Franken

Along the River Main - Riesling and Silvaner with a particularly earthy touch

Störrlein, Randersacker Sonnenstuhl, Silvaner trocken Großes Gewächs, 2007

Silvaner again? Yes, we're keeping up our coverage. In fact, we mean to grind down any resistance against Germany's second great white grape with the sheer relentlessness of our Silvaner campaign. Great growth Silvaners from lesser known wineries in Franken are arguably some of the best value anywhere in white wine, and we won't stop until every major wine outlet in the english-speaking world carries at least one. Are we not confusing our own partial predilection with an educational mission, you ask, or else: What's in it for me? The two-word answer to this: Food friendliness.

Franconian still life with Silvaner

Following up on this month's risotto suggestion, another classic Silvaner pairing is freshwater fish. Franconians love their regional staple, carp, but since that is a little, shall we say, nutritious for most people, we stuck to the more consensual trout.

Winzerhof Burrlein, Mainstockheimer Hofstück, Silvaner Kabinett trocken, 2009

If I am not mistaken, our readers have had to go without Wine Rambler Silvaner coverage since August 31. That is clearly unacceptable and will be remedied as follows ("quickly and unbureaucratically", as german public officials are fond of saying): The Burrlein winery of Mainstockheim, which we have already featured as part of our Müller-Thurgau report, has consistently turned out over-achieving quality Silvaners to its large customer base these last few years. Has it delivered again?

Winzerhof Burrlein, Mainstockheimer Hofstück, Müller-Thurgau trocken, 2009

Reviewed in our Müller-Thurgau report:

Straw-coloured, this smells sweetly, and even somewhat exuberantly, of sweet apples and peaches, with some canned fruit salad and the faintest touch of Ingwer. Not a miracle of mineral depth, but so far, we're having fun.
The same kind of in-your-face fruit reappears on the palate, and now there is even a hint of minerality. But still, there is more fruit than there is structure, with a finish that is herbally sweet, but also a little watery.

Zehnthof Luckert, Sulzfelder Cyriakusberg Müller-Thurgau trocken 2008

Reviewed in our Müller-Thurgau report, and updated accordingly:

Light straw colour

Smells like ripe apples, sliced raw Kohlrabi (cabbage turnip?) and maybe a little freshly cut grass. In the mouth, mild acidity, again ripe apple fruit and an earthy, limestony kind of minerality.

Quite an achievement for Luckert to get such power and relative depth out of a grape variety otherwise known for high yields and little character. It could easily pass for a dry Silvaner Spätlese, both in taste and in substance.

If you

a) have had a Silvaner from Franken before and liked it,

What the **** is Müller-Thurgau? And is it ever any good? A Wine Rambler investigation

We have long found that, much as we give due reverence to king Riesling, the most august sovereign of german wine, those grapes in the second and third rank also deserve respect from time to time. Today, we bring you the one german grapes that has been further from the spotlight than any other, and yet is almost ubiquitous. And it all starts with the stern-faced gentleman below. Intrigued? Not exactly? Read on anyway, for a story of mishap and unexpected success, a mystery solved, some wines tasted, and a human bumblebee.

Hermann Müller-Thurgau (Archiv Forschungsanstalt Geisenheim)

Winzerhof Stahl, Müller-Thurgau Hasennest "Damaszenerstahl", 2009

Reviewed in our Müller-Thurgau report:

This single-vineyard Müller Thurgau from Stahl's nicely named Hasennest ("hare's nest") vineyard smells of hay, dried herbs, apples and what I always think of as chalk. Yeast and carbonic acid still dominate the palate a bit too much at this point, but behind that white vegetables (celery root, cabbage turnip, radish), beeswax and herbs are lurking - and stay for the finish, which is quite long.

Winzerhof Stahl, Scheurebe "Damaszenerstahl", 2009

After more than one year of rambling across the homely green landscape of german wine, there are still a great many places the Wine Rambler has hardly even begun to go. Among them, the many white grapes outside the Riesling-Silvaner-Pinot triangle: One, the ubiquitous, but not-quite-so-banal Müller-Thurgau, we will investigate in some detail in the coming weeks. Another omission is Scheurebe. Scheurebe like this one here, made by Christian Stahl, one of the most interesting and ambitious young vintners of Franken:

A study in scarlet: the mystery of a 25 year old Silvaner wine

Some wines are good, some wines are bad, some are exceptional. And then there are the wines that are special because they have a story to tell. When I discovered today's wine on the shelves of London wine shop The Winery I was already certain that I was looking at a wine with a story. What I did not know was that this Franconian gem would be willing to share it with us.

Mouldy cork and the unusual purple cap of the Silvaner bottle

Maybe we start with the question of why we got so interested in a dusty old bottle with a funny purple cap. Well, for starters because it was just that, a dusty old bottle with an unusual purple cap. It did not only look old-fashioned, it also was quite old, almost twenty-five years old, in fact. Aged wine is always an adventure - sometimes even a gamble on whether you have waited too long or just caught it at the right time. Under the label good ol' boys we have so far only looked at aged red wines and Riesling, the white variety that probably has the best potential for ageing. And here we were, starring at a twenty-five year old Silvaner, the signature grape of the German wine region of Franken (Franconia, about two hours north of Munich). We have been championing this often underrated variety for a while, but we never had the change to try a really old Silvaner.

Juliusspital, Iphöfer Julius-Echter-Berg, Silvaner Spätlese, 1985

Well before reaching twenty-five years of age most wines turn to vinegar. Not many wines are really worth keeping for more than a couple of years. Some last five to ten years, but only a tiny minority will make it beyond. With the exception of a few first class wines, sweet Riesling among them, not many wines are drinkable, far less enjoyable at the age of twenty-five. And yet here we are looking at a Silvaner, an often underestimated variety, of this age - does it still deliver?

Right from the start, the Franconian Silvaner impressed us with an intense, very clear golden colour that still had hints of green (which is often said to be a sign of a younger wine). It certainly looked beautiful and also as if it could comfortably age a few years more.

torsten Wednesday, 30/06/2010
Zehnthof Luckert, Silvaner trocken, 2008

At the Wine Rambler, we have this ongoing love affair with the Silvaner grape. Today's Silvaner comes from the German wine region of Franken, the spiritual home of this grape variety.

This is a textbook Silvaner in the best sense of the word. You get earthy, grassy notes, almost smoky. There is apple, refreshing in the nose and well defined on the tongue. At its core the Silvaner is robust, but smooth round the edges with notable minerality.

torsten Friday, 18/06/2010