As a wine drinking year, 2010 was not without its disappointments. Among them, a Bacchus that bored us to tears, a burgundy that let us down - and, most grimly, a swamp gas attack from the Loire that we would rather not talk about just yet. The ritual that helps us get over these low points is the yearly selection of the Wine Rambler's top five german wines. The shortlist was substantial as always, and the choice was not taken lightly - and by the way, one of our favourite daydreams is that sentences like this might one day cause actual nervousness among german wine makers.
So, national anthem, please, for the winners:
Seeing how good their reputation is, it was high time for us to review a wine made at the Willi Schaefer winery. The Schaefer estate is run by Willi and Christoph Schaefer, father and son, who on a few hectares of steep Mosel land exclusively grow Riesling. They feature a label design that just screams traditional Germanic Mosel style, bordering on cute cliché. I like it, of course. The family also seem to be traditional in other ways as they still don't have a website. Or they hide it. There is nothing that needs hiding about this wine though. Not only highly enjoyable on its own it also paired very well with Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow on a cold autumn night.
It was a cold and windy night. Suffering from a somewhat congested nose, I still desired a glass of wine to keep me company while I watched Christopher Walken decapitate fat blokes in the woods. Just a little light-hearted fun, what could be better than a Mosel Kabinett?
Every other season I assemble a group of wine loving friends at the Wine Rambler London HQ. The mission is simple: drink some wine and have fun. As that might seem too frivolous in the current times of austerity a little work is also required of my guests - and that is to share their impressions of the wines. For the autumn tasting in November these impressions ranged from 'body shop mandarin lotion' and 'broccoli' to 'tennis balls' and 'cold custard'.
As is the law at Wine Rambler seasonal tastings, all wines have to be tasted blind. This avoids bias and, most importantly, makes it more fun and adventurous. As my wardrobe is mostly stocked with German and some Austrian wines this is what my guests have learned to expect, but I always aim to have at least one surprise in store for them...
Cool mineral, herbs and peach - whenever I hear these words I have to think of the bouquet of the Rieslings Theo Haart produces from grapes grown in the famous Goldtröpfchen vineyard at the Mosel. This wine is no exception, it just adds tropical fruit and a hint of citrus to the mix, plus aromas of rubber balls and a faint hint of vegetable, identified as broccoli by my friend Bethan. For a wine of Auslese quality it is still relatively young, so maybe give it some decanter love to allow it to develop properly.
It has been a while since we reviewed an Italian wine, but how can the Wine Rambler resist if a bottle almost magically materialises in front of him? This one was brought all the way from Italy by my friend Steve, who contributed it to a blind tasting I hosted a little while ago at the London headquarters of the Wine Rambler. As far as I can remember this is my first encounter with the Greco Bianco grape, a variety of Greek origin that the people in Campania use for making the Greco di Tufo wine. So let's be Italian for a moment.
From my window I can see the snow falling. Food is being prepared. Christmas wine delights sorted. It is time to wish all of you a wonderful and very Merry Christmas!
What could be better than this peacful tune played by the importantly talented Schroeder:
Mr. Munich Wine Rambler likes to tell a bleary-eyed story of how he was taken aside by a drunk Irishman in a pub and warned, for no specific reason, never to touch an alcoholic beverage that is brightly coloured, advice he has taken deeply to heart, followed ever since, and extended to include even wine that has been spiced, mixed with other drinks or otherwise tampered with.
It's time for Christkindlmarkt in Munich, and no Christkindlmarkt without Glühwein. Glühwein (this literally translates as "glow wine") is mulled wine, a concoction that is very popular in central Europe, that's no secret. What you get - at the Christkindlmarkt or in bottles at every supermarket - is mostly very sweet mulled wine, tasting of cheap and artificial aromas, nothing original and unique. And guess what, Mr. Munich Wine Rambler abhors it.
The Van Volxem estate needs no introduction. The excellent Rieslings made by Roman Niewodniczanski (English speakers are invited to send us recordings of how you pronounce that name) don't require the endorsement of the humble Wine Rambler - although we are happy to give it, for what it is worth. Today though we are looking at an entry level Riesling from VV, the Saar Riesling. A hundred years ago Riesling from the Saar was amongst the most prestigious and expensive wines in the world. How about the 2009 basic Riesling from a winemaker dedicated to restore the Saar to its former glory?
When the topic of Merlot comes up, most people will think of Paul Giamatti's 'I am not drinking any fucking Merlot' rant from the movie Sideways. Some will leave it at that as they dislike (or think they dislike) Merlot. Others will point out that Merlot isn't actually that bad. The number of people who will look to Germany for Merlot would be rather small though. Since my recent experience with Philipp Kuhn's Merlot from the Pfalz, I am definitely one of them though.
Philipp Kuhn is one of those German winemakers who confidently cover what seems like the whole spectrum of wine, from Riesling to Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Muscat, Viognier, Pinot Noir, St. Laurent, Lemberger, a few others - and Merlot.
A few years ago, when the Wine Ramblers were not yet Wine Ramblers, we attended our first ever wine tasting together. An unhealthy mix of curiosity and the promise of a free tipple had brought us to downtown Munich's venerable Bayerischer Hof. At this hotel, members of the VDP (Verband Deutscher Prädikats- und Qualitätsweingüter), an association of some of Germany's most distinguished wineries, were presenting a range of their wines. It was a memorable evening that began with a lot of awkward swooshing and spitting, and ended with a drunken plan of creating a diversion in order to steal a case of Knipser Syrah that, sadly, never came to fruition. But that is a story for some other year.
The tasting is an annual event, we reported on it last year and we will in the future. This year, we decided to cover in more depth the six wineries that most convinced us - and to point out a few wider trends that we think may be worth noting and discussing.
Weißherbst, literally 'white autumn', is a special German style of rosé. Basically, it involves red grapes done in white wine style, but the grapes can only be of one variety. The grapes do also have to be sourced from the same area. In the case of the Salwey RS wines - Reserve Salwey - they do actually come from the same vineyard and are of late harvest quality.
The Salwey Weißherbst comes from sun-kissed Baden, and it has been matured in oak barrels. I did not tell that to my friends who tasted it blind, which resulted in an interesting description of the wine's bouquet - that it was a rosé they could clearly see, of course.
There are not many things I enjoy more than good food, and my sweet tooth is infamous. Despite having dined in quite a few outstanding restaurants, there are still not many desserts I'd prefer over the chocolate mousse made by my friend Benita. It is so damn tasty that I usually just have it on its own, although when Benita last made it for me she was more than happy to enjoy it with a wine I had saved for just this occasion: a sweet Austrian Pinot Noir.
Sweet red wines can be a terrific match for chocolate desserts, and so I invite you to join us in our little indulgence. Just imagine Nigella Lawson presenting this, with lots of luscious language, licking of lips and sticky fingers.
Knipser is the name of a wine making family from the Pfalz region of Germany who keep impressing us with their polished and tasty wines. They are widely known for their expertise in ageing wine in barrique barrels - red wine, of course, but also white. The other day when I was cooking tarragon cream chicken I felt the time had come to open their premier 2003 Chardonnay, a wine that was only released to market after several years of maturing in the Knipser cellars.
What I was expecting, of course, was a substantial (14% ABV and barrique), creamy wine with the first signs of age. What I was hoping for was that it also kept a hint of freshness to go along with the food.
Time to go regional on you again, with a grape variety hardly ever talked or thought about outside of the roughly 35 acres of land where people actually grow it. Tauberschwarz literally translates as "River Tauber black". While this does seem to provide a first tentative clue about the colour of the wine, a bit more remains to be explored: A bit more about what Weingut Hofmann, an estate that specialises in the all-but-forgotten grape, has brought to the bottle, and a bit more about the vinous backwater that has conserved this endangered species.
In theory, this wine would have warranted a long review. First of all a twenty year old wine that is still enjoyable should be worth saying something about. Then it was also a gift from a friend who bought it for peanuts from an English wine shop years ago - since then it has lived in his attic until he donated it to a little wine tasting I hosted in August. The reason that I am not inclined to honour it with a long story is that when I emailed the estate to learn more about the wine they didn't even bother with a one line reply. They are of course not obliged to, but then neither am I to spend more time on it.
When did you last drink Moschofilero, Txakoli, Aglianico or sparkling Shiraz? 'Wine personality' Mark Oldman thinks many customers are stuck in the routine of drinking the same boring Cabernet and Chardonnay. To help them out, Oldman's Brave New World of Wine introduces 46 types of wine beyond the usual suspects, each 'brave new pour' described with anecdotes, recommended producers, food pairing suggestions and all sorts of 'winespeak without the geek'.
Providing wine drinkers with easily accessible knowledge is an applaudable mission, and as I had never read a popular book by a 'wine personality' I happily accepted when the publisher offered a copy for review. Now I am trying to answer the question: can a book about wine be too funny?
Yes, it is plain wrong and should never exist. Seriously, a Pinot Noir, any wine in fact, with 15.3% alcohol must be evil. And yet this Californian Pinot Noir was strongly recommended to me when, during a visit to a stylish NYC wine shop, I asked for an unusual American wine below thirty bucks. As I love Pinot Noir and as Kate from September Wines was very enthusiastic about this one I decided to take it home with me (for $27.21, if anyone cares to know).
A few weeks later on a cold autumn weekend in London a pheasant was merrily roasting in the oven. The meal, the atmosphere and the colours around me were quite autumnal, and as the appearance of the Cotturi seemed to reflect that, I decided that the wine's time had come.