June 2009

Domaine Gresser, Brandhof Muscat D'Alsace, 2007

I really appreciate how a good sommelier can make an excellent dinner even more memorable. At a previous (and dare I say excellent) dining experience at Tom Aikens the sommelier recommended Rémy Gresser's Brandhof Muscat with fish.

While searching for a UK source for this wine I learned that I am apparently gifted with a special understanding of this kind of wine (or perhaps wine in general), as the wine merchant wrote to me: "The Muscat is essentially a restaurant wine, very few people understand dry Muscat, like you."

Markus Molitor, Trabacher Schloßberg Spätburgunder trocken unfiltriert, 2001

It has been quite a while since I tasted the sibling of this wine, the Graacher Himmelreich Spätburgunder of the same vintage; so sadly, I cannot really compare them against each other. What I can say though is that both are excellent Pinot Noirs.

The Trabacher Schloßberg ('Schloßberg' means 'castle mountain') comes in the massive bellied bottle Molitor use for their burgundy style wines. The Pinot has great colour, a very nice, intense earthy brown. The nose is gentle, very autumnal, but also fleshy; it showcases black truffle, rotten leaves, a hint of tobacco and black cherries, with a pleasant bit of vanilla and cocoa.

Weingut Aufricht, Auxerrois 2008

Straw-coloured, on the lighter side.

Ripe apricots and other ripe yellow fruit, rich, some perfumy citrus aromas as well.

Very young and fruit-driven in the mouth, nice acidity, peach and grapefruit notes sprayed onto a creamy body.

This is very much a "made" wine (think cultured yeasts, think low temperature fermentation) and although it has substance, polish and even some spice, it could have been made in South Africa, in Friuli, or some other place where very good winemakers know exactly how their wine should taste in the end. Nothing wrong with that, but it didn't work for me just now. I can't rule out that this might have turned into something with more depth and a sense of place with some bottle ageing. Who knows?

The sound of the bubbles - wine snobs tasting

At a wedding this weekend a friend approached me with the questions "So what's with this wine thing?" It took me a second to realise that he was curious about the Wine Rambler. More than that he actually wanted to know if I was one of those people who can tell the vintage, vineyard and region of a wine just be sniffing it.

When I pointed out to him that I am most certainly not one of these people (even though I might manage to recognise a Riesling by Theo Haart, a theory that may need to be tested one day), he seemed very pleased. "Good!", he said with quite some emphasis, especially when I told him that our website project was all about the fun. Turns he almost distrusts wine experts and prefers to go for simple reds.

Mövenpick's picks: some german wines from 06, 07 and 08

Some short and fairly random notes on wines carried by Mövenpick Weinkeller and offered today in a tasting in their south Munich shop (or rather, temple):

Schubertsche Schlossk. (whatever that stands for...), 07 Herrenberg Riesling Spätlese trocken: Green flavours, tight acidity, somewhat green and bitter.

Schubertsche Schlossk, 08 Riesling Abtsberg Alte Reben trocken: Very spicy smell, fresh green herbs, fairly ripe, fresh. Very good.

Schloss Lieser, 08 Riesling trocken: Typical, slatey smell, but very plush at the same time. Not too refined, but good, fairly priced.

Fritz Haag, 08 Brauneberger Riesling Kabinett trocken: slim, very fresh, great to drink, old school.

green juice

Looking for an alternative to lemon or vinegar as an acidic ingredient when wine is going to be served? An excellent option is Verjus, that is (literally) green juice from unripely harvested grapes. Compared to vinegar the acid is milder and 'rounder', the flavour is fruity and more complex than that of lemons. Being common in the middle ages it gradually fell into oblivion and gains increasing popularity in the culinary scene only recently. We were curious and tested Austrian Verjus today:

Wine Rambler on the road: Lake constance views and wines from Aufricht

Unexpected pleasures are the most enjoyable. We had confidently expected to spend the best part of this first day of the pentecostal holidays stuck in traffic jams. But no, for once we actually managed the early start we always try for and reached the half-stage of our usual drive to the black forest, lake Constance, in good time and in beautiful early-summer sunshine, and what's best: with extra time.

I had had Aufricht, the rising star winery of the region, and arguably the lake's best, in the back of my mind for some time, and clearly, it was now or never: Over bumpy vineyard roads and after some false turns, we reached their gates, and were lucky. They were open for tasting, even for unannounced and slightly car-dishevelled customers.

Liebfraumilch Rheinhessen Qualitätswein

So here we are. The infamous, dreaded Liebfraumilch. One day it had to happen. And that day is now. In the really olden days, Liebfraumilch (beloved Lady's milk) was a label for low yield, high quality wines from the city of Worms (Rheinhessen). It was a highly sought after example of German wine making.

Now it can be put on pretty much any vaguely sweet wine from the Rheinhessen area of Germany that is made from grape varieties such as Riesling or, mostly, Müller-Thurgau. Sweet, cheap (£2.82 in this instance) and not very cheerful, these wines do now represent German wine in the UK - at least for a majority of customers. So it seemed the logical choice to turn to Liebfraumilch for the first wine in what may become a regular Wine Rambler category: supermarket wine.

Wine Rambler goes supermarket wine

We are snobs. We are decadent. And we do look down upon you because you drink wine from Tesco or ASDA and you refuse to pay more than £3.50 for your wine.

Well, if you have this impression of the Wine Rambler then I am here to prove you wrong. Because we do also buy supermarket wine and we do not look down on others who do. The part about the us being snobs is right though.

So here it is, the new category supermarket wine. Under this label, we will focus on wines that you can get from the likes of Sainsbury, Tesco and ASDA, wine that is not necessary always super cheap, but certainly affordable.

Emrich-Schönleber, Grauburgunder trocken -S-, 2007

This is my first Emrich-Schönleber - almost a scandal as this winery has such a good reputation.

Pale colour. A fresh nose of apple mineral with melon, floral and herbal notes. At first a little rough in the mouth, with crisp acidity, but a lot smoother with exposure to air. This Pinot Gris has lively acidity but is also smooth and creamy at the same time, with fruit and even a hint of vegetable taste. The finish is very nice and brings out notes of nuts and even a little peppery roasted wood.

Clemens Busch, Riesling Spätlese Trocken ***, 2006

You are British, your white wine has to be rich Chardonnay and you think German white is evil and sugary? Then go and try this dry late harvest Riesling from Clemens Busch.

A little mineral and stone fruit with herbal notes in the nose, this Riesling feels like a full-bodied candy in the mouth - but mind you, it is not very fruity, it just fills your mouth. Lots of depth; strong and present enough to go with a wide range of food, including meat. A little peach mixed with green vegetable and some notes of wood. Strong finish, showing some tannin, even a tiny sip fills your mouth.

Georg Mosbacher, Sauvignon Blanc 2008

Very light straw colour with a greenish tinge
At first, this smells and tastes overwhelmingly and quite explosively of green berries and fresh green leaves and grass, also grapefruit. After some time, it goes into a Riesling-direction, and unripe peaches and minerality come out more.
Dominated and defined by razor-sharp, but clean and well-integrated acidity, this is a zesty and appetizing wine that friends of straightforward dry Rieslings will enjoy very much. It tastes much lighter than the actual 12.5 % and makes me think of a picknick beside a mountain stream.

Supermarket wine promotions

Studying history, they say, prepares you for life. So when I was told at university that 18th century Britain pretty much invented sales tactics and classics such as the shop window, that should have prepared me for what I experienced when moving to the UK: Seasonal sale, mid-season sale, in-between season sale and all sorts of promotions started to dominate my life.

Even my local supermarket does them all the time and I do constantly have to face signs offering 40% off on a certain wine. £4.99 instead of £9.99? Sounds tempting - unless you know that the wine may only be worth £4.49, with the price artificially doubled so that it can be sold to you as a 'really good deal'. In an article on discount wine, the Guardian explains how this all works:

torsten Wednesday, 17/06/2009

Baden Pinots from Aldi

Fritz Keller, current owner of one of Baden's pioneer wineries and a gourmet restaurant in the Kaiserstuhl (http://www.franz-keller.de/), has collaborated with Aldi (Süd), Germany's legendary discount food retailer. Under the Brand name "Edition Fritz Keller", he has produced both a Pinot Noir and a Pinot Blanc from Baden, contracting with a great many smaller growers of the region for grapes. In this quest to bring top-quality wine to as many people as possible, Fritz has, as the back label pompously informs us, found inspiration in the "Bauhaus" school of architecture and art.

Claus & Susanne Schneider, Weiler Schlipf Spätburgunder trocken "CS", 2006

From Baden's interesting, but little known sub-region of Markgräflerland,an area between Freiburg and Basel, named after the ancestral territory of the margraves of Baden, comes another unexpectedly serious, yet fairly priced Pinot Noir:

Surprisingly dark and dense cherry red.
Concentrated smell of earthy cherries, a few plums and leafy forest floor. Very very promising.

Edition Fritz Keller, Weißburgunder 2008

Smells fresh, with appetizing apple and pear fruit, in no way artificial (a pleasant surprise), but not very deep either.
In the mouth, a lean wine with strong, maybe not completely ripe acidity, nicely subdued and unperfumed fruit again, a little grassy, a hint of minerality, and a shortish finish.
Rather atypical for a Pinot Blanc from Baden, where I have come to expect cantaloupe, almond and buttery flavours, this is nothing to get excited about, but a fairly honest, basic fresh white
nonetheless. It will go well with most summery food, and many people used to northern italian whites (e.g. the wine drinking population of Munich) will find this a well-made version of what they know and like.

Schmitt Söhne, Riesling Qualitätswein, 2008

Imagine my surprise when I found myself looking at a German Riesling in a supermarket in the outskirts of Alexandria, Virginia. Actually, there were several wines claiming to be 'German' Riesling, but I skipped two that were not bottled in Germany. I also skipped a 'Claret' made by Francis Ford Coppola - yes, THAT Coppola, another celebrity who ventured into wine making -, but as I was drinking 'with' a pregnant woman it seemed best to focus on something light that I could finish by myself, if need be. Still a shame not to have tried the Coppola, but there may be other times.

Wine Rambler on the road: Washington DC

This is not actually a posting about American wine, or any wine for that matter. It is more about how assault rifles and the Sabbath conspired against me bringing you a story from wine heaven.

It was all well thought out. Go to Maryland for a few days of work and use the chance to do some sightseeing in Washington. And to visit a few wine shops there and bring back some interesting stories. So this Sunday morning I left my hotel armed with a few maps, recommendations for places to visit and a list of potentially interesting wine merchants in DC. And an invitation to have dinner in Virginia to try some of the swag.

Schneider's of Capitol Hill

Schlosskellerei Von Schubert, Maximin Grünhäuser Herrenberg Riesling Kabinett, 2007 (half bottle)

Mosel Tributary with 5 letters? RUWER

Rieslings from the Ruwer are known for their strong acidity and their slim elegance. From the Schlosskellerei (more commonly known as Maximin Grünhaus), one of the three top estates from there, comes this delightful cabinet:

Wine Rambler-approved german wine merchants: (3) Weinhandelshaus Scholzen

Product Range: Fairly comprehensive on the South of France, Italy and Spain, good on Germany, a small selection of the rest. Interesting older wines (Bordeaux, Languedoc) at very fair prices come up from time to time.

Pricing: Fairly unbeatable.

Wine prose: None to speak of. Wine descriptions mostly just cite journalist rankings and points. But that's ok, no Parker hypocrisy either.

Upsides: Very competitive prices. The range of wines under 6 € is exceptional, and - as far as I can say - very decent throughout. Since prices are mostly cheaper even than in supermarkets, shipping included, you can stock up on everyday wines without regrets.

Wine Rambler on the road: New York City wine merchants

After the failed attempt to explore wine merchants in Washington, a Wine Rambler desperate to bring some wine stories home from the USA trip moved north to the Big Apple.

I know what I'm needin', and I don't wanna waste more time.
I'm in a New York state of mind.

This posting does in no way claim to be representative of the wine shopping experience in New York. It is just a fairly random sample of wine shops I happened to walk into while exploring New York. And a few comments by a German wine snob about what German wine delight is on offer to the locals.

Well, you went uptown ridin' in your limousine / With your fine Park Avenue clothes / You had the Dom Perignon in your hand / And the spoon up your nose

New York, by Jerry Ferguson