Saturday, 27 March 2010

An evening with Nigel

"Nigel" is what Jenny called the wine, so I'll happy oblige.

Weingut Nigl, Riesling Senftenberger Piri 2008, Kremstal, Austria
I remember US wine critic Terry Theise once mentioning "Nigl's Privat", as it were, in one of his German wine catalogues. Senftenberger Piri is the vineyard in which Martin Nigl grows the grapes for his "Privat". This wine is from the same vineyard, hence the name, but is less vaunted than "Privat". Bought for me as a gift.

This needs time in the glass to unfold. Once it does, it opens up into a distinctly attractive herby, minerally nose. The palate continues this theme, also adding a certain zestiness from any one of lime, lemon, apple or peach (pick and choose as you see fit) and a lightness that belies the wine's 13% alcohol. A thoughtful, cerebral wine - and according to the kind soul who bought it and tasted it with me - good value for the price.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010


Seen this evening in downtown Basel.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Salwey for starters

My first ever Salwey wine. I was going to go for the bulkier Weissburgunder "RS" from the same vintage, but the lady in the shop said I might want to try the Kabinett as a lighter introduction.

Weingut Salwey, Weissburgunder Kabinett trocken 2008, Baden
Sometimes, I just want to enjoy a wine for what it is, instead of scribbling down notes and splitting hairs about whether the contents of my glass smell of a particular fruit, type of soil or whatever. Simplicity can be bliss.

Such was the case with this Salwey wine. However, what I can tell you is that this Weissburgunder makes for an extremely enjoyable companion. From nose to palate, it exudes purity and precision. The level of complexity is middling, although that is of secondary importance. What it does clearly remind me of all the way through is peaches and cream. There - I actually pinpointed a particular flavour, although someone could interpret it as apricot or the whiff of red apples for all I know. Taste, after all, is subjective. The acidity is nicely refreshing, the finish elegant. Dare I say it, it almost reminds me of a certain type of Riesling.

This wine is certainly a good introduction.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

More Pinot Gris

Weingut Herbster, Kirchhofener Batzenberg, Grauburgunder 2008, Baden
You may or may not have caught my post on Herbster's Sauvignon Blanc a few months ago. Anyway, I was so impressed back then that, en route back from the Dreisamstadion this Saturday, I called back at the same shop where I bought the SB. A bottle of Herbster's Pinot Gris took my fancy this time.

On the nose, the typical red honey-like melon which seems to be my stock reaction to Pinot Gris these days. There is also something blossomy. On the palate, very dry. Very much a food wine. A day later, it's opened up nicely. Understated and elegant. I've used it this evening to toast a win over the old enemy.

Home win

More football yesterday, with another trip north to watch Freiburg vs. Mainz. And, lo and behold, a victory for the home side. Mainz are already assured of their first division status, and their level of ambition in this particular match seemed limited to say the least. Even Andreas Ivanschitz, "the David Beckham of Austria", was strangely anonymous. Apart from a slight rally after the interval, they were devoid of creativity and ideas. Freiburg took the lead early on through a pot-shot from Johannes Flum and were happy to cling on to that till the end. Still, it was a much-needed three points for Freiburg - their first victory in 2010.

Thursday, 18 March 2010


Spring seems to be finally springing in these climes. About time too. Here on the border triangle, Baselworld started today. It's the biggest and most important fair for the watch and jewellery industry. Lots of sharply dressed businessmen and women from all corners of the globe looking very important with their iPhones, all on their way to very important meetings. You get the picture.

To celebrate the spring, but, at the same time, float gently back down to earth from all this 21st century ostentatiousness, what better than a wine that sings but is also as authentic as they come.

Weingut Ziereisen, Weißer Burgunder "Lügle" 2007, Baden
Admittedly, Ziereisen has been getting a fair bit of coverage lately in this and other wine blogs in the ether - but for good reason.

The "back" label, which isn't shown in the photo, includes the following description:

"From hand-picked Pinot Blanc grapes which were pressed in a basket press. Spontaneous fermentation in a large wooden vat, using the grapes' own yeasts. Vat-aged for 20 months and unfiltered." *

Bearing testimony to this unorthodox method of vinification, the wine's appearance is a distinctly cloudy straw-yellow. On the nose, melon and a citrussy-chalky edge (the latter being the characteristic in Ziereisen's white wines, in my mind). A touch of oak, but very well integrated. This is translated to the palate, where the mouth-feel is both slightly creamy and with a talcy, chalky tannic hint. A fresh citrus note prevents this sensation from descending into flabbiness. The finish is more than decent... Pretty much my ideal non-Riesling German wine, in fact. Great stuff.

Cost: EUR 18 - but more than worth it.

* My translation

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Raclette with Riesling

My girl-friend's parents were over last weekend, and a lovely time was had by all. We hired a car and drove to Flumserberg for a day on the piste. Personally, it was my first time skiing for over four years (and I'd only skied three times before then), so I was just happy to survive the day still in one piece. Jenny, meanwhile, prefers snowboarding - but that's not really my cup of tea.

After returning on Saturday evening, we had raclette together. The following wine went wonderfully well with it:

Winzergenossenschaft Britzingen, Britzinger Sonnhole Riesling Kabinett halbtrocken 2008, Baden
Only EUR 5.95, but a whole lot of wine for the price of this off-dry Riesling. With the acidity helped along by a hint of sweetness, this was in perfect balance. Nothing that complicated, but complexity was not what was needed anyway. The inimitable Riesling tingle cut through the cheese. This, coupled with a little bit of fructose, also helped to enhance all the other sweet and sour condiments on the table. Simple is as simple does.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Some "Tokay"

Not of the Hungarian variety, but from Alsace. To avoid confusion with the sweet speciality of the Magyars, "Tokay" was banished as a term for Alsace Pinot Gris just a few years ago. Which is a pity, as "Tokay-Pinot Gris" always had a nice ring to it, I thought.

Domaine Zind-Humbrecht, Pinot Gris Calcaire 2007, Alsace
The first from the six bottles bought at the Humbrecht/Ziereisen tasting. Make no mistake, this has oomph.

A complex bazaar of oriental spice and sweet fruit on the nose. There is indeed a minerality, too, redolent of the calcareous soil (from vines that were planted in 1988 and 1992 in the Clos Windsbuhl plot in Hunawihr). On the palate, it reverberates with lusciousness, though a touch of acidity helps to firm things up nicely. This has so many nuances - you want to come back to it again and again. The 14.6% alcohol (even with 29 g/l of residual sugar) is lifted up gently over a wall of complexity. You hardly notice it. And the finish is long. Blimey.

Monday, 8 March 2010

More than half-decent

So many nice wines to try, and what do I do? I pick a bottle from some local wine cooperative.

Over a year ago, I tried a Pinot Noir from the Haltingen cooperative and, admittedly, wasn't that enamoured. However, interesting developments are afoot in Haltingen. Long-time general manager Gerd Martini recently departed, and now the cooperative is focusing increasingly on its premium range of wines covering Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Gutedel, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer and Riesling. I thought I would try the Pinot Gris first.

Haltinger Winzergenossenschaft, Pinot Gris QbA trocken 2008, Baden
All the whites in this collection are with screwcaps. Note the use of the "international" name, as opposed to Grauburgunder. Lovely nose reminding me of sweet red melon. Minerally hints - could this be the influence of the local chalk soils? Bone dry yet fresh, luscious and elegant on the palate. Went very well with chicken leg. To borrow an ever so pretentious descriptor, this wine is quite serious but very approachable. EUR 10.50 from the supermarket.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

A relegation "six-pointer"

A trip with colleague Karl-Heinz to watch SC Freiburg's Bundesliga fixture versus Hannover 96 was on the agenda yesterday. EUR 12 for a ticket on the terraces at a first-division match, plus beer and bratwurst - you can't beat German football.

Snowfall earlier in the day had put the match in doubt, but the match eventually went ahead - thanks to the help of some Freiburg fans with shovels. Going into yesterday's match, both clubs were third and fourth from bottom respectively, with Hannover just three points behind Freiburg. Still reeling from Robert Enke's tragic death, the visitors hadn't won a match since the end of October. SC Freiburg hadn't won since the end of November. Consequently, there was a lot riding on Saturday's game.

Freiburg were rather mediocre, if truth be told. They missed a couple of sitters, and some of their defending was shoddy - Hannover's first goal being a case in point. An equaliser from the home team came not long after, only for the visitors to then benefit from a deflection and score what proved to be the winner; 2-1 to Hannover.

Robin Dutt's Freiburg are away at Bayern next.

Still, it was an enjoyable excursion, as always, if somewhat wintry - thanks to the snow which continued falling on us throughout much of the second half (we were only standing in the lower part of the Nordtribüne).

Monday, 1 March 2010

German Merlot

As a wine lover, I've always found it hard to like Merlot. Single-variety Merlot wines, I mean. UK retailers used to, and probably still, stock a great deal of inexpensive Chilean Merlot - the cheap and cheerful (purply) red wine of choice under five quid for countless students of my era. I gradually grew tired of it and, for many years, stayed clear of the stuff. That is until I tried a Merlot from the Pfalz a few years ago at a friend's birthday party. Suitably impressed by this full-bodied, juicy specimen of a Merlot in my glass, I clocked the name of the winery: Borell-Diehl from Hainfeld. Unfortunately, I have never got round to trying more of their wines since then. Hopefully this will change at some point. In the meantime, though, a Merlot from Pfaffenweiler in Baden, situated just a couple of miles south of Freiburg:

Pfaffenweiler Weinhaus, 2005 Merlot "Sancta Clara" trocken, Baden
It may have looked like I was slagging off Markgräflerland's wine cooperatives ever so slightly in last week's "Surprising wines" piece, but there are some cooperatives that excel in what they do, and it would appear that Pfaffenweiler Weinhaus, of whom I have read a lot of good things, is one of them. In particular, they boast a particularly highly regarded Sauvignon Blanc in their collection. Incidentally, the village of Pfaffenweiler is situated in the Schneckental (or "Snail Valley"), hence the rather original, snail-related logo on the label.

The wine is a lovely ruby-red in appearance but with an interesting hint of brown. Red and black forest fruit on the nose, with roasted hints. This sensation continues on the palate, coupled with a certain greenness that gradually mellows. I say "greenness", but this is attractively so. Nothing unripe about this. Focused and balanced, the barrique notes and tannins are well integrated, the finish dry and smooth. For EUR 11.99, this is just about right on the price-value scale.