Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Von der Fels 2009 - second and final bottle

Originally I had two bottles of this wine. The first one was opened in October 2010. Now over four years later ...

Weingut Keller, Riesling trocken "von der Fels" 2009, Rheinhessen
Pale gold in appearance, with a slightly candied glaze of citrus, stone fruit, beeswax hints and a touch of honey on the nose. Certainly, some initial signs of maturity are detectable. Medium-bodied on palate, with a waxy glaze you could refer to it as "Schmelz" in German along with dried herbs and a certain innate sweetness within what is essentially a dry-tasting construct; not fruit as such, but more a caramel-like sensation with some mealy notes. The wine has evolved over the last few years. The 2009 vintage was pretty ripe. Nevertheless, the amount of liveliness in this Riesling is commendable. Having said this, the acidity has bound itself somewhat into these savoury elements and is therefore very well integrated. A finely structured and complex wine with a lingering finish.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Mouthwatering

Here are two quite different wines that got the juices flowing in their own unique ways.

Weingut Carl Loewen, Riesling Alte Reben 2013, Mosel
Pale straw in appearance. Reticent at first on the nose, but gradually evolving into grapefruit scents with suggestions of red berry, sweetish spice, stone fruit and ethereal herbs. Spice on the palate, with a light to medium body and warm undertones. Very juicy and succulent. The acidity is perfectly integrated, generating a silky feel in the mouth. Reddish berry hints again (mainly raspberry). Medium finish. With its slightly off-dry taste profile, this reminds me of Clemens Busch's "Vom roten Schiefer" another Mosel Riesling that I've enjoyed over the past year on account of its slightly creamy, "reddish", mouthwatering personality with that very subtle hint of sweet fruit lifting the wine onto another plane.

Weingut Egon Schmitt, Lagrein trocken 2009, Pfalz
Very opaque purple/garnet with a velvety rim. Dark, spicy berry aromas with a red fruit underlay. There is also a distinct stemminess that lends an interestingly sappy and enticing element, as well as pencil lead shavings and floral notes. Fresh and slightly spicy on the palate, with red and black fruit and a lingering finish. Last tasted in spring 2012. The ensuing couple of years have done this serious but highly drinkable wine a world of good. The tannins have loosened since last showing and are more integrated with the other elements (fruit, acidity, alcohol, body). A Lagrein that seems quite ready for drinking now but should retain its brilliantly sappy personality for a good few years to come.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Würzer

The Swiss lady from the local wine shop told me that the following varietal was quite old and native to Rheinhessen. Although I'd never heard of the grape, I was somewhat sceptical of her claim. Lo and behold, when I researched online at home I found out that Würzer is actually a crossing of Müller-Thurgau and Gewürztraminer, courtesy of Georg Scheu (he of Scheurebe fame) in 1932. Nothing that old or native about it at all, despite the fact that around 40 of the 60 or so hectares of vineyard it accounts for in Germany were admittedly planted in Rheinhessen. Here instead is the bastard love child of two grapes everyone loves to hate. What could possibly go wrong?

Schlossgut Schmitt, Guntersblumer Kreuz Kapelle Würzer Kabinett feinherb 2011, Rheinhessen
In truth, the wine turns out to be a revelation. Almost a golden yellow colour. The main theme on the nose is starfruit. It is a bitter kind of citric zing that maybe tends more to lime on the second day. On the periphery, we also have mildly honeyed, waxy notes hinting at oncoming maturity as well as a somewhat rubbery whiff (think warm squash balls or the inner tubing of your bike tyres). Starfruit continues on the palate, followed by a suggestion of something honey-related. Then the acidity attacks with short, sharp precision. Were it not for its slightly bitter starfruit characteristic, you might be forgiven for mistaking this wine as a Riesling if you tasted it blind. In fact, it feels a bit like Riesling on steroids. It may lack a certain depth and grace, and the finish is dry and straightforward, but it made a great pairing with the sweet and sour dish I concocted.

To be honest, I was expecting something spicy and sweetish, but this wine is bright, alert, refreshing and a more-than-worthwhile discovery. Judging by its keen, bitter acidity, I would say that the off-dry idiom suits it to a tee. The alcohol level is a mere 9.5 percent. Price: CHF 14.90.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Breumel in den Mauern

Two bottles of the following wine found their way into my possession one for immediate consumption, and one to leave in the cellar and "forget about". I need to apply this strategy more often for some of the better wines, as it's a lot easier on the wallet.

Riesling lovers outside Germany still go crazy for Müller-Catoir. However, since Hans-Günther Schwarz retired in the early 2000s 2001 having been his last vintage this particular jewel in the Pfalz crown seems to have enjoyed less of the limelight in Germany itself. The Battenfeld-Spaniers, Von Winnings, Kellers and Wittmanns of this world tend to fill more blog and wine forum page inches these days. Viewing from afar (and with my experience of their wines being too scant for me to theorise in this regard), it appears to me that Müller-Catoir have simply continued doing what they do well. For whatever reason, this approach might not attract quite the same acclaim as before domestically, but neither does it seem to have dampened enthusiasm for "M-C" overseas. I suspect Schwarz's successor Martin Franzen was on a hiding to nothing whatever he did. It can't be easy replacing a living legend and role model for so many other winemakers who have since made their mark in Germany.

"Breumel in den Mauern" is the name of a walled clos situated at the top of the Burgergarten vineyard site that slopes gently down from the village of Haardt. Having stayed in the village myself once and viewed the vineyard myself, I can confirm that it's an attractive if relatively unspectacular spot of earth. Certainly, the walls must play a part in retaining the sun's warmth during the growing season. The soil consists of pure mottled sandstone gravel.

Weingut Müller-Catoir, Breumel in den Mauern GG 2013, Pfalz
I had the opportunity to taste lots of 2013 Rieslings last spring, most of them freshly bottled. After a while, the searing acidity was simply too much even for me. Every Riesling began tasting the same. I almost made an appointment with the dentist afterwards. Admittedly, this sullied my view of the vintage from the outset, at least in terms of bone-dry Riesling. Happily, some exceptions have proven me wrong since. What is more, difficult vintages are ones that tend to separate the wheat from the chaff, they say. Looking back, for example, the oft-derided high-acidity 2010s have excited me more of late than any other recent vintage.

Now for this, the best dry Riesling in the M-C portfolio:

A fairly vivid pale yellow. Day one and the nose is not revealing much, if anything at all. Maybe some stone fruit, but that's your lot. Acidity dominates on the palate, though nowhere near as sharply as some others I've had the dubious pleasure of tasting. (I know, I know ... it's my own fault for opening a bottle as young as this, how uncouth). Day two, let's start again: faintly exotic fruit is now emerging along with some minerally notes. The acidity is noticeably less piercing though not quite integrated just yet. Day three, eureka. Wonderfully distinct and complex scents of pear, along with yellow-fruit hints, a suggestion of exoticism (though less than on the previous day), and the smell of what can best be described as both crumbly and stony crushed soil. Now the acidity is just right, neither too much nor too little. Instead of puckering my lips, it generates succulence and brightness. In the mouth, the sensation is slightly more filling within the wine's medium body and less austere than it was. I find myself sipping and sipping ... and forget to take any further notes. If you can wait a couple of days, this is a wine already very much assured with itself. Its initial reticence is a good sign in view of the long journey it has ahead. The finish is long.

My other bottle has already been stashed away and forgotten amid the murky clutter of our cellar.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Yummy


Weingut Vollenweider, Wolfer Goldgrube Riesling Kabinett 2012, Mosel
Very pure lime scents along with the best, most expensive lemons you could think of and an ever-so-slight sprinkling of top-quality sugar. Multi-faceted, bright and appetising. Sweetish at first on the palate, but then lemon, lime and apple dance a jig on my palate. Incredibly mouthwatering and tremendously bright, like a shining beam of light. Wet stone puckers my mouth slightly. Lip-smackingly good. Light but with ample flavour concentration. Great balance, finishing long and dry. Only 8.5 percent alcohol. Satisfying and extremely moreish.

Or, as my wife said in her understated way: "Yummy."


Thursday, 23 October 2014

Mosel trocken

From my point of view, dry Mosel Rieslings used to have a bit of "fear factor". Although climate change has helped further the trend towards Mosel trockens, it was not until the revelatory experience of tasting the Rieslings of Clemens Busch last year that I fully appreciated what was possible. Obviously, Clemens Busch is a top grower and, as such, maybe not that reflective of the rank and file of Mosel vintners. But how about this relative unknown then purchased for a mere 10 Swiss francs (!) as a bin-end, bargain-basement deal here in Basel?


Weingut Paul Knod, "Mons Prin" Riesling Spätlese trocken 2011, Mosel
Quite a high-definition light-coloured yellow in appearance. Pineapple and wet stone, already showing some mature wax-like tones, but otherwise bright in character. Overall, the impression is quite dense and reminds me of crushed stone not slate, but maybe chalk. Personally, it also reminds me of warm squash balls, however strange that may sound. There is also a slightly nutty whiff that suggests ageing in wooden casks (I might be totally wrong though).

Clear with a medium body on the palate, but ripe and quite concentrated, with a continuation of the mature notes I mentioned, along with lovely red apples, stone fruit and even suggestions of red berry fruit. Nuts then come to the fore again, helping to buffer the acidity. All this lends the wine a certain inherent sweetness within its otherwise trocken idiom. All in all, quite long and refreshing and very drinkable.

According to the bottle's "back label", the Romans used the Latin term "mons prin" to mean "Erste Lage" or "premier cru". Monnbring, the old name of the cadaster plot in which this wine was grown, is derived from this.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Müller-Catoir Muskateller

It was a tasting note by American wine importer Terry Theise that motivated me to buy the following wine. Although I do find wine descriptions useful from time to time, it is rare for me to buy a particular bottle purely and solely on the strength of such notes. Then again, Theise's prose which I've enjoyed reading year in year out for over more than a decade in his annual catalogues is very unlike most other trains of thought I've read on wine. And I mean that in a good way.

Weingut Müller-Catoir, Haardter Muskateller trocken 2013, Pfalz
Straw-yellow in appearance with exceedingly bright aromatics: fresh garden blossom, nutmeg, greenish appley notes, but also some yellowish suggestions and even a hint of fennel. Quite an exciting panoply of different elements. Cool, complex and vibrant on the palate. No less exciting than on the nose. A slightly glazed feel in the mouth midway through with light-to-medium concentration, although the overriding impression is that of a wine that is cleansing, "grapey" in the best sense, and above all exceedingly vivid with a long finish.

Or, as Terry Theise puts it in his 2014 Germany Estate Selections catalogue: "It break-dances over the palate and sizzles away with this crazy incipient salivating sense of sweetness but of course it isn't sweet. It's like drinking wine while you're stoned, it's derangedly vivid and you can't stop laughing."

Amen to that.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Classic

Back in the year 2000, the German Wine Institute decided to coin two wine terms or categories in a bid to revive Germany's export market. These were "Classic" and "Selection". The latter was meant to equate to some sort of glorified "premium" level of dry wine with no more than 9 g/l of residual (but with an exception made for Riesling, whereby the sweetness was allowed to be 1.5 times the acidity level up to a maximum of 12 g/l). These would be labelled as having been grown in a specific vineyards and were subject to a yield cap of 60 hectolitres per hectare and a minimum ripeness level of 90 degrees Oechsle. "Classic", on the other hand, applied to wines that were meant to be "harmoniously dry" ("harmonisch trocken") with residual sugar levels of no more than 15 g/l, that had a good intensity of flavour and were typical of the specific region from which they originated. Unsurprisingly, neither of these terms caught on outside Germany. As Owen Bird pointed out in his worthwhile study on German wine, Rheingold, The German Wine Renaissance (2005), English-native-speaking consumers might believe "Classic" was something "old-fashioned" or "traditional" as opposed to a laser-sharp representation of a specific wine-growing area or grape variety, which is the meaning the German Wine Institute mistakenly thought the word would convey. The term "classic" is not the first and definitely won't be the last English word that somehow gets lost or warped in translation when used in a German context ...

Be that as it may, the "Classic" moniker within Germany does at least seem to have outlasted "Selection". I can understand why this would be the case. Notwithstanding the unfortunate "Anglo-German" usage of this particular c word, "harmoniously dry" is a style a lot of people can relate to. Consequently, the "Classic" tag plays a role in some wineries' basic entry-level ranges to this day. Such wines are relatively inexpensive and, assuming the consumer is vaguely aware of the "harmonisch trocken" remit, quite easy to grasp and enjoy. This was a good example:

Weingut Werner, Riesling Classic 2013, Mosel
A producer totally unknown to me until now. Purchased for just under 12 Swiss francs from Liechti Weine here in Basel, this wine is pale straw-yellow in appearance. Quite straightforward and linear, but by no means simplistic with pleasing scents of exotic and stone fruit. As clean as a whistle on the palate with exceedingly fresh, bright acidity. On the one hand, the lack of any of the Mosel's typically "slatey" notes maybe makes what little residual sweetness there is seem a little more obvious. On the other hand, the acidity is so pure and electrifying that this impression remains but a fleeting one. All in all, a very balanced, harmonious wine that does not pretend to hit the heights of the previous wine but simply offers good value within its price bracket.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Scharzhofberger

When I worked in summer 1998 at a vineyard in Alsace, I remember there being a bottle of German Riesling in the kitchen fridge at the winery that lay untouched for weeks. On asking about it, the reply was, "Les rieslings allemands sont trop doux" ("German Rieslings are too sweet"). Certain stereotypes are hard to shake off, I guess not least in a country resolutely convinced of its superiority in all things wine-related. The irony that Alsace wines are often anything but dry was not lost on me even back then. The bottle in that fridge was a Riesling Kabinett from the following winery. Sixteen years on, I wonder what Family Ginglinger would make of this:

Weingut Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt, Scharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett feinherb 2013, Mosel
With 9.5 percent alcohol. Straw-yellow with a greenish hue. Reticent at first but then gradually opening up to show lovely clean fruit (mostly Granny Smith with peachy suggestions) and hard, cold slate. More slightly tart apple on the palate, followed by yellower stone fruit as well as darker hints generating a certain sense of sweetness. This is held in check by pointed acidity, which in turn is moderated by a pleasant silkiness lending elegance and complexity. The finish is dry and absolutely refreshing.

This wine's constituents are in great balance. Its energetic core of acidity lends a mouthwatering quality and makes me forget that this wine isn't analytically "trocken" (i.e. under 9 grams per litre of residual sweetness) by a long, long way.

And there we have it: my first ever Scharzhofberger! Egon Müller-Scharzhof is slightly beyond my modest means ...

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Bits and bobs

Detail on Heyl zu Herrnsheim label
Some telegram-style notes on recent wines which would be too short on their own to warrant a single blog post:

Weingut Heyl zu Heynsheim, Riesling 2010, Rheinhessen
Vivid yellow. An unusual and quite brutal herbal smell. Very ripe. Herbal notes on the palate. Very dry but with plenty of inner substance. Zingy, stimulating and very interesting. More of a guilty pleasure than an easy drinker.

Weingut Knab, Endinger Engelsberg Weissburgunder Spätlese trocken 2012, Baden
Straw-yellow. Distinct whiff of freshly sliced melon on the nose. Melons aplenty on the palate too. Fresh, fruity, intense and long. "E gaanz hervorragendi Wiissburgunder", as they would say down in these parts (in Basel dialect, replace the two i's to spell "Wyssburgunder").

Weingut Eugen-Müller, Forster Pechstein Riesling Kabinett halbtrocken 2012, Pfalz
Pale straw-yellow. Mint, lime and dark stone on the nose. Limeade and mint on the palate. Dry, refreshing finish. Very addictive. Perfect for quaffing.

Prima

Edouard Graf is a one-time customer of mine who runs a gourmet restaurant on the shores of Lake Zurich and has also launched his own range of wine glasses under the pseudonym "Edi the Nose". In the past, he has also collaborated with winemakers to produce his own wines that are now served at his restaurant or available via his online shop. This is one such specimen:

"PrimaNose" DOC 2006, Edi the Nose, Azienda Agricola La Fusina, Langhe Rosso, Piedmont
This is a blend of 40% Pinot Noir, 30% Nebbiolo, 25% Barbera and 5% Dogliani. Almost opaque, dark garnet in appearance. Black olives, sultanas and black forest fruit with a hint of red berries. Over the course of three evenings, an iron, blood-like note also emerges.

Not surprisingly, given the presence of Nebbiolo and Barbera, this wine has plenty of acidity on the palate. This and the tannins generate quite a "bite" that is a tad astringent a first but then becomes pleasantly mouthwatering as the hours (and days) go by. A slight sensation of sweetness and a certain mellowness in the mouth help accentuate this. Full bodied and powerful, but elegant. The 14 percent alcohol is well masked by the overall freshness. The finish is long. After eight years, this wine is still a relative spring chicken, but is now beginning to shed some of its initial sharpness. Great stuff.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Falkenlay

As I translated the tasting note for the following wine in volume 1 of Vinipazzi at the beginning of this year, it would have been tempting to leaf through the book in question and simply copy what I wrote back then. But that would have been cheating. I recently bought a single bottle myself, so I thought it would be interesting to write my own notes and only afterwards see if they tallied in any way with author Thom Held's far more detailed impressions.

Weingut Clemens Busch, Riesling Marienburg 1. Lage* Falkenlay 2009, Mosel, Germany
* Referred to as a GG ("Grosses Gewächs" or grand cru) from 2011 onwards.

The Falkenlay plot within the Marienburg grand cru consists of grey slate. "Lay" (pronounced by English speakers in the same way as "lie") comes from the celtic "ley", meaning crag or cliff.

Golden yellow in appearance. Honey on the nose and distinctly so. The scent is already very mature after five years: quite waxy a note that the author generally refers to in his book as "Silberschleier", or a sort of "silvery veil". At the risk of sounding a little very extremely pretentious, it feels to me like a viscous film covering the rest of the wine's inner components.

Again, honey on the palate. Ripe and powerful with a firm, long (and minerally?) finish. There might not be as much zing as I'm used to, but drinking a wine such as this (that is already showing signs of maturing) is all part of the learning process. And besides, the wine's firm base consisting of what might best be described as "extract" that indefinable "stuffing" or substance that tastes dry helps offset any honeyed tail there may be.

Great stuff, but is this, my rather second-rate, badly structured, amateurish, ad hoc description, consistent with the book? Not really. I'd prefer not write out the whole tasting note ad verbatim, but my translation contains snippets such as "heady on the nose with notes of white peach", "emotional energy", "olfactory odyssey", "dense and immaculately round", and "bright pineapple notes".

My notes also lack the visuals of Vinicolori the author's way of depicting wines through the medium of colours and collages. That, however, is something best experienced by purchasing the book itself a piece of work of which, on the other hand, I'm more than a teeny weeny bit proud.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Himmelreich

This is not meant to sound condescending, but Dirk Brenneisen's wines remind me more and more of Hanspeter Ziereisen's. Like his colleague in Efringen a couple of miles down the road, Brenneisen only minimally filters his wines if at all, he chooses not to deal with piddling issues such as whether his wines are "typical" enough to earn the Qualitätswein label (he bottles everything as Landwein instead), nor is he scared of his wines having a good backbone of acidity. Let's take exhibit A.



Weingut Brenneisen, "Himmelreich" Spätburgunder trocken 2009, Baden
Dark ruby. Dense and concentrated at first, then showing forest fruits (red and black). It's less the aromas and more an overall impression of terrific sappiness and freshness that holds my attention even on the nose. I take a sip. A pronounced, bright vein of acidity washes around my mouth. The tannins have a slightly tart bitterness which amplifies this effect. Extremely fresh and vibrant almost Italian style in that way. Tremendous concentration for a wine with just 12.5 percent alcohol, with mostly dark berry fruit and chocolately hints. However, the flavours seem secondary amid the freshness and brightness that return on the finish to lend a satisfying, mouthwatering feel.

This was raised for 20 months in Burgundy barrels (barriques), of which only a third were new. Himmelreich refers to the name of the cadastral plot in which the vines were grown that's another similarity to Ziereisen, who also uses the names of specific plots for his wines.

Even at 16 euro, this is an absolute bargain.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Rausch

I think this photo also sums up the wine.
Now for something light and zingy.

Weingut Forstmeister Geltz Zilliken, Saarburg Rausch Kabinett 2011, Mosel
Straw yellow. A whiff of slate rises up from the glass. This slowly dissipates, leaving candied lime and hints of white peach. Gradually I can detect something I can only describe as slightly rubbery like a warm squash ball a minerally characteristic I've noticed in other excellent wines, red included. Candied apple on the palate; great balance between the high notes of the acidity and the fruitier, sweeter elements. Somehow concentrated and even slightly glazed, yet it remains as light as a feather. Extremely tasty and, at 8.5 percent alcohol, perfect midday fare.

Rausch the vineyard name is German for a state of intoxication, ecstasy, exhilaration or frenzy, a buzz, a high, etc.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Hölle

The following "notes" are going purely on memory, but this wine is worth a mention.

Weingut Thörle, Saulheimer Hölle Riesling trocken 2012, Rheinhessen
Bright gold-yellow in appearance, this looks copious and copious it is. This is full of goodness and charm. Voluptuous, dripping yellow fruit on the nose, including quince. Succulent and viscous on the palate. Opulent and complex. The chewy, juicy fruit is still packed tightly within. This wine is slightly baroque, but it has incredible grip and nothing is overdone. A beautiful glazed film coats the inside of my mouth and lingers and reverberates for minutes. Blimey, this is good. Anything but Hölle on earth.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Fresh

A couple of random wines that have brought enjoyment to the Jones household over the last week or so.

Weingut Dörflinger, Müllheimer Reggenhag Weissburgunder Kabinett trocken 2013, Baden
By all accounts, the latest cool-to-cold vintage is slightly dodgy for Riesling, which leads me to believe that Pinots such as this excel in 2013. I'm not far wrong if this wine is anything to go by. This is fresh and as pinpoint as Phil Taylor on the oche. Furztrocken (or as dry as a fart) as one would subtly say in German, but with plenty of sappiness and juice. As refreshing as an icy brook and as straight as a die. From now on, this is one of my favourite "summer" wines, although this doesn't necessarily have to be drunk in the summer. 

Schlossgut Ebringen, Grauburgunder trocken 2013, Baden
Bought and drunk at a local wine fest in Ebringen last weekend after an afternoon's clothes shopping in Freiburg. This was the carrot by dear wife dangled in front of me as a reward for revamping some of the contents of my wardrobe. We'd tried the sparklers and the Gutedel, but this was the best wine by far. Again, extremely precise and refreshing. Best enjoyed well chilled.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Hundertgulden III


Weingut Bischel, Appenheimer Hundertgulden Riesling trocken 2012
Quite unassuming straw yellow in appearance. Citrus scents that remind me of limoncello. Both waxy and blossomy notes, with honeysuckle and peanuts (?!) wrapped up in a savoury complex whole.
Nutmeg on the palate, with exotic papaya and passion fruit. A lovely glaze-like film covers the inside of my mouth. Copious body without becoming overly voluptuous. Great balance with ripe acidity holding everything in check. Minerally and warm undertones. Very long. There is very little separating the three Hundertguldens that I've tried (see here and here), and this specimen is excellent too.








Thursday, 14 August 2014

Phantapalastique

It's been quiet on here for a while because I've been translating another dual-language book: volume 2 of Vinipazzi, the title of which is "PHANTAPALASTIQUE. The wine does the talking" (The German title is "PHANTAPALASTIQUE. Es ist der Wein, der spricht"). That first part of the title confused me too. All will be revealed in the book itself. Author Thom Held is profiling three producers and their wines: Château Rayas (Châteauneuf-du-Pape), Henri Bonneau (Châteauneuf-du-Pape) and Marie-Thérèse Chappaz (Valais, Switzerland). Publication is not until the end of November, which is just as well because the schedule for getting everything translated, typeset and proofread umpteen times has been intentionally spaced out to give all of us involved a lot more breathing space compared to the first book.

In the meantime, here are three photos I took during the tasting sessions I was lucky enough to attend in preparation for the book.

























Sunday, 29 June 2014

Hundertgulden II

I must say, I'm liking Rheinhessen's dry Rieslings more and more. Again, this one is from the Hundertgulden vineyard.

Weingut Knewitz, Appenheimer Hundertgulden Riesling trocken 2012, Rheinhessen, Germany
Not straw-yellow, but "on the yellow side of straw" according to my initial scribbled note. There is also a slight honey/reddish tinge.

Orange, peach and ripe apricots on the nose. Forty-eight hours later: minerals, starfruit, citrus and gooseberry. Fairly opulent at first on the palate. Ripe apricot again, with middling-to-soft acidity for a Riesling. Everything is very much in concentrated form with the sort of interwoven density that is hard to capture in a few words. However, two days later and the acidity has suddenly turned quite a lot more pronounced and electrifying. Gooseberries comes to the party. Both similar and different to Hofmann's interpretation similar in that both have an unusual gooseberry touch and are extremely enjoyable, marginally different in that Knewitz's version maybe has a little more body.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Middle-High German

"Gulden" is the old German word for gold coin (from the Middle-High German guldin) and is translated into English as "guilder". I came across the word quite frequently while dabbling in Middle-High German for a semester during my first year at university. The course in question given by Dr Ashcroft mostly consisted of trying to make some sense of "Moriz von Craûn", a book of verse written by an unknown author at around the beginning of the 13th century. Sounds boring, I know, but it was still more exciting than German Linguistics with Dr Beedham ...

It was with this in mind that I recently bought three different wines all grown in the exact same vineyard called Hundertgulden, but produced by three different Rheinhessen wineries. Here is the first one.

Weingut Hofmann, Appenheimer Hundertgulden Riesling trocken 2012, Rheinhessen, Germany
I love the bottle label. It makes things fairly clear, don't you think? Each different Hofmann wine has its own individual label, incidentally. I particularly like the drawing of a kiwi (the flightless bird, not the fruit) on the Sauvignon Blanc bottle.

Along with Niersteiner Oelberg, this is Hofmann's "grand cru".*

"Only" 12.5% alcohol. Aromas of freshly sliced, dripping mango and apricot on the nose, with some pineapple and prickly gooseberry hints along with a slightly creamy note. Dense, complex and salty on the palate. As with Winter's Riesling, the acidity is very well integrated. The soil in Hundertgulden a steep south-facing slope is dominated by Muschelkalk, or shell limestone. What I do know is that this particular soil does tend to temper the acids, as do other similar chalky soils in the relative vicinity, e.g. Saumagen (Koehler-Ruprecht, Rings etc.), Am Schwarzen Herrgott (Battenfeld-Spanier), Burgweg (Knipser, Kuhn, Zelt).

Twenty-four hours after opening, I can smell a greater minerally component, although the wine still has a lovely fruity warmth. The finish is long. This is an excellent wine.


[* Although he also produces a super-premium version from old vines.]

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Winter in summer

I'd been wanting to try this Riesling for a long time. Why? Simply because of I've heard and read a lot about Stefan Winter's wines. Winter may not be quite up there yet with the likes of Wittmann and Keller, but he appears to be on the right track.

According to the VDP's classification system, this wine belongs to the Ortswein category (equivalent to a cru villages) only the next step on the ladder after Gutswein but frequently offering the best value for money of all the levels. Winter's Ortswein is effectively the second wine from his grand cru Leckerberg bottling.

Weingut Winter, Dittelsheimer Riesling "Kalkstein" trocken 2012, Rheinhessen, Germany
Straw with honey-like glints. Reticent at first, but a sophisticated whiff of honey, yellow fruit and citrus gradually emerges a theme that continues on the palate. Medium-bodied with a leesy, almost creamy texture. Full of extract and earthy tones, yet the alcohol is moderate (12.5%). The acidity is extremely well-buffered I would definitely recommend this wine to people with slightly lower acid-sensitivity thresholds than mine. The finish is noticeably longer than that of Wittmann's Gutswein a wine I covered last month.

I would say that this is a very unhurried, "relaxed" wine, i.e. it seems to have been given the necessary time to bed down in the cellar and gain added complexity before bottling. It has no grand cru pretentions but would certainly give some lesser grand crus a run for their money.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Weingräfler

Much to my delight, I recently won a quiz competition. The only other time I've won a prize in a "correct-answers-on-a-postcard" competition or its contemporary Internet equivalent was at age 10, when I came third and the prize was a set of Subbuteo figurines.

This time, the question (in German) was, "In welcher der drei Regionen wurde das aus dem Jahre 1988 stammende Foto aufgenommen?" ("In which of the three following regions was this photo taken in 1988?").

A. Sundgau
B. Swiss Jura
C. Markgräflerland

The mountain in the photo is Blauen (or Hochblauen). Except when the weather is less than ideal, I have a clear view of it whenever I look northwards out of my office window here in Basel. Therefore, the answer was C, Markgräflerland.

A package of three bottles from the "Weingräfler" range went to the first three correct answers. Fellow blogger Berthold Willi sent me my prize last month, along with an invitation to the annual presentation of the new Weingräfler vintage on 2 May. I was unable to attend the latter as we were in northern England at the time. However, the prize itself was gratefully received (and consumed).

The "Weingräfler" are a grouping of nine wine producers in Markgräflerland who each produce their own Gutedel, Spätburgunder and Spätburgunder rosé under the same respective brand names: "Grüner Markgräfler", "Blauer Markgräfler" and "Rosa Markgräfler". The wines are meant for light, easy, uncomplicated, enjoyable drinking. As an idea, I think the range is a good way of promoting Markgräflerland and its wines to a wider market. The colour-coding is excellent. The wines themselves are fun. The 2013 Grüner Markgräfler from Weingut Missbach is light, spritzy, citrusy and refreshing with no more than 10 percent alcohol. Its blue 2012 counterpart from Weingut Lämmlin-Schindler actually a red wine, but its name a wink to the varietal's full name "Blauer Spätburgunder" leads the palate on a cherry-inspired dance. Alcohol? No more than 11.5 percent. Best enjoyed slightly chilled. However, my favourite was probably the 2013 rosé from Weingut Zimmerman: beautifully balanced and refreshing, extremely versatile, only 11 percent alcohol.

As an aside, it was interesting to note that Lämmlin-Schindler's Blauer Markgräfler is also categorised as the winery's official "VDP.Gutswein" ("VDP estate wine").

Monday, 19 May 2014

Wittmann Riesling trocken

Despite being priced just on the wrong side of 10 euros, Philipp Wittmann's dry estate Riesling sells like hot cakes. I can tell why.

Weingut Wittmann, Riesling trocken 2012, Rheinhessen, Germany
This may be Wittmann's basic offering, but there is nothing basic about the colour. It has a very healthy yellowy tinge. No fruit shortage on the nose either: mostly apricot, some peach and a few exotic notes come to the fore. Initially, dry herbs show through, though these gradually retreat behind the fruit. Again, crystal-clear yellowish fruit coupled with a pleasantly dry saltiness on the palate. Slight caramel hints, too. The acidity is fresh but well balanced. The fruit generates considerable succulence. Certainly, this is more complex than your average estate wine and some more prestigious wines from other wineries I could think of. My only quibble concerns its surprisingly short finish. However, this is hard to top in the Gutswein bracket.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Stammtisch

Back in early February, I was lucky enough to visit Weingut Franz Keller in Oberbergen with a group of friends. Nestled snugly betwixt the volcanic vineyard terraces of the Kaiserstuhl, the new winery building there is a sight to behold. After being shown around the premises, we tasted some of the wines. "Alas, no Gutedel," we joked my friends and I belong to the self-styled "Gutedelstammtisch", a convivial gathering of lads who convene every second Tuesday in Binzen over Gutedel and good food, work permitting. We followed our tasting session with lunch at the Rebstock, an afternoon at the football (Freiburg 1-1 Hoffenheim), then an evening at the Rebstock again. It was a fabulous if not entirely sober day.

One of the things I said to myself thereafter was that I need to drink more wines from the white Pinot varietals, i.e. Weissburgunder, Grauburgunder and dare I say the dreaded Chardonnay. From this admittedly narrow varietal-centric perspective, I would say that Weissburgunder is my personal favourite of those three. When my wife and I had the pleasure of meeting Barry Fowden back in September last year, I remember my fellow wine blogger saying to me that he had never really warmed that much to the old "Pinot Bianco". I can't recall his exact words, but I know he was slightly underwhelmed by wines from that variety. I appreciate where he's coming from. I, for one, have experienced a certain "sameness" bordering on tedium in certain WBs over the years. On the other hand, other Weissburgunders have been a revelation, none more so recently than this one:

Weingut Ziereisen, Weißer Burgunder trocken 2012, Baden, Germany
Vivid beige in appearance. The impression on the nose is quite unique. Intense peppery notes that are reminiscent of Grüner Veltliner. Smelt blind, I might not have identified this as a Weissburgunder. Citrus, juicy peach and yoghurt play a succulent supporting role. Over time, I can also make out a herbal, savoury characteristic. It takes me a while to pinpoint the aroma, but I eventually conclude that there is something here akin to ... liverwurst.

On the palate, the citrus, peach and pepper form a congenial triumvirate. The result is highly refreshing. I also love the extra complexity and savouriness undoubtedly generated by cask-ageing and spontaneous fermentation. This has heaps of what the French call buvabilité, i.e. it is extremely drinkable. For nine euros, an absolute bargain. And just to stress: this is one of Ziereisen's more basic estate wines. I would recommend this wine to anyone.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Vinipazzi, Vol. 1

After months of work, here it is:

VINIPAZZI - "Naturschönheit. Wenn deutscher Riesling neu aufspielt" / "Nature-made beauty. The new art of German Riesling".

Thom Held wrote the original text in German. I did the English translation. The book is available at www.vinipazzi.net. Put simply, this publication is for all people who are interested wine. Here are some images from the book launch.








Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Italian

The first-ever non-Südtirol Italian wine on this blog. Long overdue. I acquired this wine as thanks for a translation job. I don't normally accept payment in kind, but I made an exception in this one particular instance. 

Azienda Agricola La Bellanotte, Merlot "Roja de Isonzo" 2007, DOC Fruili Isonzo, Italy
From Italy's north-eastern extremity. Dark ruby with slightly brown glints on the edge. Herbal with cocoa powder on the nose. Maybe some dark berry notes, though nothing I'd call obvious. Fresh on the palate with that ubiquitous cocoa again. Evident, ample tannins that are slightly drying but not at all mouth-puckering. Mouth-watering would probably be a better descriptor. The tannins have broken down somewhat since 2007 but are not yet at the end of their development. Having said that, they are at the turning point between mildly astringent freshness and something maybe a whole lot "stretched out" and drier. I quite like it.

In terms of body, this has plenty of stuffing but, overall, this wine is quite restrained, structured and elegant. The finish is middling, the enjoyment plentiful.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Brenneisen, Grauburgunder 2012

The wines of local vintner Dirk Brenneisen have featured on this blog before. The odyssey now continues with what, for me, is the most impressive of the lot so far.

Weingut Brenneisen, Grauburgunder trocken 2012, Baden, Germany
This was fermented in a large oak cask and then left on its lees for seven months. The result is an expressive, multilayered aroma with only very delicate cask notes lending a lovely savoury feel. Strawberry, honeydew melon, cashew nuts and complex smoky hints.

Well-integrated and balanced on the palate. The cask notes lift the other flavours into clear relief: mainly red berries and melon with a slight starfruit twist at the end. The wine is bone dry 0.7 g/l according to the label, but there is a fresh sweetness that belies this. Smoky, flinty notes emerge on the finish tasting blind, I might have mistaken this for a Silvaner. The alcohol level is only 12 percent but there is an amazing density of flavour. I'm not saying this is grand cru quality, but for a measly eight euros, this is the best-value wine I've enjoyed in a long while.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Naturschönheit / Nature-made beauty

***Blatant commercial plug alert***

Further to my related blog post in January, the book launch for Vinipazzi, Vol. 1 (Naturschönheit / Nature-made beauty) I did the English translation will be taking place at Restaurant Café Boy, Kochstrasse 4, Zurich on Wednesday 19 March. Vintners Helmut Dönnhoff, Peter Jakob Kühn and Clemens Busch will be there, as will Stephan Reinhardt, author of The Finest Wines of Germany (2012).


The event will kick off at 6 p.m. with some Riesling (what else?) and nibbles, followed by the actual book presentation at 6.30 p.m. From 8 o'clock, a three-course meal will be served in the company of the three wine-growers:

Menu
Filet vom Loup de Mer mit Ofentomaten auf Erbsenstampf an weissem Tomatenschaum (Sea bass filet with oven tomatoes on a pea mash with white tomato froth); wine: Roxheimer Höllenpfad (Dönnhoff)

Coq au Riesling mit Perlzwiebeln, Speck, Champignons und Croutons mit Magerquarkspätzli (Coq au Riesling with pearl onions, bacon pieces, mushrooms, croutons and low-fat spaetzle); wine: Pündericher Marienburg GG (Busch)
Dessert variations; wine: Oestricher Lenchen Auslese (Kühn)

The event is free from 6 to 8 p.m. The cost of the meal from 8 p.m. onwards is CHF 100 (including water, coffee and wine).

To sign up for the evening meal, please visit www.vinipazzi.net.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Rock solid

Daniel Vollenweider originally hails from the Swiss canton of Graubünden. His is an unconventional story. This was recently the first Vollenweider wine I've ever tasted:

Weingut Vollenweider, Felsenfest Riesling 2012, Mosel, Germany
No trocken on the label, but this is certainly dry. It's Daniel V's basic dry estate wine. "Felsenfest" literally means "rock solid", but the "-fest" bit in the name also has festive connotations, surprise surprise.

At first, this wine showed slate, slate and more slate but not much else. In fact, it felt quite thin, bony and austere on the palate. However, I should have known that this would improve 24 hours later. On the second day, it also showed mint and lemon on the nose, while the palate suddenly felt decidedly more mellow and fruitier: citrus and some tropical notes, mainly with some lacquer/varnish hints, the latter characteristic being very pleasant and not as bad as it might sound. Refreshing and sustained on the finish. Rock solid indeed.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Klingelberger Kabinett

Continuing the off-dry Riesling theme, but from a totally different locality to the Mosel:

Weinhaus Siegbert Bimmerle, Klingelberger (Riesling) Kabinett feinherb 2012, Baden, Germany
Riesling is commonly referred to as "Klingelberger" in the Ortenau, that small Riesling enclave within the otherwise Pinot-dominated region of Baden. In this case, however, Klingelberger is only mentioned on the back label. I tried this winery's flagship "Riesling Réserve" at a local wine fair a couple of years ago and was ever so slightly blown away (in the positive sense). The following wine is a more basic offering.

Overtly fruitier than the previous blog post specimen. Lime and pineapple dominate on the note along with a slightly prickly gooseberry hint, although these components need time to come to the fore showing a lot more expressively 24 hours later. Pineapple again on the palate, with refreshing, pinpoint acidity. Unsurprisingly given its more southerly origin, this has a little more "oomph" compared to the more subtle, classical Mosel Riesling from Friedrich-Wilhelm-Gymnasium. Yet, what both have in common is sheer drinkability.
 


Tuesday, 18 February 2014

School of Riesling


Some of my most favourite wines are off-dry Rieslings. Not only are their alcohol levels lower, but I often find them more versatile and harmonious with food than their trocken cousins. I also find them extremely tasty, full stop. Wines for quaffing, and unashamedly so.

Dating back to the 16th century, Friedrich-Wilhelm-Gymnasium is one of Germany's oldest schools (Gymnasium is German for "grammar school"). It's also the name of a winery of the same name. How cool is that?


Weingut Friedrich-Wilhelm-Gymnasium, Riesling feinherb 2012, Mosel, Germany
I had only half-turned when the screw-top enclosure popped up into the air and hit the kitchen ceiling of its own accord. Quite a bit of carbon dioxide in there, then! However, this quickly dissipated, leaving a nose of fresh red apples and apricot. Ripe apple initially on the palate, then with some steely acidity and a satisfying, lip-smackingly juicy yet dry finish. This is a beautiful wine with just 11 percent alcohol. It is also straightforward in that it doesn't tax the old grey cells too much. On the other hand, it is as clean as a whistle and full of integrity. Simple pleasures are sometimes the best.