Fürst Hohenlohe Oehringen, "Ex flammis orior", 2006
Württemberg, Swabia, home of the gleaming Mercedes Benz, the Bausparvertrag, the Kehrwoche and the Häuslebauer (untranslatable terms, because they describe specific anthropological phenomena). And wine country. Many a railroad passenger passing by the beautiful and spectacularly steep vineyards around Stuttgart may have wondered why these wines are consumed avidly by Württembergers themselves, but, too often uninspired and uninspiring, given the cold shoulder by the rest of the wine world.
But here comes Fürst Hohenlohe-Oehringen. A man with a lineage, and a mission. Complete with the family motto ("out of flames I rise"), and in an elegant tall bottle the star horse out of this nobleman's stable graces the wine ramblers' (punctuation intentional!) lowly table: A "Württemberger Bordeaux Cuvée" - 60 % Lemberger, which is the same grape as Austria's Blaufränkisch, and 40 % Cabernet and Merlot. Two years in new oak.
Dark, dense cherry red. New oak is noticeable, especially in the smell. All ramblers present could well have imagined a little less, but it is by no means overdone. Ripe plum and cherry notes with great depth and purity, dried herbs, spices, very firm, finely grained tannin. Bringing enormous concentration without being hot and overpowering, this is effortlessly all over your mouth, a world away from the many boneless and overoaked german reds. It was a great match for spicy lamb, and it should age for a couple of years, although it had not improved on the second evening.
This bottle is no bargain: it brings what you would expect from a 05 Bordeaux or from a very good austrian red (Hans Nittnaus or Claus Preisinger come to mind) for the same price. But this alone is a towering achievement. Pinot Noir, sure. But top of the line red wine in the Bordeaux style? With the possible exception of Knipser and a handful of other specialists from the Pfalz, it just hasn't happened. If it can be done, and done convincingly, in Württemberg, from an all-but unknown vineyard, by a little known winery, then it will be done elsewhere. Red wine country two hours drive from Munich, I can't wait.
Two years later
With a friend coming around for a substantial mushroom risotto I have opened my bottle of the 2006 tonight, and it was a very pleasing experience. I particularly like the cool herbs and that the tannins are now very well integrated. Overall, a very drinkable wine, very, but also lacking some oomph and a bit more substance. From how the wine presented itself tonight, I would expect it to be really enjoyable for a few more years, but it seemed to be past the point where it causes excitement. Still quite accomplished though.