Thursday, 7 January 2010

Carbon footprint

Part of the "Schlipf" vineyard from which German Claus Schneider makes his excellent wines also stretches into the Basel suburb of Riehen on the Swiss side of the border. There's even a little winery situated just on the Swiss of the hill.

What's less well known, however, is Grenzacher Hornfelsen, a tiny and steep 1.7-hectare parcel of vines that overlooks the Rhine. It is Baden's most southerly vineyard, situated in a curious enclave almost surrounded by Swiss territory. The chemical works of Birsfelden (CH) are located on the other side of the Rhine, while downtown Basel is but a short bus ride away to the west.

I've always been fascinated by this small patch of land, and not only marvelled at its incongruous setting but also wondered why anyone in their right mind would be prepared to grow wine there and still make a profit, given that all the fruit is "merely" sent to the local cooperative for vinification. Apparently, though, there is someone out there willing to do just that.

Interestingly, Hornfelsen used to be a chalk quarry, with rocks transported from there in the medieval times to help in the construction of buildings in Basel. This probably helps explain its particular suitability as a vineyard. Not surprising, also, that Spätburgunder is the prominent varietal grown there, in addition to crossings Cabernet Carol and Cabernet Carbon. It's these three varietals which were used make the following wine:

Bezirkskellerei Markgräflerland, Grenzacher Hornfelsen Rotwein trocken 2007
Costing EUR 9.99, this is a notch more expensive than most of the reds made at that this Efringen-based coop. The big question for me was whether this reflected both the work that went into tending the vines and the quality of the wine itself.

On appearance, a lovely deep ruby red. Darker than your normal Pinot Noir. On the nose, brambly fruit. There is some blackberry in there as well, which maybe belies the Cabernet Sauvignon origins of one of this wine's components, Cabernet Carbon. On the palate, it's like Spätburgunder with shoulder pads. In fact, any overt Pinot characteristics are minimal and smothered by some very up-front primary dark fruit aromas. Nothing that delicate or complex about it, but I could imagine this wine being a real crowd-pleaser. Indeed, the more I think about it, this reminds me uncannily of Zinfandel. I don't know whether that's a compliment, but I'll leave you to make your own conclusion.

If I were a nit-picker, maybe I would want something more complex than just "clean" and "well made" for that price, but it's certainly very quaffable and - over a period of four days (I was a good boy this time and drank in moderation) - it become more and more enjoyable.

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