I want to believe. Not in UFOs, Armageddon or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, but in wine - in all the lost causes, regions and plucky little grape varieties that no one trusted to ever produce anything of worth. I want to believe, to give them a chance, to celebrate their triumph over the expected. One grape variety that needs such a triumph is Müller-Thurgau. Looking at the statistics you would not believe it, after all MT is the second most planted grape variety in Germany.
However, no one loves it as it is seen as the boring main ingredient for German bulk wine, not even worthy to be mentioned on the label. Can we still believe in it?
Cheap Pinot Grigio, oaked Chardonnay and fruitbomb Sauvignon Blanc are the three banes of the popular white wine world. For my day job I regularly attend functions organised by public sector bodies who have next to no money for entertainment and, perhaps worse, no one who really cares about finding value, so I have had many an encounter with this unholy trinity. Luckily I know that all these grape varieties are capable of producing fantastic wines, although I have to admit that my relationship with Sauvignon Blanc never has been an easy one. Too often even the better wines have me on my knees begging for mercy after a broadside of pungent grassy aromas, gooseberry, intense vegetal flavours and intense blackcurrant.
On the other hand there are very nicely balanced examples too, and sometimes I just crave crisp, fruity intensity. The other day it was one of those moments and I turned to the German wine region of Franken (Franconia) to satisfy my urge.
Buying clothes and shoes is a difficult business. Even if you happen to know what you want and even if the market agrees that you should want it and offers it to you, there is no guarantee it will fit. I cannot remember how often I have tried trousers or shoes of the size I have bought for years and continued to buy for years after - and the bastards won't fit. Like the EU size 46 trainers that my 43-44 size feet would not even get into. Producers apparently like to interpret size in line with changing fashion. This of course does not fit my modernist brain that believes a size is a size and not a fashion statement. Wine bottles are different though - a 750ml bottle will pretty much always fit your wine rack. Unless it is a Franconian Bocksbeutel, of course.
Admittedly, this is not very practical (and I wonder if there are Bocksbeutel racks for the serious collectors of Franconian wine), but to me it is a satisfying change from the norm, and as you get what it says on the label it is also honest. Like a good Franconian Silvaner should be.
We've reviewed wines from Zehnthof Luckert before, and have not so far been disappointed. Today, we turn to Blauer Silvaner, being a blue-skinned variety of Silvaner that is not, as Jancis Robinson's authoritative "Oxford Companion to Wine" proclaims, merely a speciality of Württemberg, but also found along the river Main in Franconia.
If the Luckert family wants to send a bottle of this to Jancis Robinson as proof of that, I suggest they go ahead, because they certainly need not be ashamed of it:
The German tribe of the Franconians do appear to have been geographically misplaced by providence. Not only are they the Protestant outsiders in deeply Catholic Bavaria, they are also a winemaking tribe in a state known mostly for its beer. Perhaps this is why they aim to make up for it by being more distinctive, for instance with their oddly shaped Bocksbeutel wine bottles. Most winemakers use these as a proud statement of origin - not so the Luckert brothers.
Even some of their Franconian signature Silvaner wines ship in standard bottles, and the bottle of the top of the range Pinot Noir looks a little more Burgundian than Franconian - a stylistic message in a bottle shape?
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,
We have long found that, much as we give due reverence to king Riesling, the most august sovereign of german wine, those grapes in the second and third rank also deserve respect from time to time. Today, we bring you the one german grapes that has been further from the spotlight than any other, and yet is almost ubiquitous. And it all starts with the stern-faced gentleman below. Intrigued? Not exactly? Read on anyway, for a story of mishap and unexpected success, a mystery solved, some wines tasted, and a human bumblebee.
At the Wine Rambler, we have this ongoing love affair with the Silvaner grape. Today's Silvaner comes from the German wine region of Franken, the spiritual home of this grape variety.
This is a textbook Silvaner in the best sense of the word. You get earthy, grassy notes, almost smoky. There is apple, refreshing in the nose and well defined on the tongue. At its core the Silvaner is robust, but smooth round the edges with notable minerality.
Bavaria, home of the BMW, the original Disney castle and German red wine. Oh, wait, did I say 'German red wine'? Obviously, I should have said 'German beer' or something along those lines. However, I am just now looking at a bottle coming from Bavaria that features no lion or young maiden on the label; instead, it has a red screw cap and says 'Spätburgunder' (Pinot Noir) and 'unfiltriert' (unfiltered). And it looks, smells and tastes like a red wine. More importantly, it looks, smells and tastes like a good red wine. So while I am not telling you to forget about Bavarian lager, you may want to keep an eye out for red wine from the Bavarian wine growing region of Franken (Franconia).
Zehnthof Luckert has put out a masterly collection of wines in 2008. After the explosively fruity dry Muskateller, the earthy and rich Müller-Thurgau, this old vine-Silvaner brings some more thunder (and these are all from the affordable section...).
Nice deep straw colour, almost a golden tinge. Smells of ripe pears, peaches, ginger. More peachy and Riesling-like on the second day.
In the mouth, ripe apples and peaches, textbook earthy minerality, quite creamy and rich, but with good acidity, vibrant, that great ginger spiciness again, and - is that curry? Not over-typical for Silvaner, as it could easily pass for a unusually creamy and spicy Riesling, but that doesn't take anything away. [read the full post...]