no other place

Wine is about a sense of place. Or should be. Join us in exploring wine regions largely unknown outside of Germany, wines that can - or are - only made in one place or grape varieties that are almost forgotten.

A (belated) encounter with Cabernet Blanc - a unique wine from the Pfalz

The other night I was having some Cabernet Blanc with my homies and - Cabernet What, I hear you say? You heard correctly, the wine is called Cabernet Blanc, a grape variety that is grown by just a few vintners in central and western Europe. The specimen whose label you see below comes from the Pfalz, one of my favourite German wine regions.

Mosbacher Cabernet Blanc 2012

It was produced by the Mosbacher family who have been making wine in the village of Forst for a hundred years now. Currently, they grow vines on some 20 hectares of land, with roughly 90% of the production dedicated to white wine, mostly Riesling. Cabernet Blanc makes up only about 1% of their overall production.

torsten Saturday, 30/03/2019

Back with a bang: North Korean wild grape wine

How do you come back from the dead you ask? If you have to, I think, do it with a bang. In our case, this ruled out re-starting the Wine Rambler with a usual post, such as a review of a steely Riesling. So I went in search of something unusual. And I think it is fair to say I found it, or rather it found me: ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I give you a review of North Korean wild grape wine from the DMZ!

North Korean grape wine box

Before we venture into the Korean Demilitarized Zone, a few words about the Wine Rambler. Julian and I started this venture purely for our own entertainment almost ten years ago. Over time it grew and changed, and so did our lives. With work and other commitments there was less time for rambling, especially for telling the really interesting stories. Research, interviews, travel and tastings can take a lot of time, and neither Julian's nor my schedule was flexible enough. That is still the case, but increasingly I found I was missing both the writing and the wine community. So, I dusted off the blog, gave it a new interface and here we are. It is unlikely we will ever go back to the olden days of several posts a week, but I am still looking forward to the occasional ramble.

Peter Jakob Kühn, Pur Pur, 2005

Ever heard of Dunkelfelder? If not don't be alarmed - if I wasn't such a German wine nerd I probably had not heard of it either. It is a rare grape variety that doesn't have the best reputation, but it does have one of the coolest alternative names in wine classification: "Froelich V 4-4". Well, if you like to name your grapes after super weapons perhaps. Leaving unusual names aside, Dunkelfelder is one of the varieties that went into the 2005 vintage of "Pur Pur", and so eventually into my wine glass.

Is the Dunkelfelder wine a secret weapon or yet another of these German oddities we sometimes write about?

Daniel Häcker, Lemberger (litre), 2011

Northwest of Stuttgart, there is a land of wooded hills and industrious little towns called the Stromberg. In the Stromberg, there is the tiny village of Schönenberg. In Schönenberg, there is an Inn called Lamm, the lamb. There, I've had some of the best, most unpretentious Swabian regional food of my life, and took away this bottle of home-produced Lemberger. Price tag: below 4 €.

Julian Sunday, 02/02/2014

Knipser, Gelber Orleans trocken ***, 2005

Gelber Orleans, to me, is probably the most exciting wine there is. Sadly I am aware that even if you should believe me it won't help you very much as it is incredibly hard to find - even in Germany, which to my knowledge is the only country where it is grown. It is so rare that whenever, wherever I see a bottle of Orleans I can afford I will buy it. Usually that means turning to the Knipser brothers who grow some in the Pfalz.

Thankfully, despite its rarity it is not an overly expensive wine - if you compare it like for like that is. And that puts this three star dry late harvest against a top Riesling. What do you get for that price?

Ziereisen, Heugumber 2010

Christmas lies behind us, the new year hasn't quite started yet - it is the supposedly quiet time "zwischen den Jahren", or between the years as the Germans say. It is the time when memories and hangovers of heavy Christmas food and wine are still close enough to feel physical, and yet New Year's eve calls with classy Champagne and another set of booze-heavy parties.

In short, it is a good time to leave the heavy, deep, expensive, mindblowing wines behind and think about lighter alternatives that don't lack the enjoyment factor. Enter Hanspeter Ziereisen's Heugumber.

Schellmann, In Gumpoldskirchen, 2009

While German wineries, even quite good ones, can seem unduly modest about their own accomplishments and shy about marketing to new groups of consumers, no such light treading for our southern neighbour, Austria. Austria's wine reputation was all but shattered by the dramatic adulterated wine scandal of 1985. From this low point, Austrian wine has - and here, the tired metaphor makes sense for once - pullet itself up by its own bootstraps, and wineries are rightly and vocally proud of their successes. Austrians themselves have fuelled the growth of a new wine scene with all but insatiable home demand. That, too, makes a great difference from Germany, where wine patriotism was lukewarm for the longest time and has only really taken off in the wake of the Große Gewächse (great growth/grand cru) campaign.

The Thermenregion south of Vienna is one of those success stories, as it supplies the ever-thirsty throats of Vienna with original whites from indigenous grapes such as Zierfandler and Rotgipfler. The Schellmann winery, run as a side project by the Kamptal winemaker Fred Loimer and some partners, is one of those confident establishments, as you can tell by the label: Love me or leave me, it seems to say, and I don't think you're going to leave me, are you now?

Weingut Merkle, Ochsenbacher Liebenberg, Lemberger Spätlese trocken, Barrique, 2008

When last encountered on this blog, the plucky little Württemberg winery of Georg and Anja Merkle was in the immediate aftermath of a damaging freak frost. I reported on the brave face that Georg and Anja Merkle put on what was a serious (and completely undeserved) setback, as well as on their philosophy of quality winemaking (you'll find the full story here). It seemed to me then, as I tasted my way through their portfolio, and I tried to put this very politely in the article, that their red wines especially might be pushing too hard. Too hard for power, too hard for concentration, that, impressive as they are, they may sometimes have left lightness and charm behind in order to run with the big boys.

As it so happens, I found the biggest boy of those I took home with me last year still sitting in my cellar, silently flexing his muscles. So is it time for another look, and maybe a reassessment?

Julian Monday, 02/04/2012

Winkler-Hermaden, Cuvée Caphenstein, 2009

It's nearly time to end my self-imposed quasi-lent (punctured as it was by a Wine Rambler committee meeting and its inevitable by-effects), and to get myself back in the mood for wine (as if that needed any extra effort), so let me report on an enjoyable discovery from last autumn: From Austria's southern Steiermark region, to be precise, a lovely corner of Europe with rolling green hills and scattered villages. It is predominantly a white wine producer, with emphasis on Sauvignon Blanc, which they do excellently, and aromatic varieties like Muscat and Traminer. But there is also red, and some of it is seriously good.

This basic red blend from the Winkler-Hemaden winery takes its name from the Castle where they reside. It's made up of Blaufränkisch and St. Laurent, two more or less indigenous grapes, and some Merlot for the ladies and the more internationally trained palates. Good mixture?

Steinbachhof, Ensinger Schanzreiter, Riesling ***, 2009

This little review revisits old Wine Rambler territory: Swabia's Stromberg region, last seen in the throes of a damaging freak frost in the spring of last year. This time, another winery, just one picturesque beech-forested ridge away. The Steinbachhof is an ancient estate created by the cistercian abbey of Maulbronn, then owned by the dukes, later kings of Württemberg, and now by two adventurous young people, Nanna and Ulrich Eißler, who supplement their income from wine growing by hosting wedding and business receptions in a beautifully refurbished old barn.

From a recent short visit, I brought a bottle of Riesling that, sadly, you won't be able to find outside of Germany, or Swabia for that matter, for any time soon: