the Vulkan!


Thank you for the praise :-).

Thank you for the praise :-).

A return to roots can be mixed; Swabian author Hermann Hesse wrote a novelette on such a topic, called "Die Heimkehr" (Returning Home):
An adult man, now arrived and well-to-do, with much money to invest, returns to the small Swabian town that he once fled as a youngster, a bit like Dürrenmatt's Old Lady. Initially honoured and fawned by the notables, he soon discovers that things and people have not much changed. They made a film out of it for TV earlier in this year. Not bad. And even a mention of wine is not lacking:
"doch die Stammtischhocker sind noch genauso borniert wie einst und johlen erst freundlich, als ihnen ein Wein - "aber d'r beschde, den sie habe!" - ausgegeben wird."
("... but the pub inhabitants are as narrow-minded as ever, and only begin to cheer their long-lost son when invited by him to free wine - "but awnly from de best!" they demand).


Hesse and wine

Thank you for sharing this, Alexander. I have never really looked into Hesse, I have to admit, but this looks very interesting and my save me from getting into similar troubles (not that any dignitaries from where I grew up would remember me though). Cheers!


See what you have done! You

See what you have done!

You have made me taste two more alcoholic beverages from Dolde. One was a 2010 Pinot noir Barrique, one was a 2011 Sparkling of "Black" Pear (very old local trees of an allegedly rare cider variant). Both were bought at the same wineshop.

- The red wine was very dark and presumbably unfiltrated, in taste okay and decent (nothing great though, but fair and honest, and worth at least half of its price of 12 or 14 €). This was not a question of decanting and aeration, the wine had had its fours hours in the decanter and was retasted the next day with the same result. A 2009 Hochburger from the Badenian Breisgau region pleased us - including two US tasters who are true sniffing hounds for German pinot - a lot more.

- The sparkling of pear (méthode Champénoise) was very original and remarkable, an excellent apéritif with low alcohol (8,5 %), and better than many German sparklings from grapes. Plus it was affordable with 9 €. Its tannic propensities are remarkable (typical for such cider pears meant for Swabian Biramoscht), but the sparkling has a beautiful nose, indeed her bouquet was more attractive and seductive than a much more voluptuous William Christ spirit of pear. Her ending however is bit short-tailed, and inasmuch as an apéritif corresponded to Oscar Wilde's famous definition of a perfect pleasure ("A cigarette is the perfect type of a perfect pleasure. It is exquisite, and it leaves one unsatisfied. What more can one want?").


Sparkling pear

Thank you for sharing that, Alexander. I have to say the sparkling pear sounds very interesting. I may have to get some it, very unusual. Cheers!