Wednesday, 26 November 2014


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.