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



December 2009

Posted by Julian 29 Dec 2009

Winter evenings, we are constantly reminded, are the time to open the big reds, bring out the big guns, release the heavy hitters. That may be so, but light, elegant reds that do not clobber the food or the taster are always in season.

From Blauer Portugieser (a red grape once common across Germany, Austria and eastern Europe but now declining), and Schwarzriesling (nothing to do with Riesling, but Pinot Meunier, of blanc-de-noirs champagne fame), Lukas Krauß makes this wonderfully bright cherry-coloured wine, named in honour of his grandfather.

Posted by Torsten 29 Dec 2009

It is time again to write up some wine relate news: the juicy, the interesting, the random and all other sorts of miscellaneous wine information the Wine Rambler happened to stumble upon over the past few weeks.

Let's start with one of your favourite topics, women and wine. Apparently, girls are somewhat intimidated by buying wine and they need a little help to overcome that fear: if the wine label is pink, features stilettos or if the wine is called 'Girls' Night Out' or 'Bitch', girls are apparently more likely to buy it. This is according to the Canadian National Post that recently ran an article entitled ">Wine, women and wrong?, asking the question: 'Do tarted-up labels do a disservice to female drinkers?' I do wonder why they do not consider that men too might want to make a wine their personal bitch? [read the full post...]

Posted by Torsten 27 Dec 2009

If it comes to really powerful red wines, I have come to love what the Spanish do with the Tempranillo variety. At their best these wines are powerful yet not overpowering, bringing the thunder without forgetting the elegance. Bodegas Aalto is one of the wineries that got a lot of praise over the past few years - which is remarkable seeing as the only got into business around 1998. On the other hand, it may not be so remarkable after all as the people behind Bodegas Aalto are well respected wine professionals: winemaker Mariano Garcia (who came to fame at Ribera del Duero's Vega Sicilia) and Javier Zaccagnini (formerly head of the 'Consejo Regulador', the regulatory body of the Ribera del Duero appellation).

With financial backing from investors such as the Sherry company Osborne, they bought vineyards in the Ribera del Duero, some of them with 60 year old Tinto Fino vines (a Tempranillo clone), and started restoring them. The first wine, the 1998 vintage, was not as good as hoped and was never commercialised, but the later vintages put the winery into the premier league of Spanish winemakers.

Posted by Torsten 26 Dec 2009

Christmas time, a time of peace, quiet reflection and many calories. The Wine Rambler's Christmas was no different, just add a few more extra calories from lovely wine to the mix. And because combining the food and wine was such a joy, I am going to share some of it with you now. It all started with a sea bass in salt crust with a dry Muscadet, which was a pleasantly light way to kick off the festive food and wine season. After that I felt the need to be more robust and moved on to braised oxtail:

Posted by Torsten 26 Dec 2009

The Wittmann winery recently got a lot of attention from us - and what is not to like? A wine making family with lots of tradition (been in the business since 1663), unafraid to try new things (they went biodynamic five years ago), and, well, more than capable to deliver the thunder to your wine glass. The latest Wittmann in our collection is no exception here, even though it is not entirely without problems.

I opened the bottle of Weißburgunder (Pinot Blanc) because I was looking for a dry wine with a bit of substance to be strong yet delicate enough to go with roast partridge. What I got was almost more than what I bargained for, because this wine is indeed quite strong. [read the full post...]

Posted by Torsten 25 Dec 2009

Certain ways of cooking fish and shellfish just cry out for a clean, light and crisp dry white wine - especially if you bake a whole sea bass in a salt crust. This is an excellent way to celebrate the delicate flavour of fish and it works well with a range of fish, including sea bream. Just put a little pepper and some herbs into the fish and then cover the whole fish in a dough made of salt, water and perhaps a few egg whites. This seals in all the moisture and preserves the delicate flavours of the fish. Serve the fish just with a bit of olive oil, pepper and salt, perhaps a little lemon and enjoy with very simple side dishes, perhaps just a few slices of white bread.

And make sure to select a wine that will not overpower the fish - I find a dry Muscadet works very well in this context.

Posted by Torsten 21 Dec 2009

What could be a better Christmas present than a mammoth tusk? If you too cannot imagine anything better, you are certainly in line with some of the staff and customers of Harrods, the famous London department store.

I visited this temple of conspicuous consumption earlier today, but as I had already organised all my Christmas presents a while ago, I showed the tusk and another £47,000 fossil that also was on sale the cold shoulder and moved on to the wine shop in the basement, eager to explore what delights it might offer - especially with regards to German wine. I mean, where better to go, one would think, than Harrods if it comes to finding something unusual and extraordinary, right?

Posted by Julian 19 Dec 2009

Very dark, blackish colour.

Great smell: Cassis, plums, cherry jam, tar and candied sugar.

Seems to go through two phases in the mouth, with nice sour cherry fruit, fresh acidity and coal at first, followed by subtle oak, vanilla, smoke and ash.

This more than convincing Bordeaux takes its stand between the traditional and the more accessible "international" style and actually gains complexity and tension from that. We (Mr. and Mrs. Munich Wine Rambler with two nice guests) really enjoyed this one, because it seemed to appeal to the snob as well as to the occasional drinker, without being a bland compromise.

Posted by Julian 19 Dec 2009

When you see one of the Knipser brothers behind a table at a tasting, good-naturedly chatting with his customers while stoically pouring glasses for the thickening throng, there is nothing to suggest he might be anything more than another ruddy-cheeked wine grower from the Pfalz. And yet, the Knipser estate is arguably germany's most accomplished winery, in that they overachieve so consistently in every category and style - white and red, heavy and light, sweet and dry.

This one is light and dry, and, surprise surprise, perfectly made: Wonderful fresh acidity, clean, fragrant, slightly exotic Riesling fruit (think grapefruit and passion fruit), lean structure, light on the alcohol. Not deeply mineral or complex, but so flawlessly made it's a joy to drink.

Posted by Torsten 17 Dec 2009

London, so the MetOffice tells us, is about to descend into a snow chaos this night. While this may mean that tomorrow evening it will be time for hearty food with a robust red wine, tonight I felt more like spicy food and so I prepared a stir-fry. I use this simple recipe fairly often, it basically involves frying small bits of chicken breast in butter and then adding chopped peppers, green curry paste and lemon juice - the latter nicely balances the flavours and gives it that nice, fresh kick of acidity. So opening a Riesling seemed like the logical choice, and as the food was not overly spicy I thought I could get away with a dry Riesling. A particular bottle from the Wittmann winery had looked at me in this peculiar way for a couple of weeks now, so the choice was easy.

Yes, that does read 'seit 1663' ('since 1663') in the top right corner of the label...Yes, that does read 'seit 1663' ('since 1663') in the top right corner of the label...

Posted by Torsten 16 Dec 2009

Today I do not feel like wine. In fact, I am drinking a lager, imported to London all the way from Munich - where they know damn well how to make good beer - and I am in the mood for Christmas. So I am going to share this little miracle, featuring one of my all-time heroes:

[read the full post...]

Posted by Torsten 15 Dec 2009

Imagine the Winesleuth comes to visit. Well, a good week ago fellow London-based wine blogger Denise did actually come over for dinner. And as Winesleuths and -ramblers cannot be without wine for too long, we had to taste two German Rieslings. One was the a deliciously sweet Riesling, the 2007 Goldtröpfchen Spätlese from the Haart winery, which was reviewed here before. The first was a Riesling too, but a dry one the Löwenstein winery. Here is what Denise had to say about it (so I guess this is our first guest-blog, in a way): [read the full post...]

Posted by Julian 13 Dec 2009

Most current wine marketing revolves around the attempt to associate wine with "nature", and to make not technical refinement, but true representation of the soil and the land the measure for wine quality. So you have your natural wine bandwagon on the one side, with your organic winegrowing, your biodynamics, your "slow" winemaking, your "natural wine". And then you have Natural wine with a capital N. And there you have your non-sulphurisers, your amphorae-diggers, your oxidizers, purists, extremists and experimentalists. Angiolino Maule from northern Italy's veneto is one of those. This wine is naturally fermented in open wooden barrels, not shielded from oxygen, unfined and unfiltered, with no added sulphur. [read the full post...]

Posted by Julian 13 Dec 2009

Deep, but transparent cherry red, going brown around the edge.
Wonderful mature pinot smell, wet forest floor, plum juice, quite dense and so seductive.
Dense, but also transparent fruit, salty mineral flavours, noticeable, but by now perfectly integrated oak. It ends like a great lunch, with chocolate and coffee notes.
Excellent, a real pleasure to smell and drink.

This was my second-to-last bottle, and I didn't enjoy the previous ones nearly as much. Maybe my palate is adjusting more and more to the lighter, more elegant style of Spätburgunder (possible), or else this wine has just reached the drinking age that brings out its very best (also possible, four to six years being generally a good age to drink the better german pinots at, in my humble experience).

Posted by Torsten 11 Dec 2009

Whenever I drink a lightly (pleasantly!) oaked Chardonnay these days I think of Tom Aikens, a fine restaurant in South West London. I have not been there very often, but single time the sommelier surprised me with an unusual combination of food and wine and also with bringing out my (usually) hidden love for lightly oaked Chardonnay. The wine I have in my glass right now is not a Chardonnay and I am enjoying it at home, without the delight of Tom Aikens' food. Even so, it brings back some good memories. And it is not a Chardonnay, but an Auxerrois. Auxerrois is a relatively unknown and rare grape variety that can be quite similar to Chardonnay and Weißburgunder (Pinot Blanc). [read the full post...]

Posted by Julian 06 Dec 2009

The wine rambler wraps up this years Silvaner seasons with a blind tasting match. A creamy risotto of caramelised apples, sage and roasted walnuts is on the plates, and two dry 2008 Silvaner Kabinetts are waiting in the glasses of our carefully selected jury.

One hails from the franconian Silvaner heartland, from a nobleman's renowned estate, the other from a young self-described wine grower ("Weinbauer") of the palatine lowlands, as far from Germany's wine nobility as you can possibly get, but with a fierce love for the Silvaner grape. An uneven match, and, what with two completely different bottle shapes, a logistically demanding one. Ok, then, Casteller Hohnart from Castell and just plain Silvaner from Lukas Krauß, let's have a good clean fight from the two of you, no low punches or artificial aromas.

Posted by Julian 06 Dec 2009

Sometimes I think that we should have a wine history segment on the wine rambler. Maybe we will some day. It should be fun to explore some of the microhistory in individual vineyard names, and to maybe get a grip on parts of the larger story of how the wine world that we know and love (well, some of it) came about. The breakup of large noble and monastic estates after 1803 within the crumbling holy roman empire would have to be such a period that changed the landscape of wine making beyond recognition. Or did it? [read the full post...]

Posted by Julian 06 Dec 2009

Lukas Krauß, 21 years old, is a winemaker, no that's wrong, he is, proudly, a wine grower („Weinbauer“) from the Pfalz. And not the most prestigious part of the Pfalz, either. He is not listed in many wine guides nor will you have heard his name dropped in the wine blogosphere. But if you, like the wine rambler, are sometimes tired of the visual soft pornography and the worn out old clichés that are wine marketing, and want something that is personal, honest, stylish and funny, here is a name for you to remember, and here also is a site for you to look at:

http://www.lukaskrauss.de

We liked him instantly, and you will soon hear more from Lukas on the wine rambler, something that we look forward to very much. [read the full post...]

Posted by Torsten 05 Dec 2009

Here I am, drinking a wine from the end of the world. This is both true in geographic terms, seeing as the wine is from Patagonia, and it is also true as the winery is called 'Winery from the end of the world' (Bodega del Fin del Mundo). This Bodega is a fairly new venture, about ten years old, and they grow a variety of red and white varietals on 870 hectares of land. As this part of Patagonia is fairly dry, the vineyards need a computer controlled irrigation system - the water comes from 20 kilometres away and a complete water channel system had to be built for the irrigation. This apparently took two years, and the first vineyards were planted in 1999 - protected from the wind by a complex system of windbreakers. Scared away by all that technology? [read the full post...]

Posted by Julian 03 Dec 2009

Wittmann needs no introduction, neither in the german wine scene nor on this site. They are well known as one of the leading lights from Rheinhessen, although it's always worth pointing out that they went seriously organic long before that became fashionable. The Westhofener is their mid-range dry Riesling, somewhere in between the single vineyard Große Gewächse and the simpler varietal QbA.

And you couldn't wish for better if, say, a friend had just fried a piece of tuna in a sesame crust for you:

Deep peachy Riesling fruit, razorlike yet ripe acidity, minerality, a great mixture of fruity power and mineral tension.

Another winner from an estate that seems incapable of making mediocre wine.