€14-16

This page lists reviews of wines from the above price range.

Steinbachhof, Ensinger Schanzreiter, Riesling ***, 2009

This little review revisits old Wine Rambler territory: Swabia's Stromberg region, last seen in the throes of a damaging freak frost in the spring of last year. This time, another winery, just one picturesque beech-forested ridge away. The Steinbachhof is an ancient estate created by the cistercian abbey of Maulbronn, then owned by the dukes, later kings of Württemberg, and now by two adventurous young people, Nanna and Ulrich Eißler, who supplement their income from wine growing by hosting wedding and business receptions in a beautifully refurbished old barn.

From a recent short visit, I brought a bottle of Riesling that, sadly, you won't be able to find outside of Germany, or Swabia for that matter, for any time soon:

Jakob Sebastian, Heimersheimer Berg, Spätburgunder Auslese trocken Alte Reben, 2006

In a large blind tasting that pitted a selection of German Pinot Noirs against a wide range of international contestants, seven out of ten of the top ten scored bottles were German. This was widely publicised - not least on the Wine Rambler's Twitter account, of course - and even made some small headlines in the German general press. To be honest, I think you're well advised to take tastings of this kind with a pinch of salt, as they tend to follow their own marketing rules and cycles, and are often designed to fit into a Judgement of Paris kind of narrative. You can't help noticing, in fairness, that no Grand Cru Burgundies of the battleship class were lined up.

But I was pleased nonetheless, of course, because it underscored the validity of the case we've been making since the beginning of this blog: German Pinot Noirs can be very, very serious and deeply satisfying reds. And we have another one of these for you right here:

Schlossgut Diel, Dorsheimer Goldloch, Riesling Kabinett, 2009

For stereotypical American or Japanese tourists who also love wine, a visit to Schlossgut Diel has to equal the feeling of a child realising it has been locked in an ice cream parlour for lunch break. After all we are not only talking about one of Germany's top wine estates, we are also talking about a "castle winery", as that is what "Schlossgut" translates to. Castle Layen, where the Diel family has been based since the Napoleonic wars, was built in the 11th century. The wines in the cellar are not quite as old, but rumour has it some go back to the early 20th century, so the both lovers of medieval towers and old wine should be very happy there.

Sadly, I have yet to visit Schlossgut Diel (preferably leading a raiding party), but at least I managed to get my hands on a few bottles of their Riesling - this Kabinett Riesling from the "gold hole" vineyard being one of them.

Ökonomierat Rebholz, Spätburgunder Spätlese trocken, 2004

A couple of years ago I discussed German red wine with a lover of red Burgundy. He was mildly curious, but at the same time convinced that German Pinot Noir, or Spätburgunder, might be acceptable yet would not be substantial enough to age for more than three or four years.

Now, with a Spätburgunder of barely seven years of age to review today I am probably not in a position to change that view (for that I would refer to a 1999 from the Mosel and a 1992 from Baden) - but then we drink wine to enjoy it and not to correct Burgundy fans.

torsten Wednesday, 21/09/2011

J. B. Becker, Eltviller Sonnenberg, Riesling Spätlese, 1988

Contrary to the impression given by my recent confessional posting, I do not generally source my aged Rieslings by going through the neighbours' garbage. Here's one I bought absolutely regularly from a Munich wine shop. J. B. Becker is Rheingau winery known for the uncompromising traditionalism of its winemaking and the longevity of its Rieslings.

So while we are on the topic, I thought another little review may be in order:

Schloß Proschwitz, Riesling Kabinett trocken, 2009

In our quest for interesting wine, we have ventured as far east of Germany as to Georgia, but we never have explored what the German East has to offer. Now it is time to make good on one of our new year's resolutions and try a wine from Saxony. North of the 51st parallel, Sachsen is Europe's north-easternmost wine growing region, and with about 500 ha of vines it is one of Germany's smallest. A fifth of the Saxonian vineyard area belongs to the zur Lippes, one of the oldest aristocratic families of Germany.

aristocratic wine bottle cap

After the wall came down, the current prince zur Lippe, Georg, started buying back his family's property that was lost after the Second World War, and now he runs the largest privately owned winery in the German East. We had tried a few of his wines at tastings in the past, but the dry 2009 Riesling here is the first to undergo the rigorous testing at Wine Rambler HQ.

Gerhard Klein, Silvaner Eiswein, 2004

It is still Silvaner season at the Wine Rambler. Actually, for us it is Silvaner season throughout most of the year, but over the past few months we have been even more busy exploring this often underrated German grape variety. Today's specimen is a little unusual, even for us, as it is a sweet Silvaner, an ice wine in fact. Ice wine is made from grapes frozen on the vine - a process that helps extract water and thus (relatively) increases extract and sugar levels, making for delicious sweet wines.

This ice wine was made by Pfalz producer Gerhard Klein based in the village of Hainfeld. If you are not familiar with the Pfalz, you may be amazed to hear that among the grapes they grow are Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Now I even read that Kleins also plant Grüner Veltliner! Compared to that, Silvaner is a much traditional German planting, and that's what we will focus on today.

Knipser, Himmelsrech, Riesling Spätlese trocken, 2001

Usually, if you want to drink aged wine it involves a cellar, a good idea which wines are worth putting away and some kind of idea when you should open them. And then perhaps a decade of doing nothing. Or it may involve spending a lot of money buying an aged wine from a merchant. Sometimes you are lucky though and come across a wine that both looks the right age and is reasonably priced. Today's find is one of them, a ten year old Riesling from a good vineyard site, made by an excellent producer, and sold for less than 15 Euro.

Weingut Darting, Huxelrebe Beerenauslese, Forster Schnepfenflug, 2003

It may sound otherwise, but Huxelrebe is neither a reason to shout "Gesundheit" nor an infectious disease. Instead, it is one of the grape cross-breeds created in Germany in the 1920s, and like many of those it is now mostly grown in Germany and England. Huxelrebe is a very high yielding variety that easily reaches high sugar levels, but it can produce high quality wines if yields are reduced.

You will find dry Huxelrebe ("Rebe" means "vine"), but mostly they are sweet dessert wines, like this one from the Pfalz.

Reinhold Haart, Piesporter Goldtröpfchen, Riesling Spätlese Goldkapsel, 2006

Piesport is a lovely village in the German Mosel Valley. Because of the peculiarities of the German wine law, the name can show up on the labels of very cheap wines from somewhere in the area (Piesporter Michelsberg), or it can be on first class Riesling from some of the Mosel's best vineyards. After having recently indulged myself in the delights of the supermarket wine version, it is now time to revisit the outstanding Goldtröpfchen vineyard version.

"Goldtröpfchen" means little drop of gold, and the Rieslings made by Theo Haart and family in Piesport can indeed be described as such. Today's Haart Riesling even comes with a gold capsule ("Goldkapsel"), indicating that the Haarts were particularly pleased with the quality of what went into this bottle.