I always love it when a review is a first: To be able to report on a winery, or better still, a whole region of the wine world, that we have not yet touched upon. A mere check-up review, so to speak, on a well-represented winery and a vintage a few years past, seems much less exciting. But these, too, are very important. When wine guides, such as the very serious German online publication "Wein-Plus" regularly hold samples back for re-tasting and re-evaluation a few years after the first tasting, the results are often surprising, and always instructive. More wine guides and publications should do it, rather than to just keep celebrating each new vintage's potential.
I remember exactly the moment I first tasted this particular Pinot Blanc. It was at the annual autumn tasting extravaganza at Munich's Bayerischer Hof. I loved it right away for its streak of vibrant freshness that distinguished it among some of the blander white Pinots also on offer. My Co-Rambler Torsten, I also recall, was a bit more reserved. His may have been the better judgement.
The Salwey winery of Baden's Kaiserstuhl sub-region hardly needs an introduction here. Established by the late Wolf Dietrich Salwey, a major figure of the German wine scene during the last decades, it is now, more than ever, one of the most consistently brilliant producers of those German wines that are neither sweet, nor Riesling, nor from the Mosel, and therefore all but unknown in the English-speaking world. Salwey's Pinots Blanc and Gris have a reputation of ageing far better than most other, because of their mineral grounding and the unspectacular, but painstaking craft used in their making.
Almost four years after its bottling, the wine starts out strongly, with an impressively dark straw colour. A typical Pinot Blanc smell wafts from the glass: Hay, flowers, buttered biscuits. That is one side. But then there are also camomile, beeswax, honey and mellowed apples: This is clearly a mature wine, a bit further along than I had expected it to be. On the palate, there is elegance, but it is the youthfully tight acidity that stands out and that gets this wine into trouble. What I miss is something to integrate both the acidity and the onset of more mature aromatics. This would have to be a more powerful body, more creaminess and substance than this uncompromising, but somewhat unlovely wine can muster.
Not that this is a bad wine in any sense, and if "decent" seems a rather harsh judgement on a wine of such obvious quality, it reflects my own mild sense of disappointment as well as the exceedingly high standard to which we hold this, one of our favourite wineries.