July 2011

Reeling in the years with Lukas Krauß Silvaner - a Wine Rambler micro-vertical

When we first got into wine blogging - and you can add a "...son" to that and imagine us silver-haired connoisseurs absent-mindedly swirling a '78 Bordeaux above our huge mahagoni table to set the scene -, when we first got into wine blogging, we quickly learned there is one bow in the blogger's quiver that seldom misses: hyperbole. We learned that a nice bottle of wine is a revelation, an ordinary bottle of wine is boring you to tears, a good winemaker is a winemaking genius, and so on.

The lesson we have learned very well is that there doesn't have to be a whole lot behind a story to make it a good story. In that spirit, we offer you the great Wine Rambler vertical of Lukas Krauß Silvaner.

Gerhard Klein, Silvaner Eiswein, 2004

It is still Silvaner season at the Wine Rambler. Actually, for us it is Silvaner season throughout most of the year, but over the past few months we have been even more busy exploring this often underrated German grape variety. Today's specimen is a little unusual, even for us, as it is a sweet Silvaner, an ice wine in fact. Ice wine is made from grapes frozen on the vine - a process that helps extract water and thus (relatively) increases extract and sugar levels, making for delicious sweet wines.

This ice wine was made by Pfalz producer Gerhard Klein based in the village of Hainfeld. If you are not familiar with the Pfalz, you may be amazed to hear that among the grapes they grow are Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Now I even read that Kleins also plant Grüner Veltliner! Compared to that, Silvaner is a much traditional German planting, and that's what we will focus on today.

Michel Schneider, Liebfraumilch Q.b.A., 1984

Liebfraumilch does not need much introduction, seeing as it is probably the wine most foreigners, certainly the British, associate with Germany. What hundred years ago was one of the best white wines in the world has since become cheap supermarket plonk. Hardly a reason to look out for those wines then, I hear you say - and yet I got extremely excited when a little while ago I got my hands on a bottle. Why? Because it was over 25 years old.

At this age, most wines are undrinkable, and even quite a few age-worthy white wines don't look exactly fresh anymore. Surely, the Liebfraumilch must have turned into vinegar. Or did it?

Schloß Proschwitz, Riesling Kabinett trocken, 2009

In our quest for interesting wine, we have ventured as far east of Germany as to Georgia, but we never have explored what the German East has to offer. Now it is time to make good on one of our new year's resolutions and try a wine from Saxony. North of the 51st parallel, Sachsen is Europe's north-easternmost wine growing region, and with about 500 ha of vines it is one of Germany's smallest. A fifth of the Saxonian vineyard area belongs to the zur Lippes, one of the oldest aristocratic families of Germany.

aristocratic wine bottle cap

After the wall came down, the current prince zur Lippe, Georg, started buying back his family's property that was lost after the Second World War, and now he runs the largest privately owned winery in the German East. We had tried a few of his wines at tastings in the past, but the dry 2009 Riesling here is the first to undergo the rigorous testing at Wine Rambler HQ.

Green and pleasant land - A Trollinger tasting and one Wine Rambler's swabian epiphany

If Swabia were a nation, it would as of now be the world's only nation ruled by an environmentalist green prime minister. And it would have a national grape. And that grape's name would be Trollinger. Trollinger, known also as Vernatsch in the Alto Adige region of northern Italy, a grape that Jancis Robinson's authoritative Oxford Companion to Wine classifies as "distinctly ordinary". Not many outside of Württemberg deny that this is so.

Wittmann, Silvaner trocken, 2010

If like us you fell in love with the Silvaner grape you will probably forgive me for featuring yet another wine made from this German variety - and if you don't love it yet, well, I am not going to shut up until you do. In fact, there will be more Silvaner coming your way on the Wine Rambler over the next weeks. Anyway, Wittmann. I was really looking forward to try the basic 2010 organic Silvaner from one of Rheinhessen's, in fact Germany's, best producers, especially as the 2008 Silvaner had been such fantastic value.

pouring Wittmann Silvaner

Can Wittmann repeat the success of putting a highly enjoyable white wine for (a little) less than nine Euro on the table with the 2010 vintage?

torsten Friday, 15/07/2011

Chateau Cambon, Beaujolais, 2009

This spring, I discovered Beaujolais. The really astonishing thing in retrospect is how ignorant I was before I stumbled upon one, whereas you of course don't need me to tell you that good Beaujolais, high-end Beaujolais, is to cheap supermarket Beaujolais as Liebfraumilch is to great-growth Riesling. Yawn.

So I can probably keep it short: Beaujolais yummy. Chateau Cambon yummy, too?

Between sweetness and acidity: 2010 Mosel-Saar-Ruwer tasting in London

One of the pleasures of living in London is the vibrant wine trade and more wine-related activities going on than a Wine Rambler can participate in. I try to cover what happens in German wine though, and so earlier this month I set out to a Mosel-Saar-Ruwer tasting in the Great Hall at One Great George Street in Westminster. I had visited this fantastic location previously, for instance for the recent English Wine Producers tasting.

On 4th July it was not English but German wine in my glass, and from Germany's most famous wine region - a chance to try some of the off-dry and sweet Riesling from the 2010 vintage. And to be presented with an apple, the most unusual tasting gift so far.

Martin Müllen, Kröver Paradies, Riesling Kabinett, 2002

I'm always honoured when people who have stumbled onto this blog contact us for expertise on German wine, even while I find myself guiltily hoping that we are not the only source that they rely on, given the patchiness and dabbling character of this our whole undertaking. But here is a piece of advice that I guarantee you will not regret following: When looking for mature-ish Mosel Riesling in great drinking condition, look no further than the 2002 vintage, underrated in many quarters, but in my humble experience as safe a bet for lively, nuanced wines as you are going to find.

Martin Müllen's 2002 Kabinett from the aptly named Paradies ("paradise") vineyard is a case in point. Over and beyond being a minor classic of the neo-traditional style of Mosel winemaking (whatever the hell that is supposed to be), it also has a long and distinguished history in this Wine Rambler's cellar, being one of the very first wines ordered directly from the producer. And I'm happy to report it has never before tasted this good:

Lucashof, Forster Pechstein, Riesling Spätlese trocken, 2000

Sometimes before going to bed I browse the websites of wine merchants and dream what I could order if only I had a proper wine cellar store wine long term (or, depending on the wine, a larger purchasing budget). During one of those sessions I came across a wine that seemed like the ideal solution to both problems: at over ten years of age it would not need more cellaring and at €9 it would not put a strain on my budget - considering the age it was a bargain.

I had heard of the Lucashof winery before, so I was curious to find out what one of their aged dry Rieslings (and from a well-know vineyard) would taste like.

Au Bon Climat, 66% Pinot Gris, 34% Pinot Blanc, 2009

It is one man in particular that every so often makes me crave American wine: Jim Clendenen, the Californian winemaker behind Au Bon Climat. The ABC Pinot Noir and Chardonnay I have tried so far were delicious and, if you consider how insanely expensive Californian wine can be, reasonably priced. As it has been a while since I had the pleasure and as I love all Pinot varieties I could not resist getting a bottle of ABC's Pinot Gris and Blanc blend.

With a label like this, impossible to imagine in France and probably even in Germany, I don't have to tell you what went into the wine, but for you lovers of more "natural" winemaking I can add that this ABC is an unfiltered organic product of spontaneous fermentation.