Baden

Warm region in the very southwest of Germany - among others, great rich pinots, both white and red.

One hill, one grape, two styles - two Tuniberg Pinot Gris

A while ago, I attended one of the commercial wine fairs that hit downtown Munich a couple of times a year. Like the times before, the elitist in me wasn't sure if it would be worth the time, because, to be completely honest, there are many second- and third-rank producers at these gatherings. In the end though, that is precisely why I eventually did go and had a look around. What is going on among the rank-and-file wineries is, I find, more indicative of the wider trends and directions the wine world is taking than the elite estates, who are in a league of their own anyway and always march to their own beat to some extent.

While braving the dense throngs of tasters - these events are notoriously busy - , browsing the winery leaflets and tasting the odd glass, I chanced upon the Kalkbödele winery of Baden's Tuniberg region, and was persuaded to try both their Grauburgunder and their Pinot Gris. Yes, that's right, two versions of the same grape. The naming, I was informed, indeed indicates the two different styles that they were aiming for. What was going on here?

Kalkbödele, Merdinger Bühl, Grauburgunder Kabinett trocken, 2008

A wine with prominent acidity that is worked straightforwardly into a light, simply, but well structured wine. Here, green apple and unripe melon rule the day, with clear, if not endlessly deep fruit on the palate. In its acidity-driven straightforwardness, this is reminiscent of a good Pfalz Riesling, without quite managing the minerality part. I prefer this latter version at this moment in time, because it seemed more refreshing and drinkable to me and for the completely subjective reason that it works wonderfully with a supermarket food favourite of mine, Flammkuchen.

Covered, with more background information, in our posting on Baden's Tuniberg and wider trends in german wine.

Wolf-Dietrich Salwey, 1941-2011

A couple of weeks ago when I drafted the wine review below and scheduled it for publication today I had no idea that it would, for very sad reasons, be rather timely. It is a review of a great wine from Baden that faded away too early. And just as I have published it I hear the sad news that a great man from Baden has also passed away way too early. Wolf-Dietrich Salwey, vintner, winemaker and ambassador for high quality Pinot from Baden was killed in a car accident yesterday.

Wolf-Dietrich Salwey, image by Salwey winery

Salwey, Henkenberg, Grauburgunder *** GG, 2006

Pinot Gris is a funny thing. If it is called Pinot Grigio it comes from Italy, is meant to be drunk young and suffers from too much cheap plonk on the market. If it has Pinot Gris on the label it is probably from Alsace and may be a substantial wine with the potential to age well. When it is called Grauburgunder it comes from Germany and could fall into any of these categories. The wine you see below comes from a reliable, quality focussed producer and has been matured in oak barrels - so you'd think even when stored in my wardrobe (officially London's most delicious wardrobe) it should be at its prime now. But then there is always a risk, are we looking at a wine that's already faded?

Weingut Bercher, Burkheimer Feuerberg, Weißburgunder Großes Gewächs, 2007

It's been a while since we last talked Pinot Blanc. So gather round me, friends: Pinot Blancs's reputation is generally lacklustre. In Burgundy, it's rather like Stephen Baldwin to Chardonnay's Alec - the younger brother who doesn't quite have the talent and will always be outshone. Mostly though, it is because international drinkers get their Pinot Blanc bearings from Alsace and Northern Italy, where results are often very drinkable, but ultimately rather bland, that Pinot Blanc is still underrated. In Germany, though, where it makes for about 3.5% of vines planted, it can be granted great growth status when grown in the best vineyards, and can indeed turn out distinctive and quite majestic wines. When we last checked in with one of the country's very best Pinot Blanc producers, the Bercher family of Baden's Kaiserstuhl subregion, we were confronted with rather too majestic a specimen: The 2004 great growth dry Spätlese. Impressive for its power, but pulled out of balance by high alcohol content, was our verdict back then.

Well, I'm most happy to report back to you on a younger version of the same wine:

Salwey, Spätburgunder Weißherbst, RS trocken, 2008

Weißherbst, literally 'white autumn', is a special German style of rosé. Basically, it involves red grapes done in white wine style, but the grapes can only be of one variety. The grapes do also have to be sourced from the same area. In the case of the Salwey RS wines - Reserve Salwey - they do actually come from the same vineyard and are of late harvest quality.

The Salwey Weißherbst comes from sun-kissed Baden, and it has been matured in oak barrels. I did not tell that to my friends who tasted it blind, which resulted in an interesting description of the wine's bouquet - that it was a rosé they could clearly see, of course.

Autumn afternoon - a vineyard stroll in pictures

Here are some pictures taken during a recent vineyard stroll between Meersburg and Hagnau on the Lake Constance shore, revisiting old Wine Rambler territory along the way. It was as serene as you can see, except for eerie fake bird-of-prey calls and canon shot that went off every couple of minutes to scare away any birds interested in sampling Spätlese grapes - it was either that, or a bit of private artillery practice.

pear tree, vines, and kitschy autumn sunlight near the <a href=Aufricht winery " src="/sites/default/files/images/bei-aufricht.jpg" width="450" height="600" align="center" class="inline inline-center" />

Weingut Ziereisen, Spätburgunder 'Tschuppen', 2007

Ziereisen time here at the Wine Rambler, and with that, a kind of follow-up on the theme of food friendly wines raised by the Wine Rambler's very recent report on Long Island wine growing. While Hanspeter Ziereisen's reputation was largely made by the massive and impressive 03 and 04 vintages, it is not as well known that he has since changed his style completely. Bored by what he came to see as the overconcentration and vacuousness of the "big red"- style he was then aiming for, he decided he would henceforth make the Pinot that he himself likes: Lithe, drinkable, and yes: food friendly. Avantgarde burgundian. In fact, judging by the wine under review, it's not much of an exaggeration to call Ziereisen a one-man french revolution in german Pinot.

Reichsgraf und Marquis zu Hoensbroech, Blauer Limberger, 2007

Nice try, Reichsgraf zu Hoensbroech, but you cannot fool the ever-alert Wine Rambler! We know that your whimsically named "Blauer Limberger" is no other grape than Lemberger, known in Austria as - say it with me - Blaufränkisch. In Germany, Lemberger has its home in Württemberg, to which the Reichsgraf's Baden sub-region of Kraichgau is very close.

Salwey, Weißburgunder, Kabinett trocken, 2008

And yet again I am drinking a Pinot from sun-kissed Baden; this time it is a Pinot Blanc, known in Germany as Weißburgunder (=white Burgundy). As I have written a lot about the producer, the Salwey family recently, I will keep this introduction short and jump right into the wine:

The bouquet is a mixture of melon and apple - Bramley apple, in particular -, with earthy mineral, soft notes of hand lotion and, surprisingly, the faintest hint of petrol. Light, smooth and enticing.