half-dry

These wines are half-dry, or 'halbtrocken' in German terminology, - either according to our palate or the classification of the winery.

J. B. Becker, Eltviller Sonnenberg, Riesling Spätlese, 1988

Contrary to the impression given by my recent confessional posting, I do not generally source my aged Rieslings by going through the neighbours' garbage. Here's one I bought absolutely regularly from a Munich wine shop. J. B. Becker is Rheingau winery known for the uncompromising traditionalism of its winemaking and the longevity of its Rieslings.

So while we are on the topic, I thought another little review may be in order:

Martin Müllen, Kröver Paradies, Riesling Kabinett, 2002

I'm always honoured when people who have stumbled onto this blog contact us for expertise on German wine, even while I find myself guiltily hoping that we are not the only source that they rely on, given the patchiness and dabbling character of this our whole undertaking. But here is a piece of advice that I guarantee you will not regret following: When looking for mature-ish Mosel Riesling in great drinking condition, look no further than the 2002 vintage, underrated in many quarters, but in my humble experience as safe a bet for lively, nuanced wines as you are going to find.

Martin Müllen's 2002 Kabinett from the aptly named Paradies ("paradise") vineyard is a case in point. Over and beyond being a minor classic of the neo-traditional style of Mosel winemaking (whatever the hell that is supposed to be), it also has a long and distinguished history in this Wine Rambler's cellar, being one of the very first wines ordered directly from the producer. And I'm happy to report it has never before tasted this good:

Michel Schneider, Liebfraumilch Q.b.A., 1984

Liebfraumilch does not need much introduction, seeing as it is probably the wine most foreigners, certainly the British, associate with Germany. What hundred years ago was one of the best white wines in the world has since become cheap supermarket plonk. Hardly a reason to look out for those wines then, I hear you say - and yet I got extremely excited when a little while ago I got my hands on a bottle. Why? Because it was over 25 years old.

At this age, most wines are undrinkable, and even quite a few age-worthy white wines don't look exactly fresh anymore. Surely, the Liebfraumilch must have turned into vinegar. Or did it?

Dönnhoff, Riesling, 2009

After recently exploring his 09 Pinot Gris, it is now time to taste Helmut Dönnhoff's 2009 Riesling. Dönnhoff is the uncrowned winemaking king of the Nahe region and one of the (more or less crowned) archdukes of German Riesling, so I was very curious to see how his entry-level Riesling would do.

After it had been sitting in my famous wardrobe for a while, the Dönnhoff's time had come when I set out to visit one of London's secret supper clubs.

Sona, St. Martiner Baron, Riesling Kabinett feinherb, 2009

Sometimes you have no idea what you are looking at. The other day I pulled a bottle out of a newly arrived cask of wine that I hadn't actually ordered - nor had I heard of the winery before! Turns out that the wine merchant had sneakily squeezed it into the box as a thank you for a good customer. Herr Behringer also asked me for my opinion.

Following the recent debate on neutrality of wine bloggers I should probably add that this is the first wine we have received from Behringer without paying, that he did not ask us for a review and that the wine is not in his portfolio (I wonder if he plans to change that though). Anyway, Mr Behringer, here goes.

Jos. Christoffel Jr., Ürziger Würzgarten, Riesling Spätlese, 1993

The Mosel, Germany's best known wine region, hosts many styles of Riesling winemaking: There are the modernists, there are the traditionalists, there are the ultra-traditionalist. And then, there is Jos. Christoffel Jun. The winery's website nicely underscores their brand of conservatism, in that there isn't one. If you want to get your hands on any of the older vintages (back into the 80s, rumour has it) they still have on offer, get your ass down to the Mosel. Or else get lucky on eBay, like your undeservedly fortunate correspondent. For about 12 €, shipment included, I got this Spätlese from the year Frank Zappa died.

Blue Nun, 2009

Blue Nun is a German wine label that is very successful in the UK. Known for relatively inexpensive, off-dry wines, Blue Nun is especially marketed at younger women. I am not one of those, but in my quest to explore inexpensive German supermarket wine I have reviewed one previously (see also for details on the brand), and now it was time to brave it a second time.

I bought the 2009 Blue Nun at Sainsburys as part of a blind tasting experiment involving cheap German supermarket wines. How did the £4.29 wine fair?

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.

Piesporter Michelsberg

Piesport is the name of a wine growing village in Germany. On steep hills along the Mosel, some of Germany's best Riesling is grown. "Piesporter Michelsberg", however, only indicates that the wine comes from grapes grown somewhere in the area. It is a designation no quality producer with a good vineyard there would use, so when you find it on a label you are most likely looking at a mass-produced wine that will probably not even contain grapes grown in Piesport itself.

I bought my Michelsberg for £3.99 from Sainsburys as part of a blind tasting experiment in cheap German wine. How did it fair?

F. W. Langguth Erben Kabinett, 2009

Looking back over the wines I have enjoyed over the past few months it was an impressive range of delightfulness and excellent quality. Despite having spent quite a bit on wine I think it was worth every penny, but I was also reminded not to forget to explore what is available on the cheaper end of the market. So during a recent visit to Sainsburys I grabbed a random bottle of relatively inexpensive German wine to set my experiences in perspective.

Mind you, there are people out there for whom £4.99 for a bottle of wine is anything but cheap. However, if you consider that around half of the price goes to the government (tax, excise duty etc.) and quite a bit to the retailer (and that does not even take into account the cost of shipping etc.) then you realise that such a wine has to be produced very cheaply indeed to be commercially viable. Too cheaply?