May the day never come when streamlined wine marketing gets rid of the german custom of labelling wines by place of origin and vineyard name. Yes, those make for clumsy label design. Yes, they are phonetically intimidating to non-german speakers. But here's their great glory: The best of them already say everything that can be said about a wine more evocatively than anything a wine marketing agency could dream up. Take "Frühlingsplätzchen", a well-known vineyard of Monzingen, in the Nahe region. This could be translated either as "the little springtime place in Monzingen", or as "the Monzingen springtime biscuit". Isn't that wonderful?
'Sekt' is what the Germans call their sparkling wine, and Volker Raumland has an excellent reputation for making sparklers, so much so that many top wineries in Germany trust him with turning their grapes into Sekt. This non-vintage Riesling Sekt, the cheapest in the Raumland range, was made according to the methode champenois and disgorged in 09/2009, creating a wine that is like being struck by a well balanced and expertly-handled sledgehammer made of mineral and fresh acidity.
Sparkling wine is very popular in Germany. Very. As a matter of fact, the Germans consume more than a fifth of the world's production of bubbly. The Wine Rambler is a little less addicted, but we are getting more and more into Sekt, as sparkling wine made in Germany is called. We even made it one of our New Year's resolutions to pay more attention to the world of sparkling wine. This is my first contribution, and it was a most pleasant task.
The sparkling wine in question was made by the Raumland winery. Raumland, based in a village with the wonderful name of Flörsheim-Dalsheim in Rhineland-Palatinate, are specialists for sparkling wine, or 'Sekt' as the Germans call it. So much so that some of Germany's top estates trust Raumland with producing their sparkling wines for them. Raumland are doing such a good job with this that you can find listings of top German sparkling wines that only contain Raumland Sekt or sparklings produced by Raumland (which is not always mentioned on the label).
I cannot drink, or even think of, this wine without the memories coming back. It was a couple of years ago, and almost summer, and the Wine Rambler committee visited the Mosel. One of our stops was the village of Traben-Trarbach, where we visited the Müllen winery - and we got more than we bargained for. The full story is better to be told over a glass of Riesling, but very generous tasting samples that kept and kept and kept coming are part of it. And stories that kept and kept and kept coming. And there was a bit about a cat. We sampled many Rieslings that day, different styles too, and also a few other varieties. Among them was an impressive Pinot Blanc, a Weißburgunder, and today I opened the last bottle.
If you ever come across ruddy-cheeked, twinkly-eyed, chatty Hanspeter Ziereisen, do me a big favour: Don't underestimate him. And do yourself another: Try his wines. There has hardly been another Pinot Noir winemaker in Germany who has a more consistent, sharp-edged stylistic vision for the grape, or taken a more principled, self-critical and determined path to realising it. Excepting maybe Bernhard Huber in Malterdingen, we know of no greater francophile in german Pinot than Hanspeter Ziereisen. High time he made his debut on the Wine Rambler.
Imagine a hilly landscape somewhere in Europe. The sun is burning down. The temperature is way above 30° C. Sitting on a porch, you look around an area that was shaped by volcanic activity. While there is no lava any more, you have been told by locals that this small town is the warmest in the country. Your host returns to pour more Pinot Grigio. Southern Italy, you may think? Not at all! Chances are that you are sitting in the town of Ihringen in the South West of Germany, drinking a Pinot Grigio, Grauburgunder I wanted to say, made by the Heger winery. Well, it is still winter while I am writing this, but a few days ago I opened a bottle of a Grauburgunder, as the Pinot Grigio/Gris variety is called in Germany, for two friends here in London - Dr. Heger's Oktav. [read the full post...]
Nine days into the new year and we're already sticking our noses into the sparkling wine again. Is that hedonistic cheek on our part or a commendable discipline in making good our new year's resolution number 2? Actually, it's neither, since this is a postscript to our new year's eve.
Lively, but not over-strong bubbles, a smell of ripe apples and quince. Bone dry and almost austere at first taste, but at the same time fairly creamy and intense, with the tiniest hint of oak maybe, and in the end, it's mature quince and apple fruit again, maybe also a hint of tangerine, with very fresh acidity all the way through.
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...]
Sun-kissed Baden, the southernmost of Germany's wine growing regions, specialises on Pinots: Pinot Noir, Pinot Bianco and Pinot Gris/Grigio (or Spätburgunder, Weißburgunder and Grauburgunder), and for some reason we have so far only reviewed Spät- und Weißburgunder from Baden on the Wine Rambler. So it was high time to open a bottle of Grauburgunder and and do some reviewing - and this time it was not just me, but a group of British wine drinkers who joined the London Wine Rambler for a night of fun yesterday. [read the full post...]
Perhaps unusually for a Mosel winemaker, Clemens Busch is well known for his dry Riesling - he also makes off-dry and sweet wines, but when we visited the winery in 2008 I mostly brought home dry wines. Vom Roten Schiefer - "from red slate" - was one of them.
All starts with a nice golden colour and a nose of a mineral, stone fruit (peach and plum), camomile tea, honey and paraffin wax. All of that made for a substantial, matured impression. On the tongue the Riesling is quite full-bodied and a well rounded, caramel richness. Exotic fruit and ripe plum mix well with noticeable, fresh acidity and a kick of spice. A rich yet elegant wine with a little attitude.
It is still 2009, the year of the Silvaner grape in Germany - and the Wine Rambler is of course drinking Silvaner. After a full committee meeting last Saturday enjoyed an outstanding Silvaner from Franconia, the London branch of the Wine Rambler jumped right back into Silvaner, this time with a more aged wine - another outstanding example of what a competent winemaker can do with this grape.
Brick red colour, going brown on the edges.
Surprisingly wild smell, a little animal even, leather, some tar, some cocoa.
Slender-bodied in the mouth, very fresh acidity, aged cherry and plum flavours, surprisingly rough-grained, rustic tannin that has retained its sharp edge. Nice aftertaste of prunes and coffee that lingers for quite a while. [read the full post...]
Sometimes something is in the air. A few days ago I realised that we actually never reviewed a wine made by Reinhard Löwenstein. And as it so happened a bottle of his Riesling found itself uncorked last weekend - and not only here in London, but also in Munich where fellow Wine Rambler Julian enjoyed a 2004 Heymann-Löwenstein (we did not coordinate this). Read his excellent review of a gorgeous wine, especially as it will tell you why you should keep an eye on this extraordinary winery. As Julian has already set the context, I can keep this review of the more basic 2008 Schieferterrassen Riesling rather short. [read the full post...]
It's high time one of the legends of german wine made his first appearance here: Mosel winemaker Reinhard Löwenstein started using "slow" winemaking techniques like natural fermentation and prolonged skin contact when they were unheard of. He talked about terroir in the dark 1980s, when few within the German must-weight bureaucracy had heard of such a thing. A communist activist in his earlier days, and a natural-born rebel by temperament, Löwenstein has been mistrusted and reviled all along the conservative Mosel, but ridicule quickly turned into envy as his Rieslings won critical acclaim and commanded high prices from raptured customers. [read the full post...]
Just one glass. This was my excuse to try this Silvaner. Why just one glass? Well, I have been down with the flu since Thursday night (six days, I know), but earlier tonight I felt well enough to think about having a small (!) treat.
Why a Silvaner, you may ask? First of all it is the year of the Silvaner grape in Germany. Secondly, I was planning to have sage risotto with caramelised apples and roast walnuts, and I wanted to have a light apple-y yet robust wine to go with it. And thirdly, I just had a discussion with Kathryn from Artisan & Vine about natural wines from Germany - and this surely is one. Wittmann is one of the leading German estates and for quite a while now they have been focussing on organic wine. And this Silvaner here, well, it is quite something, for a 'simple' wine.
The wine rambler could not agree more to the statement from the excellent german WeinPlus online wine guide "Year after year, Bercher impresses us with their completely unpretentious, yet deep and expressive wines".
This mid-range single vineyard Pinot Blanc justifies the praise with effortless precision wine making: Dense straw colour, a nose of caramel, buttered biscuits and melon juice spilled over hot stones. Dense, polished fruit in the mouth, mineral background, good acidity, and above all, a freshness and drinkeability that is not a matter of course, the Kaiserstuhl almost having turned into a hot-climate wine region in recent years. [read the full post...]
Three bottles. I managed to get my greedy hands on three bottles of this wine last year - regular readers of the Wine Rambler will know that I am a big fan of the lovely wines Theo Haart creates at the Haart family estate overlooking the Mosel river. Most of the wines are sweet, but every year there are a few bottles of dry wines. 'Großes Gewächs' is German for 'great growth' and indicates that you are drinking a dry wine from a top vineyard as certified by the German Association of Premier Winemakers (VdP). Basically, think of it as a dry Spätlese (late harvest) or Auslese. So three bottles. One went down the drain last weekend because it was corked - it tasted of burnt smoke and vinegar. This means I am now down to two. [read the full post...]
This one is for the ladies. Actually, it is not so much for the ladies in general as for my friend Conny who always complains that the Wine Rambler ignores wine from the German region of Franconia, or Franken as we call it. Franken is a Protestant enclave in the north of otherwise Catholic Bavaria. People have a funny accent ('k' comes out like a 'g') and supposedly like robust food and dry wines with the necessary substance to go with it. Did I mention that Conny is from Franconia? [read the full post...]
Markus Schneider, an up-and-coming wine maker from the Palatinate, seems to like very simple, clean labels - a no-nonsense approach that has nothing of the sometimes overly decorated, old-fashioned German wine labels.