TheWineRambler "A German wine label is one of the things life's too short for" - Kingsley Amis



November 2009

Posted by Torsten 30 Nov 2009

A little while ago a friend opened a New Zealand fruit explosion for me, a bottle of Astrolabe Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. This was quite unusual as my friend has been a self declared beer drinking proletarian for a long time, so I was curious to taste the wine that got him so excited.

Posting the wine review here on the Wine Rambler led to something else that was unusual: Jason Yank, the general manager of Astrolabe Wines, contacted us – but not so much to applaud or critique the review, but to comment on a detail: my friend had mentioned to me that he saw helicopters used in winemaking in NZ to press down warm air in order to control the ripening of the grapes. However, this was not entirely correct: 'The use of choppers in NZ is purely to help bring down the inversion layer of air', Jason explained, 'during, what would otherwise be, quite catastrophic frost events. Nothing to do with ripening....' Jason also foolishly offered to provide more information, should the Wine Rambler be interested – which of course we are!

Posted by Torsten 22 Nov 2009

About once per season the London branch of the Wine Rambler assembles a coalition of willing wine drinkers in London. The mission: to drink some god-damn wine. Mostly German wine. This time, however, we had new rules - every wine was tasted blind, its identity only to be revealed after the judges had come to a verdict. Also new was the excessiveness: between the eight of us (two arrived late, one left early) we opened nine bottles, although not every wine was finished. So let's jump right in, shall we?

Posted by Torsten 22 Nov 2009

Yellow colour with a shiny golden sparkle - very promising. The nose even better: cool mineral, herbs, lemon and peach - very pleasant peach indeed, but not overwhelming, and some apple, which adds just the right amount of bitter. The peach continues right onto your tongue, giving the Riesling an elegant juiciness, while the apple and especially mineral dominate the first half of the long finish. A wine with good structure, elegance but also a certain assertiveness, Georg Mosbacher's dry late harvest Riesling convinces from start to finish - even two days after I opened the bottle it stays sharp and clear. What can I say, a really good wine!

Posted by Torsten 22 Nov 2009

When you have a Bordeaux style French red in your glass and it is actually German, it could very well be Thomas Seeger's Cuvée Anna. I opened a bottle Friday night for a group of friends without telling them what it was and the guesses ranged from Argentinian Cabernet to Syrah or French Malbec. In fact, Cuvée Anna is a blend of Pinot Noir, Schwarzriesling and Lemberger. Lemberger is a grape variety also know as Blaufränkisch (especially in Austria), and is know to create wines with sometimes spicy dark berry flavour, some tannins and good acidity - 'Anna' has all of the above. Schwarzriesling, literally Darkriesling, is also known as Pinot Meunier and is interestingly used in the production of Champagne (although Pinot Noir is much better known in this respect). [read the full post...]

Posted by Torsten 21 Nov 2009

A fairly dark Pinot Noir, the 07 Vitus has a seriously dry nose: smoky, toasted oak, a little yeast and a little cherry fruit - more serious than playful, I would say. The wine is also not very fruity on the tongue, where leather and a hint of pepper are added to the mix. It does not feel heavy though, partly due to its fresh acidity. The finish is good, marinated cherries, acidity and tannins, but reasonably smooth, and a bit of woodland aroma with the tiniest hint of chocolate. [read the full post...]

Posted by Torsten 21 Nov 2009

It has been a while since I had my last English wine; so far my exploration of local produce has had mixed results, but then I have never systematically looked into English wine. Denbies is an estate that is hard to overlook though, seeing as they are the largest largest single estate vineyard in the UK. Located near Dorking in Surrey, the winery makes a lot of the fact that the North Downs have the same soil-chalk structure as the Champagne. The Surrey Gold, however, that we opened yesterday, is not a sparkling, but rather a "deliciously fragrant off dry wine [that] is rich in fruit and floral aromas with subtle hints of spice and a crisp finish", as the label informs us. It also tells us that the wine is a blend of Müller-Thurgau, Bacchus and Ortega; what it does not mention is the vintage.

Anna looking for colour in the Surrey GoldAnna looking for colour in the Surrey Gold

Posted by Torsten 21 Nov 2009

People have very different ideas about wine labels, including people in wineries, of course, and that must be a good thing as it creates a certain variety. The artist-designed label of this year's GrüVe is certainly very distinctive, although I cannot say that I like the way in which it overpowers the whole bottle to the point that you see nothing else. But that just is the tradition of the Sonnhof estate's GrüVe label, an entry level Austrian Grüner Veltliner from one of Austria's premier wineries.

Posted by Torsten 21 Nov 2009

Sun-kissed Baden, the southernmost of Germany's wine growing regions, specialises on Pinots: Pinot Noir, Pinot Bianco and Pinot Gris/Grigio (or Spätburgunder, Weißburgunder and Grauburgunder), and for some reason we have so far only reviewed Spät- und Weißburgunder from Baden on the Wine Rambler. So it was high time to open a bottle of Grauburgunder and and do some reviewing - and this time it was not just me, but a group of British wine drinkers who joined the London Wine Rambler for a night of fun yesterday. [read the full post...]

Posted by Torsten 21 Nov 2009

Perhaps unusually for a Mosel winemaker, Clemens Busch is well known for his dry Riesling - he also makes off-dry and sweet wines, but when we visited the winery in 2008 I mostly brought home dry wines. Vom Roten Schiefer - "from red slate" - was one of them.

All starts with a nice golden colour and a nose of a mineral, stone fruit (peach and plum), camomile tea, honey and paraffin wax. All of that made for a substantial, matured impression. On the tongue the Riesling is quite full-bodied and a well rounded, caramel richness. Exotic fruit and ripe plum mix well with noticeable, fresh acidity and a kick of spice. A rich yet elegant wine with a little attitude.

Posted by Julian 20 Nov 2009

So the parcel from Ziereisen, one of my very favourite wine estates, has finally arrived, open one right now, methinks, so let's see, oh yeah, here's just the thing:

Steingrüble 2008, a serious dry single-vineyard version of a regional white grape known as Gutedel in Germany, and Chasselas in Switzerland. Been dying to try it.

Nice dark straw colour, appetizing ripe fruit in the nose, hay, mineral freshness and - uh oh - what's this, oh no, it's...

- cut, change of scene -

...imagine that wine has only been invented in 2009. Someone has come up with a way to ferment grape juice into a tasty alcoholic beverage, a corporate board has been set up for branding and packaging this exciting new product, and we are now live with its last decisive meeting: [read the full post...]

Posted by Julian 17 Nov 2009

What to write about a wine that's so annoyingly perfect that it has the peachy fruit, has the stones, has the sweetness, has the acid, has those first camomile and petrol hints of age, has the balance and has all the elegance that sweet Riesling can bring.

Not much to say about a wine which will let any of the Wine Rambler's snobbish bonmots and bad puns roll of it anyway.

I'll make this confession, then: Us having enjoyed this with a dear friend who not only makes a fiendishly good mousse au chocolat, but also likes good Spätlesen, amid general contentment, I couldn't help this thought creeping its way into my sluggish brain: This wine is too nice. Yeah, it's boring. There, I've said it.

Posted by Torsten 16 Nov 2009

Some wines are waiting for a special occasion. My Pinot Noir "R" from the Molitor winery had been waiting almost ten years for its time to come (although most of it in the cellars of the Molitor estate at the Moselle) - until a friend invited me to Oxfordshire for an autumn Sunday in the countryside, including a braised duck. So off I went, and the Pinot Noir from the Moselle came with me. And boy was it worth the wait (although I am not sure if the wine really cared as much about it as we did).

Traditionally, the Moselle - or Mosel, as the German call it - is known as the home of the German Riesling, especially the lighter, fruitier and sweeter Riesling that regularly wins high ratings in international wine challenges. However, since the 1980s or so, red wine has slowly made its return. Molitor started planting Pinot Noir about 20 years ago and has received a lot of praise for his Spätburgunder, also from the Wine Rambler. This is not only the oldest Molitor wine for us to review so far, but also the oldest Pinot Noir. [read the full post...]

Posted by Julian 15 Nov 2009

This one was recommend by Captain Cork, my favourite german language wine blog. At first, I was a little nervous whether it would be able to handle a Pollo arosto con i limoni. After a few sips, however, It was the chicken I started to worry for:

A hefty dose of fresh oak in the nose, but with it creamy yellow fruit, orange peel, and a tangy saltiness.

New oak dominates the mouth as well, very powerful and long, in no way what I have associated with the Sauvignon Blanc grape, but smoke, roasted almonds, and finally a funky, sulphuric brimstone minerality that stays on the palate for minutes. [read the full post...]

Posted by Torsten 14 Nov 2009

Wine tastings are like battlefields, it is everyone for themselves - or so I have heard people say. Actually, at least the recent VdP tasting in Munich was more like playing a part in the submarine movie Das Boot. Periscope out, zoom in on the next lovely wine and then you give the order: 'Both planes zero. Stand by battle stations.' 'Bottle one through four are ready.', the reply is almost instantaneous. However, before you can strike your helpless target, sonar picks up that sound again: Swoosh slurp swoosh schrub slurp. A split second of panic, then you go: 'Close bow caps! Dive!' Luckily, the enemy passes above you and disappears again. 'Is it getting louder?' 'It seems constant. Ahead of us.' The awaits your next move. As the Old Man said in Das Boot: 'Now it gets psychological, friends.'

That it was, but also great fun with some amazing wines, this year's VdP wine tasting in Munich. VdP stands for 'Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweingüter', or Association of German Prädikat Wine Estates, a group of highly decorated German estates, 'the world’s oldest association of top-quality wine estates'. Every year in November some VdP members hold a wine tasting in Munich. And the Wine Rambler attends, hungry for prey.

Posted by Torsten 12 Nov 2009

After having spent quite some time on the Silvaner grape recently, I felt the need to explore Weißburgunder (Pinot Blanc) again, especially as a decent food wine was needed. And as I just heard the the Seeger estate has been accepted into the prestigious club of the VdP (the German association of premier wine estates), it seemed a good idea to open Seeger's basic Pinot Blanc with some food. [read the full post...]

Posted by Torsten 10 Nov 2009

Autumn, wine tasting time – at least for the Wine Rambler. After my visit to the recent London Wine Show, both the London and Munich branches of the Rambler joined forces for the Weinherbst München (wine autumn Munich). A fairly large two day tasting, Weinherbst took place in the old town hall, right in the city centre of Munich. One day of sampling wines from some 70 producers cost 9 € (12 € on the door) - good value if you consider the amount of wine on offer.

Posted by Julian 09 Nov 2009

Dark straw colour.
A nose of candied lemon and orange peel, with slate minerality and a tiny bit of vegetal roughness.
Candied lemon peel and "slate" are also prominent in the taste, with a hint of bitterness on the finish.

This very enjoyable Riesling from an up-and-coming producer ranges between the the lighter "traditional" mosel off-dry style and the more opulent and creamy "harmonic dry" created by the likes of Reinhard Löwenstein, Van Volxem and Clemens Busch. Not a bad place to be.

Posted by Torsten 05 Nov 2009

A nose of mineral, citrusy acidity and tobacco welcome you when you pour this Riesling from the Palatinate into a glass. Add some herbs and peach and you get a really pleasant nose that is fresh, crisp and light at the same time. The Riesling is quite similar on your tongue too, light and fresh with notable acidity and some slightly bitter vegetable elements that are a nice balance to the juiciness and, yes!, the tobacco. This organic wine seems quite light at first, but can also show some teeth. Enjoyable and fresh, with quite interesting tobacco notes, the Christmann wine is a pleasant companion, but also not quite a revelation - with a little more substance it could have been though. A decent showing for the price.

Posted by Torsten 05 Nov 2009

While the week comes to an end, it is getting time for some wine news from the Internet: the miscellaneous, the bizarre, the enlightening. Let's start with Spar. 'Spar' means 'save money' in German (and, as I understand, also in several other languages such as Dutch, Danish or Norwegian) and I always took it for a smallish continental food retailer, until I found out that it actually is one of the world's largest. Maybe it is this international aspect of the business that has convinced Spar to go local with regards to wine. In the UK, Spar is now selling wines with the labels translated, well, not into English, but into regional dialects. [read the full post...]

Posted by Torsten 02 Nov 2009

It is still 2009, the year of the Silvaner grape in Germany - and the Wine Rambler is of course drinking Silvaner. After a full committee meeting last Saturday enjoyed an outstanding Silvaner from Franconia, the London branch of the Wine Rambler jumped right back into Silvaner, this time with a more aged wine - another outstanding example of what a competent winemaker can do with this grape.

Posted by Julian 02 Nov 2009

Large wineries owned by immensely land-rich historic trusts are a typical feature of the franconian wine scene, especially in Würzburg. As these go back to charitable - or not so charitable - institutions founded in the late middle ages or the 16th century, they have had some time to accumulate land, assets and reputation. By running wineries alongside hospitals (that's where the "spital"-part comes from), nursing homes and real estate operations, they preserve a forgotten model of business, social services and agriculture whose usefulness must have seemd self-evident to citizens in many premodern cities. [read the full post...]

Posted by Sabine 01 Nov 2009

Autumn sun. Full moon. And now's the time, the time is now, to sing my song: Ramble On.

Leaves are falling all around, It's time I was on my way.
Thanks to you, I'm much obliged for such a pleasant stay.
But now it's time for me to go. The autumn moon lights my way.
For now I smell the rain, and with it pain, and it's headed my way.
Sometimes I grow so tired, but I know I've got one thing I got to do...

Ramble On, And now's the time, the time is now, to sing my song.
I'm goin' 'round the world, I got to find my girl, on my way.
I've been this way ten years to the day, Ramble On,
Gotta find the queen of all my dreams.

Got no time to for spreadin' roots, The time has come to be gone.
And to' our health we drank a thousand times, it's time to Ramble On.