The future of German wine in the UK market. You will not be surprised that this is a topic the Wine Rambler is very interested in. Earlier in May I went to the Delfina Gallery, near London Bridge, to attend the Riesling & Co tasting and the German Wine Question Time panel discussion that aimed to address the topic of how to improve Germany's place in the UK market.
The Riesling & Co agenda is closely linked to this, driven by "a group of dynamic German winemakers who collectively have set themselves the task of reviving the German wine industry across the world." An ambitious mission, and one that also influenced the brief for the panel discussion:
The UK trade has been talking of a Riesling renaissance for the last 10 years, but despite the hype, Germany - arguably the home of the greatest Rieslings worldwide - still hasn’t cracked it. What can the UK trade do to make sure that UK consumers don’t miss out on what Germany has to offer?
Even Wine Ramblers do have a birthday. Just recently, it was the birthday of THE Wine Rambler and also of my co-Rambler Julian. My birthday is already a few months past, but there is still something to report on: When I met our Munich branch as part of my birthday celebrations, I found myself presented with a special gift.
Co-Rambler Julian likes to hunt for aged wines on eBay (great if you are in Germany, imppossile in the UK because of legal restrictions), and for my birthday he managed to find a bottle of a suitably aged Riesling from a Mosel winery that has my personal seal of approval.
Sometimes a wine can save your life. I would assume that at least some of you will have had such an experience, but I would also assume that the number of you who had this type of encounter with an English wine may be fairly small. Since recently, I am one of them, and I would like to thank the folks from the Camel Valley vineyard in Cornwall. Yes, you have read correctly. Cornwall.
How did Cornwall fizz save my life? The story actually begins with me saving something - the European Union.
Those of you who have ever followed up on our coverage under the no other place-tag know that we have a special thing for out-of-the-way wine growing regions. But that doesn't mean that we want people to judge these wines more benevolently because of the originality or their provenance, nor do we. What we want is emphatically both regionalism *and* quality in wine.
Staatsweingut Meersburg, owned by my beloved home state of Baden-Württemberg, has certainly delivered before on publicly guaranteed wine quality. And they also own Germany's highest elevated vineyard, the Hohentwiel Olgaberg. Named, improbably, in honour of Olga Nikolajewna Romanowa (1822-1892),a Russian princess and later queen of the kingdom of Württemberg , it covers the hillside of one of the cone-shaped former volcanoes of the Hegau - a landscape of great beauty and distinctiveness that slopes from the edge of the black forest down to the lake constance basin, but has not so far been able to boast of any wine growing credentials whatsoever.
A few years ago I came across an international wine guidebook that had a, tiny, section on England. I don't remember the exact wording of the first sentence, but it basically said that English winemaking was no longer exclusively dominated by rather mediocre efforts of retired army and navy officers. Not the most flattering of compliments perhaps, but still a sign of the wine world starting to notice that something is happening in England. To learn more about what exactly is going on in the green and pleasant land, I attended the English Wine Producers press tasting.
Held in early May in a very traditional venue - One Great George Street, right next to the Houses of Parliament in London - the EWP tasting was a chance to try over a hundred English wines, not only dozens of sparklers, but also rosés, whites (from dry to aromatic, oaked and sweet) and reds. Yes, English reds.
Two years ago the Wine Rambler saw the light of day with a short review on a German Pinot Blanc and a posting on a wine merchant who had no idea about their own catalogue. What started out as a means for two geograpically separated friends to stay in touch about their respective wine adventures has taken on a dynamic we have not quite forseen. The Wine Rambler has changed our lives in more than one way, and I am fairly certain it will continue to do so.
As one of two proud fathers, it falls to me today to say a few words on the occasion of our baby's second birthday. And also to explain what this old newspaper has to do with the Wine Rambler.
If the wine world were a fair place, I would not have to draw your attention to what should by rights be an iconic bottle of Austrian red wine. But I'm happy to: Anita and Hans Nittnaus are founding members of the Pannobile group of wine growers - the name is a combination of "Pannonia" (the historical and geographical name of the east Austrian and Hungarian plain) and the Latin word for "noble". When Austria was first working her way out of the hole it had dug herself with the infamous 1985 adulterated wine scandal with a whole new generation of wines, Hans Nittnaus's reds were hailed as revelations. Then, since the late 1990s, they were increasingly eclipsed by bolder, bigger, heavier-hitting bottles.
This gave him some pause, naturally, and eventually made him adjust his style. Not, however, and to his everlasting credit, in the direction that the wind seemed to be blowing, towards more oak that is, more concentration, and all the latest blinking cellar technology. Instead, Nittnaus went back to the future, towards purity of fruit, drinkability and precise varietal character. A case in point - the 2006 Leithaberg:
Do we really need another book on "wine myths"? After all, the internet is full of websites debunking the top ten (or other) wine myths, and I have lost count of the number of tiny paperbacks that promise to make you a wine expert or at least save you from the most common misconceptions or myths. Looking at its title you may mistake Benjamin Lewin's latest venture for yet another manifestation of such, in every sense of the word, light reading.
However, just a quick glance into Wine Myths and Reality will tell you it is a rather different animal. Not only is it a, in every sense of the word, substantial book, but also one that actually makes an argument.
Abroad Germany is mostly know for its delicious sweeter Riesling, but at home it is the top dry Rieslings that get most media attention. They are labelled as "Großes Gewächs" (great growth) or, in the Rheingau, as "Erstes Gewächs" (first growth), at least for the wineries that are members of the growers associations that created these classifications. Quality standards are relatively strict and include low yields, selective harvesting by hand and using only grapes from individual, certified top vineyards.
The price for these grand cru wines is constantly going up, so if you find one from a top producer such as Künstler for less than 20 Euro it is lucky times.
Oh the songs
Pour down like silver
They can only
Only break my heart
Drink the wine
The wine of lovers
Lovers tired of being apart [read the full post...]
Neither my co-rambler Torsten nor I have so far been able to warm significantly to Italian reds, especially those from the middle and south of the country. We have our reasons, mainly the predominance of plummy, raisiny fruit and a certain undeniably flabbyness that we think we found in those we have tasted, but to lovers of those regions I'm sure it proves that we are no less capable of prejudice-fuelled wine ignorance than the next drinker. What follows, then, is a little outside of the usual mould of Wine Rambler reviews.
It is to make amends, in a way, but it's also very much a public service announcement: Enjoyable Italian red ahead!
"Gold, gold, gold - molten gold flowing into our glasses." That was the impression Markus Molitor's late harvest Riesling had left when I first tried it in the summer of 2008. Now, opening my last bottle, I had the same, most pleasant sensation, just enhanced with a little more wisdom of age (the wine I mean, certainly not me).
Late harvest (Spätlese) Riesling from the Mosel to me is one of the most exciting manifestations of wine, ideally light, elegant, full of character and with the right dosage of residual sugar to tempt you for yet another glass without cloying you with too much sweetness.
If there was a branch of wine journalism that reviewed wines on the merits of their labels alone, then, for my money at least, the delightfully old-fashioned classics from this great Ruwer estate would be hard to beat. Now, the good news is not just that the Wine Rambler, for one, will not give up on sampling the contents of wine bottles as well.
More to the point, the good news is that the stylishness of this particular wine now before us does ample justice to the lovingly crafted quality of the packaging: