Sunday, 29 June 2014

Hundertgulden II

I must say, I'm liking Rheinhessen's dry Rieslings more and more. Again, this one is from the Hundertgulden vineyard.

Weingut Knewitz, Appenheimer Hundertgulden Riesling trocken 2012, Rheinhessen, Germany
Not straw-yellow, but "on the yellow side of straw" according to my initial scribbled note. There is also a slight honey/reddish tinge.

Orange, peach and ripe apricots on the nose. Forty-eight hours later: minerals, starfruit, citrus and gooseberry. Fairly opulent at first on the palate. Ripe apricot again, with middling-to-soft acidity for a Riesling. Everything is very much in concentrated form with the sort of interwoven density that is hard to capture in a few words. However, two days later and the acidity has suddenly turned quite a lot more pronounced and electrifying. Gooseberries comes to the party. Both similar and different to Hofmann's interpretation similar in that both have an unusual gooseberry touch and are extremely enjoyable, marginally different in that Knewitz's version maybe has a little more body.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Middle-High German

"Gulden" is the old German word for gold coin (from the Middle-High German guldin) and is translated into English as "guilder". I came across the word quite frequently while dabbling in Middle-High German for a semester during my first year at university. The course in question given by Dr Ashcroft mostly consisted of trying to make some sense of "Moriz von Craûn", a book of verse written by an unknown author at around the beginning of the 13th century. Sounds boring, I know, but it was still more exciting than German Linguistics with Dr Beedham ...

It was with this in mind that I recently bought three different wines all grown in the exact same vineyard called Hundertgulden, but produced by three different Rheinhessen wineries. Here is the first one.

Weingut Hofmann, Appenheimer Hundertgulden Riesling trocken 2012, Rheinhessen, Germany
I love the bottle label. It makes things fairly clear, don't you think? Each different Hofmann wine has its own individual label, incidentally. I particularly like the drawing of a kiwi (the flightless bird, not the fruit) on the Sauvignon Blanc bottle.

Along with Niersteiner Oelberg, this is Hofmann's "grand cru".*

"Only" 12.5% alcohol. Aromas of freshly sliced, dripping mango and apricot on the nose, with some pineapple and prickly gooseberry hints along with a slightly creamy note. Dense, complex and salty on the palate. As with Winter's Riesling, the acidity is very well integrated. The soil in Hundertgulden a steep south-facing slope is dominated by Muschelkalk, or shell limestone. What I do know is that this particular soil does tend to temper the acids, as do other similar chalky soils in the relative vicinity, e.g. Saumagen (Koehler-Ruprecht, Rings etc.), Am Schwarzen Herrgott (Battenfeld-Spanier), Burgweg (Knipser, Kuhn, Zelt).

Twenty-four hours after opening, I can smell a greater minerally component, although the wine still has a lovely fruity warmth. The finish is long. This is an excellent wine.


[* Although he also produces a super-premium version from old vines.]

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Winter in summer

I'd been wanting to try this Riesling for a long time. Why? Simply because of I've heard and read a lot about Stefan Winter's wines. Winter may not be quite up there yet with the likes of Wittmann and Keller, but he appears to be on the right track.

According to the VDP's classification system, this wine belongs to the Ortswein category (equivalent to a cru villages) only the next step on the ladder after Gutswein but frequently offering the best value for money of all the levels. Winter's Ortswein is effectively the second wine from his grand cru Leckerberg bottling.

Weingut Winter, Dittelsheimer Riesling "Kalkstein" trocken 2012, Rheinhessen, Germany
Straw with honey-like glints. Reticent at first, but a sophisticated whiff of honey, yellow fruit and citrus gradually emerges a theme that continues on the palate. Medium-bodied with a leesy, almost creamy texture. Full of extract and earthy tones, yet the alcohol is moderate (12.5%). The acidity is extremely well-buffered I would definitely recommend this wine to people with slightly lower acid-sensitivity thresholds than mine. The finish is noticeably longer than that of Wittmann's Gutswein a wine I covered last month.

I would say that this is a very unhurried, "relaxed" wine, i.e. it seems to have been given the necessary time to bed down in the cellar and gain added complexity before bottling. It has no grand cru pretentions but would certainly give some lesser grand crus a run for their money.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Weingräfler

Much to my delight, I recently won a quiz competition. The only other time I've won a prize in a "correct-answers-on-a-postcard" competition or its contemporary Internet equivalent was at age 10, when I came third and the prize was a set of Subbuteo figurines.

This time, the question (in German) was, "In welcher der drei Regionen wurde das aus dem Jahre 1988 stammende Foto aufgenommen?" ("In which of the three following regions was this photo taken in 1988?").

A. Sundgau
B. Swiss Jura
C. Markgräflerland

The mountain in the photo is Blauen (or Hochblauen). Except when the weather is less than ideal, I have a clear view of it whenever I look northwards out of my office window here in Basel. Therefore, the answer was C, Markgräflerland.

A package of three bottles from the "Weingräfler" range went to the first three correct answers. Fellow blogger Berthold Willi sent me my prize last month, along with an invitation to the annual presentation of the new Weingräfler vintage on 2 May. I was unable to attend the latter as we were in northern England at the time. However, the prize itself was gratefully received (and consumed).

The "Weingräfler" are a grouping of nine wine producers in Markgräflerland who each produce their own Gutedel, Spätburgunder and Spätburgunder rosé under the same respective brand names: "Grüner Markgräfler", "Blauer Markgräfler" and "Rosa Markgräfler". The wines are meant for light, easy, uncomplicated, enjoyable drinking. As an idea, I think the range is a good way of promoting Markgräflerland and its wines to a wider market. The colour-coding is excellent. The wines themselves are fun. The 2013 Grüner Markgräfler from Weingut Missbach is light, spritzy, citrusy and refreshing with no more than 10 percent alcohol. Its blue 2012 counterpart from Weingut Lämmlin-Schindler actually a red wine, but its name a wink to the varietal's full name "Blauer Spätburgunder" leads the palate on a cherry-inspired dance. Alcohol? No more than 11.5 percent. Best enjoyed slightly chilled. However, my favourite was probably the 2013 rosé from Weingut Zimmerman: beautifully balanced and refreshing, extremely versatile, only 11 percent alcohol.

As an aside, it was interesting to note that Lämmlin-Schindler's Blauer Markgräfler is also categorised as the winery's official "VDP.Gutswein" ("VDP estate wine").

Monday, 19 May 2014

Wittmann Riesling trocken

Despite being priced just on the wrong side of 10 euros, Philipp Wittmann's dry estate Riesling sells like hot cakes. I can tell why.

Weingut Wittmann, Riesling trocken 2012, Rheinhessen, Germany
This may be Wittmann's basic offering, but there is nothing basic about the colour. It has a very healthy yellowy tinge. No fruit shortage on the nose either: mostly apricot, some peach and a few exotic notes come to the fore. Initially, dry herbs show through, though these gradually retreat behind the fruit. Again, crystal-clear yellowish fruit coupled with a pleasantly dry saltiness on the palate. Slight caramel hints, too. The acidity is fresh but well balanced. The fruit generates considerable succulence. Certainly, this is more complex than your average estate wine and some more prestigious wines from other wineries I could think of. My only quibble concerns its surprisingly short finish. However, this is hard to top in the Gutswein bracket.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Stammtisch

Back in early February, I was lucky enough to visit Weingut Franz Keller in Oberbergen with a group of friends. Nestled snugly betwixt the volcanic vineyard terraces of the Kaiserstuhl, the new winery building there is a sight to behold. After being shown around the premises, we tasted some of the wines. "Alas, no Gutedel," we joked my friends and I belong to the self-styled "Gutedelstammtisch", a convivial gathering of lads who convene every second Tuesday in Binzen over Gutedel and good food, work permitting. We followed our tasting session with lunch at the Rebstock, an afternoon at the football (Freiburg 1-1 Hoffenheim), then an evening at the Rebstock again. It was a fabulous if not entirely sober day.

One of the things I said to myself thereafter was that I need to drink more wines from the white Pinot varietals, i.e. Weissburgunder, Grauburgunder and dare I say the dreaded Chardonnay. From this admittedly narrow varietal-centric perspective, I would say that Weissburgunder is my personal favourite of those three. When my wife and I had the pleasure of meeting Barry Fowden back in September last year, I remember my fellow wine blogger saying to me that he had never really warmed that much to the old "Pinot Bianco". I can't recall his exact words, but I know he was slightly underwhelmed by wines from that variety. I appreciate where he's coming from. I, for one, have experienced a certain "sameness" bordering on tedium in certain WBs over the years. On the other hand, other Weissburgunders have been a revelation, none more so recently than this one:

Weingut Ziereisen, Weißer Burgunder trocken 2012, Baden, Germany
Vivid beige in appearance. The impression on the nose is quite unique. Intense peppery notes that are reminiscent of Grüner Veltliner. Smelt blind, I might not have identified this as a Weissburgunder. Citrus, juicy peach and yoghurt play a succulent supporting role. Over time, I can also make out a herbal, savoury characteristic. It takes me a while to pinpoint the aroma, but I eventually conclude that there is something here akin to ... liverwurst.

On the palate, the citrus, peach and pepper form a congenial triumvirate. The result is highly refreshing. I also love the extra complexity and savouriness undoubtedly generated by cask-ageing and spontaneous fermentation. This has heaps of what the French call buvabilité, i.e. it is extremely drinkable. For nine euros, an absolute bargain. And just to stress: this is one of Ziereisen's more basic estate wines. I would recommend this wine to anyone.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Vinipazzi, Vol. 1

After months of work, here it is:

VINIPAZZI - "Naturschönheit. Wenn deutscher Riesling neu aufspielt" / "Nature-made beauty. The new art of German Riesling".

Thom Held wrote the original text in German. I did the English translation. The book is available at www.vinipazzi.net. Put simply, this publication is for all people who are interested wine. Here are some images from the book launch.