Northwest of Stuttgart, there is a land of wooded hills and industrious little towns called the Stromberg. In the Stromberg, there is the tiny village of Schönenberg. In Schönenberg, there is an Inn called Lamm, the lamb. There, I've had some of the best, most unpretentious Swabian regional food of my life, and took away this bottle of home-produced Lemberger. Price tag: below 4 €.
This page lists reviews of wines from the above price range.
I sometimes think that I could, at some time in the distant future, grow conservative. I would remove myself to the country, improve my tax evasion skills and shake my head at the foolishness of do-gooders, environmentalists and labour unions. "They grow good people in our small towns", I would drawl, in the manner of an American republican. But since, for the time being, I'm a European left-leaning, city-dwelling, wine-sipping intellectual (of sorts), I'll have to amend this to the factually indisputable "they grow good wines in our small towns". Baden's out-of-the-way Markgräflerland region, covered for the Wine Rambler by Simon Jones, is the place to go if you want to celebrate small town life. But, far from conservative, it's actually frightfully progressive and reforming when it comes to tackling wine quality. And they grow not only good winemakers, but a speciality: The Gutedel grape, known as Chasselas in Switzerland.
These fresh, light, softly fruited whites can come over a touch boring, but then, they come so invitingly priced that you can afford to taste yourself through a couple before you find one that tickles your palate. I got lucky at the small winery run by the Brenneisen family:
My co-rambler is away, ostensibly vacationing in an undisclosed location in Cornwall, but I can reveal that he is really working on a piece of investigative journalism to reveal the craziness of some German wine makers. Like you, I don't have the faintest idea what may be coming. Anything from mild eccentricities to all-out insanity could be on the ticket.
Here's one thing I know about German wine makers, though (segue alert!): They can make quality dry Riesling at crazy prices. Case in point: Karlheinz Schneider, an all but unknown producer from the Nahe, itself an all but unknown region (excepting Dönnhoff!) in the rest of the world.
Reviewed in our Müller-Thurgau report:
Straw-coloured, this smells sweetly, and even somewhat exuberantly, of sweet apples and peaches, with some canned fruit salad and the faintest touch of Ingwer. Not a miracle of mineral depth, but so far, we're having fun.
The same kind of in-your-face fruit reappears on the palate, and now there is even a hint of minerality. But still, there is more fruit than there is structure, with a finish that is herbally sweet, but also a little watery.
Being about a Litre bottle, the hardest part of this review was, of course, the choice of pun: "Following the litre" is lame, "Take me to your litre" is good, but has already been taken (I can't remember where I've read it). I'll have to come back to you on the puns. First, here's the message: Anyone can make an expensive wine that is at least very good. To make an estate-grown, non-industrial cheap wine that is enjoyable and has character, that's the difficult part. Dr. Heyden has joined the contest for Litre of the Pack (sorry) with his 2008 Silvaner, and we are talking 3,90 € for 1000 ml of it.
Certain ways of cooking fish and shellfish just cry out for a clean, light and crisp dry white wine - especially if you bake a whole sea bass in a salt crust. This is an excellent way to celebrate the delicate flavour of fish and it works well with a range of fish, including sea bream. Just put a little pepper and some herbs into the fish and then cover the whole fish in a dough made of salt, water and perhaps a few egg whites. This seals in all the moisture and preserves the delicate flavours of the fish. Serve the fish just with a bit of olive oil, pepper and salt, perhaps a little lemon and enjoy with very simple side dishes, perhaps just a few slices of white bread.
And make sure to select a wine that will not overpower the fish - I find a dry Muscadet works very well in this context.
The wine rambler continues its Silvaner coverage, today with a specimen from Slovenia - that's right, the Wine Rambler has been looking east lately, more on that soon - and this one here from good old Rheinhessen:
Fairly dark straw colour, not quite golden.
Nose of dried apple slices, but also ripe grapes, a little floral too, making me think, unexpectedly, of Gewürztraminer.
In the mouth it's candied apple again, mature fruit, quite some weight and length, noticeable sweetness, although 5 grams per litre of residual sugar make it legally dry. Very mild acidity.
This nicely cherry-coloured St. Laurent (a grape related to pinot noir) smells vaguely of cherries and red berries, and tastes pleasantly of red fruit, with a hint of herbs and earth, very smooth, with no tannins or acidity to speak of.