Friday, 28 May 2010


Following my recent Spätburgunders, another random bin-end. Not usually seen on the shelves of my supermarket of choice, this bottle suddenly appeared out of nowhere last week, selling for just 2.99 euro - almost half its normal retail price.

As I have stated elsewhere, Gutedel is Markgräflerland's speciality no. 1. With Schlossgut Istein being a more than half-decent producer, I frankly expected this particular Gutedel to be an absolute steal.

Schlossgut Istein, Isteiner Gutedel 2008 QbA
Apart from the signature notes of hazelnut, this Gutedel shows off almonds and a hint of peach and citrus. Everything is understated, though. Not overly complex, and the finish isn't the longest, but there is a certain elegance there. Comes in at a refreshing 11.5% alcohol. This would be ideal with light starters or picnics. Or on the balcony on these late-spring evenings.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Local beers

No time to do justice to any of the wines in my possession at the moment or even in the next few days, but there's always time for a beer. Or two.

To maintain some sort of educative pretence, I thought it would be good to have a "head to head" between two similar beers from two respective breweries in our neighbouring German town of Lörrach - home to Ottmar Hitzfeld and a twin town of Chester, the place my father was born. For a town of barely 50,000, having two decent breweries is quite a privilege. So, how do Reitter and Lasser compare?

Reitter Pilsner
A golden appearance like a Riesling Auslese. A fresh nose followed by a crisp entry with bitter hoppy notes on the palate. Good clean German pilsner, if a little underwhelming.
4.9% abv

Lasser Premium Pils
Pretty much the same golden hue as the Reitter, but the nose is a lot more expressive showing flowery hops and malt in equal measure. On the palate, this spiel continues between the hops and the malt. Refreshing and pleasant.
5.0% abv

I think Lasser definitely comes out on top here.

In truth, though, neither of these beers come close to the lemon-grass extravaganza that is my favourite German pilsner from the heart of Badner Land.

Friday, 14 May 2010


The village of Duttweiler, home to Weingut Bergdolt, is situated out in the sticks a few miles east of Neustadt an der Weinstraße. As villages go, it's a fairly nondescript place, albeit surrounded by acres and acres of vineyards on land which, apart from a few notable exceptions, is generally as flat as a die. Mandelberg is one of the few sloping parcels of vineyard there that offer south-facing exposition. Not only that, but it has the type of chalky soil pre-destined for wines of a Burgundian persuasion. In this equation, Weingut Bergdolt are - if you'll excuse a mangled metaphor - the jewel in Duttweiler's vinous crown. Their undoubted forte is Weißburgunder.

Weingut Bergdolt, Mandelberg GG 2008, Weißburgunder, Pfalz, 2008
I ordered two bottles of this Großes Gewächs as part of a six-pack that also comprised two bottles of Riesling and two Chardonnays. As the minimum permissible order amount was EUR 80, I was compelled to add this Weißburgunder to get "over the threshold", as it were. What a hardship.

Technically speaking, the vines are situated in a parcel of Mandelberg within the demarcations of neighbouring village of Kirrweiler, which would mean that this wine belongs to the "Südliche Weinstraße" and not the Mittelhaardt region (see the VDP's PDF map). Please don't quote me on this, though.

At such an early stage in the development of a GG, it was only fair that I gave this plenty of airing beforehand. From initial notes of peaches with cream - which is fast turning into "my" signature aroma for Weißburgunder - the fruit withdrew into the background to be replaced by chalk. Lots of it. A powerful palate with an extract-driven density, but also with an innate freshness and vitality. The minerals, plus a mere soupçon of fruit, continue to dominate through to a long finish. A special wine and a glimpse of the best Germany can offer other than Riesling. We finished the bottle by the end of the evening. I think we might hold fire on the second bottle for a few years.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Not bad for an asparagus grower...

Like his brother Fritz, Martin Waßmer runs a sizeable seasonal asparagus and strawberry growing operation on the plains just to the south of Freiburg. However, like Fritz as well, his real passion is Burgundy and, specifically, the Côte d'Or. After visiting the world's premier Pinot Noir region himself, visiting seminars, learning secrets from the greats etc., he left the local wine cooperative in 1999 to set up on his own. One of his first practical measures was to replace his old Spätburgunder vines with low-yielding Burgundian clones. Tasting the following wine, the reason he did so becomes apparent.

Weingut Martin Waßmer, Spätburgunder Qba trocken 2007 Costs EUR 8.40 normally, but I bought this one for EUR 6.50 as a bin-end. Judging from Waßmer's website, this wine wasn't matured in oak barrels (or Barriques, as they say in "German"), but in a larger wooden vat instead. Still, the oak influence is obvious at first, and it's obvious that this wine needs plenty of air. After pouring a second glass 24 hours after opening, everything is in harmony.

Make no mistake: this is a substantial wine for what you pay for. On the nose, it reminds me of those chocolate-dipped strawberries you often get at weddings. The aromas, you feel, are still in "bass". The treble notes are yet to emerge. However, there are hints of fruit and spice to come, but the oak influence - without actually smelling of oak - keeps the nose extremely structured and deep. On the palate, the effect is considerable. It's like landing on a bed of velvet. There is a lot of complexity in the background, but at this early stage in the wine's development, the lines are slightly fuzzy. I mean this in a good way, though. Definitely a food wine and highly recommended. No shortage of potential here.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Schlumberger Spätburgunder

As mentioned recently, Jenny and I rode past renowned wine estate Schlumberger on our bikes one Sunday. Being a day of rest, the winery was closed for business. However, by coincidence, we saw Mrs Schlumberger in her open-top VW Beetle driving in just as we were dawdling by the side of the road. She gave us little more than a cursory glance as she turned in through the gates and into the winery courtyard. "More bloody tourists," is probably what she was thinking, I'd hazard a guess.

Be that as it may, today's wine is a Schlumberger Spätburgunder from 2004 - purchased as a bin-end at Karstadt for a mere EUR 6.50.

Weingut H. Schlumberger, Spätburgunder trocken 2004, Baden
This is the Schlumbergers' "standard" Pinot. Matured in a large oak vat for 12 months, cold-macerated for three days and fermented for nine days on the skins.

Deep ruby in appearance, this has a black cherry and marzipan nose with minerally hints. The oak influence is unobtrusive but gives backbone and an earthy autumnal note. A day later, I think I can detect mocha and maybe even some bacon fat. Very promising. This translates well on to the palate, which is lush and medium-light but also shows plenty of tension. Coming from the 2004 vintage, this is an interesting study on how well even "estate" wines like this one can age. Certainly drinking well at the moment, but I suspect another few years cellaring wouldn't harm it either.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Riesling unplugged

Currently, I'm reading one of Stuart Pigott's books, Wilder Wein. In one of the chapters, devoted to Germany's "new wave" of winemakers, Pigott visits Martin Tesch from the Nahe region. "Riesling Unplugged" is Tesch's estate wine, a bottle of which I spotted and promptly purchased at Swiss retailler Globus.

Weingut Tesch, Riesling Unplugged 2007, Nahe
Tesch's vineyards are situated in an area (the Mainzer Becken) that was submerged millions of years ago. One can notice the tell-tale signs of this in the fossilised sharks' teeth which can still be found in the local geology.

For an estate wine, the nose on this is quite intense. Minerally intense, that is. The aroma is what I would imagine crushed stalactites to smell like. Around 48 hours after opening, more fruity notes appear, including stone fruit and something greenish which I can't quite pinpoint. Absolutely bone dry on the palate, but laser sharp. Not quite Eric Clapton, but this is still a lot of fun.