Wednesday, 31 August 2011

The Maisprach wine experience

At present, we are gradually tasting our way through a case of different German sparkling wines for our wedding in just over two months' time. The "Sekt" we choose for our big day will not be showcased here until after the event, if at all, because - to put it simply - we want to keep it a secret.

This explains the relatively fewer wines described here of late and the slightly greater emphasis on excursions, trips and similar gallivanting. Saturday provided another case in point, when "das Wy-Erläbnis", which is Swiss for "das Wein-Erlebnis" (or "wine experience"), took place in the vineyards in and around the villages of Buus and Maisprach in the Swiss canton of Basel-Land.

Participant numbers are limited for this annual event, which tends to get booked up fairly soon after ticket sales begin every January. A spur of the moment thing this definitely is not.

The alloted start time for us early bookers (and around 90 others) was 12 noon on the dot. A total contingent of 2,000 took part throughout the day, leaving the village of Buus at half-hour intervals. We proceeded to cover eight different designated stops along the winding three-mile route from Buus to Maisprach, seven of which served culinary treats. Germans would probably call this a "kulinarische Weinwanderung". As you'd expect, the event was organised like clockwork. There was even someone whose designated task for the day was to hold one of those hanging mustard squeezers to squidge a dollop of the old Thomy onto every punter's plate as he or she passed with a plate full of smoked pork and potato salad.

As for wines, we tried some interesting "Riesling-Silvaner" (Müller-Thurgau), Chasselas (Gutedel) and Pinot Blanc, as well as a fair volume of undemanding yet quaffable Pinot Noir.

As a postscript: two British friends who live in the area were kind enough to procure tickets for our group. Their house acted as a convenient base after the walk before it was time to head into the village for the subsequent festivities. They are due to up sticks to Houston, Texas this coming autumn, but I think there'll always be a place in their heart for their house in the middle of Maisprach.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Alte Reben

I've made one of two surprising vinous discoveries in Basel in recent times. One of these was the presence in a big Swiss supermarket's wine range of two Pinot Noirs from a prominent Kaiserstuhl wine-grower.

My impression is that if you asked the average man or woman on the streets of Basel to name their favourite wine regions, Italy would probably be right up there along with France, Spain and Portugal. Austria is quite trendy. Although its general profile is improving, Germany is still relatively unknown other than being the home of sweet Rieslings from the Mosel.

Which is just as well, because I'd already seen the following wine a number of times at the retail outlet in question and not one bottle had been taken.

Weingut Michel, Spätburgunder "Alte Reben" trocken 2009, Baden
From vines aged over 30 years (hence "Alte Reben"), this was apparently left for 10 months in 500-litre French oak vats. Dark ruby with a watery rim. A basket of freshly picked black cherries on the nose, followed by what I can make out to be dried black prunes, some spicy notes reminiscent of liquorice/cinnamon. The effect is quite heady and warm. This translates into a fiery, warming sensation on the palate. Despite the concentrated mouthfeel, everything is in balance. The tannins are creamy and the oak influence is only noticeable in that it helps bed the different elements together.

Overall, I'm impressed. The wine is quite young but surprisingly accessible, offering a lot for CHF 14.90. I intend to try the "barrique" version before too long. With the best will in the world, there should still be adequate stocks left by the time I get round to buying a bottle or two, irrespective of what I've just written.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Dry Mosel

Along with other notable refusniks such as Van Volxem, Breuer and Köhler-Ruprecht, Weingut Markus Molitor doesn't belong to the VDP. This may or may not be the reason why Herr Molitor's dry and off-dry Rieslings are not named as such as on the label and just carry the names Kabinett, Spätlese and Auslese on their own.

Weingut Markus Molitor, Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese trocken 2009, Mosel
The wine maybe gives a clue, as I would venture a guess that the level of residual sugar in this dry-tasting wine is somewhere in the feinherb range from 9 to 18 g/l. Thus, the wine is advertised as trocken but doesn't carry trocken on the label.

On the nose, Granny Smith apple emerges at first, though this eventually gives way to yellow fruit such as apricot. The palate shows lovely ripe acidity and good balance (Molitor tends to harvest well into November, and this is 2009 after all). There is a dense wall of nectarine, and the finish is long and satisfying. Picturebook dry Riesling - though I have a feeling that Germany's wine authorities would be loathe to call it dry.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Two Sauvignon Blancs

On a recent train journey from Mannheim back to Basel, I picked up a copy of the June/July issue of German-language wine magazine, Weinwelt. Normally, I don't buy wine-related periodals as they tend to be on the pricy side, and much of the information I want can be gleaned perfectly easily via the Internet. I made an exception this one time.

The issue's leading theme was Sauvignon Blanc. Therein, a certain Professor Ulrich Fischer from the "DLR Rheinpfalz" wine research centre in Neustadt an der Weinstrasse explained that elderflower was often a key aromatic trait of Sauvignon Blancs grown in Germany. I mention this apropos of nothing in particular, except that it serves as an introduction to two SBs I've opened over the last month or so.

Pfaffenweiler Weinhaus, Sauvignon Blanc trocken "Sancta Clara" 2010, Baden
Somewhat of a house speciality of this, one of Baden's top cooperatives. I made no notes on this, and the bottle was opened back in July. However, my overriding impression was that of a wine hitting all the right notes as a quintessentially summer wine: sprightly, packed with sunshine yet very grown-up for it's price (under EUR 9 from the supermarket) with some mineral and creamy notes. The wine is already sold-out, which says it all.

Kellerei/Cantina Terlan, Sauvignon Blanc Winkl 2009, Terlano, Südtirol/Alto Adige
This a first: a wine from Südtirol. Winkl is the name of the vineyard. Although not very twinkle-toed in nature, it provided plenty of interest. Quite unlike any SB I've had, its personality almost reminded me of a Grüner Veltliner. There were hints of elderflower and herbs after a while, but the key notes came more from the wine's biscuity earthiness which almost developed into opulence. Certainly a wine that lives more off its secondary aromas and flavours than off gratuitous goosebery and cat's pee. And that's always a good thing in my book.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Table with a view

A old friend from England who lives in Vienna stayed with us for a night on 31 July, as part of a grand tour of Switzerland he was about to embark on. Being the day before Swiss National Day, there would be a firework extravaganza over the Rhine later on that evening. But prior to this, we hopped into Germany to attend Weiler Weinweg in Flammen - a lovely wine event held along the vineyards from Ötlingen to Weil. Our first stop was in Ötlingen, where we sat in the evening sun behind the vineyard hut belonging to Weingut Schneider and enjoyed the view south down to Basel and beyond. It was 7 p.m. and the sun was still beating down relentlessly. Some vineyards really are heat-traps, and this was one of them.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011


The summer blogging recess has been ongoing of late, in which time my better half and I have been to the UK twice - first on wedding business in Suffolk, then to visit my parents in Lancashire. Both visits were prior to the troubles of the past few days in numerous English urban areas. Apparently, the German foreign office has issued a travel warning for the UK - the sort of thing normally reserved for Syria and Iraq.

Normal service will resume on here in due course. However, for the time being, here are a couple photos from a beautiful walk Jenny and I went on last Friday with my parents - in a part of Cumbria that tends to be less well known owing to its location on the border with Lancashire. After our walk, we rewarded ourselves with a delicious meal of fish and chips at a local hostelry.