February 2012

A Tale of Two Vineyards - One Man's Journey Into Amateur Viticulture and Viniculture. A guest ramble by Steve Race

We all have our dreams. The Wine Ramblers sometimes imagine casually telling a guest who has just praised the marvellous Riesling we served them that it came from our own vineyard. While many have this dream (different varietal perhaps), only media celebrities ever seem to realise it. After all, you cannot just grow vines in your back garden. Or so I thought. Until I came across Steve Race. Steve has done exactly that - planting vines in an allotment in Yorkshire, of all places, and making his own wine.

Fifty-Four North Vineyard

In this guest ramble, Steve shares some of his experiences with home wine growing and making, first in England, now in Spain. Enjoy, and learn.

Heiner Sauer, Weißburgunder Kabinett trocken, 2009

This humble review is actually a double tribute. First, to wines that don't dazzle the nose or titillate the palate so much as enable food to shine by their ready availability, selfless service and smooth background operation. We Germans call them "bread and butter-wines". The kind of wine that you buy by the case and whose steady supply you take for granted, so much that it is only with the final bottle that you get round to properly appreciate (and review) it. Because of that, this is also a tribute to that specially cherished sixth bottle.

 At your service, salad! Pinot Blanc, the discreet background companion

So here's to the very last taste of Heiner Sauer's more-than-serviceable 2009 Pfalz Pinot Blanc that I will ever have:

St. Urbans-Hof, Ockfener Bockstein, Riesling Kabinett, 2010

When touring the Mosel in 2008, we visited, amongst other places, a village called Leiwen. It was chosen for very practical reasons, as the wide and comfortable cycle paths along the river lead right past it, but more importantly for bacchanal reasons as it is the home of the St. Urbans-Hof winery. Small by New World standards, the 33ha vineyard area owned by the Weis family actually make the estate one of giants of the Mosel/Saar region and they include sections of several prestigious vineyards.

One of them is the Bockstein, near the village of Ockfen at the Saar river. There was no time to visit Ockfen in 2008, and until that can be remedied I will have to make due with enjoying the odd bottle of Ockfener Bockstein Riesling.

torsten Wednesday, 08/02/2012

Weingut Steinmühle, Sylvaner trocken, 2010

Arson, sieges, war - not really the first words that would come to mind when thinking about wine: or a mill. And yet such events feature prominently in the long history of the Steinmühle (stone mill) winery in Rheinhessen. Since the Middle Ages, the mill in Osthofen has been burnt down a few times, and yet there it still stands. And it is still in the hands of the same winemaking family, for eleven generations now.

I did not know that when I was handed a bottle of their 2010 Sylvaner (the date 1275 on the label could have been a hint) - but then wine should mostly be about the enjoyment and the history lesson just a good swashbuckling story to be told after the second or third glass.

Why I will never buy a Dell computer again

For many years I have been a happy and loyal Dell customer, using Dell machines at home and at work. Those were the days when my Dell PCs were trusty. Those were the days when I associated Dell with good service. Those were the days when I recommended Dell to friends, colleagues and contacts. Well, those good old times are over as the Dell I bought last summer is still not working properly, and more importantly as Dell have stopped responding to my emails.

This is not a wine-related topic, but as three Dell computers were used to initially build and now to maintain the Wine Rambler I have decided to ramble about how a small problem was made big by a service failure.

Philipp Kuhn, Spätburgunder "Tradition", 2008

We have all been there. You meet someone. At a wine bar, a pub, a club. They look nice, approachable. You talk a little and it goes easy, very easy. Almost too easy - you realise: a smooth operator. Now you should be careful, but somehow it feels good. Until disappointment finds you at last. However, as you get older, more experienced, you learn to spot them before it is too late: pleasant surface, charming, very smooth - but shallow and hollow, a disappointment. You are now a grown-up, and you won't fall for that trick.

I am a grown-up, and I won't fall for that trick. Or will I?

Domaine des Aubuisières, Vouvray sec 'Le Marigny', 2009

Wine blogging has its dangers. Fame can change a man, after all. Just joking. I mean it can add certain slight, and mostly pleasurable, pressures to your drinking habits. Instead of just going for what you know and like, you can feel that your wine choices should become a little more wide-ranging and interesting, to give people something new to read about besides the same old turf. So sometimes, it gets close to becoming a battle between the wines you feel like drinking and those you tell yourself you ought to be drinking - as in "I should explore more reds from northern Italy" or "I should be doing something for my asinine Burgundy project". In some happy cases, though, the conscious effort to explore a region turns into familiarity and something like love along the way. This has happened to me, or rather keeps happening to me, in the case of Chenin Blanc from the Loire.

Vouvray vineyards looking suitably gloomy (for us having forgotten to take a photo of the bottle). Photo by <a href=celesteh, licensed CC BY 2.0" src="/sites/default/files/images/vouvray.jpg" width="500" height="375" align="center" class="inline inline-center" />

Kistenmacher & Hengerer, Heilbronner Wartberg, Gelber Muskateller, Spätlese trocken, 2009

Swabian Muscat, anyone? There's no doubt that solid old Swabia (that's "Württemberg" for you, in wine label terms) can do much: She can do somewhat dubious specialties like Trollinger and Samtrot, harmlessly light regional reds, but then she can also come out with powerful Rieslings and surprisingly high-brow Lembergers and Pinot Noirs. But dry Muscat, that feathery-light, elderflower whiff of springtime? Let's just say it takes a certain leap of faith. To be honest, if this offering had not come from Kistenmacher & Hengerer, an up-and-coming winery that has recently impressed us with the seriousness of their old-vines Lemberger, we might not have given it a chance either.

Have they actually pulled it off?

Beyond Liebfraumilch: Exploring the Diversity of German Wine at the "Germany Unplugged" 2012 tasting

We got drunk on that stuff as students because we didn't know any better and had no money. That is not what I would say, at least not in public, but it summarises how many British acquaintances refer to German wine - in particular the dreaded Liebfraumilch. German wine is associated with sweet, and sweet with bad. The British wine trade tend to love Riesling, dry or sweet, and some also appreciate German Pinot Noir. This is usually where the knowledge ends though. There are even "wine experts" who say Germany should not move away from the sweeter style of Riesling - whereas the reality is that the German wine industry has become so diverse it has long gone beyond that. German dry wines are now so varied as would confuse even the most sober foreign beholder.

Last week the German Wine Agencies, a new distributor of German wines in the British market, invited members of the trade to be confused (and to leave everything else but sober, one would hope) by German wines.