Schnaitmann, Riesling ** Fellbach, 2007
I am a Swabian. It is not easy for me to admit this. Not even in English and to an audience for which this may not mean anything at all. In Germany, there is nothing cool about being born into the tribe that is famous for bringing the world inventions such as the compulsory weekly sweeping of the staircase (I am not kidding, it is called Kehrwoche) or a special mortgage savings account (Bausparvertrag).
The latter may recommend us to the English, but I am coming out tonight for another reason. Yes, I am a Swabian and there is nothing cool about it. But I am also a Swabian who as a child played just a stones' throw from where Rainer Schnaitmann now makes this great value kick-ass Riesling in the town of Fellbach. Also, I am the Swabian who was lucky enough to down the wine with a cool Scottish girl who likes her white wine dry and has a crush on Swabians.
Whether my friend Laura's crush on Swabians means very much for Rainer Schnaitmann I wouldn't know. Most likely he is happily married. What I do know is that the scion of a dynasty with 500 years of winemaking history started producing wine under his own label in Fellbach in 1997. With a focus on low yields and high quality Schnaitmann soon acquired an excellent reputation. On 12 ha of land in, around and near Fellbach he is now growing quite a variety of grapes. The red ones include the local hero Trollinger, but also varietals such as Pinot Noir, Dornfelder, Pinot Meunier, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Syrah. The whites are as diverse and range from Riesling to Silvaner, Pinot Blanc/Gris, Gewürztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc. Schnaitmann also produces sparkling wine and rosé.
Fellbach is located in the slightly cooler south-eastern part of the Swabian wine growing region. The temperature may explain why Riesling is more common here than in other parts of Württemberg. For his Riesling, Schnaitmann increasingly relies on natural yeasts for fermentation, and the wines are being bottled after several months on the yeast.
I did not know anything about this when I lived in Fellbach, and back then even for Rainer Schnaitmann running his own estate was still a few years in the making. What I mostly remember about Fellbach are the fantastic Spätzle you can eat there, a very robust and strangely shaped Swabian type of egg noodle. I also remember having a hiding place in the garden of a local conference centre - where a friend and I based the HQ of our detective club. I remember a guy with a bonanza bike demolishing my playmobile castle and me retaliating by no longer letting him watch Captain Future with me - most kids my age were not allowed to watch the show, but at least with regards to Japanese scifi I had the cutting edge over the local Swabians. And I remember playing football enthusiastically. How times have changed.
Now I care much more about serving Swabian Riesling to Scottish girls. This particular specimen (of Riesling, not of girl) has an exciting nose (actually, Laura's nose isn't bad either) that features a range of lovely fresh (melon, pear and apple), baked (peach) and caramelised fruit. What mostly determines the character though is an intense smoky mineralness that is accentuated by mentholy herbal notes. A bouquet that radiates character and focus. Smoky is also my first impression on the tongue, almost bordering on burned potato peel. After the very fruity nose the Fellbacher Riesling feels very crisp on the tongue, a smoky, crisp minerality that is enhanced by good acidity and a citrus finish that starts sharp and ends more on the fruity, juicy side. If you like dry and crisp wines with character that are not too heavy, the Schnaitmann Riesling should not disappoint, especially for the price.
This wine review brings a message of hope. First of all there is hope for me that Swabian wine will instil me with enough patriotic pride that I can finally come to terms with my heritage. Then there is hope for those of you who look for great dry, affordable Riesling. And last, but not least, there is a message of hope for my fellow Swabians: at least one girl on this planet thinks we are really cool.