Pfalz

Juicy, powerful Rieslings and more - often more climate and winemaker wines than vineyard and soil wines

Andreas Durst, Riesling "Grosser Durst", 2010

It is one of our favourite projects for the Wine Rambler that someday we should explain to you the German wine classification and labelling system in a coherent and mildly entertaining fashion. Today, however, we meet another clear-thinking winemaker who has willingly downgraded his own wine to the simplest category available (in this case: "Pfälzer Landwein") to be spared the bureaucratic nightmare otherwise required - in my humble experience, that step is always a good sign. Andreas Durst is a part-time winemaker only, his real job is to professionally photograph other winemakers, wines and vineyards, which he does so well that in the hipper part of the German wine scene, wine-related photography is simply synonymous with his name.

About this and about his wines, we won't say too much just now, because we hope to read and see a little more of Andreas on this blog soon (fingers crossed for a real treat). For now, let's turn to the dry Riesling from his small portfolio that he was nice enough to send ahead to Munich Wine Rambler HQ:

Müller-Catoir, Haardter Herrenletten, Spätburgunder Weißherbst Auslese, 1994

If you want to test the German wine savvy of your knowledgeable friends, here's a little experiment you can conduct in the safety of your own living room. Tell them you want them to taste a German rosé, and inform them that it will be off-dry, well over ten years old, and come with a label sporting a coat of arms and cryptic Germanic font. Mention in passing that this bottle will come from the Müller-Catoir winery. 95 per cent of all wine drinkers will at this point have run away screaming, the living daylights scared out of them.

The remaining 5 % will ask for a screwpull without further ado. From then on, listen to those people.

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?

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:

Knipser, Riesling Mandelpfad, GG, 2008

The soul is pink. What, you did not know that? To be honest, I didn't either - until I had an encounter with the Riesling pictured below. While the wine was rather heavenly, it was the name that gave me this deep insight into the conditio humana: "Mandelpfad", meaning "almond path". It is not for esoteric reasons that the Knipser brothers chose to name the wine - Mandelpfad simply is the name of a vineyard in the Pfalz region. It is also the name of a scenic path, under almond trees, that leads hikers past many exciting vineyards.

In spring, I imagine, it must be beautiful with pink almond flowers all over the place, and that is apparently what made a tourism marketing writer whose text I just consulted declare that pink is the colour of the soul. Whether that is true I leave with competent experts such as mystics and marketing specialists, but I can tell you a little something about the soul of the Mandelpfad Riesling.

Von Winning, Riesling Win-Win, 2009

We all have something we want to steal. Well, maybe I should not judge others by my criminal standards, but I have my eyes on a few items. For instance those two bottles of Riesling, one from 1933 and the other from the 1870s, who live in a posh wine shop in Munich. The list is longer, but I haven't actually executed any of my evil plans yet. Others sadly are more decisive: in the early hours of 17th September 2011 thieves drove a harvesting machine through the Herrgottsacker vineyards near Deidesheim in the Pfalz. I like to imagine the scene filmed with lots of flash light, fog, shades, fast camera movements and perhaps "X Files" sound. In reality it was probably more boring, but whoever drove that harvester got away with super ripe Pinot Noir grapes worth €100,000 and destined for fermentation tanks at the von Winnigen winery.

I have an alibi for that night, and I'd anyway much rather steal the finished product. Such as this Riesling made by von Winnigen and called, well, "win-win".

Langenwalter, Sauvignon Blanc trocken, 2010

Don't tell this to anyone, but is true, I don't drink much Sauvignon Blanc. At least not voluntary. I drink it involuntary as it often is served at functions, such as the one I attended earlier this week at the Palace of Westminster. That particular wine was inoffensive, but often I find the aggressive fruit-bombiness of Sauvignon Blanc hard to stomach. It is as if it is shouting so loud to get your attention that you cannot actually hear what it says. Having said that, there is also really good Sauvignon Blanc, both from the new and the old world. Interestingly, some of the most pleasant specimens I have tried recently came from Germany. Yes, there is German Sauvignon Blanc.

This particular wine comes from the Pfalz, a region that continues to confuse foreigners with the wide range of grape varieties grown.

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.

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.

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...