The Riesling Retribution by Ellen Crosby. A cozy wine mystery book review

Some reviews seem to write themselves, in extreme cases even before you have had a detailed look at the product. I mean honestly, what could you possibly expect from a "wine country mystery" novel entitled The Riesling Retribution that blends the discovery of a body near a vineyard, a love triangle in a winery and old family secrets into a "combustible atmosphere" that also features "eerie ghost stories", "buried secrets" and "a most unexpected outcome"? Is it really a recommendation when the cover cites an inspired reviewer with the verdict "A crisp read that goes down smoothly with a pleasant finish"? Would you trust an author to produce great literature who titles her novels The Bordeaux Betrayal or The Viognier Vendetta?

Let's see if the reality of Ellen Crosby's The Riesling Retribution is quite as predictable as that.

Weingut Ruck, Iphöfer Julius-Echter-Berg, Silvaner GG, 2009

Christmas has come early at the Wine Rambler. No, we haven't changed the calendar and yes I know it is almost Christmas anyway, so this line is less effective than it might have been in July. However, the wines I had recently have been so good there can be no doubt that 'tis the season to be jolly. Exciting sparkling Riesling followed by aged Nectar harmony Muscat and now what may very well have been the most accomplished dry white wine I have had this year.

A first rate Silvaner, the exciting and under-rated German grape variety we have been shouting about for a few years now - and it even comes in the traditional Franconian "Bocksbeutel" bottle.

Weingut Darting, Dürkheimer Hochbenn, Muskateller Eiswein, 1999

"Torsten and Julian have this wine blog, and they mostly review sweet wines." This is how a friend introduced the Wine Rambler at a dinner party - much to my surprise as sweet wines make up only a relatively small amount of our wine reviews: not even 1/6 and even with the off-dry ones added we don't quite come to 2/7. Perhaps my outspoken love for Mosel Riesling (which tends to be off-dry or sweet) contributed to this image, or it is just the general perception that German wine is sweet. Instead of fighting this cliché today I shall give in to it. Let's not just drink sweet, let's indulge in sweet.

Ladies and Gentlemen, friends of sweetness and sugar hounds, I give you an ice wine from the Pfalz.

Josef Rosch, Riesling brut, 2008

Germany, for those of you who did not know it, produces some excellent sparkling wine in a style similar to Champagne. It also produces a unique fizze ("Sekt") from Riesling, called "Rieslingsekt". This is style of sparkling wine that tends to be crisper and fresher than Champagne. Some of the more exciting specimens of this type blend French complexity with vibrant German Riesling freshness and mineral.

I was lucky in that the most recent bottle of German fizz I opened was one of this type.

torsten Sunday, 02/12/2012

Weingut Kistenmacher & Hengerer, Cabernet Franc "Frederic", 2008

It's well known that for the first few years after planting, vines yield bumper harvests, but cannot quite produce the concentrated, characterful flavour in their grapes that old vines are renowned for. So it struck me as somewhat self-defeating when I saw "from young vines" clearly spelled out on this Swabian Cabernet Franc (yes, that's right: Swabian Cabernet Franc) - as far as I'm aware, there is no obligation for a wine grower to inform customers of this on their label. It's either unusually decent and straightforward of Hans Hengerer, who is still a fairly young vine himself, to put it on there.

Or, and this became more plausible for me with every sip of this wine - it is actually a teaser: "It's that good now. Just wait till you taste it when they're fully grown...". Because it actually is that good now:

Pairing Wine and Music? "Tasting Notes" radio programme launch at Laithwaites Wine

Music does not taste. Wine does. Rather obvious, but not nearly as simple as you may think. What we perceive as the taste of wine is actually our brain combining all sorts of information and the tongue only plays a relatively small part in this. What we see, know or hear, everything has an influence on how we taste. And as music and wine are often enjoyed together Classic FM and Laithwaites Wine argue it may be worth thinking about how to match them.

tasting with music

To make this point they hosted a wine and music tasting in London last week and the Wine Rambler went to investigate.

torsten Monday, 19/11/2012

Weingut Prieler, Leithaberg rot, 2005

Seven years is not a biblical age for a bottle serious red wine, but the Austrian wine scene being obsessed with youth and each new vintage, it is not quite so easy to find older bottles of interesting Austrian reds. Except if you manage to navigate this Wine Rambler's tiny cramped cellar. Recently, I got lucky down there, and found this. Upon seeing the label and suddenly remembering having bought it all those years ago, I made the executive decision that its time had come. It had that in common with the goose who had lost her life for Martinmas and was about to be cooked with some apples and red cabbage.

Leithaberg shining out of the murk:

The Leithaberg is a range of low hills northwest of Lake Neusiedl that a few winemakers from Austria's Burgenland region discovered for its cooler, steeper vineyards after they had become bored by the powerfully fruity, but somewhat complacent wines to be made from their lakeside plots.

Leitz, Rüdesheimer Riesling trocken, 2010

When I woke up this morning to the news of Barack Obama being re-elected I immediately realised how I had to write tonight's Riesling review. It would have to be about expectation management. This is something the 44th President of the United States would have a lot to say about as the disappointment some Democrats seem to feel towards him originated from perhaps unrealistically high expectations in his first presidency. Expectation management goes beyond politics of course and I suspect all of us will have been disappointed in something or someone when actually their only "failure" was not to have fulfilled our expectations.

Film is an area where I suffer from this effect occasionally, despite struggling not to be infected by the most recent hype. It also happens with regards to wine, but to me as a Wine Rambler it poses a more serious issue. How can we ensure not to be negatively influenced by our expectations? And this is how the poor, innocent Rheingau Riesling gets dragged into this malarkey.

Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico, 2011

It could have been the cheap Pinot Grigio. It could have been all the talk about boring Super Tuscans. Or maybe it was growing up in Munich where everyone who wanted to be trendy drank Italian wine and annoyed the heck out of me with their cheap Prosecco talk. Whatever the reason, I don't tend to look to Italy when it comes to buying wine. Now, it has been established that I am a cool climate sucker and a certified acid hound, but a country with such a great wine tradition and amazing range of grape varieties and regions should have something to offer that I like.

Well, it does - and even more shockingly I found it in a supermarket.

Weingut R & A Pfaffl, Grüner Veltliner Hundsleiten, 2011

One of the glories of being a wine amateur without an ounce of professionalism is the childish pleasure you can take in things that more knowledgeable folk take for granted. Recently for instance, I rediscovered decanting. Now, of course I do know what pouring a wine into a larger carafe for greater air exposure does in theory, but somehow, I had let the habit slip. After all, there isn't always time for these kitchen rituals. But the exceptionally rewarding Grüner Veltliner on review today showed me what I may have been missing, as decanting did it a world of good.

The first swigs of this very young wine straight out of the bottle were not promising: A heavy, awkward and withdrawn wine. After two hours in the wide-bottom decanter, out on the cool balcony, we found something very different indeed: