Friday, 25 November 2011

Same procedure

Last Friday, Jenny and I turned up at Weingut Ziereisen to attend their annual Christmas tasting, or Weihnachts-degustation. You know that the Christmas "season" is starting earlier than it used to when an event like this precedes our respective birthdays on 20 and 22 November. Maybe "Pre-Advent wine tasting" would have been a better name for it.

Be that as it may, we spent a very enjoyable evening negotiating what was a veritable assault course of tasting rooms, each with a different selection of wines to try. Even the flower shop next door got in the act, providing Ziereisen with an additional tasting venue showing some of the estate's more "basic" red wines.

I'd been to last year's tasting on a snowy Saturday and had bought three bottles of the Jaspis Pinot Noir "Jungfernlese" 2008. This time, we left the property with two bottles each of the Pinot Noir "Schulen" 2008, the Weissburgunder "Lügle" 2009, and Markus Molitor's Wehlener Klosterberg Riesling Kabinett trocken. We acquired the latter wine as Markus Molitor is friends with Hanspeter Ziereisen and sells some of his Riesling down here in Markgräflerland via Hanspeter's winery. Molitor, Van Volxem and Beurer (of Stetten/Württemberg) were all represented at the tasting, albeit not by the winemakers höchstpersönlich.

The hordes came from near and far to taste Ziereisen's wines last Friday. We even spotted a busload of pensioners from Waldshut, of all places. Consequently, personal space was at a premium and there was no chance of doing anything other than imbibe.

Feeling headstrong and merry after an evening's consumption (including schnapps) for the price of 10 euro, we also put in an order for six bottles of the 2009 Jaspis Syrah. These won't be ready for release until March/April 2012, which is just as well given that our post-wedding finances should hopefully have evened out a bit more by then!

Packing 'em in... The scene at one of the tasting stops (which was basically a garage).

Tuesday, 22 November 2011


It was my birthday two days ago. And it's Jenny's today.

This evening, I shall be treating my wife to my dubious culinary skills chez nous. I may not be able to match what was served up for lunch on my birthday, but I'll do my best.

Talking of which, we went to the Landgasthof Rössle in the village of Hertingen for lunch on my birthday. The restaurant is currently in the middle of its annual "Country Weeks" season - when Thomas and Cornelia Engler, the couple who run the place, deck out the interior in country-western decor and serve various steaks including bison, pretty much the leanest, healthiest beef you can eat. I had visited the restaurant once before with a couple of friends when I was living in Germany in the early Noughties and had really enjoyed the food back then; hence it seemed right to pay the establishment another visit.

We both ordered the bison rumpsteak with jacket potato in foil and a selection of sauces - and we weren't disappointed. In terms of quality, friendliness and ambience, the Rössle scores top marks. Note that this is no high-brow eatery with plush decor but a typical rustic guesthouse in an old village in the middle of the beautiful Markgräflerland countryside.

There was, however, one slight misunderstanding with our waitress: I asked for a "Viertele" (or 0.25 l) of Spätburgunder, thinking it would be served in a small jug for the two of us. But what the girl brought to our table was this:

The glass and the measure tickled us so much that we ordered another one so both of us could quaff away contentedly...

Monday, 21 November 2011

Mr and Mrs Jones

We left Switzerland on 1 November as girl and boyfriend. We returned to Switzerland on 14 November as man and wife.

Our wedding in England was a wonderful, joyful occasion. Guests came from near and far to celebrate with us, and it was simply an unforgettable day.

While I would prefer not to use this blog to write a synopsis or post a photo album of our wedding, I would like to mention the wines we chose to accompany the menu at our wedding breakfast.

As readers of this blog may know, Jenny and I had been doing a fair amount of sampling during our engagement with a view to selecting our wedding wines. Ultimately, we settled on the following:

First, the starter wine:

Riesling "Pfeffo", 2010, Weingut Pfeffingen, Pfalz
, Germany
We opted for a starter wine that would pair well with smoked salmon, beetroot relish, rocket and brioche. Judging by the reactions around the room, this one went down well. The slight touch of sweetness meant it held up to the relish, while the acidity helped to cut through the oiliness of the salmon. It was also relatively light in alcohol but high in taste.

Our idea to have a dedicated starter wine centred around the desire to have everyone enjoying the same wine for at least one part of the meal. It also lent a certain structure to proceedings, I would say.

Main course:

"Quintessenz", 2009, Weingut Rings, Pfalz, Germany
To go with venison in a rich sauce with mustard and chestnut mash, baby onions and root vegetables, we could have gone for a Pinot Noir. However, we chose this red wine from Rings Estate without hesitation after trying it earlier in the spring. Judging by our guests' reactions, "Quintessenz" stole the show on account of its sheer drinkability. I doubt many people in the room would have ever drunk a German red before, not to mention one as rich as this. A blend of Merlot, Saint Laurent and Dornfelder (i.e. of "globetrotter" and native grapes), this was the revelation of the evening, I can safely say.

Riesling "Terra Rossa", 2009, Weingut Pfeffingen, Pfalz, Germany
The "Quintessenz" put this wine in the shade somewhat, though I don't think many white wines would have stood up to what was essentially a very hearty autumnal/wintry dish. Maybe in hindsight we could have gone for, say, a Pinot Gris or Blanc from Baden, but this still did a sterling job in the circumstances and is a dry Riesling we both really love.

After the main course, we had the bridegroom's father's speech, my speech and then the best man's speech. This is where our sparkling wine, which had already been poured out to guests before dinner as an aperitif to accompany their fish and chip canapés, made a reappearance.

Pinot brut, 2007, Weingut Reichsrat von Buhl, Pfalz, Germany
Nothing that detailed to say other than this predominantly blanc de noirs Sekt more than did the trick.

The surprise came later on our return to Switzerland, when our neighbour knocked on our door to deliver a package containing even more Pinot brut which had arrived while we were on honeymoon. After subsequent inquiries, I discovered that von Buhl had originally sent my order to our Swiss address by mistake. After noticing their error, von Buhl tried to recall the bottles while sending a delivery of 30 bottles to the correct address in the UK instead. Subsequently, 16 of the erroneously dispatched bottles made their way back to Deidesheim while the remaining 14 (an admittedly unusual number for a package) must have got stuck somewhere before eventually ending up in Basel.

Herr Graf at von Buhl said that, given the circumstances, he could make me a very good, reduced offer for the extra bottles that had found their way here. I said that was fine and promptly paid up. We now have plenty of bubbly in stock...

Scheurebe Spätlese, 2009, Weingut Pfeffingen, Pfalz, Germany
To round off our very English menu, we had apple/blackberry crumble and custard (with the custard contained in large jugs on each table). This coupled with Scheurebe was a match made in heaven. There was a slight twist here in that the wine was also served on the plate in a shot glass. What may sound uncouth worked a treat in practice. It was Paul the caterer's idea to incorporate the shot glasses as a way to integrate the wine with the dessert and avoid confusion amid a proverbial forest of wine bottles that would have landed on our guests' tables by then. To stop people from necking the wine like a shot of grappa but enjoying it as a component part of the dessert (athough the former is not necessarily something we would have frowned upon!), we deliberately chose not to refer to the glass of wine on the menu explicitly as a "shot glass" but as a "small glass of dessert wine".

The wine itself had just the requisite sweetness and exotic fruit to hold up to all the components of the dessert. Less the sticky pudding wine some people may have been expecting and more the restorative that guests would continue glugging throughout the evening.

That all the wines came from Germany was no coincidence. Amid what was otherwise a quintessentially English wedding, the unashamedly teutonic wine acted as a counterpoint. And, given the teutonic influence in my family (my mother is German), it also seemed to make sense. That we chose wines exclusively from the Pfalz was, however, less by design and more of a coincidence. All the wines served were simply big favourites of ours, and we hope everyone enjoyed them on the day as much as we did.