How to start a posting on a topic on which I may have bored half my readership to death, whereas the other half may not even know it exists? Even after a glass or two I haven't worked it out, so you will have to forgive me for this uninspired start. To summarise what I have said on this topic earlier: yes, there is German Sauvignon Blanc, and it brings a lean, mineral and precise elegance to this grape that is just adorable - but there isn't much of it. On the positive side the fact that the grape is rare means that it tends to be grown by vintners who put effort into it, which may explain why my previous encounters have been so enjoyable.
This time I am looking at an SB from Württemberg, my home state in the south west of Germany, and to make it even more unusual it comes from a garage winemaker.
Cheap Pinot Grigio, oaked Chardonnay and fruitbomb Sauvignon Blanc are the three banes of the popular white wine world. For my day job I regularly attend functions organised by public sector bodies who have next to no money for entertainment and, perhaps worse, no one who really cares about finding value, so I have had many an encounter with this unholy trinity. Luckily I know that all these grape varieties are capable of producing fantastic wines, although I have to admit that my relationship with Sauvignon Blanc never has been an easy one. Too often even the better wines have me on my knees begging for mercy after a broadside of pungent grassy aromas, gooseberry, intense vegetal flavours and intense blackcurrant.
On the other hand there are very nicely balanced examples too, and sometimes I just crave crisp, fruity intensity. The other day it was one of those moments and I turned to the German wine region of Franken (Franconia) to satisfy my urge.
Don't tell this to anyone, but is true, I don't drink much Sauvignon Blanc. At least not voluntary. I drink it involuntary as it often is served at functions, such as the one I attended earlier this week at the Palace of Westminster. That particular wine was inoffensive, but often I find the aggressive fruit-bombiness of Sauvignon Blanc hard to stomach. It is as if it is shouting so loud to get your attention that you cannot actually hear what it says. Having said that, there is also really good Sauvignon Blanc, both from the new and the old world. Interestingly, some of the most pleasant specimens I have tried recently came from Germany. Yes, there is German Sauvignon Blanc.
This particular wine comes from the Pfalz, a region that continues to confuse foreigners with the wide range of grape varieties grown.
One of the effects of belonging to the German branch of the international brotherhood of wine snobs is that hot-climate whites have a hard time winning your approval. We have largely kept our hands off whites from the south of france, for example. We don't mean to say, of course, that there can be no great whites from down there. But I can say with a good measure of confidence that the wine under review today is not one of them. Its appeal for me lies in a completely different place. So this is less a wine review than a brief comment on liking certain wines in spite of oneself, which leads naturally to a melancholy micro-meditation on memory and irrationality.
'A bit quirky', that was the comment I got from Twitter when I recently mentioned German Sauvignon Blanc. Chances are, you will not have had one (unless you are German, perhaps); you may not even have heard that there is such an animal. Well, there is, albeit not very much, which makes those wines a little hard to find outside of Germany. That should not stop you though as they can be worth the trouble - if they are as good as this baby coming from the very German sounding winery Ökonomierat Rebholz.
Tasted blind, with surprising results, here.
Tasted blind, and with surprising results, here.
Wine Rambler full committee meeting. Two Sauvignon Blancs nice and cool, ready for the first sip. The tasting would nominally be blind, but it should be a walk in the park to tell them apart. One from New Zealand, Astrolabe's 2008 "Discovery": more explosively, exotically fruity, surely. One from Germany, the 2008 Meersburger Sängerhalde Sauvignon Blanc from Aufricht, the Lake Constance's ambitious star horse: more subdued, but with more depth and minerality, maybe? We knew what we were doing, we had done it before. It would be a pleasant evening with a laid-back broadening of wine horizons.
Glasses rinsed, monkfish and shrimp already in the frying pan, wine ramblers contented and full of calm anticipation. What could possibly go wrong?
Wine Rambler full committee meeting. Two sauvignon blancs nice and cool, ready for the first sip. The tasting would nominally be blind, but it should be a walk in the park to tell them apart. One from New Zealand: more explosively, exotically fruity, surely. One from Germany: more subdued, but with more depth and minerality, maybe? We knew what we were doing, we had done it before. It would be a pleasant evening with a laid-back broadening of wine horizons. Glasses rinsed, loup de mer and shrimp already in the frying pan, wine ramblers contented and full of calm anticipation. What could possibly go wrong?
Check back here soon for the full story of a blind tasting that confronted us with rather more than we had bargained for.
As Albus Dumbledore said to Harry Potter: "It is a thrilling tale. I wish to do it justice"
A little while ago a friend opened a New Zealand fruit explosion for me, a bottle of Astrolabe Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. This was quite unusual as my friend has been a self declared beer drinking proletarian for a long time, so I was curious to taste the wine that got him so excited.
Posting the wine review here on the Wine Rambler led to something else that was unusual: Jason Yank, the general manager of Astrolabe Wines, contacted us – but not so much to applaud or critique the review, but to comment on a detail: my friend had mentioned to me that he saw helicopters used in winemaking in NZ to press down warm air in order to control the ripening of the grapes. However, this was not entirely correct: 'The use of choppers in NZ is purely to help bring down the inversion layer of air', Jason explained, 'during, what would otherwise be, quite catastrophic frost events. Nothing to do with ripening....' Jason also foolishly offered to provide more information, should the Wine Rambler be interested – which of course we are!
This one was recommend by Captain Cork, my favourite german language wine blog. At first, I was a little nervous whether it would be able to handle a Pollo arosto con i limoni. After a few sips, however, It was the chicken I started to worry for:
A hefty dose of fresh oak in the nose, but with it creamy yellow fruit, orange peel, and a tangy saltiness.
New oak dominates the mouth as well, very powerful and long, in no way what I have associated with the Sauvignon Blanc grape, but smoke, roasted almonds, and finally a funky, sulphuric brimstone minerality that stays on the palate for minutes. [read the full post...]
Do you know the proletarian, beer-drinking type who looks down upon wine? I have a good friend who is like this. Or, to be precise, he always pretended to be like this. Over the past few years, previously hidden signs of middle-classiness have emerged though and he even recently started to buy his own wine. A few days ago I was invited to sample his first home cooked roast and a wine he brought back from New Zealand. Now let's see which is the wine with the power to convert would-be working class beer drinkers into wine snobs. [read the full post...]
Very light straw colour with a greenish tinge
At first, this smells and tastes overwhelmingly and quite explosively of green berries and fresh green leaves and grass, also grapefruit. After some time, it goes into a Riesling-direction, and unripe peaches and minerality come out more.
Dominated and defined by razor-sharp, but clean and well-integrated acidity, this is a zesty and appetizing wine that friends of straightforward dry Rieslings will enjoy very much. It tastes much lighter than the actual 12.5 % and makes me think of a picknick beside a mountain stream.