Pfalz

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

Lukas Krauß, Spätburgunder, 2009

Lukas Krauß, friend of and contributor to the Wine Rambler, insists that his Spätburgunder is a Spätburgunder, and not a Pinot Noir, by which he means to say that if you miss in it the barnyard smells, wet earth, leanness and minerality associated with Burgundy, and find yourself with plump strawberry and cherry fruit and chocolaty richness instead, that's just how it's meant to be.

Spoken like a true traditionalist of german red wine. But do we let him get away with it?

Knipser, Blauer Spätburgunder, 2007

A little while ago I discussed the question of how much a value Pinot Noir should cost with a Canadian and an American on Twitter. With different currencies and tax/duty regimes it was not the easiest discussion, but I made the point that at least in Germany you should get decent Pinot for around, or a little above, ten Euro. Today we are looking at a German Pinot, from one of the country's best "red" wineries, for less than that.

Blauer Spätburgunder = Pinot Noir

Can Knipser's basic Pinot Noir be my new reference point for value?

Liebfraumilch, Pfalz

Having written about Liebfraumilch previously, I will keep this introduction short. What once was the name for a highly sought after German wine has since become a label for plonk - a mildly sweet wine, produced as cheaply as possible from vineyards all over German wine growing regions. It is very popular in the English market and sells in bulk.

I bought mine for £3.06 from Sainsburys as part of a blind tasting experiment in cheap German wine. And was a little surprised.

Georg Mosbacher, Ungeheuer, Riesling GG, 2007

"This monstrosity tastes monstrously good." - This is what Imperial Chancellor Otto von Bismarck had to say about a wine from the Ungeheuer vineyard. "Ungeheuer" is the German word for "monstrosity", and it is also the name of a famous vineyard in the Pfalz region. It is about time for us to review an Ungeheuer wine, and today we are looking at the premier dry (GG) Riesling from Mosbacher - one of the top Pfalz wineries.

"Premier", "top", "monstrously good" - can the wine stand up to all this praise or were the Wine Rambler and good old Bismarck (posthumously) left disappointed?

Knipser, Gelber Orleans Auslese, 2003

You haven't heard of Gelber Orleans? Not even a vague idea what it might be? Despair not, it is hardly a well known grape variety. In fact, it has become so obscure - even in Germany - that when I recently invited a well versed wine blogger over to try it I was confident she would not be able to identify it.

a mystery wine

When serving the wine I made sure that the only thing she might have caught a glimpse on was the name and logo of the winery - identifying the producer as Knipser, one of the most accomplished in Germany. So, gentle reader, explore a wine with us which you will most certainly not have experienced before.

Ökonomierat Rebholz, Muskateller 'L' trocken, 2009

Ökonomierat Rebholz is certainly a very Germanic sounding name for a winery. 'Ökonomierat' is an old-fashioned German and (not so old-fashioned) Austrian title of honour that literally means 'economical councillor'. The original Ökonomierat Rebholz, Eduard, received it for his impact on viticulture. Now in the third generation, the Rebholz estate is still dedicated to his idea of 'natural wine', shunning practices such as adding of sugar to increase alcohol content and instead focussing on organic methods. It may be best to forget about all this though as the Muscat in front of you is anything but stuffy Germanic or organically preachy. It is just a highly enjoyable wine.

Philipp Kuhn, Merlot, 2007

When the topic of Merlot comes up, most people will think of Paul Giamatti's 'I am not drinking any fucking Merlot' rant from the movie Sideways. Some will leave it at that as they dislike (or think they dislike) Merlot. Others will point out that Merlot isn't actually that bad. The number of people who will look to Germany for Merlot would be rather small though. Since my recent experience with Philipp Kuhn's Merlot from the Pfalz, I am definitely one of them though. Philipp Kuhn is one of those German winemakers who confidently cover what seems like the whole spectrum of wine, from Riesling to Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Muscat, Viognier, Pinot Noir, St. Laurent, Lemberger, a few others - and Merlot.

Knipser, Chardonnay trocken ***, 2003

Knipser is the name of a wine making family from the Pfalz region of Germany who keep impressing us with their polished and tasty wines. They are widely known for their expertise in ageing wine in barrique barrels - red wine, of course, but also white. The other day when I was cooking tarragon cream chicken I felt the time had come to open their premier 2003 Chardonnay, a wine that was only released to market after several years of maturing in the Knipser cellars.

What I was expecting, of course, was a substantial (14% ABV and barrique), creamy wine with the first signs of age. What I was hoping for was that it also kept a hint of freshness to go along with the food.

Heiner Sauer, Gleisweiler Hölle, Riesling Kabinett trocken, 2009

After exploring in some depth the potential and perception of residually sweet Riesling, we turn, very briefly, to a style of the variety that is hardly known or appreciated outside of Germany: light, basic range dry Riesling. That type of working man's white is most reliably produced not along the more glamorous Mosel, but in down-to-earth Pfalz (the Palatinate), where vineyards are less capriciously steep and the climate more dependable, and it goes by the name of Kabinett trocken. Almost every half-decent winery there produces a few of those from different vineyards, and almost every inhabitant of the region will have one on their dinner table - almost every day.

Knipser, Sauvignon Gris, 2007

Never heard of Sauvignon Gris? If not, don't be ashamed, it is hardly a well known variety and I have to admit that I was only dimly aware of its existence until I saw this wine in the Knipser portfolio. The Knipser winery is one of Germany's best, so I was very curious to see what they would make of this unknown variety. Knipsers are big believers in maturing wines properly before releasing them to the market, often using barrique barrels, and this beauty only went on sale two years after the harvest. So, what is it like?

Let's start with a boring, albeit short, lecture on the grape variety.