2009 is the year of the Silvaner grape variety in Germany - the country celebrates 350 years of growing Silvaner. Never heard of Silvaner? Quite likely, especially if you are not German. However, chances are that you have tasted it at some point as Silvaner is often mixed with other grape varieties, for instance in the infamous Liebfraumilch blends, because of its more neutral flavour. Does that mean it is a boring grape? Not necessarily - a good winemaker can use Silvaner to really let the characteristics of a particular vineyard shine, the famous French concept of terroir. To honour the Silvaner, the Wine Rambler will dedicate itself to opening the odd bottle of Silvaner this year to see what this grape has to offer.
German organic supermarket chain Alnatura has a small, but convincing wine selection, much of which comes in half bottles as well. A good marketing move, since, apart from being good for single drinkers or weekdays, this always makes me less hesitant about trying a wine I know nothing about.
Deep cherry red, with a brick-red edge.
Nice smell of tannic cherries, raw beef, some red and black currants.
In the mouth, thick-skinned cherries again, red currants, medium bodied, a little leathery, a spicy, but also mouth-drying after-taste with a real pinch of tannic roughness.
Here we are back with our latest venture into supermarket wines. Friends of the Wine Rambler will know that every so often I visit British supermarkets and explore what they have to offer in the cheap price range. So far the likes of Blue Nun and Liebfraumilch have been very disappointing - but here comes an Australian Riesling, from ASDA, that is actually quite drinkable.
This one is for the ladies. Actually, it is not so much for the ladies in general as for my friend Conny who always complains that the Wine Rambler ignores wine from the German region of Franconia, or Franken as we call it. Franken is a Protestant enclave in the north of otherwise Catholic Bavaria. People have a funny accent ('k' comes out like a 'g') and supposedly like robust food and dry wines with the necessary substance to go with it. Did I mention that Conny is from Franconia?
The experiment of drinking British supermarket wine has been a disappointment, especially in the cheaper range the Wine Rambler has ventured into so far. Now I am back to drinking supermarket wine, but this time it is a little pricier, crossing the £6 barrier. Dr. Loosen is one of Germany's leading winemakers and very successful at selling in Britain too - Sainsburys stock the more expensive Kabinett and this entry level wine. And what can I say? This is the best wine I bought from a British supermarket below £8 so far.
Three bottles. I managed to get my greedy hands on three bottles of this wine last year - regular readers of the Wine Rambler will know that I am a big fan of the lovely wines Theo Haart creates at the Haart family estate overlooking the Mosel river. Most of the wines are sweet, but every year there are a few bottles of dry wines. 'Großes Gewächs' is German for 'great growth' and indicates that you are drinking a dry wine from a top vineyard as certified by the German Association of Premier Winemakers (VdP). Basically, think of it as a dry Spätlese (late harvest) or Auslese. So three bottles. One went down the drain last weekend because it was corked - it tasted of burnt smoke and vinegar. This means I am now down to two.
California winemaker Heidi Barrett has a clever little routine to train the palate, and also to get a feeling for the overall quality of a wine
I do it on a count of six. I divide it into initial palate, mid palate, and finish. Each of these categories gets a count of two: Initial palate would be one and two [...], mid palate three and four [...] and the finish would be five and six. [...] When I taste wine, I want 1-2-3-4-5-6, this silky impression from start to finish, it running on all cylinders, no holes in the program, a complete wine with everything filled out. Cabernet Franc, for instance, can be just one and two, where the flavours drop off after the first nice burst of fruit, it falls of a cliff. Merlot is often just three and four. A lot of Cabernet [Sauvignon] is 3-4-5-6.
Neat, hah? See Heidi Barrett explain it to Gary Vaynerchuk, at 12:20 in the video:
Sometimes you find one of these local shops that feel a bit like home. For me, Philglas & Swiggot in Battersea is one of them. Located on Northcote Road, Battersea's food and wine shopping street (especially if you count the St John's Road extension), this gem of a shop has been supplying the locals with wine for almost two decades. Now there are two other branches, one in Marylebone, the other in Richmond. The efforts of the team to provide good wine and good advice have been recognised, for instance through the award of London Wine Merchant of the Year in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006.
So what's so special about this shop?
Would you drink wine from a winemaker who is member of a group called 'Mosel Disciples', or Mosel Jünger in German, who market their wines as 'Mosel mal jünger' (Mosel a little younger for a change), or with the label 'Riesling Reloaded'? Well, I am doing it right now. I did not, however, buy the wine because of the marketing - I bought it earlier this morning because Philglas & Swiggot, one of my favourite wine merchants in London, recommended it. Only later did I find out that there really is group of Mosel winemakers called the Mosel Jünger. And the Regnery winery is part of that group. They promise a focus on quality in order to give the Mosel area a new and better image.
Do you know the German word 'marmeladig'? I have looked into several dictionaries, but no translation could be found. However, you will need to understand it to understand this wine, even though this Shiraz (or Syrah - two names, but same grape) is Australian and not German at all. It also is a wine that the Wine Rambler reviews as part of our venture into UK supermarket wines, even though a £9.99 wine from Waitrose is not quite what you would expect under this label.
I bought this wine when I last visited Philglas & Swiggot, one of my favourite London wine merchants. Apparently, Paulinshof is one of their long-term favourites, so I was curious to try one. Paulinshof is an old winery from the Mosel region, exclusively focussed on Riesling. So let's see what they have to offer!
Germany has cast its vote in the general election and looking at the result I felt the need to drink some wine. I leave it to you whether you want to see it as a comment that I am not drinking German wine tonight - I am off to Spain. This may be a bit unfair, but so far Spanish red seems to me to be the most exciting Mediterranean red wine (leaving out most of France as not Mediterranean) - send those flame emails and, even better, recommendations for Italian, Greek and southern French wines that will blow my socks off. At the moment, however, I enjoy this Navarre blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
Grüner Veltliner is Austria's signature white grape variety. It produces lovely, fresh and crisp wines and I am just having one of these from the Kamptal. Located within easy reach of Vienna, the Kamptal has a few well known vineyards and Heiligenstein (holly stone) is one of the prestigious ones. Grüner Veltliner has a reputation of being a good food companion and so far I have not gone wrong with this grape.
The nose of the Heiligenstein Veltliner is a nicely balanced mix of cool mineral, apple and citrus fruit, enhanced by herbs, vegetable and a bit of freshly ground pepper. Not in an in-your-face style, more of a quiet confidence that does not need a fruit explosion to convince.
Hessische Staatsweingüter Kloster Eberbach - this Pinot Noir was made by a state owned winery in the German state of Hessen. The Staatsweingüter (state wineries) are among the largest wineries in Germany, growing wine on about 200 ha. The Domaine Assmannshausen, one of three domaines that are part of this estate, focus exclusively on red wine, something quite unique in Germany.