serviceable

Okay wines that you can serve to your guests without shame, but you will probably not get a wine snob's blessing.

Marof, Zeleni Silvanec, 2008

Erich Krutzler, a very well known austrian winemaker, is building up this winery in northern Slovenia- we'll have some more on that in a while.

His Silvaner is made in a light, very clean style, smelling and tasting of fresh green apples, a few herbs and hay. With fresh acidity and a background of chalky mineral, this should make a good companion for salads and light vegetable dishes.
As it is by no means cheap, this one has not completely won me over yet. But, as I said earlier, more is to come.

The Hedonist, Shiraz, 2006

Do you know the German word 'marmeladig'? I have looked into several dictionaries, but no translation could be found. However, you will need to understand it to understand this wine, even though this Shiraz (or Syrah - two names, but same grape) is Australian and not German at all. It also is a wine that the Wine Rambler reviews as part of our venture into UK supermarket wines, even though a £9.99 wine from Waitrose is not quite what you would expect under this label.

Chapel Down, Bacchus, 2008

It has been quite a while since an English white wine has been reviewed by the Wine Rambler. Chapel Down is a well respected name in the English wine business, so we were curious to see what we would get for almost ten quid.

First of all you get some fizz when unscrewing the cap. The colour is clean, with some fizzy bubbles (initially), but quite pale. The nose has lots of elderflower, fresh green apple and herbs. On the palate apple, fresh citrus acidity, some spice (pepper?) and a little mineral. The finish is dominated by citrus fruit and elderflower.

Perrin, Cotes du Ventoux, 2007

Pretty cherry red colour.

Cherry stones (well, it smells of cherries, but also stony, so...), some black forest cherry schnaps (I hate that stuff).

Cherry stones again in the mouth, a little blunt and unfocused, but very spicy in a rustic manner, think the skins of cherries and plums, good fresh acidity and tannin.

It is what it is. Nothing to complain about, nothing to get crazy about. I'm still no closer to loving the southern rhone, although Robert Parker and others keep telling me to. I think I'll give up trying some day soon.

Emrich-Schönleber, Rivaner trocken, 2007

Very pale colour; a few tiny bubbles. The nose is very closed at first, some mineral, flowery notes; later also aniseed. A seriously dry wine, the Emrich-Schönleber combines strong, sharp dry acidity with vegetable notes, a hint of liquorice and a broadside of bitterness.

This is a serious wine with character and some class. While I appreciate wines with attitude, this one leaves a certain heartburn sensation on my palate that forced me to give up soon. I am sure there is someone out there who, especially with the right food, will appreciate this wine. However, that someone is not me.

Schmitt Söhne, Riesling Qualitätswein, 2008

Imagine my surprise when I found myself looking at a German Riesling in a supermarket in the outskirts of Alexandria, Virginia. Actually, there were several wines claiming to be 'German' Riesling, but I skipped two that were not bottled in Germany. I also skipped a 'Claret' made by Francis Ford Coppola - yes, THAT Coppola, another celebrity who ventured into wine making -, but as I was drinking 'with' a pregnant woman it seemed best to focus on something light that I could finish by myself, if need be. Still a shame not to have tried the Coppola, but there may be other times.

Edition Fritz Keller, Weißburgunder 2008

Smells fresh, with appetizing apple and pear fruit, in no way artificial (a pleasant surprise), but not very deep either.
In the mouth, a lean wine with strong, maybe not completely ripe acidity, nicely subdued and unperfumed fruit again, a little grassy, a hint of minerality, and a shortish finish.
Rather atypical for a Pinot Blanc from Baden, where I have come to expect cantaloupe, almond and buttery flavours, this is nothing to get excited about, but a fairly honest, basic fresh white
nonetheless. It will go well with most summery food, and many people used to northern italian whites (e.g. the wine drinking population of Munich) will find this a well-made version of what they know and like.

Weingut Aufricht, Auxerrois 2008

Straw-coloured, on the lighter side.

Ripe apricots and other ripe yellow fruit, rich, some perfumy citrus aromas as well.

Very young and fruit-driven in the mouth, nice acidity, peach and grapefruit notes sprayed onto a creamy body.

This is very much a "made" wine (think cultured yeasts, think low temperature fermentation) and although it has substance, polish and even some spice, it could have been made in South Africa, in Friuli, or some other place where very good winemakers know exactly how their wine should taste in the end. Nothing wrong with that, but it didn't work for me just now. I can't rule out that this might have turned into something with more depth and a sense of place with some bottle ageing. Who knows?

Saladini Pilastri, Rosso Piceno 2007 (Organic)

Cherry red, with a purple edge

Smells vaguely of sour cherries and green wood, a little unpleasant funky, sweaty component as well.

Cherries again in the mouth, plums maybe, some sweetness, but also bitterness and a rough edge of tannin. Somehow, the fruit doesn't quite come through.

This has been one of our pasta wines for a few years, and it has done okay, but it doesn't deserve unwavering loyalty: Hard to believe there are no fresher, more focused Italian reds for under 5 €.