Thursday, 21 January 2016

Out with the old, in with the new ...

This is my last-ever blog entry on From Blackpool to Basel. It's hard to know where to begin, but the long and short of it is that, after no small amount of deliberation, I've decided to discontinue this blog and start afresh on a brand-new site called winetext (please click the embedded link). For an explanation of why I'm making this change, please refer to my first posting on this new site (again, please click the embedded link).

Don't worry, this isn't a cheerio but hopefully more a case of "see you again soon". I've decided not to import the entire contents of this blog across to the new site - everything I've written here will remain here for posterity. However, the basic gist of this blog - ramblings about wine - will continue at the new address (winetext dot net).


Tuesday, 19 January 2016


Schwarzer Herrgott and Am Schwarzen Herrgott are a strange anomaly - two vineyards that go by virtually the same name and sit cheek by jowl, next to each other in the Zellertal, or Zell Valley, but in completely different wine regions. Am Schwarzen Herrgott, situated geographically in Mölsheim in Rheinhessen, has earned fame in recent years on account of the eponymous grand cru Rieslings of Oliver Spanier at Weingut Battenfeld-Spanier. Its bedrock is of pure limestone, as is that of its neighbour with the slightly different name situated in the Pfalz, i.e. Schwarzer Herrgott, which owes its recent prominence to the endeavours of brothers Georg and Stephan Schwedhelm of Weingut Schwedhelm. Riesling is the star performer here, too. But the following wine isn't Riesling - that will have to wait for the time being.

Schwedhelm, Zellertal, Saint Laurent 2013, Pfalz
Very dark garnet/ruby. Fairly expressive on the nose. Dried herbs that become quite pronounced after a while in the glass, along with cherry, dark olives and and hints of dark berry fruit. Leathery notes complete the picture some 48 hours later. A savoury element on the palate - again evoking dark olives. Dark cherry too. As the wine washes around, it leaves behind a thin film on my tongue - a lovely sensation that reminds me of other wines from chalky, limestone soils. Cool in the mouth with keen tannins that lend good structure. Medium-bodied. A surprisingly good wine from the humble Saint Laurent varietal.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016


The German social media wine scene recently imploded with talk about "natural wine" and what the term means. A mud-slinging match ensued.

Hansjörg Rebholz's dad and granddad were already making natural wine - or Naturwein - back in the post-war years of the 1940s and 50s. For them, Naturwein basically referred to wine that was neither subject to chaptalisation (the addition of sugar to increase alcoholic strength) nor underwent any other procedures in the cellar that would render it denuded of its natural character. This was a pioneering approach at the time. Naturwein also refers to many other factors, both in the vineyard and in the cellar. Humans play a central part, too.

Rebholz, Riesling vom Buntsandstein trocken 2014, Pfalz
Buntsandstein is German for coloured sandstone. This is one of the wines in Rebholz's "Terroir" range. Vivid straw in appearance. Iodine-like notes reminiscent of mineral water, otherwise quite reticent to be begin with. After 24 hours in the fridge with the cork back in, hints of lime, white peach and ginger show through. Still a fairly shy nose overall. Clear and citrusy on the palate - mostly lemon. The acidity cuts through everything, putting the wine on the proverbial knife edge. It manages to pull off the trick of exhibiting electric freshness without any bitterness whatsoever - a rare feat. It feels likes the tête de cuvée - the free-run juice obtained before pressing. Though I might be totally wrong. Whatever it is, the result is purity and digestibility.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Sometimes it's not just the wine

Apart from the quality of the wine (or otherwise), the personality of the wine-grower can be a big turn-on or turn-off for me when it comes to making purchasing decisions. I'm often doubly satisfied if the wine I buy is from a winemaker who comes across as a modest, self-effacing, hard-working member of their profession. Conversely, I almost sub-consciously think twice about a very small number of producers - naming no names - who have got my back up for whatever reason in the past (although perceived arrogance is normally the common denominator). But let's not go there. Happily, I can easily count them on one hand.

I've never met Stefanie Weegmüller-Scherr, the winemaker at Weingut Weegmüller in Haardt, a neighbourhood of Neustadt an der Weinstrasse in the Pfalz, but thanks to power of social media, she has a certain profile that comes across well to me at least (and I don't mean in Facebook). While browsing in a wine shop a few weeks ago in the middle of Neustadt, this very thought not only crossed my mind but also informed my eventual purchasing choice.

Weegmüller, Der Elegante Riesling Kabinett trocken 2014, Pfalz
From the Haardter Mandelring vineyard site. The main village street in Haardt is also called Mandelring - a name that conjures up good memories in my mind thanks to a number of wine-fest visits many eons ago.

Typical straw with greenish reflexes. Clear on the nose, showing an airy concoction of pineapple, wet stone and apple (of the juicy red variety) with an imagined hint of sweetness in my mind's eye. Quite poised. Pineapple and apple again on the palate. Clean, pure and indeed elegant. This has enough of everything, but not an ounce too much. Spicy with good freshness. Not overly complicated, but full of goodness and refreshment. A mere 11.5 percent abv on the label means it's finished in no time.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

No faffing around

One of the things I love about the current German wine scene are the numerous hard-working families who still grow beautiful handcrafted wines at extremely customer-friendly prices. Some of the larger family operations on the flats of the Rhine valley in the Pfalz are also able to pull this off thanks in part to the relatively large volume of wine they are able to produce. If anything, this makes the quality they achieve all the more remarkable. Weingut Karl Pfaffmann are a case in point. I defy anyone to show me a better wine for EUR 6.49 (supermarket price).

Weingut Karl Pfaffmann, Riesling Silberberg trocken 2014, Pfalz
Beige in appearance. Lime, pineapple and white peach on the nose. Clear as a whistle on the palate, with the aforementioned flavours showing through again. Delicious, pure and unhurried. Dry-tasting, refreshing and digestible. Sure, this wine lives on its primary fruit to some extent, and I daresay it might come a cropper with the number-crunching trocken police who frown on residual sweetness above 4 g/l (notwithstanding the 9 g/l ceiling), but this is a lot of wine for your money. No faffing around.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015


"Jay-Jay" Prüm are a hallowed address on the Mosel. This is their entry-level wine.

Weingut Joh. Jos. Prüm, Riesling Kabinett 2013, Mosel
Very pale straw. Reticent at first, then opening up to show apple and slate. Puckering slate notes on entry. Appley as well. Light as a feather. Keen acidity lends ample refreshment and reduces the sweetness to a mere whisper on what is a long finish. Very digestible and gratifyingly easy to comprehend.

The label shows a drawing of the eponymous sun dial in the Wehlener Sonnenuhr ("Wehlen Sun Dial") vineyard.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

From the Markgraf

A villages-level Pinot Noir from Bodensee (Lake Constance), produced by a local member of the German nobility no less.

Markgraf von Baden, Schloss Salem, Birnauer Spätburgunder trocken 2013, Baden
Ruby with slightly purple edges. Quite obvious and up-front fruit. Blackcurrant and a some cherry too. Initially a little beetrooty and kitchy in a boiled sweets sort of way. Stemmy aromas counteract that to an extent. One day later and the impression on the nose has settled somewhat. The kitch has gone. Any wooden influence is completely hidden. I wouldn't be surprised if someone said this wine was aged in good old inox (stainless steel). Quite sappy in the mouth, again with an overridingly fruit-driven personality. Strawberry and raspberry. Plays quite a straight bat, as it were, in that it is easy to understand. The finish is refreshing. Should gain complexity with age, I daresay. For the moment an enjoyable and non-too-taxing wine.