Sunday, 28 February 2010

A touch of the old vino blanco

Via Edetana Blanco 2008, Edetaria (D.O. Terra Alta)
A dry Spanish white? Very much uncharted territory for me (if you remove fino sherry from the equation).

A blend of 50% Garnatxa Blanca (Catalan spelling), 40% Viognier and 10% Muscat, this is from the Edetaria winery situated in the Terra Alta appellation in western Tarragona. The smell from this wine jumped out at me, as it were, during Friday's wine tasting - so I compulsively ordered a bottle which I picked up the next day. (In my case, nose often rules over palate.)

The adjective I'd used in my scribbled notes of the previous evening was "stinky", but by no means was this an unpleasant pong. Very pungent, it almost hints at the aroma that hits you when you enter a fishmonger's. This is underscored by a certain minerality and an unobtrusive note of oak that expresses itself as caramel and then coffee. After time in the glass, this pungency subsides and the wine takes on an overtly vegetative character on both nose and palate. Although this is a wine that cries out for food (fish!), its levels of juicy acidity are somewhat on the low side. Consequently, the finish isn't the longest. However that's a minor quibble, because the wine still retains plenty of poise. Thanks - I suspect in part - to the winemaker's judicious use of stainless steel and oak during vinification (White Grenache in oak, Viognier in stainless steel), the wine shows good balance. The alcohol (12.5%) isn't too high either. In any case, it went really well with the trusty triumvirate of poached salmon steak, boiled potatoes and broccoli which I prepared.

Overall, Via Edetana is an enjoyable excursion off the beaten track, and still good value for it too (CHF 17.50, or retailing at a little under EUR 10 in euroland, apparently).

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Glimpse of Iberia

Last night, Jenny and I attended another wine tasting at Paul Ullrich in Basel, at their Laufenstrasse branch. It was a private event organised by a colleague of a friend who works at one of Basel's pharmaceutical companies, and the theme was Spain and Portugal. I'd only first come into serious contact with the wines from the Iberian peninsula as part of a WSET course I did in Basel five years ago, so yesterday evening was particularly worthwhile. Here is a scan of the list of wines we tasted (prices in CHF), including my scribbled, rather simplistic, notes:
There were some wonderful wines in there. The two "bargain buy" reds from the Douro and Priorat, in particular, were stunning for the money you pay. I bought a bottle of each, plus a quirky, light white, Via Edetana Blanco 2008, which was right up my street. The four "highlights" of the list were simply a treat. Maybe "Auditori" showed most generously on the night, but the others have immense potential.

Recently, I've read about and tried some impressive Portuguese reds, and yesterday's wine tasting bolstered my impression of them. The real eye-opener, however, were the Spanish wines from regions other than Rioja. They all showed a keen sense of place and great character. It was also good to try two Priorats which confirmed some of the hype surrounding this fine wine region in Catalonia.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

May I...

...point you gently in the direction of the following article on The Wine Rambler? It's my guest "ramble" about Markgräflerland. Thank you very much to Julian and Torsten for letting me share a few thoughts on their blog.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Basler Fasnacht - Tuesday

"Stossverkehr auf Basels Gassen" ("Rush hour" in Basel's old town): click here for a short article and video.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Basler Fasnacht - Monday


The town of Liestal is situated in the Swiss canton of Basel-Land and Chienbäse is the name of an extraordinary annual procession which took place there yesterday evening on the eve of Basel Carnival. Here are a couple of photos I took.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Schneider's Kirchenstück

Set back a good few miles away from the gentle eastern slopes of the Mittelhaardt, the vineyards around Ellerstadt in the Pfalz are pretty much as flat as a die. However, this hasn't stopped Markus Schneider from raising eyebrows in recent years through both his winemaking and marketing - the latter reminding me of Hilliger in Burgenland, Austria. He also benefits from owning blocks on the edge of the forest, in vineyards such as Dürkheimer Feuerberg. The following wine comes from the river plain, however.

Weingut Schneider, Ellerstadter Kirchenstück Riesling trocken 2006, Pfalz
This was last tasted a couple of years ago when it had a rather odd, unfathomable whiff. After much airing this time around, this characteristic remains. In truth, it's hard to describe. Not cork taint, I hasten to add, but not entirely convincing either. Other than that, quite pungent, spicy aromas. Peach as well, which carries over to the palate. There is plenty of substance and pleasant juice there, but the component parts seem rather disparate. All "arms and legs", as it were. Weighing in at 13.5% alcohol, this dry Riesling shows a little too much "heat" for my liking. There is a noticeable bitterness on the finish which also detracts in my view. Maybe the result of what was a problematic vintage? I have one more bottle of this, and I think I will open it sooner rather than later.

The bottle label, on the other hand, is very snazzy - plus you can test your eyesight with it like at the optician's.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Aging trockens

Our "wine cellar" is barely deserving of the name. Among old items of furniture and various flotsam and jetsam, we have a number of bottles crammed into four different boxes. Trocken Riesling occupies most of the space, though this owes more to my curiosity a few years ago than than any particular preference for trockens. As GGs were still a very recent phenomenon at the time, I once decided to buy a case of Pfalz GGs from a winery in Bad Dürkheim from the 2005 and 2006 vintages respectively, plus a case of non-GG but more-than-decent 2006s from another winery in Ellerstadt. Just over half a dozen of all these are now left in total. On the very rough presumption that these wines may shake off their primary fruit and emerge on the "other side" with more complexity within five to ten years, I've been reluctant to touch them over the past couple of years. In general, 2005 in the Pfalz was probably better than 2006, which was a difficult harvest that entailed considerable selection and low yields due to rot.

Of course, the only way I'll find out how the 05s and 06s are now showing is to open a couple of bottles. With the Grosses Gewächs movement still in its relative infancy, knowledge is rather incomplete as regards how long such wines are able to age. However, without attempting to belittle their aging potential, the suspicion to date would be that trocken Riesling has less capacity to age than Riesling with residual sugar figures over the legal trocken RS ceiling of 9 g/l. The Rieslings of Bernd Philippi from Weingut Köhler-Ruprecht, who applies "old school" oxidative vinification methods, are a notable exception. His range of trockens from the Saumagen vineyard in Kallstadt are supposed to age exceedingly well and generally longer than most of their peers. Philippi chooses not the participate in the Grosses Gewächs scheme.

Anyway, the following couple of links are, however, enlightening. First an extremely informative thread from the Robert Parker board on the "Ageability of Grosses and Erstes Gewachs", which I found through Lyle Fass's blog, and second, an article on "The Rewards of Cellaring Riesling" from an old edition of the Riesling Report, a now - sadly - defunct publication, it seems.

Monday, 1 February 2010


Here's a can of Ambrosia Devon Custard..

And here's a bottle of Ambrosia..

Well, Ambrosia Riesling from Aloisiushof in St Martin, Pfalz, to be precise. First, though, I need to take you back to early 1997.

When I was studying languages during my university days in Scotland, I took the customary "year abroad" which involved teaching spoken English at a secondary school. My home that year was Germersheim in the Pfalz. Due to the proximity of the Deutsche Weinstraße, I decided to devote my obligatory dissertation to the local wine and vineyards. What then followed as preparatory "work" were numerous trips to wine country with other local British Fremdsprachenassistenten. The plan of action at every winery tasting room we entered was for me to mention my dissertation and use this as an alibi for us all to taste the respective wine estate's wines - purely for "academic purposes", I hasten to add...

This merry tour led us one March afternoon to St. Martin, a beautiful village nestled in the heart of the Pfalz at the foot of Kalmit, the highest hill in the Pfälzer Wald. The almond trees were in full blossom and all was well with the world. Whether we visited Aloisiushof, I'm not sure, but the chances are that we did.

The story sort of turns full circle now with the following wine, which I first read about on the Drink Tank blog. At half the price of a lot of top-range dry Rieslings, I thought it was well worth a try.

Weingut Aloisiushof, Riesling "Ambrosia" 2008, or to use the full name printed on the back label: "2008er St. Martiner Kirchberg Riesling Spätlese trocken - alte Reben - vom Rotliegenden - handgelesen."

Minerally on the nose. The aromas are still somewhat diffuse, but I can detect plenty of mouthwatering fruit in the second glass after an hour or so once I've got our Sunday dinner ready and we're sitting down. On the palate, the wine is powerful with, dare I say it, an almost a creamy feel to it. The acidity is ripe and just right, the finish long. And although it weighs in at 13.5% alcohol, the wine is very balanced. Elegant and poised, this has a bright future ahead of it, I would think. More of a supple, rounded character than a coiled spring, though.

In hindsight, I should have decanted this, but, happily there's more where this came from.