Silvaner again? Yes, we're keeping up our coverage. In fact, we mean to grind down any resistance against Germany's second great white grape with the sheer relentlessness of our Silvaner campaign. Great growth Silvaners from lesser known wineries in Franken are arguably some of the best value anywhere in white wine, and we won't stop until every major wine outlet in the english-speaking world carries at least one. Are we not confusing our own partial predilection with an educational mission, you ask, or else: What's in it for me? The two-word answer to this: Food friendliness.
Following up on this month's risotto suggestion, another classic Silvaner pairing is freshwater fish. Franconians love their regional staple, carp, but since that is a little, shall we say, nutritious for most people, we stuck to the more consensual trout.
A friend of mine gave me ten little bottles / Of some special stuff that he brewed up his-self / So I took it and hid it down in my basement / But my wife found out about it and she told me to get rid of it or else / And since I didn't like the way she said or else / I went down there and proceeded to carry out her instructions [...] Picked up the first bottle, pulled the cork out of it...
It did not quite happen like this. Admittedly, there was a basement. And I went down there. Picked up a bottle. Or two. Actually, there were 74. Also, they were not small. And despite the time it will have taken him to put it all together, I am fairly certain host Robert Giorgione did not brew them up by his-self. Even so, he managed to get Riesling from all over the world to London for a blind tasting that I could not miss. And so I went down there and proceeded...
A couple of weeks ago when I drafted the wine review below and scheduled it for publication today I had no idea that it would, for very sad reasons, be rather timely. It is a review of a great wine from Baden that faded away too early. And just as I have published it I hear the sad news that a great man from Baden has also passed away way too early. Wolf-Dietrich Salwey, vintner, winemaker and ambassador for high quality Pinot from Baden was killed in a car accident yesterday.
Pinot Gris is a funny thing. If it is called Pinot Grigio it comes from Italy, is meant to be drunk young and suffers from too much cheap plonk on the market. If it has Pinot Gris on the label it is probably from Alsace and may be a substantial wine with the potential to age well. When it is called Grauburgunder it comes from Germany and could fall into any of these categories. The wine you see below comes from a reliable, quality focussed producer and has been matured in oak barrels - so you'd think even when stored in my wardrobe (officially London's most delicious wardrobe) it should be at its prime now. But then there is always a risk, are we looking at a wine that's already faded?
It is wine tasting season here in London. Events fight for a time slot in the busy schedules of sommeliers, wine writers and other trade folk, and even the humble Wine Rambler had to turn down several invitations. Among the events I decided I had to attend was Bibendum's Burgundy 2009 En Primeur tasting, held 11 January in the impressive rooms of RIBA, the Royal Institute of British Architects.
Burgundy produces some of the world's finest wines, and as they do come at a price a tasting is a fantastic way of learning more about them. Learning about Burgundy is in fact one of our new year's resolutions, so the Bibendum tasting was a great and timely opportunity for me to have a peek into the world of Burgundy.
A good Riesling wine of Auslese quality will usually need a few years before it really shows its potential and some of the outstanding ones may need a decade or more to get there, depending on whether you like them fruitier or a little more sophisticated. The other day, the time for Theo Haart's 2001 Auslese had come, and as it was my last bottle we will never know whether it would have been even more delightful had I waited five years more.
It's been a while since we last talked Pinot Blanc. So gather round me, friends: Pinot Blancs's reputation is generally lacklustre. In Burgundy, it's rather like Stephen Baldwin to Chardonnay's Alec - the younger brother who doesn't quite have the talent and will always be outshone. Mostly though, it is because international drinkers get their Pinot Blanc bearings from Alsace and Northern Italy, where results are often very drinkable, but ultimately rather bland, that Pinot Blanc is still underrated. In Germany, though, where it makes for about 3.5% of vines planted, it can be granted great growth status when grown in the best vineyards, and can indeed turn out distinctive and quite majestic wines. When we last checked in with one of the country's very best Pinot Blanc producers, the Bercher family of Baden's Kaiserstuhl subregion, we were confronted with rather too majestic a specimen: The 2004 great growth dry Spätlese. Impressive for its power, but pulled out of balance by high alcohol content, was our verdict back then.
Well, I'm most happy to report back to you on a younger version of the same wine:
Like many men who like to cook I have occasional delusions of grandeur. Unfortunately for you, these were made worse when at a Wine Rambler beer tasting an Italian friend (who is as obsessed with good food as any Italian) commented on my risotto: 'And that risotto was simply delicious! Mind you, I am Italian and have got some experience with risotto, very very good indeed! Recipe please?'
Easily charmed by such an appreciation of my cooking skills, I am happy to do as requested - and to make a wine pairing suggestion: Silvaner, the fantastically food friendly German white wine that deserves international attention.
The Keller winery in Rheinhessen is among Germany's finest, no doubt. Keller regularly receive high praise from wine critics and their wines command impressive prices. Recently, a double magnum of what some consider the top wine in the Keller range, the Riesling G-Max, fetched €3,998.40 at an auction, making it Germany's most expensive young dry wine. Now, can you imagine that the German authorities would even consider not allowing winemaker Klaus-Peter Keller to release one of his wines to the market? And yet this is what happened to the Silvaner I am introducing today.
What could have happened, you may wonder? Was the wine contaminated, a health risk perhaps? No. The authorities objected to the 'Feuervogel' arguing the wine was not typical for the region - and hence not worthy of being approved for sale.
A recent encounter with a Swabian Riesling from the Schnaitmann winery has done a lot to build up my pride in Swabian winemaking. The German wine growing region of Württemberg is mostly inhabited by members of the Swabian tribe, who outside of Germany are probably better known for their engineering than their winemaking skills.
They are also known as very tidy, law-abiding citizens, so it is somewhat unusual that a Swabian wine is called 'Evoé!' - this after all being the battle cry of the followers of the Greek god Dionysus. Are we looking at a totally un-Swabian, orgiastic rowdy wine?
There is a lot that could be written about Shinn, but as I have done that recently I just point you to my article 'You can't make red wine on Long Island' - Shinn Estate Vineyards, making local wine in a global world. For now just let me say that I bought this Malbec at a recent visit to a beautiful estate on Long Island that is currently being transformed to biodynamic production. Interestingly, the Shinn Malbec comes in a half-litre bottle - they only make Malbec in good years and in 2007 there was only enough for 1344 of those small bottles (selling at $35 each).
In order to avoid any bias I might have had from being welcomed so warmly at Shinn, I figured the wine would have to be tasted blind. So I took it with me to a recent Wine Rambler full committee meeting in Munich and wrapped it properly to hide its identity.
My co-rambler Torsten is an emperor of efficiency, which is also the reason why the credit for the German engineering of the Wine Rambler's digital wheels and cogs, as well as its clean and orderly counter tops, belongs exclusively to him. I, in contrast, have been known to be derelict in my duties, and a number of wines that were tasted on my kitchen table during the past year never made it to the blog, mostly because I had neglected to take meaningful notes. This posting is their second chance, so it is emphatically not a collection of second-class wines, but a motley crew of high and lowly, united by one rambler's lack of organisational skill. It goes without saying that these short notes that I later worked out from memory should be taken with several grains of salt, rather than the one grain we require with our regular reviews. You'll also notice that the photography belongs to a simpler time.
I tried to group the wines into sections to provide some kind of thematic thread, and there'll be a little musical break halfway through in order not to make it too dreary a read. Here we go.
We just voted not one, not two, but three dry Rieslings into our top five picks of last year. We didn't do that to make a point, those were just the wines we happened to enjoy most. Having said that, it is true that the effort many english-speaking wine lovers will make to ignore any german wine that is not sweet Riesling have not ceased to amaze us - amaze, and annoy us ever so slightly. This is not, I hasten to clarify, because we fail to appreciate the great sweet Rieslings. They are indeed unique, delightful and still handsomely underpriced in the global scheme of wine. It's just that this fact is already widely known, so frankly, it is not exactly breaking news to report on another little marvel of liquid stone and sweet peachy caress.
But on this January day, the time has come to do just that.
Ökonomierat Rebholz is certainly a very Germanic sounding name for a winery. 'Ökonomierat' is an old-fashioned German and (not so old-fashioned) Austrian title of honour that literally means 'economical councillor'. The original Ökonomierat Rebholz, Eduard, received it for his impact on viticulture. Now in the third generation, the Rebholz estate is still dedicated to his idea of 'natural wine', shunning practices such as adding of sugar to increase alcohol content and instead focussing on organic methods. It may be best to forget about all this though as the Muscat in front of you is anything but stuffy Germanic or organically preachy. It is just a highly enjoyable wine.
It is that time of the year. All sorts of promises are given and resolutions made. Interestingly, no one seems to ever revisit last year's resolutions and reflect on what has or has not been achieved. Maybe this is because only 12% of us still stick to a resolution after a year's time, as we learned when considering what to do with the wine year 2010. Historians by trade, we Wine Ramblers are brave enough to use the historical-critical method to look back at what we set out to do in 2010 and then develop a plan for what to do with the wine year 2011.
The 12%-study we consulted last year also told us that boys were better with resolutions considered helpful for pulling girls. Interestingly, one of our resolutions - to try more Swabian wine - wasn't totally unsuccessful in this respect