Friday, 30 September 2011


It's not that long to our wedding, so posts on here will become a rarity as we approach the big day. There has been plenty organised so far, but we'll soon be entering the mildly hectic final phase of preparation, if we haven't done so already.

Nevertheless, I do have some other things to report at this juncture. One concerns a wine I posted about in spring last year. I eulogised about it back then, and until recently, still had three bottles stored away in the basement. A visit from my dad and uncle a couple of weeks ago (the two were due to accompany me on my stag do) was reason enough to crack open another one. It was a good job I did, because the wine in question, Pfeffingens' 2005 Weilberg GG, is undoubtedly at its peak - and will stay this way for quite a number of years, I feel. This time, I served the wine in large round glasses - a move that paid off. The wine has gained an added richness and layer of complexity that impressed us all. The fruit is that little bit more oily but less forward, if you get my meaning. Top stuff.

I didn't want to fall to the floor with a thud after those lofty heights but rather glide down gracefully from vinous cloud nine. The following wine promised a feather-bed landing.

Weingut Benzinger, J! Riesling 2010, Pfalz
This is a wine by the daughter Julia Benzinger. Technically, it's hovering just on the limit of what can legally be called dry, hence the absence of "trocken". Given the more, shall we say, corruscating nature of the vintage, I was expecting a bit of residual sweetness to be just what the doctor ordered. However, this was a funny one in that it actually made me want the wine to be drier than it was (for a change). It certainly made for great quaffing in front of the television while Manchester United were busy throwing away a two-nil lead at home to Basel (didn't know whether to laugh or cry about that result). Yet, on close inspection, I found the sweetness to be ever so slightly cloying; there seemed to be a disconnect between that and the wine's other components, if truth be told. In view of the vintage, this was the last thing I'd have expected.

On the other side of the coin, the wine showed great fruit character very much in line with Frau Benzinger's credo on the bottle's "back label". In this respect, the packaging is very honest: the "front label" is a combination of black and shiny pink with "J!" shouting out in large font. I'll spare your eyes from looking at it. Suffice to say, I think the wine is targeted at a certain demographic and definitely succeeds in this regard. Not that this is a bad thing, I hasten to add.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Champions League in Basel

As some of you may know, Manchester United are my football club of choice. And they've been drawn with FC Basel in the group stages of this season's Champions League. The last time this happened was in the 2002/2003 season when I watched the two fixtures between both clubs in Basel and Manchester respectively. For Basel's home fixture versus United back then, I had to resort to drastic measures and obtain a ticket through, shall we say, "unofficial means". For the match at Old Trafford, my ticket was bought at face-value from a good friend and fellow United fan.

Happily, procuring a ticket for Basel's home match was a lot easier this time. Nevertheless, doing so entailed purchasing the full three-match package - which also included the visit of Romania's relative unknowns FC Oțelul Galați last night, plus that of Portugal's Benfica in October. United don't arrive in Basel until December.

Nevertheless, forgoing the delights of Benfica vs. United on television, we turned up at St. Jakob Park yesterday evening for Basel's first match.

Now, I knew nothing about FC Oțelul other than the fact that coach Dorinel Munteanu had played for Romania a record number of times. He'd also plied his trade in the Bundesliga for Wolfsburg for a number of years - hence it came as no surprise that his team were a well-drilled outfit, if nothing else. Basel had a lot of trouble breaking down their defence, and their 2-1 win was slightly flattering. But a win's a win. And after the 1-1 stalemate between Benfica and United, FCB are now perched at the top of group C.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Sunday picture

The mercury rose to over 30C yesterday - what better weather than to go walking in the heat of afternoon sun? Mad dogs and Englishmen, etc.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Bubbles (or lack thereof)

As mentioned previously, we are looking for a suitable sparkling wine for our wedding. We have almost made our decision. The following Sekt narrowly failed to make the grade - not for lack of quality but more for lack of bubbles.

Weingut Reichsrat von Buhl, Forster Pechstein Riesling Sekt brut, 2007, Pfalz
Sparkling Riesling is likely to be unknown territory for the majority of our English-speaking wedding guests, but this oh so nearly got the thumbs up from us. Disgorged only this year after three years of ageing on the lees. Rich on the nose with lovely flintstone notes. Full and fruity on the palate, but not overly so. Luscious and biscuity with further mineral depth.

The snag? Well, the perlage was very fine but rather modest and short-lived. Too short-lived from our point of view considering the logistics of a wedding reception. Whatever I may think about the undeniable quality of this sparkler, it's a fact of life that people like bubbles. If said bubbles are inadequate, then we have a problem.

Pity, but I'm glad we still have another bottle of this in the cellar.

Thursday, 8 September 2011


The following wine left an impression on me a number of years ago at the Basler Weinmesse. From a hitherto obscure family-run winery in the northern Pfalz, it seemed to ooze the personality I like to associate with good, honest dry Pfalz Riesling: a certain "earthiness" as well as tasty (exotic) fruit and spice. For some reason, I never got round to procuring a bottle to try from the comfort of our living room. Until now.

I say "obscure", but at the time the family's eldest daughter Silvia had just finished her year-long stint as the latest tiara-clad "German Wine Queen". The appointing of "wine royalty" in Germany is a serious business, with each successive incumbant tasked with spreading the word about German wine to all and sundry. The Weinkönigin's reign invariably involves visits to numerous German embassies round the world, swapping handshakes with the German president, random appearances on "Gary Vee"... that sort of thing.

Be that as it may, it's apparently the family's youngest daughter Julia who has been continuing the family winemaking tradition in tandem with her father. This is their top Riesling:

Weingut Benzinger, Steinacker Riesling trocken 2009
Steinacker is the name of the vineyard in Kirchheim an der Weinstrasse.
Highly expressive, "forward" aromas of minerally lime sorbet, dry herbs, some saltiness, a touch of mint and even some berry fruit. Already quite the charmer, this wine, it maintains this form on the palate, with exotic the mango/peach/maracuja triumvirate initially, but then showing a dry herbal, salty personality. The acidity then acts as a razor-sharp counterpoint. All in all, very impressive on first showing, though less so on the following day when the fruit notes seem a little "telegraphed", to coin a footballing term. The herbal depth that was there initially seems to have dissipated 24 hours later. However, the wine really is more-ish regardless of this minor quibble. And for the price of EUR 8 (or even CHF 15 in Swiss terms), it punches above its weight.

[Postscript; 17:56, 08.09.2011: Forty-eight hours later and the herbal sophistication has returned. Maybe it hadn't gone in the first place and I was simply not paying attention. Overall, this wine hits all the right spots.]

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The 2011 harvest

In a few days, I was hoping to report on my experiences as a grape picker at the local vintner's cooperative. Haltinger Winzer are giving people the opportunity to help with the harvest for a day, learn a bit about the work involved, and then enjoy some "Zwiebelwaie" (onion tart) and "neuer Wii" after bringing the grapes back down the hill. Unfortunately, picking on 10 September, the day I was supposed to help out, has been postponed. The other scheduled date for all-comers to carry buckets and secateurs is the following Saturday. However, that's the day of my stag do.

My ambitions as an amateur grape picker have therefore been dashed for the time being. Nevertheless, I can console myself with the fact that the harvest looks a good one this year, judging from what I saw yesterday while out on a stroll just over border in Germany (see the Pinot Gris grapes above). The Gutedel crop looks on the verge of being picked, while Chardonnay and the Pinot varietals (red included) don't look too shabby either. Incredible given that it's still only early September.

[Edit at 20:51, 07.09.2011: I hasten to add that all sorts of meteorological vagaries could still put the cat among the pigeons as far as the 2011 vintage is concerned, one of which is too much rain. We've been there before in 2006, for instance, when the grape skins went "pop" and started to rot. The forecast looks promising for the moment, however. May it stay that way.]


Until last week, I'd never heard of this grape varietal. Like Roter Gutedel, it apparently belongs to to the Gutedel (Chasselas) family. Dirk Brenneisen from the village of Egringen just 13km north of Basel specialises in it.

Weingut Brenneisen, Muskat-Gutedel 2010, Baden
There's Muskat in the name and muscat in the wine. A fair dollop of it, in fact. It fairly dominates the nose, yet hints of nutmeg and almond also emerge, the latter betraying its Gutedel roots, I would say. On the palate, there is certain exoticism, along with grassy, minty, nestlely notes that remind me of dry Scheurebe. Some herbal drops too. Smooth and refreshing, unique and tasty - this offers a little something off the beaten track. Certainly a niche wine, this is best drunk fresh and in ample quantities.