2007

Weingut Seehof, Westhofener Morstein, Scheurebe Beerenauslese Goldkapsel, 2007

In the early 20th century the Germans embarked on a mission to create a genetically modified race of - no, not über-soldiers, but grape varieties. They were also not so much genetically modified as traditionally cross-bred, but the idea was to create varieties that could handle bad weather better, were robuster or addressed some other actual or perceived flaws in existing varieties. Scheurebe ("Scheu's vine") was created in 1916 and was for a long time thought to be a cross between Silvaner and Riesling, but has only recently been revealed to be a cross between Riesling and a wild vine.

Aromatic and with some similarities to Riesling, Scheurebe is often used to create complex sweet wines, and - while not exactly grown on large scale - is increasingly popular with some of Germany's top winemakers.

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?

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.

Weingut Bercher, Burkheimer Feuerberg, Weißburgunder Großes Gewächs, 2007

It's been a while since we last talked Pinot Blanc. So gather round me, friends: Pinot Blancs's reputation is generally lacklustre. In Burgundy, it's rather like Stephen Baldwin to Chardonnay's Alec - the younger brother who doesn't quite have the talent and will always be outshone. Mostly though, it is because international drinkers get their Pinot Blanc bearings from Alsace and Northern Italy, where results are often very drinkable, but ultimately rather bland, that Pinot Blanc is still underrated. In Germany, though, where it makes for about 3.5% of vines planted, it can be granted great growth status when grown in the best vineyards, and can indeed turn out distinctive and quite majestic wines. When we last checked in with one of the country's very best Pinot Blanc producers, the Bercher family of Baden's Kaiserstuhl subregion, we were confronted with rather too majestic a specimen: The 2004 great growth dry Spätlese. Impressive for its power, but pulled out of balance by high alcohol content, was our verdict back then.

Well, I'm most happy to report back to you on a younger version of the same wine:

Shinn Estates Vineyard, Malbec, 2007

There is a lot that could be written about Shinn, but as I have done that recently I just point you to my article 'You can't make red wine on Long Island' - Shinn Estate Vineyards, making local wine in a global world. For now just let me say that I bought this Malbec at a recent visit to a beautiful estate on Long Island that is currently being transformed to biodynamic production. Interestingly, the Shinn Malbec comes in a half-litre bottle - they only make Malbec in good years and in 2007 there was only enough for 1344 of those small bottles (selling at $35 each).

In order to avoid any bias I might have had from being welcomed so warmly at Shinn, I figured the wine would have to be tasted blind. So I took it with me to a recent Wine Rambler full committee meeting in Munich and wrapped it properly to hide its identity.

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.

Weingut Hofmann, Tauberschwarz Propstberg R, 2007

Time to go regional on you again, with a grape variety hardly ever talked or thought about outside of the roughly 35 acres of land where people actually grow it. Tauberschwarz literally translates as "River Tauber black". While this does seem to provide a first tentative clue about the colour of the wine, a bit more remains to be explored: A bit more about what Weingut Hofmann, an estate that specialises in the all-but-forgotten grape, has brought to the bottle, and a bit more about the vinous backwater that has conserved this endangered species.

Schnaitmann, Riesling ** Fellbach, 2007

I am a Swabian. It is not easy for me to admit this. Not even in English and to an audience for which this may not mean anything at all. In Germany, there is nothing cool about being born into the tribe that is famous for bringing the world inventions such as the compulsory weekly sweeping of the staircase (I am not kidding, it is called Kehrwoche) or a special mortgage savings account (Bausparvertrag). The latter may recommend us to the English, but I am coming out tonight for another reason. Yes, I am a Swabian and there is nothing cool about it. But I am also a Swabian who as a child played just a stones' throw from where Rainer Schnaitmann now makes this great value kick-ass Riesling in the town of Fellbach. Also, I am the Swabian who was lucky enough to down the wine with a cool Scottish girl who likes her white wine dry and has a crush on Swabians.

Von Othegraven, Riesling Sekt brut, 2007

Things have changed since we last reported on this old and well-respected Saar winery. Having run into some dire straits commercially - though not quality-wise, it needs to be pointed out - the estate was hurriedly taken over by one Günther Jauch, who was already in line for the eventual succession in ownership. This was a big piece of news far beyond the wine community in Germany, because Günther Jauch just happens to be a celebrity television host. A corporate makeover duly followed, streamlining label design and setting up what is probably the slickest website in the german wine business.

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.