At times, I am quietly envious of my fellow Wine Rambler, who recently won British citizenship. I sometimes think I was born into the wrong country, as I rather fancy I would make a passable Brit myself. Case in point: I get acutely embarrassed in situations that nobody else would find even mildly troubling. When strolling through the heart of Munich recently, I stepped into the Dallmayr wine department on an impulse to see if any exclusive and glamorous new discoveries were on display. Having looked around and seen what I had come in to see, it suddenly occurred to me that I could not possibly leave without buying something (that would have been embarrassing, you see, because the shop assistants would form all kinds of disadvantageous opinions about me). Dallmayr, on account of their general adventurous pricing and the kind of impulse shopper they cater for, is not the best place to have a fit like this. At least I was sane enough to not want to leave a lot of money, so, fighting a rising sense of completely self-induced panic, I was relieved to find this bottle from my very favourite German winery lying invitingly beneath a fine cover of dust.
I already knew its story: 2006 had been so poor a vintage in Baden that Hans-Peter Ziereisen, quality-obsessed ruddy-cheeked devil that he is, did not want to bottle either his usual top-of-the-range Pinot Noir nor his varietal Syrah. His solution: Mix the Syrah with Pinot Noir to make a mid-range cuvée that would be interesting, but no more than it claimed to be. Hence the completely unusual grape mix, hence the name, Zunderobsi being a lovely dialect term for "topsy turvy". This is classic Wine Rambler territory.
We had heard a shy young Franconian winemaker talking about finding his own way, a sage dispensing Riesling wisdom, and the hulking star of the river Saar warn us of his own wines. But in spite of our heads beginning to spin, our palates starting to give out, and the lure of Dallmayr's fine sausages, cheeses and chocolates pulling us away, we had not yet heard enough...
In case you missed the first part of this report about Winzerelite ("wine growing elite"), the annual spring tasting hosted by posh Munich wine and fine food store Dallmayr, in which we were talking.... No we weren't, really. We resolved to, this once, fulfil our journalistic calling and let winegrowers do the talking. One wine each, and whatever they wanted to tell us about it and what choices they made in making it - those were the rules.
Nowadays everyone seems to expect the Spanish Inquisition. Well, maybe not exactly Monty Python's torture team with the comfy chair, but with the internet full of surprising wine finds presenting something unusual has become harder. Even so I hope that writing about German Syrah will be unusual enough to attract some attention - at least enough to keep you stuck to your chairs, trembling with anticipation, until my co-Rambler returns from his holiday to give you part two of Speak, barrel sample.
So here it is, the 2008 Syrah from a Baden producer who is at least as unusual and charming as his wines.
Should I resist the tired cliché, should I raise above the overused joke? Even if I were that strong and even if I were not secretly in love with clichés I still could not do it in this case. Even my wine merchant felt powerless against the buying-wine-by-the-label joke: "We bought it despite the label!", was her excuse. I didn't have any: I bought it because of the label. Because of the name. And because that day I had set out with a desire to buy something different.
I trust that even after just a cursory glance at the Wine Rambler you will agree that I fulfilled that mission - but was it a success?
When we first launched the Wine Rambler, we anticipated, rather optimistically, that wineries might at some point in the future might send us samples to review. But we also always insisted, a touch self-defeatingly perhaps, that we would be very strict about ethics and transparency in doing this. And we are. But the good people of the Terras Gauda winery of Spain, which makes and markets a range of wines from different regions of northwestern Spain did not let themselves be deterred by this, much to their credit, and were kind enough to send us a six bottle sample to review. And it fell to the Munich branch of the blog to do it.
How to go about such a task? I decided on the following course of action: I would not research anyone else's reviews, ratings or scores beforehand. I would not research prices either, which means I could not comment on value, but I wouldn't be influenced by it either. I would also not set up a single tasting where I would compare them in a professional setting. Instead, we would drink the wines at Munich HQ, one at the time, over a couple of weeks, like almost anyone who buys them would: On the kitchen table, after a day's work, with food.
Is this the time when we should start the pre-Christmas season of wine with big hefty reds? No, no, no me brotha. This Wine Rambler abides by his statement of principle: Freshness, freshness, freshness. It's a well-documented fact by now that I am no great fan of the South of France, at least not any more. I've developed a kind of allergy to the overripe cherry and generic dried herbs-approach on offer from there. But there is a style, pioneered mostly, with some hits and misses, by the Gauby family, that I think of as Mediterranean avant-garde: Sprightly, slender-bodied, drinkable reds with a lighter, more focused spectrum of fruit.
Another winery that has moved in this direction is Christophe Peyrus' Clos Marie.
As a wine drinking year, 2010 was not without its disappointments. Among them, a Bacchus that bored us to tears, a burgundy that let us down - and, most grimly, a swamp gas attack from the Loire that we would rather not talk about just yet. The ritual that helps us get over these low points is the yearly selection of the Wine Rambler's top five german wines. The shortlist was substantial as always, and the choice was not taken lightly - and by the way, one of our favourite daydreams is that sentences like this might one day cause actual nervousness among german wine makers.
So, national anthem, please, for the winners:
Summer is over. So what's the point of reviewing wine sold in strange single-serve glasses suited for a picnic? For starters because they are not. The Le Froglet glasses are as misplaced at an August picnic as they would be near my November sofa. 'Obviously, the Wine Rambler will have to say so,' you might think, 'after all how could a wine snob like wine sold in plastic glasses?' Surprisingly, it is not the concept that puts me off. It is the execution.
Some time ago the entrepreneurs of the BBC's Dragons' Den dismissed the idea of investing money in wine sold in single-serve plastic glasses with tear-off lids. As it happened, I had actually watched the episode and found myself disagreeing with the dragons as I could imagine people wanting to use the glasses for outdoor events. Others apparently agreed and from what I hear the Le Froglet glasses do sell quite well now. So when I saw them at Marks & Spencer I had to buy the trio: white, red and rosé.
When it comes to french reds - and as I've said before, you can't be a real wine snob unless you can take a sip and say "ahh, zees, my friends, is terroir..." - I've had the distinct feeling for some time now that France is being rolled up for me from south to north. First to go was the southern Rhone. Done. I can't stand this tepid heaviness any more. Then, the more generic Languedoc blends followed suit. Bo-ring. With a lukewarm Gauby experience recently, I've even become doubtful about the Roussillon. So what about Faugères, one of the more characterful Languedoc appellations? Won't say "last try" yet, but let's just say there's some pressure on Alquier, by common agreement one of the very best names in all of southern France.
Wine, it seems, is still getting more and more alcoholic, a trend to which climate change happily contributes. After all, there is not much that producers can do against rising temperatures. Or is there? Gérard Gauby, a Roussillon winemaker, seems to believe they can. A decade ago he switched to biodynamic winemaking and successfully developed methods to reduce the alcoholic strength of his wines.
I had a 2005 Gauby sitting in my wine rack for a while now, until Julian kicked me into action by commenting on Gauby's 2004: 'Aromatics of overripe plum and dried herbs, but fairly imprecise and unfocused, with sweet and oxidised port notes that didn't work for me. I think very highly of Gauby, but this one doesn't seem to age well. Or maybe a reminder that "natural" wines are at all times capricious, moody fellows?' After reading this it seemed high time to drink up my 2005, in case it had suffered a similar fate. Had it?
So we were drinking this German Syrah one night and - Wait, a German Syrah, you say? Yes, that is true - a Syrah from Germany, and a bloody marvellous one too.
Here in the UK, most people would probably associate the Shiraz grape with Australia. Germans and Austrians, however, like to call it Syrah, and if they were into wine they might know that Austria produces a few nice ones too - and this Syrah is one of them.
The colour is a shiny ruby-red that almost borders on dark chocolate or very reduced balsamic vinegar. I am quite definitive about the latter as I served the wine with slow roast lamb, potato mash and balsamic glazed baby carrots. But back to Count Hardegg's Syrah. Both nose and mouth brought some nice ground pepper thunder to the table - and lots of dark berries, embedded in an almost chocolaty smooth structure and garnished with roast bread and some notes of vanilla and roast oak. [read the full post...]
Do you know the German word 'marmeladig'? I have looked into several dictionaries, but no translation could be found. However, you will need to understand it to understand this wine, even though this Shiraz (or Syrah - two names, but same grape) is Australian and not German at all. It also is a wine that the Wine Rambler reviews as part of our venture into UK supermarket wines, even though a £9.99 wine from Waitrose is not quite what you would expect under this label. [read the full post...]
Two rosés from the languedoc, both predominantly Syrah, with some Grenache, Cinsault and Carignan, one from Paul Mas, via Jacques Weindepot, around 5 €, the other from Olivier Jullien, via K & U, around 12 €.
Up went the brown paper, professionally applied and stylishly decorated by my lovely assistant, who deserves very special mention. Those sharp of eye and quick of wit will quickly see which is which, but for 24 hours, I had no way of knowing. You can follow the links any time you get bored.
Tasted blind here.
Very dark pink.
Smells of raspberries, rose petals, a lot of red and black currants, and a green, fresh touch, as if the leaves and stems of all those fruit had been thrown in as well.
In the mouth, good concentration, very spicy currant fruit again, some wildness, good acidity and a bit of tannin. Fairly long.
Good, seriously made rosé, whith a bit of a rough edge that makes it a food wine much more than a porch sipping wine, but gives it some character. Mind you, rosés are generally not my kind of wine, so I'm not sure I can describe this with any authority. It does seem a bit pricy.
Tasted blind here.
Very dark pink, an impressive colour.
Smells of raspberries, rose petals, but peaches and exotic fruit as well, a certain artificial fruitiness (a little fakey-fake action, as Gary Vaynerchuk would probably say).
In the mouth, full-bodied and smooth, pleasantly fruity, very easy to drink, but with a bit of a hole in the middle, not too long.
Good rosé, certainly convincing for its price, that many people will enjoy for summer sipping. Not the world's greates fan of rosés in general, I'm not blown away, but I can think of worse beverages for an august evening.
It has been a while since I had my last Gauby, quite a while, but I still remember the yummy cherry flavour of his 2005 red. So I thought the 2004 might be just the wine to have with a duck breast with balsamico glazed baby carrots.
The first thing you notice is the deep, dark, glorious red colour. It is followed by a nose of cherry (hurrah!) and berries with a woodland-pepper-spiciness that finds a good addition in a hint of wild animal smell. The pleasant sensation continues in the mouth where the fruitiness of well rounded cherry-berries is nicely balanced by spicy herbs and a hint chocolate, all of which are presented in a cool, smooth way. The tannins are already well integrated. [read the full post...]
Pretty cherry red colour.
Cherry stones (well, it smells of cherries, but also stony, so...), some black forest cherry schnaps (I hate that stuff).
Cherry stones again in the mouth, a little blunt and unfocused, but very spicy in a rustic manner, think the skins of cherries and plums, good fresh acidity and tannin.
It is what it is. Nothing to complain about, nothing to get crazy about. I'm still no closer to loving the southern rhone, although Robert Parker and others keep telling me to. I think I'll give up trying some day soon.
So here I sit, listening to Billy Bragg and Wilco, waiting for a Riesling to reach drinking temperature, and I am really pleased with this French red. The winery, Domaine les Filles de Septembre, was named after the four daughters of wine makers Françoise and Roland Géraud. And Delphine is one of the four. If she is anything like this cuvée of Syrah and Carignan, she must be lovely indeed. [read the full post...]