Thursday, 30 June 2011


I know, I know... It's not what I said I'd do in my last post, but that can wait. I've had to make do with Mario Zelt's humble offering for now. What a hardship.

Weingut Zelt, Cuvée Trilogie 2008, Pfalz
Couldn't resist picking up a bottle of this a few months ago, along with the Saint Laurent I've already written about. This is a Bordeaux-inspired triple blend of Cab Sauv, Merlot and Cab Franc - hence the name. Before you start wondering whether Bordeaux-inspired blends are a good or a bad thing in a world awash with them, let me just get straight on to the wine.

This one has a dense yet attractively pure colour. The nose is pretty muted over the first 48 hours. Ideally, the wine probably needs more laying down, but sometimes you have to dive in early when it's just the one bottle in your possession. After 72 hours (during my final helping), subtle hints of black cherry emerge. I would say that there is also something vaguely Amarone-esque.

However, the palate does better. Lovely finely grained, pure tannins, lending suppleness and depth, as well as some liquorice and black fruit notes. A minerally, rather than acidic, backbone provides what is a medium to full body with added complexity.

Not a wine for everyday glugging.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011


So, it's over 30C outside. Time for a low-alcohol Riesling Kabinett, maybe, or at least something along those lines? After all, I've been meaning for some time to drink more Rieslings with residual sweetness, not least because the citrus intensity of some dry Rieslings don't always meet with my better half's approval. Without putting too fine a point on it, her face tends to contort when that citrus zing kicks in on the finish. I usually like the acidic part, within reason. However, I've heard that 2010 - a German vintage of skyrocketing, eyewatering acidity - is excellent for Rieslings with some residual sweetness. The same cannot be necessarily said for the "dry'uns".

Be that as it may, my exploration of Mosel Kabinett and its ilk will have to wait another day. Instead, I have a red wine from the Pfalz. How refreshing.

In my defence, I bought the following bottle for us to taste as a potential wine for our wedding meal later on this year (to precise, they call it "wedding breakfast", but don't ask me why). However, we already made our decision in terms of red wine a couple of weeks ago. I don't want to go into too much detail, but the wine we eventually chose is, like the following wine, a blended red from the Pfalz - and not the Spätburgunder from Baden I'd originally earmarked.

A case of "after the Lord Mayor's show", as us Brits would say. But still worth a try.

Weingut Dengler-Seyler, Cuvée Autumnus 2007, Pfalz
There is a white wine by the same name that combines Chardonnay with Auxerrois. This, its red counterpart, is a blend of Spätburgunder, Frühburgunder and the dreaded Dornfelder. I say "dreaded" because Dornfelders tend to taste rather green and stemmy if the yields are too high - which is often the case. On the other hand, it gives the wine a lot of dark pigment and can lend quite a charming rustic personality to blended reds. If handled correctly.

This is an interesting wine. The Spätburgunder is still very much to the fore, but the other constituents add some substance; less so the Frühburgunder, more the Dornfelder. Dark ruby in appearance, with cherry tones on the nose and a wild berry palate with a dollop of cream and some complexity. In point of fact, Autumnus is a good moniker for this wine. It does have a personality faintly reminiscent of autumn - think red leaves and undergrowth. Quite appealing. For my taste, the oak is well-integrated and unobtrusive, though my better half begged to differ on that count. Chacun(e) à son goût, as our Gallic cousins would say - and I still much prefer the wine we chose for the wedding - but for 10 euro (ordered online from a merchant in the Rhein-Neckar region) this offers good value.

Thursday, 23 June 2011


Incidentally, the hotel we stayed at in Wachenheim was called Rieslinghof - a most apt name if there ever was one. Rieslinghof is run by Sigrid Zimmermann-Oster, whose brother is the vintner at Weingut Zimmermann - also based in the village. She greeted us when we arrived and showed us into our rooms.

This blog isn't a hotel review website, but we were suitably impressed by both the accommodation offered and the general hospitality. The rooms were light and airy and there was a balcony, albeit a "communal" one. The breakfast on Monday morning (the Monday was a public holiday, incidentally) was top notch too. But best of all, there was a complimentary 0.5-litre bottle of Riesling Spätlese waiting for us in our rooms when we arrived.

Weingut Zimmermann, Wachenheimer Schlossberg Riesling Spätlese 2010, Pfalz
The "Spätlese" classification is slightly misleading. Even in Pfalz terms, this was more of an Spätlese feinherb (i.e. off-dry Riesling) than a true-blue Spätlese - as evidenced by an alcohol content of 12%. And this was good off-dry Riesling. In a vintage with relatively high acidity, the residual sugar was fighting quite a crazed battle to stay on level terms with the zing of the citrus fruit. It just about managed to, although the game of ping-pong between the two remained hard fought. Sweet and sour with a twist, you could say.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

"Weinfest 2.0" or: just another bacchanalian weekend in Wachenheim

Another belated post during a period in which blogging has come a distant second to the day job. Though this is not to say I haven't forgotten the "playing hard" bit on one or two occasions. A case in point was our trip to Wachenheim to take in the "Burg-und Weinfest" on Whit Sunday (12 June).

Visits to this wine fest have become an annual affair over the years, not least because of the lovely views over the Rhine plain afforded from our perch at Wachtenburg castle over multiple Rieslingschorles. Good friends living in the Heidelberg area have been known to make the trip with me as well. In recent years, however, the "Weinfest" bit down in the village has lagged behind the "Burgfest" somewhat in terms of entertainment and general atmosphere.

With this in mind, a group of locals went proactive this year and set about trying to put things right. What they did was set up a blog expounding the virtues of "Weinfest 2.0", which I'm sure some of you will realise is nod to "Web 2.0". Personally, I get confused with definitions like these. Nevertheless, the motives behind the blog - to give the wine fest the proverbial shot in the arm through active online "Web 2.0" interaction - seemed very worthwhile. I started following the blog's twitter account back in the spring in order to keep abreast of goings-on with regard to the Burg- und Weinfest, so it was with quite a bit more anticipation than usual that we took the train up from Basel on the Sunday morning.

I travelled to Wachenheim with Jenny of course, along with Chris and Carly (two friends from Jenny's home village in Suffolk who were visiting) and two other English friends, Richard and Kate from Basel. Perry, one of the Wachenheim stalwarts who live in Heidelberg, also joined us at the castle later on in the afternoon.

We didn't partake in any "Weinfest 2.0" shenanigans as such, either virtual or in real life, but we had a great time nonetheless. After a long journey (we'd travelled "Schönes Wochenende" class), we checked into our hotel and made our way to the courtyard of Schloss Wachenheim for a celebratory glass of bubby, before walking up to Wachtenburg itself. We love it up there, and Sunday 12 June 2011 was a great day for it. The weather was perfect, the views were perfect, the general atmosphere was too. We finally made it down into town later on in the evening, where, I have to say, the efforts of Weinfest 2.0 seemed to have paid off. There appeared to be more things going on in general, plus a very good mix of young and old all round.

I was told recently by one of my clients that another translator colleague of mine refers to jaunts such as these as "bacchanalian weekends". I have to say that this was one of the best.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Kiefers' Hoffest

At the beginning of this month, Alexander Ultes - who coordinates marketing and sales at Weingut Kiefer in Eichstetten on the Kaiserstuhl and, like me, blogs now and again - invited me to come along to his winery's annual courtyard fest. Kiefer were also celebrating their 160th anniversary, so the fest promised to be more than just a routine occasion. Jenny and I promptly decided to take him up his offer and took the train there last Saturday - or, that is: Jenny went to Freiburg in the morning to look round the shops; I then met her and another friend there later on in the afternoon from where we took the onward train to Eichstetten.

Our time at Kiefers' was relatively short but enjoyable. Apart from doing a wine tasting, visitors were able to go on a guided tour of the cellar, buy wine in the vinothek, or simply sit down, chat, sip wine, eat and soak in the atmosphere.

But, among other things, we opted for the tractor ride.

Around 20 of us climbed onto an open cart, and then off we went through the village and onwards up into vineyards... Upon arrival at the top of the slope, the vineyard manager proceeded to describe some of the work he and his team do and, in particular, the specific challenges currently faced in 2011, a year which so far has seen a distinct lack of rain. After a complementary glass of rosé, we rattled down the slope again back to the winery. All in all, it was a very informative and enjoyable little excursion.

Obviously, I also caught up with Alex himself and had a chat with him. We'd both been aware of the existence of each other's respective blogs for some time, so it was good to meet in person! Originally hailing from the Pfalz (and Kaiserslautern specifically), Alex only joined Kiefer a year ago. However, simply judging from some of the novel wines on offer at the winery and other examples of attractive labelling and signage, it looks to me as if he's on to a good thing.

Hopefully, we can catch up again in future. For what it's worth, Jenny and I would definitely be keen on attending this lovely little fest again.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011


Once every two years on Ascension Day, the L125 between Müllheim and Staufen is closed to motorised traffic. Both locals and people from far-flung places such as Basel promptly come out to play and cover the 13-kilometre route on their bicycles, by foot or via other novel means of non-motorised transportation. Ascension Day in Germany is also Father's Day - a somewhat notorious day on which a sizeable proportion of German men like to inebriate themselves. Gutedeltag, the name of this event, provides the perfect stage for this. Strangely, it also seems to attract a good few hen parties.

We also flitted from one village to the next, sampling the local wines. A superb day was had by all, and yes - we were also quite merry by the end.

Now to some wine. The latest on my Reinhold and Claudia Schneider odyssey is a Weissburgunder blend from three different vineyards with three different soils respectively - hence the name:

Weingut Reinhold & Claudia Schneider, Weisser Burgunder Spätlese "trio" trocken *** 2009, Baden
Straw-yellow with banana and pineapple scents on the nose. Slowly, this evolves and becomes more complex - showing minerally, slightly nutty and tropical notes. There is a creamy progression on the palate, underscored with a racy, tingly, persistent, full-bodied mouthfeel. The finish is lingering and biscuity with relatively keen but well-integrated acidity. Some toffee and vanilla, too. Excellent, but I opened the bottle way too early.