A (belated) encounter with Cabernet Blanc - a unique wine from the Pfalz

The other night I was having some Cabernet Blanc with my homies and - Cabernet What, I hear you say? You heard correctly, the wine is called Cabernet Blanc, a grape variety that is grown by just a few vintners in central and western Europe. The specimen whose label you see below comes from the Pfalz, one of my favourite German wine regions.

Mosbacher Cabernet Blanc 2012

It was produced by the Mosbacher family who have been making wine in the village of Forst for a hundred years now. Currently, they grow vines on some 20 hectares of land, with roughly 90% of the production dedicated to white wine, mostly Riesling. Cabernet Blanc makes up only about 1% of their overall production.

Back with a bang: North Korean wild grape wine

How do you come back from the dead you ask? If you have to, I think, do it with a bang. In our case, this ruled out re-starting the Wine Rambler with a usual post, such as a review of a steely Riesling. So I went in search of something unusual. And I think it is fair to say I found it, or rather it found me: ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I give you a review of North Korean wild grape wine from the DMZ!

North Korean grape wine box

Before we venture into the Korean Demilitarized Zone, a few words about the Wine Rambler. Julian and I started this venture purely for our own entertainment almost ten years ago. Over time it grew and changed, and so did our lives. With work and other commitments there was less time for rambling, especially for telling the really interesting stories. Research, interviews, travel and tastings can take a lot of time, and neither Julian's nor my schedule was flexible enough. That is still the case, but increasingly I found I was missing both the writing and the wine community. So, I dusted off the blog, gave it a new interface and here we are. It is unlikely we will ever go back to the olden days of several posts a week, but I am still looking forward to the occasional ramble.

Gold in them hills - 30 years of Tuscan Sangiovese with the Marchese de' Frescobaldi

How do you get a semi-retired wine blogger to grab his tasting glass and head out into the fray again? Make him an offer he can't resist. Include in it: World class red wines, back vintages no longer available anywhere else, an Italian region that he loves, but still knows too little about. To clinch the deal, promise him that he will get to meet a real live Italian nobleman.

30 years of Sangiovese, lining up to be tasted
30 years of Sangiovese, lining up to be tasted

Marchese Lamberto de' Frescobaldi is just that, and he is also the director of his family's vast agricultural and wine growing operation. To promote his high-end Tuscan sangiovese, Frescobaldi and their German importer had set up a spectacular vertical tasting in Munich. Read on for my impressions of 30 years of Sangiovese, and a bit with a wild boar.

Gerhard Klein, Grüner Veltliner, Junge Reben, 2013

It's been a busy few months for me. Almost all of June I spent on the road, or at events in London. So to ease myself back into blogging I thought I write about a nice little wine, nothing extraordinarily expensive or with a long and complicated backstory. There is, after all, a place for those wines that are there just to be enjoyed. When I unscrewed Gerhard Klein's Grüner Veltliner I hoped it would be one of those quiet, enjoyable companions. And it was. With a little twist...

Torsten Sunday, 05/07/2015

Schnaitmann, Fellbacher Lämmler, Lemberger GG, 2009

Württemberg is not one of the wine regions the average wine drinker will know much about; most likely they will not even have heard about it. Now, I could tell you a that it is a rather interesting area - a red wine making region dominated by a plethora of growers associations and rivers - but the main reason I like to drink wines made by the local tribe of the Swabians is that I was born there. In fact, as a child I played not far from Rainer Schnaitmann's Lämmler vineyard.

So every now and then I need to go back, to check what my homies are up to.

Pievalta, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, Classico Superiore, 2012

Sometimes it is about the simple pleasures. When I first got really excited about wine I was drawn to the more expensive, prestigious wines. The average price I paid per bottle started creeping up. Looking for something "unusual" for the Wine Rambler contributed to this trend. Over time though I got a little frustrated with this approach. After all, all these "special" bottles need "special" attention. They want to be carefully selected, properly photographed, precisely analysed and interestingly described. What happened to just enjoying a nice looking bottle with dinner without feeling the need to pay too much attention? This feeling led me to order more "drinking" and less "reviewing" wines, and recently I even managed to put an order in where the average price per bottle was below seven quid.

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The wine you see above is one of these wines, although I put a little more effort into selecting it. After all tradition dictates that the first wine to be reviewed on the Wine Rambler each year does not come from Germany.

Bodegas Mauro, Vendimia Seleccionada 2003

A busy year is coming to an end. I could write about how busy it was, but the very slow trickle of posts on the Wine Rambler makes that obvious enough. Instead I feel like leaning back, pouring myself a comforting wine and relax. A wine with substance and soothing qualities, something with a personal connection but less intellectual challenge than the Rieslings I love so much. It is time to open a special red wine that had been sitting in my cellar waiting for a moment like this. Or maybe his is just a pretentious way of saying: after maybe five years stored in a wardrobe I feared the Mauro really needed drinking.

German Gin, with Riesling? Ferdinand's Saar Dry Gin!

It took me almost two decades to appreciate gin. In my early drinking years, it was one of two spirits that I would always decline, as more than a glass made me sick (the other being ouzo). And let's face it, what else would you do with spirits in your late teenage years than have more than a glass? In the following, vaguely wiser years I enjoyed wine and stayed away from spirits - until I moved to gin central: London. Not only did I learn to appreciate a good gin and tonic, in those dire pubs where you are stuck between the Scylla of tart Sauvignon Blanc and the Charybdis of offensively dull lager even a mediocre G&T is a life (although perhaps not liver) saver. Today's gin is of a different calibre though, and an unusual beast too: a dry gin made in Germany, and intriguingly it is infused with late harvest Riesling grapes from a first class vineyard! So when I was offered a tasting sample of "Ferdinand's Saar Dry Gin" I had to say yes, and I brought along a gin expert to help me taste it.

Karthäuserhof, Eitelsbacher Karthäuserhofberg, Riesling Spätlese, 2007

Drinking wine is expectation management. It is many other things too, and I would hope on most occasions the expectation management is invisible, but sometimes it can become centre stage when writing a wine review. If your expectations are low but the wine delivers, is there a risk you praise it too much? And if your expectations are very high, will you be led to write a review that compares the wine with your expectations instead of looking at it on its own merit? The above-pictured late harvest from the Mosel tributary Ruwer falls into one of these two categories for me, so approach with care.

Torsten Sunday, 10/08/2014