September 2011

An apple a day - two German Ciders

Yes, it's true, I should be working on my foolhardy Burgundy project instead of letting myself get sidetracked by stuff that isn't even wine. And I wasn't going to. But I do like Cider. Germany doesn't have a proper Cider tradition like France, northern Spain or Britain. There is a great love for Apfelwein, the fairly sour regional variant, in parts of Hesse, but that has never gained much commercial traction anywhere further than 100 miles from Frankfurt.

So when I found out that Ziereisen, one of my very favourite wineries, had come out with their own cider, and some time after, that a well-known internet wine merchant had begun sourcing a different one from another reputable producer, who was I not to get in line?

Ökonomierat Rebholz, Riesling Natursprung, 2009

Why the garden, you may wonder? There is a reason for why I took this photo in the way I did, but before we come to that let me say that is is a wine for those of you who think of German wine as sweet. Why? Because despite being a not too heavy Riesling, the Natursprung only has 0.7g of residual sugar per litre. It is not quite cola zero territory, but if, after all our preaching, your are still scared of sweetness then you can rest safely knowing that even after drinking seven bottles of this you still don't reach the sugar level of a cup of tea.

And now about the green in the photo. It is not to complement the green colour on the label and foil of the wine, but to comment on the pun that went into the Riesling's name...

Steininger, Traminer Sekt, 2007

Here's a story of youthful adventure: In my last year of school, I went for a week of hiking in the Scottish Highlands with three friends. Among many glorious things and brave deeds, it was also a time of spectacularly soggy hiking boots and mad scrambling for overbooked accommodation, us German school boys never having heard of such a thing as a bank holiday. One late afternoon we stumbled into the village of Crianlarich after a day's quasi-amphibious hike and made for the hostel where we had secured beds for the night, when the menu of the local takeaway caught our eye: Fish and Chips up there, of course, and a good variety of other deep-fried fare. But did it really say "fried black pudding and chips"? Dessert was provided for by fried chocolate bars.

This culinary cornucopia seemed outlandish, if strangely appealing, to us, and we mentioned this to our landlord when we checked into our bothy bedrooms. "Och ay", he said, "they fry ****ing everything". All right, I made the och ay-part up, but he did have the Scots accent that gave us such trouble, and I also seem to remember a distinctly north-of-the-border expletive in there. He also said this with a look that seemed to say "You boys think you can handle it?" It was a dare.

Schlossgut Diel, Dorsheimer Burgberg, Riesling Spätlese, 1999

This is a story of failure. Not a failure of the wine in question, quite the opposite of it. The wine was great. Instead it was me who failed the wine, in a way at least. Having said that, perhaps someone else is to be blamed for this ramble being a little different. As it happens, I have a photo of the culprit, and they look like this:

the real culprit

What has a pure, innocent grasshopper to do with an aged late harvest Riesling? Well, it is all about focus and light.

Weingut Trockene Schmitts, Randersackerer Marsberg, Scheurebe Kabinett trocken, 2010

You will be dismayed to hear it, but sometimes, we drink and enjoy a bottle of wine, but the review that is consequently due here at the Wine Rambler is moved a little down-schedule at first and later lost sight of. This is what happened to this bottle of a rather unusual German summer wine. I do feel a little guilty about it now that the leaves are already falling and - oh no, not so soon! - Oktoberfest has started here in Munich. But since it's much nicer to reminisce about summer days gone by and nice Scheurebe from Franken than to face the thought of the vomit-coated subway trains I may have to ride on in the coming two weeks, it is actually good to have kept this one for later.

So Scheurebe, Franken, winery with silly name - speak, notes:

Julian Saturday, 17/09/2011

Ökonomierat Rebholz, Spätburgunder Spätlese trocken, 2004

A couple of years ago I discussed German red wine with a lover of red Burgundy. He was mildly curious, but at the same time convinced that German Pinot Noir, or Spätburgunder, might be acceptable yet would not be substantial enough to age for more than three or four years.

Now, with a Spätburgunder of barely seven years of age to review today I am probably not in a position to change that view (for that I would refer to a 1999 from the Mosel and a 1992 from Baden) - but then we drink wine to enjoy it and not to correct Burgundy fans.

Delatite, Sylvia Riesling, 2008

"But it is a little sweet", was the warning when I expressed an interest in buying this Riesling - as if that had ever stopped a Wine Rambler! Quite the opposite, I was very exciting to find an off-dry Australian Riesling as I had never before tasted one. It also seemed to me it would be a great change to taste it blind against an off-dry German Riesling.

This made even more sense as the label told me that "This early picked Riesling is loosely based on the German "Kabinett" style." Well, bring it on Australia.

torsten Saturday, 24/09/2011

Willi Schaefer, Graacher Riesling feinherb, 2009

Willi Schaefer is one of the stars of the Mosel, so much so it seems that he and his son Christoph even in 2011 think they don't need a website so that people can find out about them. Well, they are on our radar anyway, but I am sure others would appreciate the chance to learn more about this small, family-owned estate in Graach. The wine you see in front of you is one of the basic offerings, a "feinherb" or "off-dry" Riesling that comes with a screw cap.

When I recently had two wine loving friends visiting, I pitted the Schaeffer against an off-dry Australian Riesling in another epic Wine Rambler blind tasting battle.

Australia vs Germany: Wine Rambler Blind Tasting Madness part 8

Australia vs Germany - after several blind tasting country battles here at the Wine Rambler this one is a little more difficult to sell. For last year's epic England vs Germany battle we could fall back on 1966, and other blind tastings have their respective stereotypes. But A v G? Football matches, yes, but epic? Dramatic battles - well, El Alamein, but the Australian part there is not really part of popular culture. So what remains is to stay in the wine world and announce an epic match between two of the world's prime producers of Riesling.

the contestants

Still, there is a little twist. Australia is, after all, mostly know for dry Riesling - but in today's match it sends an off-dry wine against a similarly specked Mosel Riesling. Dong, dong, let the match being.

Winzerverein Hagnau, Hagnauer Burgstall, Weißburgunder trocken, 2010

Growers' cooperatives, revisited. When we last mentioned them, we tried to be fair-minded and also point out their good and useful side, but ended up somewhat doubtful that particularly interesting wines could come out of them. Well, that only goes to show that the best of us sometimes have to eat our words, for the good wine growing people of Hagnau, a beautiful place on the Lake Constance shore, may have proved us wrong with a bottle of Pinot Blanc from their Burgstall vineyard.

Not up to our usual photography standard, I know. But the wine was up to scratch.

A. Christmann, Königsbacher Ölberg, Spätburgunder, 2004

Other than many of my British acquaintances, I don't often complain about the weather in London as I usually like it. Today though it has thrown a spanner in the works of the carefully planned Wine Rambler schedule. Expecting autumn to make its appearance, I had opened a Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder) the other day but now England is hotter and sunnier than it has been all summer - and here I am reviewing a wine that most people would rather associate with autumn. Having said that, a good Pinot should always be a great companion, so I hope you can forgive me for appearing unseasonal.

The Pinot in question comes from a highly respected producer in the Pfalz. On about 20ha, Steffen Christmann grows Riesling, Pinot Noir and a range of other grapes including Pinot Blanc/Gris and Gewürztraminer. Christmann is not only lucky to own parts of several very well known vineyards (such as the Ölberg), he also happens to be head of VDP, the leading German association of premier estates.