If you have a look around on the Heymann-Löwenstein website you will eventually stumble upon a message from a Belgian wine merchant. He reports from a blind tasting of Champagnes into which he smuggled a bottle of Löwenstein's non vintage sparkler - and despite being the cheapest wine it got by far the highest score, beating the likes of Billecart-Salmon, Jacques Selosse and Ruinart. This is the type of underdog story that would usually be told about English fizz, but it doesn't hurt to remember that other countries also produce great wines made according to the classic Champagne method.
That Germany is one of them should not be a surprise, after all it consumes around a quarter of the world's sparkling wine and produces close to 400 million bottles a year.
Marxists and luxurious sparkling wine surely don't mix well? Well, they do. As Champagne consumers the leaders of Eastern block and other communists states did and do quite well, thank you, although one could question whether they are true Marxists. Marxists winemakers are a rarer breed, but I can think of at least one who not only makes stunning still wines but also very charming sparklers. His name is Reinhard Löwenstein and amongst other things he is famous for his Riesling from terraced Mosel vineyards.
Riesling can also be used to make sparkling wine, of course, and today we take a look at Löwenstein's non-vintage "Fantasie der Schieferterrassen" - Fantasy of Slate Terraces.
Looking back over the last few weeks of wine rambling, I realise it has been a little while since we have reviewed a dry Riesling. As certain standards need to be upheld (and the world reminded that Germany defines itself more and more about dry), a bottle of dry German Riesling was uncovered from my wardrobe cellar.
As it happens, it was a dry Mosel Riesling, made by winemaker revolutionary Reinhard Löwenstein.
Reinhard Löwenstein is a well known and, at least for some, controversial German wine figure. A communist in his youth, he is among the few writing winemakers (and not afraid to quote Marx) and also a vocal proponent of the idea of terroir in Germany. On his steep Mosel vineyards he almost exclusively grows Riesling, often substantial wines that need time to develop their potential.
I mention this because when the other day I wanted to introduce a friend to Löwenstein Riesling I only had a 2008 to hand and was a little concerned about opening the wine so early.
The Mosel, heartland of the German Riesling, valley of steep slopes, home of castles and ruins - what better place to spend a holiday and taste some wine? Molly Hovorka, food-wine-travel blogger of Baking in Stilettos recently embarked on such a Mosel adventure, and she was kind enough to share her travel story with the Wine Rambler's readers - who may know her from a previous guest ramble, on the subject of Hungary's unique white wines. A highly recommended read, as is the following ramble on her Mosel adventure. Enjoy, and learn.
Mosel travels, a guest ramble by Molly Hovorka
It’s hard to believe that I’ve become such a lover of German wines. Years and years ago, I had the opportunity to attend a tasting of 40+ German wines from the West Coast’s top importer. To say I didn’t like them would be an understatement: I believe I described them as tasting like flat grape soda, and weak soda at that, and left having purchased two bottles of Spanish wine from the bargain bin.
I could kick myself today. No doubt we were tasting amazing wines that day; I believe the cheapest on the table was around $40/bottle and the prices went up sharply from there. Happily, my taste has changed and now nothing delights me more than the acidity, bright fruit, comparatively low alcohol content, and, most especially, the minerality of Mosel Riesling.
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...]
Imagine the Winesleuth comes to visit. Well, a good week ago fellow London-based wine blogger Denise did actually come over for dinner. And as Winesleuths and -ramblers cannot be without wine for too long, we had to taste two German Rieslings. One was the a deliciously sweet Riesling, the 2007 Goldtröpfchen Spätlese from the Haart winery, which was reviewed here before. The first was a Riesling too, but a dry one the Löwenstein winery. Here is what Denise had to say about it (so I guess this is our first guest-blog, in a way): [read the full post...]
Sometimes something is in the air. A few days ago I realised that we actually never reviewed a wine made by Reinhard Löwenstein. And as it so happened a bottle of his Riesling found itself uncorked last weekend - and not only here in London, but also in Munich where fellow Wine Rambler Julian enjoyed a 2004 Heymann-Löwenstein (we did not coordinate this). Read his excellent review of a gorgeous wine, especially as it will tell you why you should keep an eye on this extraordinary winery. As Julian has already set the context, I can keep this review of the more basic 2008 Schieferterrassen Riesling rather short. [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...]