It is moments like this when I feel a little embarrassed to write about a wine. I often wish we had more wines to complain about so that we can prove that we are wine bloggers of the really critical sort. However, this is a blog about the wines we drink for pleasure, not for profit, so we try as hard as possible to find wines that we think we might like. When I bought this Riesling from the Rheingau, I hoped it would be good, really good. I had no idea it would be so good that even after going to bed I could still be heard mumbling 'this is fantastic'. Before you read on be warned though: you may seriously hate this wine.
Wow, this doesn't look very German! - with these words an English friend of mine greeted Philipp Kuhn's Mano Negra. I opened this bottle recently at a small tasting I had organised for friends. Most had never tried a German red, and none had ever seen anything (German) quite so intense in colour. This cuvée of Blaufränkisch (literally 'Blue Frankish) and Cabernet Sauvignon comes from the Pfalz, a region that keeps impressing me with its variety of exciting red wines.
In my quest to find interesting German and Austrian wines in UK supermarkets, I recently came across an excellent Austrian Grüner Veltliner, sold in Sainsbury's 'taste the difference' range. I love Grüner, especially with food, and this wine had the added benefit of being made by a well known Austrian winemaker, Markus Huber. When I saw that the 2009 vintage hit the shelves, I had to grab a bottle to see if it would be as good as the 2008.
Rheingau - rumour has it was here where Charlemagne had a vineyard and where the concept of 'Spätlese' (late harvest) was invented in the 18th century (albeit by accident). While red wine is on the rise pretty much everywhere else in Germany, the Rheingau (think of the Rhine near Wiesbaden/Frankfurt) is still unchallenged Riesling country. The Künstler family are among the most prominent producers in the area, known mostly for the Riesling from the 'Hölle' (literally 'hell') and 'Kirchenstück' ('church piece') vineyards.
Weinhof Herrenberg is Claudia and Manfred Loch's place, a tiny winery with just two hectares in Schoden on the River Saar that they have built up more or less from scratch, plot by plot, and with somewhat precarious resources. This is a very different history from the Van Volxem enterprise, which came with heavy investment, grander plans and more ambitious marketing from day one. Still, both outfits share some similarities. Both were willing to look beyond the winemaking traditions of the last few decades. Both managed to create a new kind of Saar Riesling that was actually a recreation of the pre-1950s style: Ripe wines with more powerful fruit and less prominent acidity than has been, and still is, "traditional" on the Saar. With their enthusiasm and nonconformism they have, between them, managed to break open the wine scene on this Mosel tributary, which had been dominated by an establishment of aristoricatic estates with a somewhat patrician attitude. High time we had a closer look at what Herrenberg has to offer, then, and we'll start with one of their mid-range dryish Riesling (they only make Riesling):
Nice try, Reichsgraf zu Hoensbroech, but you cannot fool the ever-alert Wine Rambler! We know that your whimsically named "Blauer Limberger" is no other grape than Lemberger, known in Austria as - say it with me - Blaufränkisch. In Germany, Lemberger has its home in Württemberg, to which the Reichsgraf's Baden sub-region of Kraichgau is very close.
The Mosel, heartland of the German Riesling, valley of steep slopes, home of castles and ruins - what better place to spend a holiday and taste some wine? Molly Hovorka, food-wine-travel blogger of Baking in Stilettos recently embarked on such a Mosel adventure, and she was kind enough to share her travel story with the Wine Rambler's readers - who may know her from a previous guest ramble, on the subject of Hungary's unique white wines. A highly recommended read, as is the following ramble on her Mosel adventure. Enjoy, and learn.
Mosel travels, a guest ramble by Molly Hovorka
It’s hard to believe that I’ve become such a lover of German wines. Years and years ago, I had the opportunity to attend a tasting of 40+ German wines from the West Coast’s top importer. To say I didn’t like them would be an understatement: I believe I described them as tasting like flat grape soda, and weak soda at that, and left having purchased two bottles of Spanish wine from the bargain bin.
I could kick myself today. No doubt we were tasting amazing wines that day; I believe the cheapest on the table was around $40/bottle and the prices went up sharply from there. Happily, my taste has changed and now nothing delights me more than the acidity, bright fruit, comparatively low alcohol content, and, most especially, the minerality of Mosel Riesling.
The 2009 vintage in Germany has received lots of praise, in many cases way before the first wines were bottled and sometimes even before the last grapes were harvested. So it is high time for the Wine Rambler to more systematically explore what the vintage has to offer. Today's object of study, a Riesling (from the Rheinhessen region) that answers to the name of Ice Stream ('Eisbach'). It is one of the basic wines produced by the Battenfeld-Spanier winery, just a little above their range of entry wines. Over the past years, Battenfeld-Spanier have built up an impressive reputation, both for entry and grand cru level wines, so I was curious to eventually get round to try one of their Rieslings.
The blessed grace of waking up
Of breathing in the sheets
And hello to you, at the window
Hello to you
Down the hill I'd like to take you
To where I shot a little deer,
My little dear I'd like to take you down there
Rinsing out the iron cup
To have a glass of wine
To have an iron cup of wine
Dear, to drink it down there
With the raspberry season coming to an end, it is high time to write up what is one of my favourite desserts and also one of my favourite wine and food pairings: tarragon custard on raspberry purée with a lovely, sweet Riesling from the Mosel. This recipe brings together sweet, sour, acidity, bitterness, fruit and a herbal creaminess - components that are present in both wine and pudding.
You will need for this (for four): raspberries (200g), sugar (50g), fresh tarragon, 4 eggs, double cream (150ml), milk (150ml) and cocoa powder. And a sweet Riesling, of course.
And yet again I am drinking a Pinot from sun-kissed Baden; this time it is a Pinot Blanc, known in Germany as Weißburgunder (=white Burgundy). As I have written a lot about the producer, the Salwey family recently, I will keep this introduction short and jump right into the wine:
The bouquet is a mixture of melon and apple - Bramley apple, in particular -, with earthy mineral, soft notes of hand lotion and, surprisingly, the faintest hint of petrol. Light, smooth and enticing.
Despite being as egalitarian and anti-aristocratic in outlook as any wine blog, you will from time to time find the Wine Rambler taking a keen interest in one of Germany's nobleman winemakers.
There are good reasons for that: First of all, while being able to trace your forefathers back through a few centuries of high politics and lordly splendour certainly doesn't make you a better winemaker (or a better man, for that matter), it does often provide us historian Ramblers the kind of background story we enjoy. Secondly, in the spirit of our site's motto, we take cruel pleasure in the phonetic challenge german wine labels confront our readers with, and we believe we have found a little gem here: If Reichsgraf zu Hoensbroech doesn't leave a trail of destruction across anglo-saxon larynxes, we will be disappointed indeed. With our Reichsgraf here specifically, there is a third reason:
Ladies and Gentlemen, we'd like to welcome you to another instalment of the series unusual and aged beers with the Wine Rambler. This time we present a trio of cute little birds, ah, beers, an ale of fifteen years age, even older Trappist beers and the strongest lager in the world. Imagine the last bit read by Jeremy Clarkson: 'the strongest lager beer [pause] in the world.' So come in, kind reader, and follow us on our ongoing journey of beer-exploration.
So, for those of you who are new to this game the basics. My friend Mike is a connoisseur of good beer. In fact, like a good wine lover he buys beer to lay it down for a few years, in some cases even decades. And lucky for the Wine Rambler now is the time to drink some of them. In fact, we have done this a few times now, and last week was time to drink up some of the leftovers. Pretty exciting leftovers, I'd say though.
For two weeks I have been agonising about whether to write this wine review or not. I knew that there was no way I could do this wine justice, but I also felt I had something that needed to be said. What makes for a very pompous start does actually come down to a simple lesson: if you are exhausted and have a cold, don't open a wine you want to write about. So, kind reader, take this review with an even bigger pinch of salt than you should take any tasting notes.
Maybe I can make up for the lack of being precise or fair in my description of the wine by giving it a little context. Regular readers of the Wine Rambler will know that we are on a mission to explore English wine. Some of our past exploits have been failures, some boring, some great successes. All were fun. So when I headed out to the Sussex coast earlier this year to visit Hastings with friends, we made a detour to the Carr Taylor winery. Back at home I found that mysteriously a bottle of an award winning sparkling wine had found its way into my rucksack.