After several not overly successful ventures into UK supermarket wine I have let my investigation into what is available on the mass market slip. The other day though in Sainsburys I came past an Austrian wine that looked really interesting. And so I grabbed a bottle and was rewarded with one of the best wines I have ever bought from a supermarket. If you are bored by cheap Australian or Italian wines and look for a good refreshing white then look no further and go for Austria this summer.
Situated in the southern parts of the Pfalz lie the vineyards of Friedrich Becker. Well, actually, he owns a few on the French side of the border too. Maybe this explains (if indeed an explanation would be needed) why Becker is often referred to as a specialist for 'Burgunder-Weine', or 'Burgundy wines': the members of the Pinot family are called 'Burgunder' in German. The sparkling wine we tasted, blind and against an English sparkler, as part of the Wine Rambler birthday celebrations is a good example, after all it is a cuvée of Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, Auxerrois and Chardonnay (the latter two varietals are at least related to the Pinot family). So, here we have a German sparkler with 'French' varietals and made following the classic Champagne method, which includes having spent about three years on lees. So how does it taste then?
At the Wine Rambler, we have this ongoing love affair with the Silvaner grape. Today's Silvaner comes from the German wine region of Franken, the spiritual home of this grape variety.
This is a textbook Silvaner in the best sense of the word. You get earthy, grassy notes, almost smoky. There is apple, refreshing in the nose and well defined on the tongue. At its core the Silvaner is robust, but smooth round the edges with notable minerality.
These days, I find myself drinking more and more Weißburgunder (Pinot Blanc). It can be very food friendly (especially when you go for lighter food, fish and the seasonal asparagus (even though the latter is always a bit tricky)) and I enjoy the contrast to the sharper Riesling. A particularly good and typical recent example for Weißburgunder came from the Saar river, very close to the Mosel. It looked a little bit like this:
A few months ago I was browsing the web store of one of the Wine Rambler's favourite German wine merchants (Behringer). While going through the Pfalz selection, I came across a dry Riesling that despite having been rated at 90/100 by the German wine guide Gault Millau still sold at only €8. As I needed to resupply on dry 'everyday' Riesling anyway, I ordered a bottle to find out what the fuzz was all about.
Yet again it is back to Baden for the Wine Rambler (this year I seem to drink more and more wine from Germany's sun-kissed southern wine region), and yet again a wine from the Heger winery: a surprisingly fresh and fruity, but otherwise very typical Pinot Blanc, if you want the short summary.
Sometimes, sometimes I smell the cork of a freshly uncorked bottle of wine and I know great things are ahead. Sometimes, sometimes I do not even have to get my nose close to the wine glass to sing and jubilate. Sometimes, sometimes I set a wine glass down in utter awe, in quiet yet powerful excitement because I have found a wine that is pure awesome. And guess what, I just had one of these moments. Without doubt, this is the best dry white wine I have had in 2010, such a wonderful dream of peach, mineral and elegance that I could still cry tears of joy: the 2008 Goldberg, a Riesling from the Mosel(le) tributary Saar.
I have written about so many Salwey wines recently, I almost feel bad to pay that much attention to a single producer. Almost, I said, because Salweys know what they are doing and I am in a Pinot (Noir, Blanc, Gris) phase anyway. So I will keep it sweet and short today in order not to repeat myself. Here it is, a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc/Weißburgunder:
My last few wine weeks were dominated by Pinot Blanc, so it seemed a good idea to return to the wonderful world of Riesling - in this case to the German wine region of Rheinhessen, where the Keller winery is based. Kellers have an awesome reputation and the demand for their premium wines is high enough that they can sell them in subscription. The wine to introduce today is not one of them, it is Keller's basic Riesling, no subscription necessary and a reasonable price.
Inspired by Simon Jones' Markgräflerland report, I have opened a bottle of this. If you have read it (and if not - why not?), then I don't need to tell you what the Markgräflerland is, nor what Gutedel means, nor who Ziereisen is. With all that competently taken care of, let's dive right in:
After two years of mostly going for Riesling, I currently find myself drinking more and more Pinot, specifically Pinot Blanc and Gris. Well, surprise, this is another of those bastards, and despite being made from the same grape variety it is not exactly like your average Italian Pinot Grigio. It is Grauburgunder time, and yet again am I turning to the warm South-West of Germany, to enjoy a wine from the Kaiserstuhl region.
The first thing to notice about it is the colour. Colour is always difficult to capture well in a photograph, and this one does not quite bring across the fairly dark, gold-brown that the Salwey wine radiates. Pretty, really pretty.
If you have read the Wine Rambler recently, you will have been introduced to the Knipser family as specialists for red wine - from Syrah to the Cuvée X, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon / Franc and Merlot, the Knipser winery in Rhineland-Palatinate does it all. Among the many other grape varieties grown is Riesling, and today I have the distinct pleasure to write about a late harvest Riesling that is not only a great example of a dry, focussed white wine, but is also, I like to think, seriously good value.
When german Riesling is praised for its "finest perfume of fruit supported by a lightweight frame", it would seem that its ever-delicate balance must be so fragile that it would never survive contact with heavy, savoury food. Not so. To realise what Riesling can do with Sauerkraut, black pudding and liver sausage, you need to have tasted this classic german pairing* (do not, I repeat do not, take the Wine Rambler's word for anything).
For this, you need a Riesling that is dry rather than fruity, steely rather than floral, firm rather than ethereal. You need, in short, a dry Kabinett from the Pfalz. You also need good Sauerkraut and freshly made (raw, that is) sausages, of course. In what may simply be a local tradition or may have deeper and more sinister reasons of carnivore logistics, Munich butchers offer these every Friday.
If you have ever come across the German village of Laumersheim, chances are it was because of a wine. Laumersheim is home to the Kinpser winery, a family owned estate that makes some of the best red wines you can get in Germany (and marvellous white wines too). And it is home to the Kuhn winery that is getting more and more attention, especially after Philipp Kuhn in 1992 - at the tender age of 20 - got involved in the family owned estate. You may be surprised to hear that the winery is not only producing some red wine, in fact about 50% of the wines made there are red. The delivery that brought this Riesling to London also included a Merlot! The story of red wine made by the Kuhns in the Palatinate will have to be told another night as tonight we are drinking the entry level Riesling from the Kuhn winery (entry level, by the way, does not mean mass-produced: harvests are limited to below 75 hl per hectare).
Certain ways of cooking fish and shellfish just cry out for a clean, light and crisp dry white wine - especially if you bake a whole sea bass in a salt crust. This is an excellent way to celebrate the delicate flavour of fish and it works well with a range of fish, including sea bream. Just put a little pepper and some herbs into the fish and then cover the whole fish in a dough made of salt, water and perhaps a few egg whites. This seals in all the moisture and preserves the delicate flavours of the fish. Serve the fish just with a bit of olive oil, pepper and salt, perhaps a little lemon and enjoy with very simple side dishes, perhaps just a few slices of white bread.
And make sure to select a wine that will not overpower the fish - I find a dry Muscadet works very well in this context.
London, so the MetOffice tells us, is about to descend into a snow chaos this night. While this may mean that tomorrow evening it will be time for hearty food with a robust red wine, tonight I felt more like spicy food and so I prepared a stir-fry. I use this simple recipe fairly often, it basically involves frying small bits of chicken breast in butter and then adding chopped peppers, green curry paste and lemon juice - the latter nicely balances the flavours and gives it that nice, fresh kick of acidity. So opening a Riesling seemed like the logical choice, and as the food was not overly spicy I thought I could get away with a dry Riesling. A particular bottle from the Wittmann winery had looked at me in this peculiar way for a couple of weeks now, so the choice was easy.
Imagine the Winesleuth comes to visit. Well, a good week ago fellow London-based wine blogger Denise did actually come over for dinner. And as Winesleuths and -ramblers cannot be without wine for too long, we had to taste two German Rieslings. One was the a deliciously sweet Riesling, the 2007 Goldtröpfchen Spätlese from the Haart winery, which was reviewed here before. The first was a Riesling too, but a dry one the Löwenstein winery. Here is what Denise had to say about it (so I guess this is our first guest-blog, in a way): [read the full post...]
Most current wine marketing revolves around the attempt to associate wine with "nature", and to make not technical refinement, but true representation of the soil and the land the measure for wine quality. So you have your natural wine bandwagon on the one side, with your organic winegrowing, your biodynamics, your "slow" winemaking, your "natural wine". And then you have Natural wine with a capital N. And there you have your non-sulphurisers, your amphorae-diggers, your oxidizers, purists, extremists and experimentalists. Angiolino Maule from northern Italy's veneto is one of those. This wine is naturally fermented in open wooden barrels, not shielded from oxygen, unfined and unfiltered, with no added sulphur. [read the full post...]
Lukas Krauß, 21 years old, is a winemaker, no that's wrong, he is, proudly, a wine grower („Weinbauer“) from the Pfalz. And not the most prestigious part of the Pfalz, either. He is not listed in many wine guides nor will you have heard his name dropped in the wine blogosphere. But if you, like the wine rambler, are sometimes tired of the visual soft pornography and the worn out old clichés that are wine marketing, and want something that is personal, honest, stylish and funny, here is a name for you to remember, and here also is a site for you to look at:
We liked him instantly, and you will soon hear more from Lukas on the wine rambler, something that we look forward to very much. [read the full post...]
After having spent quite some time on the Silvaner grape recently, I felt the need to explore Weißburgunder (Pinot Blanc) again, especially as a decent food wine was needed. And as I just heard the the Seeger estate has been accepted into the prestigious club of the VdP (the German association of premier wine estates), it seemed a good idea to open Seeger's basic Pinot Blanc with some food. [read the full post...]