The Van Volxem estate needs no introduction. The excellent Rieslings made by Roman Niewodniczanski (English speakers are invited to send us recordings of how you pronounce that name) don't require the endorsement of the humble Wine Rambler - although we are happy to give it, for what it is worth. Today though we are looking at an entry level Riesling from VV, the Saar Riesling. A hundred years ago Riesling from the Saar was amongst the most prestigious and expensive wines in the world. How about the 2009 basic Riesling from a winemaker dedicated to restore the Saar to its former glory?
I am a Swabian. It is not easy for me to admit this. Not even in English and to an audience for which this may not mean anything at all. In Germany, there is nothing cool about being born into the tribe that is famous for bringing the world inventions such as the compulsory weekly sweeping of the staircase (I am not kidding, it is called Kehrwoche) or a special mortgage savings account (Bausparvertrag).
The latter may recommend us to the English, but I am coming out tonight for another reason. Yes, I am a Swabian and there is nothing cool about it. But I am also a Swabian who as a child played just a stones' throw from where Rainer Schnaitmann now makes this great value kick-ass Riesling in the town of Fellbach. Also, I am the Swabian who was lucky enough to down the wine with a cool Scottish girl who likes her white wine dry and has a crush on Swabians.
If I am not mistaken, our readers have had to go without Wine Rambler Silvaner coverage since August 31. That is clearly unacceptable and will be remedied as follows ("quickly and unbureaucratically", as german public officials are fond of saying): The Burrlein winery of Mainstockheim, which we have already featured as part of our Müller-Thurgau report, has consistently turned out over-achieving quality Silvaners to its large customer base these last few years. Has it delivered again?
After exploring in some depth the potential and perception of residually sweet Riesling, we turn, very briefly, to a style of the variety that is hardly known or appreciated outside of Germany: light, basic range dry Riesling. That type of working man's white is most reliably produced not along the more glamorous Mosel, but in down-to-earth Pfalz (the Palatinate), where vineyards are less capriciously steep and the climate more dependable, and it goes by the name of Kabinett trocken. Almost every half-decent winery there produces a few of those from different vineyards, and almost every inhabitant of the region will have one on their dinner table - almost every day.
New York City is hipster territory - or at least that is the message it is trying very hard to project during my current visit. Interestingly, most things German do seem to be considered hip, especially German beer culture. The Lower East Side for instance welcomed me with German brass music, schnitzel and beer served by busty wenches dressed in pseudo Bavarian outfits. German Riesling, it turns out, is also very popular among the cool wine kids here, so it was quite fitting I brought one over to share with my host: a late harvest Riesling made by one of my favourite producers at the Mosel, Theo Haart. Usually, I would have opted for a Haart Riesling from one of the famous vineyards such as Piesporter Goldtröpfchen, but a few years ago I came across this late harvest from several vineyards around Piesport, which to me seemed almost more interesting than some of the wines from the top sites. Did it hold up as well as Haart's premier wines though, I wondered, or were we in for a disappointment?
Reviewed in our Müller-Thurgau report, and updated accordingly:
Light straw colour
Smells like ripe apples, sliced raw Kohlrabi (cabbage turnip?) and maybe a little freshly cut grass. In the mouth, mild acidity, again ripe apple fruit and an earthy, limestony kind of minerality.
Quite an achievement for Luckert to get such power and relative depth out of a grape variety otherwise known for high yields and little character. It could easily pass for a dry Silvaner Spätlese, both in taste and in substance.
a) have had a Silvaner from Franken before and liked it,
Weinhof Herrenberg is Claudia and Manfred Loch's place, a tiny winery with just two hectares in Schoden on the River Saar that they have built up more or less from scratch, plot by plot, and with somewhat precarious resources. This is a very different history from the Van Volxem enterprise, which came with heavy investment, grander plans and more ambitious marketing from day one. Still, both outfits share some similarities. Both were willing to look beyond the winemaking traditions of the last few decades. Both managed to create a new kind of Saar Riesling that was actually a recreation of the pre-1950s style: Ripe wines with more powerful fruit and less prominent acidity than has been, and still is, "traditional" on the Saar. With their enthusiasm and nonconformism they have, between them, managed to break open the wine scene on this Mosel tributary, which had been dominated by an establishment of aristoricatic estates with a somewhat patrician attitude. High time we had a closer look at what Herrenberg has to offer, then, and we'll start with one of their mid-range dryish Riesling (they only make Riesling):
Being about a Litre bottle, the hardest part of this review was, of course, the choice of pun: "Following the litre" is lame, "Take me to your litre" is good, but has already been taken (I can't remember where I've read it). I'll have to come back to you on the puns. First, here's the message: Anyone can make an expensive wine that is at least very good. To make an estate-grown, non-industrial cheap wine that is enjoyable and has character, that's the difficult part. Dr. Heyden has joined the contest for Litre of the Pack (sorry) with his 2008 Silvaner, and we are talking 3,90 € for 1000 ml of it.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...]
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.
Straw-coloured. Fairly understated smell of candied citrus peel, camomile tea and a hint of petrol.
The taste is so much fresher and more open: Wonderful rich sweetness, elegant ripe pineapple notes, the world's fruitiest camomile tea, the tiniest hint of caramel, good stable acidity, a mineral background. What makes this Spätlese wonderful is that it has the complex flavours of maturity (the typical lemon, peach and apricot aroma of young riesling is almost completely gone), but is still vibrant and fresh. It seems that, out of pure luck, I have opened it at a very good point in its development.
From a region not often talked about, a producer to watch out for.
This wine brought great enjoyment to our modest kitchen table - and made me feel vaguely stupid for rambling on about wines five times as expensive with as many adjectives.
Here, three will be enough: fresh, clean, appetizing.
3,75 € for one litre of nice Riesling - beat that, if you can.