Two years ago, I reminisced about student days and staircases. Last year, I got all corduroy trousers and turtleneck sweater about the term "elite". Somewhat disappointingly, this has not stopped Dallmayr, the renowned Munich delicatessen store, from again using the name Winzerelite (wine making elite) for their annual spring tasting of German and Austrian estates. Clearly, we needed to try another tack with Dallmayr, who this year actually invited us to attend as - imaging our proudly beaming faces - press. From a friendly chat with Dallmayr's public relations guy, we gathered that they were happy to have bloggers spread the word, but not yet sure how to understand their reach compared to print journalism. Not a scepticism that you often hear in the English-speaking wine world these days, but we were happy to rise to the occasion: a new journalistic approach was clearly called for here.
We decided not to come along with a preconceived set of questions but to actually let the winemakers steer the conversation. We asked the men and women manning the stalls to pour us just one wine, their most important one. That should not have to be the most expensive one, nor necessarily the best, we insisted, but simply the one most worth talking about. And then we tasted, and we listened.
Every hype brings with it the danger of disappointment. I mostly suffer from this with regards to movies (which is why I am staying away from reviews of "The Dark Knight Rises" until I have had a chance to see it), but the same can happen with wine. When it comes to the Saar Riesling from the Van Volxem estate hype was never needed to convince me to buy a few bottles every year as it has been consistently good, and also good value.
Even so I could not help notice the bold headlines that my wine merchant threw at me with this wine - headlines of high praise from respected wine critics for a Riesling that does not even follow the "single vineyard" paradigm. Because of the quality of the previous vintages I was confident it would be good, but would the hype spoil my enjoyment when I would not be quite blown away?
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:
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?
This will be a source of great joy, especially as I hear so many good things about the 2009 vintage...
You have never heard the name 'Scharzhofberg' before? Well, take a pen (or a keyboard) and write it down. Scharzhofberg is the name of a German vineyard, located near the Saar river (close to the Mosel). There are of course many vineyards in Germany, but Scharzhofberg has an excellent reputation and may be one of the most expensive bits of real estate in German winemaking - if you could buy land there, as producers jealously guard every square meter they own. Land rarely changes hands there, but the Van Volxem estate is lucky enough to own a small part of the 28 hectare vineyard. So let's have a look at what they can do with it, shall we?
These days, I find myself drinking more and more Weißburgunder (Pinot Blanc). It can be very food friendly (especially when you go for lighter food, fish and the seasonal asparagus (even though the latter is always a bit tricky)) and I enjoy the contrast to the sharper Riesling. A particularly good and typical recent example for Weißburgunder came from the Saar river, very close to the Mosel. It looked a little bit like this:
Sometimes, sometimes I smell the cork of a freshly uncorked bottle of wine and I know great things are ahead. Sometimes, sometimes I do not even have to get my nose close to the wine glass to sing and jubilate. Sometimes, sometimes I set a wine glass down in utter awe, in quiet yet powerful excitement because I have found a wine that is pure awesome. And guess what, I just had one of these moments. Without doubt, this is the best dry white wine I have had in 2010, such a wonderful dream of peach, mineral and elegance that I could still cry tears of joy: the 2008 Goldberg, a Riesling from the Mosel(le) tributary Saar.
Nice yellow colour and even nicer mineral in the nose; also notes of vegetable, citrus fruit and peach. The nose is not very intense, but quite pleasant. Pleasant is also a key word for my palate reaction to this wine. Mineral, a bit of candied peach with nice, almost creamy mineral and well integrated fresh acidity. [read the full post...]
So far wines from the Van Volxem winery have not let us down, so when I came across a bottle of the 2005 Riesling from the Saar river at my favourite Battersea wine merchant last year (the notes are from September) I had to take it home with me.
A wine of shiny golden colour and a nice nose of mineral, smoothed over with caramel-plum and herbs, with the addition of a little petrol. In the mouth, a rich, almost saturated experience, a Riesling with some complexity and also well rounded. [read the full post...]
In June 2008, London was invaded by Germans. Twice. And I was in the thick of it. It all started with an announcement by the guys from The Winery, one of my favourite London wine shops:
Ryanair allowing, two growers from the Mosel will be joining us for the evening, each top of their stylistic trees, masters of their dangerously steep slopes, each with global reputations. Clemens Busch, the dry Riesling guru from Punderich and Theo Haart, the fruity Riesling specialist from Piesport.