April 2010

Sucker Punch of the Sauvignons (Blind tasting madness part 5)

Wine Rambler full committee meeting. Two Sauvignon Blancs nice and cool, ready for the first sip. The tasting would nominally be blind, but it should be a walk in the park to tell them apart. One from New Zealand, Astrolabe's 2008 "Discovery": more explosively, exotically fruity, surely. One from Germany, the 2008 Meersburger Sängerhalde Sauvignon Blanc from Aufricht, the Lake Constance's ambitious star horse: more subdued, but with more depth and minerality, maybe? We knew what we were doing, we had done it before. It would be a pleasant evening with a laid-back broadening of wine horizons.

Glasses rinsed, monkfish and shrimp already in the frying pan, wine ramblers contented and full of calm anticipation. What could possibly go wrong?

Knipser, Großkarlbacher Burgweg, St. Laurent trocken, 2005

Here I am, back to drinking German red wine from Rhineland-Palatinate. The St. Laurent grape is a fairly old one, possibly of French origin, that is now often associated with good old Austria, but also increasingly popular in Germany (after it had almost been forgotten there). It is probably related to Pinot Noir and often described as the little, less sophisticated, but also more powerful brother to this variety. So it is no wonder that the Knipser brothers, German red wine and barrique specialists, matured this wine in barrique barrels - for 18th months, in fact. The Knipser St. Laurent is no doubt a wine of quality. Perversely, it appears to be exactly this quality that left me with a big question mark regarding this wine. Perhaps you can help me clarify the matter?

Staatsweingut Meersburg, Meersburger Chorherrnhalde, Weißburgunder trocken, 2008

Wine produced and sold by the state? No, we're not talking about socialist eastern europe in the 1980s, we are talking the German federal Länder, who, for good historic reasons [*] own and operate large wine estates. Thus, the fine free state of Bavaria has the Staatlicher Hofkeller in Würzburg, the Land of Hessen its Staatsweingüter Kloster Eberbach. But for this time, it's Baden-Württemberg's own winery in Meersburg, Lake Constance, that makes bureaucratic beverages look good. How good? Well, here is the winery headquarters, for starters:

Martin Müllen, Kröver Letterlay, Riesling Spätlese, 1994

A nicely aged Riesling can be a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, for those not blessed with a proper cellar storing wine for a decade or two is a risky venture. This makes buying aged wine directly from the winery very interesting, especially when the wine comes at a reasonable price. Of course, there is also the risk that they are trying to dump rubbish they couldn't sell on you, but for €12.90 and coming from a good winery I thought I could take my chances with this half-dry late harvest Riesling from the Moselle:

Raumland, Riesling Sekt brut

'Sekt' is what the Germans call their sparkling wine, and Volker Raumland has an excellent reputation for making sparklers, so much so that many top wineries in Germany trust him with turning their grapes into Sekt. This non-vintage Riesling Sekt, the cheapest in the Raumland range, was made according to the methode champenois and disgorged in 09/2009, creating a wine that is like being struck by a well balanced and expertly-handled sledgehammer made of mineral and fresh acidity.

German wine with Denise and Douglas: from Sekt and St. Laurent to Pinot Noir and aged Riesling

Sometimes, a wine tasting among friends turns into an unexpected wine and food orgy. Of course, this could never happen to a moderate and austere German like me, not even with Denise, the Winesleuth, and Douglas, of Intoxicating Prose fame, coming to visit. Denise had been given a couple of German wines by a trade representative, and I had suggested to top that up with a few more wines to set things into perspective. Nothing heavy, just a light evening with a bit of wine and food fun among friends.

Dr. Heger, Oktav, Weißburgunder Kabinett, 2008

Yet again it is back to Baden for the Wine Rambler (this year I seem to drink more and more wine from Germany's sun-kissed southern wine region), and yet again a wine from the Heger winery: a surprisingly fresh and fruity, but otherwise very typical Pinot Blanc, if you want the short summary.

torsten Thursday, 08/04/2010

Emrich-Schönleber, Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen, Riesling trocken, 2007

May the day never come when streamlined wine marketing gets rid of the german custom of labelling wines by place of origin and vineyard name. Yes, those make for clumsy label design. Yes, they are phonetically intimidating to non-german speakers. But here's their great glory: The best of them already say everything that can be said about a wine more evocatively than anything a wine marketing agency could dream up. Take "Frühlingsplätzchen", a well-known vineyard of Monzingen, in the Nahe region. This could be translated either as "the little springtime place in Monzingen", or as "the Monzingen springtime biscuit". Isn't that wonderful?

Palivou, Anemos white, 2008

Ripe pear, flowery meadow and some almonds in the nose. The palate is soft and round, warmly alcoholic, warm notes of hay, herbs, even a hint of minerality, certainly a pleasing lack of artificiality.

Not bad at all, I just miss a bit of a bite and a bit of a grip. I find it a little too flabby and complacent by itself, much will depend on a food pairing. A grilled fish with some herbs would obviously do a world of good when you serve the Anemos fairly cold.

Nothing to get crazy about by any means, but a nice mediterranean white. My palate is probably too Riesling-infested to see the merits of these wines, although the herbal notes did also remind me of a Grüner Veltliner from one of the warmer areas of Austria and also from a warmer year.

Salwey, Sekt Rosé Brut nature, 2004

Recently, I have been drinking quite a few Salwey wines, both red and white. So far the wines from the sun-kissed south-west of Germany have entertained me very well, so it was time to try a sparkling Salwey - even more so as I had a few friends over the other night who had not yet tried a German sparkler. Time to change that!

Pop, went the cork and a wonderfully bubbly sparkling wine of the most amazing amber colour foamed into our glasses. I don't think I have seen such a wonderful deep amber in a wine, it was just perfect. One of my British friends described the colour, and this reference may be lost on many, as 'not quite Irn-bru'. This was a most promising start!

Philipp Kuhn, Chardonnay, 2008

If you are a regular reader of the Wine Rambler, you may have noticed that we do not review much Chardonnay here. Obviously, this is because we are nationalist Riesling-loving basterds from a country that does not make Chardonnay. All very true, apart from, well, Germans do actually grow Chardonnay, and not only for making sparkling wines. So the other day, when I had a few English friends over for wine and food, I opened one of those Chardonnays to remind myself how good they can be.

Juliusspital, Würzburger Stein, Silvaner Kabinett trocken, 2008

To the Wine Rambler, Silvaner remains one of the undervalued German grape varietals, particularly as seen from my London perspective. I don't think I have ever come across a Silvaner in a London restaurant or wine shop. This may not mean very much of course as Londoners would also find it difficult to get German Pinot Blanc or Pinot Gris, for instance, but I recently learned that even more knowledgeable wine people can confuse Silvaner with the (Austrian) Grüner Veltliner (Silvaner is sometimes called 'Grüner Silvaner'). Is this Silvaner from the Juliusspital winery going to change all that?

torsten Monday, 19/04/2010

An afternoon of Austrian wine

RotWeissRot, a Munich wine shop specializing in austrian wine (or Ösiwein, as it is affectionately known here at the Wine Rambler) had organised a tasting of high-end juices to celebrate its seventh anniversary and invited some very well thought-of winemakers to present them in person.

So who was I not to get on my bike, pedal sharpish to the somewhat dowdy part of town where it resides, meet with Wine Rambler friend and wine tasting regular Anke, and grab a glass.

Philipp Kuhn, Spätburgunder Tradition, 2007

Again, it is back to the Pfalz, this time to take a look at the entry-level Pinot Noir from the Kuhn winery. The colour is quite dark and intense (for a German Pinot Noir), just screaming deep berry flavours. The first sniff already shows that this is not an empty promise: cherries, yeast and mushroom, but also black currant and a bit of mustard come together with leather aromas and a hint of chocolate to form a robust, but very smooth and enticing nose.

Knipser, Gaudenz 2005

If I think of a German winery that has lots of experience with blending red wines, the Knipsers come to mind. Just a little while ago I tasted their Cuvée X, a great blend of Cabernet Sauvignon/Franc and Merlot. Even though the Cuvée X can stand up to a good French Bordeaux, it is not exactly cheap either, so I was very curious to try the Gaudenz, a significantly cheaper red wine blend made by the Knipsers. In fact, it is surprisingly cheap. It also is a blend of different grapes, including the German variety of Dornfelder, and is matured in used barrique barrels for about a year.

Wine Rambler German Spring Tasting 2010 - sparkling rosé to cocaine Chardonnay cut with brick dust

The seasonal wine tastings hosted by the London branch of the Wine Rambler are now something like an institution. So much so that this time change was needed ('change you can believe in' - after all it is election time here in the UK). My message for the electorate was quite simple: 'no Riesling'. This does not mean that I have suddenly lost my love for this amazing variety, not at all. However, it is good to every so often remind people that there is so much more to German wine than just Riesling. So what did I choose for that mission: a sparkling vintage rosé, a Silvaner, a Chardonnay, a Pinot Noir and a Bordeaux-style blend of red grapes, including Cabernet Sauvignon.

Reinhold Haart, Piesporter Goldtröpfchen, Riesling Kabinett, 2008

On a glorious, sunny day (or, in this case, quite a few hours after the sun went down after such a day), not much beats a glorious, sunny Riesling, in particular if it is so very quaffable and yet elegant as this one. Yes, I am again drinking one of the fruity Rieslings made by Theo Haart, this time a lighter wine in 'Kabinett' style.