My love of German Riesling clearly has crossed the fine line that separates "famous" from "infamous": earlier this week a wine acquaintance on Twitter apologised to me for looking forward to having an Australian Riesling! To improve my image I decided there had to be a token non-German Riesling review on the Wine Rambler asap to hide that fact the deep down we do of course believe that the only good Riesling is a German Riesling.
So what better country to turn to than Austria, a country that like Germany has a range of confusing quality levels for wine, that features labels of a similar style and that, if it was not for the Austrian colours on the cap of every bottle, would on account of the language probably be mistaken for German by most international customers anyway. Selecting an Austrian Riesling will surely boost our post-nationalist credentials!
It doesn't always have to be Bordeaux. That's a pretty obvious statement from a blog dedicated to German wine, but it also applies to France. Today, however, is not about German Pinot Noir (nor German Dornfelder, Syrah, Lemberger) and it is also not about Burgundy. Today is about Cahors, and that means the Malbec grape. It is also about slow roast lamb shoulder and Easter, but more importantly of course it is about...
...the first magnum bottle of red wine to be reviewed on the Wine Rambler. It took us very long, didn't it?
Sometimes Burgundy is not in France. Well, technically it might still be in France, for all I know, but metaphysically speaking I believe Burgundy is also a state of wine that can travel - and like the holy spirit of wine it can come down elsewhere and turn red wine into true Pinot Noir. Some of you heathens will now think of Oregon, New Zealand or California, but I have seen it happen in one of the more unlikely places on earth: the cool climate Mosel.
Yes, the Mosel makes Pinot Noir that can rival Burgundy. There may not be much of it, but I think of one man in particular, driven by faith in his vines: Markus Molitor.
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.
Other than many of my British acquaintances, I don't often complain about the weather in London as I usually like it. Today though it has thrown a spanner in the works of the carefully planned Wine Rambler schedule. Expecting autumn to make its appearance, I had opened a Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder) the other day but now England is hotter and sunnier than it has been all summer - and here I am reviewing a wine that most people would rather associate with autumn. Having said that, a good Pinot should always be a great companion, so I hope you can forgive me for appearing unseasonal.
The Pinot in question comes from a highly respected producer in the Pfalz. On about 20ha, Steffen Christmann grows Riesling, Pinot Noir and a range of other grapes including Pinot Blanc/Gris and Gewürztraminer. Christmann is not only lucky to own parts of several very well known vineyards (such as the Ölberg), he also happens to be head of VDP, the leading German association of premier estates.
A couple of years ago I discussed German red wine with a lover of red Burgundy. He was mildly curious, but at the same time convinced that German Pinot Noir, or Spätburgunder, might be acceptable yet would not be substantial enough to age for more than three or four years.
Now, with a Spätburgunder of barely seven years of age to review today I am probably not in a position to change that view (for that I would refer to a 1999 from the Mosel and a 1992 from Baden) - but then we drink wine to enjoy it and not to correct Burgundy fans.
It is still Silvaner season at the Wine Rambler. Actually, for us it is Silvaner season throughout most of the year, but over the past few months we have been even more busy exploring this often underrated German grape variety. Today's specimen is a little unusual, even for us, as it is a sweet Silvaner, an ice wine in fact. Ice wine is made from grapes frozen on the vine - a process that helps extract water and thus (relatively) increases extract and sugar levels, making for delicious sweet wines.
This ice wine was made by Pfalz producer Gerhard Klein based in the village of Hainfeld. If you are not familiar with the Pfalz, you may be amazed to hear that among the grapes they grow are Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Now I even read that Kleins also plant Grüner Veltliner! Compared to that, Silvaner is a much traditional German planting, and that's what we will focus on today.
For a mercifully long time, you have had no updates on this Wine Rambler's hare-brained and underfunded quest to find impressive and affordable Pinot Noir from Burgundy. I don't deceive myself that many of our readers more wise to the world of wine have secretly hoped that I would have given up, Burgundy being a region for deep-dyed aficionados only. Au contraire, my friends, and tonight, it is time for a new installment in this ongoing story of quixotic determination and befuddled ignorance.
It was up to Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier this time. Could this bottle of Nuits-Saint-Georges Premier Cru finally be the one to open the floodgates to all that near-orgasmic Burgundy magic?
See short tasting note here.
Wine rambling-wise, Spain has not been among my preferred hunting grounds. As with Italy, I've not yet figured out what makes it tick as a wine country, and some of the more stream-lined reds I've tried have not encouraged me to invest more energy. Which is my loss, as afficionados and Spain experts will be quick - and correct - to point out. A notable exception over the last few years has been this red that Alvaro Palacios (of Priorato fame) makes from the Mencia grape in the little known northern Spanish region of Bierzo. This was the last of three bottles, and none of them failed to satisfy. So here's making it up to Spain:
Recently, I have been drinking quite a few Salwey wines, both red and white. So far the wines from the sun-kissed south-west of Germany have entertained me very well, so it was time to try a sparkling Salwey - even more so as I had a few friends over the other night who had not yet tried a German sparkler. Time to change that!
Pop, went the cork and a wonderfully bubbly sparkling wine of the most amazing amber colour foamed into our glasses. I don't think I have seen such a wonderful deep amber in a wine, it was just perfect. One of my British friends described the colour, and this reference may be lost on many, as 'not quite Irn-bru'. This was a most promising start!
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.
Deep, but transparent cherry red, going brown around the edge.
Wonderful mature pinot smell, wet forest floor, plum juice, quite dense and so seductive.
Dense, but also transparent fruit, salty mineral flavours, noticeable, but by now perfectly integrated oak. It ends like a great lunch, with chocolate and coffee notes.
Excellent, a real pleasure to smell and drink.
This was my second-to-last bottle, and I didn't enjoy the previous ones nearly as much. Maybe my palate is adjusting more and more to the lighter, more elegant style of Spätburgunder (possible), or else this wine has just reached the drinking age that brings out its very best (also possible, four to six years being generally a good age to drink the better german pinots at, in my humble experience).
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...]
It's high time one of the legends of german wine made his first appearance here: Mosel winemaker Reinhard Löwenstein started using "slow" winemaking techniques like natural fermentation and prolonged skin contact when they were unheard of. He talked about terroir in the dark 1980s, when few within the German must-weight bureaucracy had heard of such a thing. A communist activist in his earlier days, and a natural-born rebel by temperament, Löwenstein has been mistrusted and reviled all along the conservative Mosel, but ridicule quickly turned into envy as his Rieslings won critical acclaim and commanded high prices from raptured customers. [read the full post...]
Is there anything better than a nicely aged, excellent Riesling? I am not sure, but drinking this late harvest from winemaker Haart makes me think there may not be many things that would be better.
The colour is just beautiful, shiny gold with a hint of green. The nose is sophisticated, juicy peach with light herbal notes, cool, buttery mineral and the slightest hint of petrol. [read the full post...]
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...]
German department store chain Hertie / Karstadt is broke, and the market on my way to work is one of those that are to close permanently. I couldn't help but look in on its second-but-last day out of morbid curiosity. Amid the eery atmosphere of an empty supermarket, on one of those cheesy fake barrels of the wine section, I found them: Ten or twelve little golden half-bottles, like a lost flock of ducklings, sporting blow-out price tags, but shunned by the bargain hunters. One I took home.
Wirsching is one of Franconia's most reputable producers, with hefty dry Silvaners. "Wiqem" is a rip-off on Chateau d'Yquem, of course, the world's best know dessert wine. Even the lable mimics Sauternes. It's a sweet Auslese made from a mix of grape varieties. [read the full post...]
No one in their right mind would open a 14.5 % wine on a hot summer evening, I know, but we had a chicken in a wonderful creamy tarragon sauce to take care of, we needed a heavy hitter, so I took a desperate gamble. It was a crazy plan, but it might just have worked...
In the nose, classic pinot blanc: honeydew melon, salted almonds, biscuit, a hint of dried herbs. In the mouth, think - and I've had time to think, tasting this on the second day - think melon again, artichokes, aloe skin cream. Now coat this mixture in white chocolate with salted pistachio pieces, and you have it - it's a meal, really. [read the full post...]