In 2009 for a short moment I was cool. You might have been too, without knowing it. Back then we had street cred - just by drinking Riesling. No, I am not insane, nor did I have too much Riesling tonight. In 2009 middle-class wine geeks had a moment of cool when Jay-Z put the following words into the mouths of millions: "I'm beasting off the Riesling!" Twitter was full of references to Riesling, mostly from cool kids who sounded like they'd never before heard of it. Just one line, but much more effective than any marketing campaign - I have brought this up in every discussion on how to raise the profile of German wine since.
Around that time I did consider to take inspiration from Jay-Z and play around with video and perhaps music on the Wine Rambler to reach audiences that might never care about wine writing. Sadly or perhaps luckily, my musical talent is limited and co-Rambler Julian (who actually has some) refuses to even go near a video recording device. Three years later, Wines of Germany USA have, in a way, taken up my advice and produced what may be the world's first Riesling rap song: Must be Seduktion. [read the full post...]
Gelber Orleans, to me, is probably the most exciting wine there is. Sadly I am aware that even if you should believe me it won't help you very much as it is incredibly hard to find - even in Germany, which to my knowledge is the only country where it is grown. It is so rare that whenever, wherever I see a bottle of Orleans I can afford I will buy it. Usually that means turning to the Knipser brothers who grow some in the Pfalz.
Thankfully, despite its rarity it is not an overly expensive wine - if you compare it like for like that is. And that puts this three star dry late harvest against a top Riesling. What do you get for that price?
2013 has now begun in earnest, and for the Wine Rambler that means it is time to start regular service again and write about wine. With our focus on Germany you would naturally expect the first bottle of the year to be of Teutonic origin - but, behold!, it is not. Geographically and linguistically Austria may not be far away, but even if some see the Austrians as Bavarians with charm, the Austrians themselves insist on their independence. Every single screw cap or capsule of Austrian wine says so in proud colours.
So why not pick a German wine as the first in 2013 on this (mostly) German wine blog? Well, first of all because we are not *that* German, but more importantly because of: tradition, quality and availability.
Vineyards in northern Yorkshire, dentists, wine museums without wine, finding the pink soul of Riesling, drinking some of the best and worst wines of Germany, finishing unfinished business in Washington, almost enjoying fermentation, sex and murder - it is hard to think of something 2012 did not have on the cards for us.
So before the New Year really starts it is time to look back over a year of wine rambling and pick up a few of the high- and lowlights.
We could not leave the waning year behind without giving you the official shortlist you've all been nervously waiting for. Just to make sure you don't get the wrong impression: This is a highly subjective parade. It's ours alone, and it's in no way a comprehensive ranking. The following are simply those that impressed and delighted us most out of the minuscule drop of German Wine ocean that we happen to have sampled over the past year. It so happens that all of them were from past vintages, rather than fresh out of the 2011 barrels, but again, that is in no way a judgement on the qualities (or lack thereof) of the current vintage.
Christmas lies behind us, the new year hasn't quite started yet - it is the supposedly quiet time "zwischen den Jahren", or between the years as the Germans say. It is the time when memories and hangovers of heavy Christmas food and wine are still close enough to feel physical, and yet New Year's eve calls with classy Champagne and another set of booze-heavy parties.
In short, it is a good time to leave the heavy, deep, expensive, mindblowing wines behind and think about lighter alternatives that don't lack the enjoyment factor. Enter Hanspeter Ziereisen's Heugumber.
Munich. It is late on Christmas Eve. Snow falls, it is icy and families are sitting around the hearth. No, wait. There is no snow. There is no ice. It is not even cold. Earlier today I arrived in Germany to spend Christmas with my folks and found that summer rules in the lands of Bavaria. A record breaking 20.7C measured in the city centre of Munich! Goodbye to the German cliché of Christmas then, at least for this year. And goobye to the idea of decorating this Christmas post with an illustration of German Christmas Gemütlichkeit, as I had planned.
So I have to resort to an illustration of American Christmas cosiness - "here is one I have prepared earlier" (Newport Bridge, as seen from Jamestown CT a little over a week ago). Maybe not such a bad thing to be more international, after all our readers come from all over the world. So wherever you are this Christmas, the Wine Ramblers send their love and all the best wishes for a great holiday, health and good wine!
We all have our missions in life. Big missions, casual missions, impossible missions and the odd small mission. One of my small missions is to convince co-Rambler Julian of the qualities of Chardonnay. Not that he dislikes it, he just does not feel the right excitement. Thankfully, today this mission nicely blends (in a pure, single varietal way of course) with the Wine Rambler mission of convincing you, gentle reader, that German wine is well worth exploring - and that includes German Chardonnay.
Whether this is an impossible mission only you will know, but like Jim Phelps I am not one to turn down a mission when it comes to find me.
Some reviews seem to write themselves, in extreme cases even before you have had a detailed look at the product. I mean honestly, what could you possibly expect from a "wine country mystery" novel entitled The Riesling Retribution that blends the discovery of a body near a vineyard, a love triangle in a winery and old family secrets into a "combustible atmosphere" that also features "eerie ghost stories", "buried secrets" and "a most unexpected outcome"? Is it really a recommendation when the cover cites an inspired reviewer with the verdict "A crisp read that goes down smoothly with a pleasant finish"? Would you trust an author to produce great literature who titles her novels The Bordeaux Betrayal or The Viognier Vendetta?
Let's see if the reality of Ellen Crosby's The Riesling Retribution is quite as predictable as that.
Christmas has come early at the Wine Rambler. No, we haven't changed the calendar and yes I know it is almost Christmas anyway, so this line is less effective than it might have been in July. However, the wines I had recently have been so good there can be no doubt that 'tis the season to be jolly. Exciting sparkling Riesling followed by aged Nectar harmony Muscat and now what may very well have been the most accomplished dry white wine I have had this year.
A first rate Silvaner, the exciting and under-rated German grape variety we have been shouting about for a few years now - and it even comes in the traditional Franconian "Bocksbeutel" bottle.
"Torsten and Julian have this wine blog, and they mostly review sweet wines." This is how a friend introduced the Wine Rambler at a dinner party - much to my surprise as sweet wines make up only a relatively small amount of our wine reviews: not even 1/6 and even with the off-dry ones added we don't quite come to 2/7. Perhaps my outspoken love for Mosel Riesling (which tends to be off-dry or sweet) contributed to this image, or it is just the general perception that German wine is sweet. Instead of fighting this cliché today I shall give in to it. Let's not just drink sweet, let's indulge in sweet.
Ladies and Gentlemen, friends of sweetness and sugar hounds, I give you an ice wine from the Pfalz.
Germany, for those of you who did not know it, produces some excellent sparkling wine in a style similar to Champagne. It also produces a unique fizze ("Sekt") from Riesling, called "Rieslingsekt". This is style of sparkling wine that tends to be crisper and fresher than Champagne. Some of the more exciting specimens of this type blend French complexity with vibrant German Riesling freshness and mineral.
I was lucky in that the most recent bottle of German fizz I opened was one of this type.
It's well known that for the first few years after planting, vines yield bumper harvests, but cannot quite produce the concentrated, characterful flavour in their grapes that old vines are renowned for. So it struck me as somewhat self-defeating when I saw "from young vines" clearly spelled out on this Swabian Cabernet Franc (yes, that's right: Swabian Cabernet Franc) - as far as I'm aware, there is no obligation for a wine grower to inform customers of this on their label. It's either unusually decent and straightforward of Hans Hengerer, who is still a fairly young vine himself, to put it on there.
Or, and this became more plausible for me with every sip of this wine - it is actually a teaser: "It's that good now. Just wait till you taste it when they're fully grown...". Because it actually is that good now:
Music does not taste. Wine does. Rather obvious, but not nearly as simple as you may think. What we perceive as the taste of wine is actually our brain combining all sorts of information and the tongue only plays a relatively small part in this. What we see, know or hear, everything has an influence on how we taste. And as music and wine are often enjoyed together Classic FM and Laithwaites Wine argue it may be worth thinking about how to match them.
To make this point they hosted a wine and music tasting in London last week and the Wine Rambler went to investigate.
Seven years is not a biblical age for a bottle serious red wine, but the Austrian wine scene being obsessed with youth and each new vintage, it is not quite so easy to find older bottles of interesting Austrian reds. Except if you manage to navigate this Wine Rambler's tiny cramped cellar. Recently, I got lucky down there, and found this. Upon seeing the label and suddenly remembering having bought it all those years ago, I made the executive decision that its time had come. It had that in common with the goose who had lost her life for Martinmas and was about to be cooked with some apples and red cabbage.
The Leithaberg is a range of low hills northwest of Lake Neusiedl that a few winemakers from Austria's Burgenland region discovered for its cooler, steeper vineyards after they had become bored by the powerfully fruity, but somewhat complacent wines to be made from their lakeside plots.
When I woke up this morning to the news of Barack Obama being re-elected I immediately realised how I had to write tonight's Riesling review. It would have to be about expectation management. This is something the 44th President of the United States would have a lot to say about as the disappointment some Democrats seem to feel towards him originated from perhaps unrealistically high expectations in his first presidency. Expectation management goes beyond politics of course and I suspect all of us will have been disappointed in something or someone when actually their only "failure" was not to have fulfilled our expectations.
Film is an area where I suffer from this effect occasionally, despite struggling not to be infected by the most recent hype. It also happens with regards to wine, but to me as a Wine Rambler it poses a more serious issue. How can we ensure not to be negatively influenced by our expectations? And this is how the poor, innocent Rheingau Riesling gets dragged into this malarkey.
It could have been the cheap Pinot Grigio. It could have been all the talk about boring Super Tuscans. Or maybe it was growing up in Munich where everyone who wanted to be trendy drank Italian wine and annoyed the heck out of me with their cheap Prosecco talk. Whatever the reason, I don't tend to look to Italy when it comes to buying wine. Now, it has been established that I am a cool climate sucker and a certified acid hound, but a country with such a great wine tradition and amazing range of grape varieties and regions should have something to offer that I like.
Well, it does - and even more shockingly I found it in a supermarket.
One of the glories of being a wine amateur without an ounce of professionalism is the childish pleasure you can take in things that more knowledgeable folk take for granted. Recently for instance, I rediscovered decanting. Now, of course I do know what pouring a wine into a larger carafe for greater air exposure does in theory, but somehow, I had let the habit slip. After all, there isn't always time for these kitchen rituals. But the exceptionally rewarding Grüner Veltliner on review today showed me what I may have been missing, as decanting did it a world of good.
The first swigs of this very young wine straight out of the bottle were not promising: A heavy, awkward and withdrawn wine. After two hours in the wide-bottom decanter, out on the cool balcony, we found something very different indeed:
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.
A map, a camera and a wine glass. These are the essential tools of the civilised traveller. The map will get you there, the camera will capture it - and the wine glass is used to enjoy the exciting wines you discover. Water, food, first aid kit, I hear someone say, are surely more important than a wine glass! Well, I thought so too. After all where there is wine there must also be a wine glass, you would think.
Sadly, you are wrong. Let me tell you a little story - a true story - that happened this summer. It involves yours truly, a map and no wine glass. And the Samos Wine Museum.