Some wines are good, some wines are bad, some are exceptional. And then there are the wines that are special because they have a story to tell. When I discovered today's wine on the shelves of London wine shop The Winery I was already certain that I was looking at a wine with a story. What I did not know was that this Franconian gem would be willing to share it with us.
Maybe we start with the question of why we got so interested in a dusty old bottle with a funny purple cap. Well, for starters because it was just that, a dusty old bottle with an unusual purple cap. It did not only look old-fashioned, it also was quite old, almost twenty-five years old, in fact. Aged wine is always an adventure - sometimes even a gamble on whether you have waited too long or just caught it at the right time. Under the label good ol' boys we have so far only looked at aged red wines and Riesling, the white variety that probably has the best potential for ageing. And here we were, starring at a twenty-five year old Silvaner, the signature grape of the German wine region of Franken (Franconia, about two hours north of Munich). We have been championing this often underrated variety for a while, but we never had the change to try a really old Silvaner.
Well before reaching twenty-five years of age most wines turn to vinegar. Not many wines are really worth keeping for more than a couple of years. Some last five to ten years, but only a tiny minority will make it beyond. With the exception of a few first class wines, sweet Riesling among them, not many wines are drinkable, far less enjoyable at the age of twenty-five. And yet here we are looking at a Silvaner, an often underestimated variety, of this age - does it still deliver?
Right from the start, the Franconian Silvaner impressed us with an intense, very clear golden colour that still had hints of green (which is often said to be a sign of a younger wine). It certainly looked beautiful and also as if it could comfortably age a few years more.
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.
To the Wine Rambler, Silvaner remains one of the undervalued German grape varietals, particularly as seen from my London perspective. I don't think I have ever come across a Silvaner in a London restaurant or wine shop. This may not mean very much of course as Londoners would also find it difficult to get German Pinot Blanc or Pinot Gris, for instance, but I recently learned that even more knowledgeable wine people can confuse Silvaner with the (Austrian) Grüner Veltliner (Silvaner is sometimes called 'Grüner Silvaner'). Is this Silvaner from the Juliusspital winery going to change all that?
Silvaner time again. After our Silvaner appreciation campaign last year, we were not planning to keep quiet about it in 2010. But it still needed Lukas Krauß engaging defense of the grape here to put it back on the immediate menu. Based on the river Main north of Würzburg, in classic Silvaner territory, Rudolf May is making his Wine Rambler debut today (he must be so nervous...).
One day it will become summer again. And when that happens you will want to drink a wine like this one here - or at least you should. The aptly named 'Sommer Cuvée' ('Sommer' being German for 'summer') is one of the basic wines of the Salwey winery. They make it from 95% Silvaner and 5% Riesling, two grapes the Wine Rambler loves. Together, they produce a light and fresh wine that is just a pleasure to drink.
We have enjoyed his wines. We adore his website. We follow his tweets. And we are now proud to present palatine wine grower, hat fashion model and Silvaner advocate Lukas Krauß as a very special Wine Rambler guest blogger. Without further ado, enjoy what he has to say on a grape close to his, and our, heart. Enjoy, and learn.
2009. London is hit by snow twice. Usain Bolt breaks the record in breaking world records. A German chancellor is re-elected and a German goalkeeper decides to go. The Royal Bank of Scotland announces a loss of £24.1 billion. Swine flu strikes; or so. British MPs spend money on moats and birdhouses. And the Wine Rambler drinks some wine. Quite a bit, actually, especially considering that we only launched the website in June 2009 (after having rambled between Munich and London via email for more than two years). And while others may still look back at what happened in sport, politics or the economy, we remember five wines that really impressed us last year. Here they come, the Wine Ramblers' top 5 wines of 2009: [read the full post...]
It is time again to write up some wine relate news: the juicy, the interesting, the random and all other sorts of miscellaneous wine information the Wine Rambler happened to stumble upon over the past few weeks.
Let's start with one of your favourite topics, women and wine. Apparently, girls are somewhat intimidated by buying wine and they need a little help to overcome that fear: if the wine label is pink, features stilettos or if the wine is called 'Girls' Night Out' or 'Bitch', girls are apparently more likely to buy it. This is according to the Canadian National Post that recently ran an article entitled ">Wine, women and wrong?, asking the question: 'Do tarted-up labels do a disservice to female drinkers?' I do wonder why they do not consider that men too might want to make a wine their personal bitch? [read the full post...]
The wine rambler wraps up this years Silvaner seasons with a blind tasting match. A creamy risotto of caramelised apples, sage and roasted walnuts is on the plates, and two dry 2008 Silvaner Kabinetts are waiting in the glasses of our carefully selected jury.
One hails from the franconian Silvaner heartland, from a nobleman's renowned estate, the other from a young self-described wine grower ("Weinbauer") of the palatine lowlands, as far from Germany's wine nobility as you can possibly get, but with a fierce love for the Silvaner grape. An uneven match, and, what with two completely different bottle shapes, a logistically demanding one. Ok, then, Casteller Hohnart from Castell and just plain Silvaner from Lukas Krauß, let's have a good clean fight from the two of you, no low punches or artificial aromas.
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...]
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...]
Autumn, wine tasting time – at least for the Wine Rambler. After my visit to the recent London Wine Show, both the London and Munich branches of the Rambler joined forces for the Weinherbst München (wine autumn Munich). A fairly large two day tasting, Weinherbst took place in the old town hall, right in the city centre of Munich. One day of sampling wines from some 70 producers cost 9 € (12 € on the door) - good value if you consider the amount of wine on offer.
While the week comes to an end, it is getting time for some wine news from the Internet: the miscellaneous, the bizarre, the enlightening. Let's start with Spar. 'Spar' means 'save money' in German (and, as I understand, also in several other languages such as Dutch, Danish or Norwegian) and I always took it for a smallish continental food retailer, until I found out that it actually is one of the world's largest. Maybe it is this international aspect of the business that has convinced Spar to go local with regards to wine. In the UK, Spar is now selling wines with the labels translated, well, not into English, but into regional dialects. [read the full post...]
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.
Large wineries owned by immensely land-rich historic trusts are a typical feature of the franconian wine scene, especially in Würzburg. As these go back to charitable - or not so charitable - institutions founded in the late middle ages or the 16th century, they have had some time to accumulate land, assets and reputation. By running wineries alongside hospitals (that's where the "spital"-part comes from), nursing homes and real estate operations, they preserve a forgotten model of business, social services and agriculture whose usefulness must have seemd self-evident to citizens in many premodern cities. [read the full post...]
The wine rambler continues its Silvaner coverage, today with a specimen from Slovenia - that's right, the Wine Rambler has been looking east lately, more on that soon - and this one here from good old Rheinhessen:
Fairly dark straw colour, not quite golden.
Nose of dried apple slices, but also ripe grapes, a little floral too, making me think, unexpectedly, of Gewürztraminer.
In the mouth it's candied apple again, mature fruit, quite some weight and length, noticeable sweetness, although 5 grams per litre of residual sugar make it legally dry. Very mild acidity. [read the full post...]
Erich Krutzler, a very well known austrian winemaker, is building up this winery in northern Slovenia- we'll have some more on that in a while.
His Silvaner is made in a light, very clean style, smelling and tasting of fresh green apples, a few herbs and hay. With fresh acidity and a background of chalky mineral, this should make a good companion for salads and light vegetable dishes.
As it is by no means cheap, this one has not completely won me over yet. But, as I said earlier, more is to come.
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.