Monday, 30 November 2009

Discovery from Kirchhofen

After perusing the Christmas market in Freiburg on Saturday, my girl-friend and I stopped for a while at a small wine shop where we were treated to an impromtu wine-tasting by an amiable man by the name of Franz Herbster. He poured an off-dry Sauvignon Blanc for us first, followed by a generous Gewürztraminer and an off-dry Spätburgunder. It was the Sauvignon Blanc that impressed us the most. Herr Herbster explained to us that he had intentionally planted his Sauvignon Blanc vines on a "cool climate" parcel to make a wine with a fresh character and relatively low alcohol. The off-dry interpretation of this particular wine seemed to complement the freshness perfectly ("knackig frisch" were Mr Herbster's exact words to us). We therefore decided to purchase a bottle (EUR 7.50) and enjoy the wine at home.

Weinküferei Herbster, Sauvignon Blanc Kabinett feinherb, 2009
Yes, I kid you not: this really is 2009 vintage. According to the winery website, this is - unsurprisingly - his first bottling of the new vintage.

Grey straw in appearance. On the nose, I'm getting lychee... This is unexpected. By the second glass, this sensation seems to dissipate somewhat, to make way for the signature gooseberry aromas which Herr Herbster also mentioned to us. Maybe also some floral notes.
Bright, fruity and off-dry on the palate, maybe some lychee again, but in no way is this kitschy. Fresh and light. A very pretty wine. It almost reminds me of Scheurebe. The hint of sweetness, which had a favourable effect on the nose, helps to balance the wine and lends it its character. The relatively modest alcohol is welcome, too. In conclusion, I would drink this on its own on the veranda - if I had one - on a mild April afternoon, or else with something mildly spiced and "coconutty" like Chicken Korma.

Franz Herbster is a professionally qualified Weinküfer (wine cooper) - which basically means he is a trained winemaker. However, his is a profession which, before the age of stainless steel vats, also used to be associated with the crafting of wine barrels - a family tradition which was last practiced by Herbster's great-grandfather back in the 1930s, apparently. After working for other wine producers, including WG Ehrenstetten and Weingut Fischer (the latter owned by Joachin Heger from the renowned Weingut Heger), Herbster harvested his first ever vintage in 2005. Based in Kirchhofen, a village situated just south of Freiburg on the southern foot of the Batzenberg hill, a 4-km long and 1-km wide expanse of vines on all sides, his winery comprises 4 hectares in three specific lieux-dits: Kirchhofner Kirchberg, Norsinger Batzenberg and Ehrenstetter Oelberg.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Friday, 27 November 2009

Mapping out Germany's vineyards

A friend of mine from Heidelberg tipped me off yesterday about an interesting wine-related, online project called Some wine-mad work colleagues of his have created an application based on Google Maps with the intention of mapping out Germany's wine regions (apparently, they will expand it to other areas of Europe in time).

Admittedly, the content still needs fleshing out, and the makers of the website are grateful for any outside input regarding the location and identity of individual vineyards that are still to be documented. I think they've made a very good start, though.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Flying Dutchman

I love German Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) - almost as much as I love German Riesling. Thankfully, the rest of the world is relatively oblivious to its merits. It remains a well-guarded secret - and long may it remain so.

Recently - and on my birthday, no less - my girl-friend and I had the rare pleasure and privilege of trying something new and wonderful: the 2004 Pinot Noir SD by Weingut Duijn from Bühl in Baden. Now, I'd already read a bit about the wines of Jacob Duijn, a Dutchman who entered the winemaking profession as a relative latecomer, but had tasted none of his wines to date.

In my book, this is how all red wines should be. Elegantly structured and profound - the "old world" European antidote to all those thick, oaky, alcoholic fruit bombs. I wish I'd taken notes for a change. I could start with the word "savoury", but that barely begins to describe it. Everything is where it should be. Certainly one of the best pinot noirs I've ever had. And definitely not everyday fare. The rack of lamb we ate with it went perfectly.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Pinot bubbly

On 21 May 2009, my girl-friend and I decided to ride our bikes along the "L125" from Müllheim to Staufen. It was Ascension Day and hence a public holiday. It was also Gutedeltag, the day on which this aforementioned road was closed to all motorised traffic. We, and many others, had a lovely time riding along from village to village and stopping to sample the wines.

One of these we tasted at Privatweingut H. Schlumberger in Laufen. It was a bottle of fizz, or a 2005 Pinot Brut, to be precise. Brick-coloured in appearance - with a hint orange. Vivid, biscuity aromas and a juicy, complex palate of pure pinot fruit. It quite possibly is the best German Sekt I've ever had to date.

Needless to say, I bought half a case of the stuff. On entering Switzerland during the day of our big move, I would have had to have paid duty on it had the customs officer not shown some understanding. What a good man.

We've been enjoying the occasional bottle ever since, so that stocks are running low again.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

The "Bebbi Sagg"

I knew this long before crossing the border into CH, but a "Bebbi" is local patois for an "inhabitant of Basel". A "Sagg" is local spelling for "Sack" in proper German, i.e. "bag" or "sack" in English. A Bebbi Sagg is the term used round here for the ubiquitous rubbish bags which people leave out for the refuse collectors every week. I learnt yesterday that a roll of these bags costs a whopping CHF 23.

Unlike in Germany, where things like plastic packaging and cardboard containers are sorted separately into a Gelbe Sack (yellow bag), you can theoretically dispose of all your everyday household rubbish in the Bebbi Sagg. Quite convenient, plus there's less of the daily dilemma you face in Germany as to which rubbish bag you can use without committing a "refuse-related infringement". However, on the down side, you can get through a roll of these bags relatively quickly, if you're not careful.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

A local friendly

It's not often that FC Basel and SC Freiburg get to face each other, but that's what they did yesterday evening in Rheinfelden (D). Not one to miss a footballing trip involving cheap tickets, beer and bratwurst, Karl-Heinz my German colleague and I attended the match. This was a friendly scheduled just before internationals weekend, hence a lot of the FCB first-teamers and a couple of Freiburg players were away on international duty. However, it ended up being quite an entertaining little spectacle, which included an impressive solo goal from Freiburg's Daniel Caliguiri. The final score was 3-2 to Freiburg.

The game also marked the grand finale of celebrations this year to mark the 100th anniversary of Swiss club 1. FC Rheinfelden 09. However, the match itself took place at the home of their German counterparts, SC Rheinfelden 03, who, I assume, were founded in 1903. Slightly odd, really, but there you go.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Needless facts

1. Semi-skimmed milk in Germany has 1.5% fat. Semi-skimmed milk in Switzerland (somewhat strangely called Milchdrink) tends to have 2.5% fat, although I think Coop recently reduced their fat content to 1.5%.

2. A deposit - in my case, the extra few pennies you pay for a beer bottle - is called "Pfand" in proper German, but "Depot" in Swiss-German.

Sunday, 8 November 2009


A new country, a new blog.

I'm not a newcomer to blogging, but it's been a while since my last blog post - or should that be a Weil?

Since my last blog post, I've upped sticks and moved into Switzerland. It's been a long time coming, but I'm finally here in the land of the cookoo clock. Suitably, I've decided to change the name of this blog to reflect the slightly less Germano-centric nature of my witterings.

As my blog profile suggests, I've come from Blackpool to Basel the long(ish) way, after hovering nearby on the German side of the border for a good few years. Well, I'm here now, finally.