It is Silvaner time again at the Wine Rambler. We have been championing this underrated (or rather unknown) variety for a while now, and even though we have not exactly changed the wine world, we will not shut up either. If you have heard of Silvaner (also known as 'Grüner Silvaner' or 'Sylvaner'), they may have told you that it is a very food friendly wine and a little neutral. While we encountered many seriously food friendly Silvaners, we have yet to find a bland one. We did, however, find some that can party with some of the best white wines in the world, and others that effortlessly age 25 years. The Silvaner that graced the humble Wine Rambler's table the other day was neither old nor did it claim to be a world class wine. It was, however, unfiltered, and that alone seemed to make it worth an investigation.
Let's start with the question what 'unfiltered' actually means. Filtration is a common process in winemaking. Visually, it helps to make the wine clearer (which consumers seem to want), and it also helps stabilising the wine (microbial stabilisation) by removing organisms that might change the wine after it is bottled, causing re-fermentation etc. This sounds good in theory, but inevitably it also reduces the flavour, if perhaps only a little. Whether to filter or not is still a hot topic in winemaking. Generally, if you want to get your wine to the market very soon you may have to filter, and if you can wait a little longer the process of maturing a wine in the barrel can achieve a similar effect (by yeasts and other particles slowly sinking to the bottom).
So what about this Silvaner baby then? Has it turned into a shaggy, hairy monster, with yeast particles canoeing on a sea of wine covered in algae? Let's take a look then, shall we?
Particularly for an unfiltered wine, the colour test has to come first. It is, well, a clear, shiny yellow, a little pale round the edges perhaps, not a bacterial melting pot at all - also no sediment in the bottle.
Next step for any good experiment: a careful sniff. And wow! I haven't had such an earthy nose in a while. Real earth with grassy notes and vegetable, like the wet soil from the bank of a river next to a meadow. Also notes of smoke, green apple and a bit of peach and honeysuckle. But what a fantastic smoky earthiness! And there is even more of it on the tongue, giving the Silvaner a somewhat austere character. After a while, more fruit is coming through though, a little peach and a little more green apple. Still, this wine has a serious earthy quality with smoky aromas that are also in the (medium) finish.
I liked this Silvaner a lot, but I am aware that because of its earthiness not everyone will instantly fall in love with it. If you can come to terms with a wine that does not lull you with obvious, in-your-face fruitiness, you may find this very interesting. It certainly delivers more than you'd expect in this price range.