Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Wine translation

Dear Reader,

You may have noticed from my blog profile that I am a translator by profession. Specifically, my job involves translating written texts from German and French into English, my native language. Since 2000, I have worked mainly as an in-house, salaried translator specialising in a wide range of texts - primarily for financial services providers, but also in other areas such as tourism and life sciences.

Over a month ago, I handed in my notice with my current employer with a view to setting up my own freelance business from 1 January 2011. I intend to offer English translation services to clients within the wine trade. It is something I have wanted to do for a long time. My focus will be on providing English-language translations of websites, advertising material, newsletters, brochures and more besides. I aim to collaborate with winemakers, wine marketing agencies, regional wine associations, journalists and other wine professionals. It is a prospect that excites me.

Wineries, in particular, need quality English translations of their websites and other written output in order to appeal to a wider audience. Unfortunately, many such websites are translated into English by non-native English speakers. However well meant, and regardless of whether the author has an excellent command of spoken English, the results can still leave a lot to be desired. Although I speak fluent German, that does not necessarily make me qualified to translate into flawless written German - there is no reason why it should be different the other way round. A significant part of my job will be to get this message across.

This blog will soon include relevant contact details and information relating to my business. However, "From Blackpool to Basel" will otherwise remain non-commercial in nature, albeit with some judicious plugging for my business in the right-hand margin.

Sunday, 24 October 2010


Freisamer? No, I'd hadn't heard of it either.

Apparently, it's a cross between Silvaner (Sylvaner) and Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris) and is a varietal almost exclusive to the eastern Swiss canton of Graubünden. It does have some minor plantings in Baden (D), too. Be that as it may, it was certainly new to me.

The Cottinelli property is based in the relatively high-altitude climes of Malans, in the heart of Graubünden's wine country.

Weinhaus Cottenelli, Freisamer AOC 2008, Graubünden
Straw in appearance with golden reflexes. Medium nose of the finest honey you could ever want to taste, married with the succulency of William's pear, a certain nuttiness I find hard to fathom, plus a hint of marzipan and minerals. Even some floral notes. A merry dance between pear and honey on the palate. Bitter pithy pip notes and subtle acidity which offsets the lusciousness of what is a powerful, filling mouthfeel. A slightly wild, yeasty note, too. Maybe more akin to Pinot Gris than to Silvaner, yet unique in character and highly interesting and enjoyable.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

From Spätburgunder to Riesling

Two wines tasted over the last week. Alas, notes again are rudimentary. The first one was finished in the space of an hour with the help of friends, the other one was a slow burner drunk over three days.

Weingut Kranz, Ilbesheimer Rittersberg Spätburgunder trocken 2006, Pfalz
Had I opened this too early in its lifetime? The rim looked quite purple around an otherwise ruby core. My last glass of this was the best one, again demonstrating the often underestimated effect of air on wine. Very pure and focused with good depth. Some sour cherry, some raspberry. Held in shape by drying tannins and keen acidity. Almost Italian style in that respect. Balanced and understated, although still showing the puppy fat of youth.

Curiously, the back label showed "Ilbesheimer Rittersberg" as the vineyard of origin, yet "Kirchberg" was shown on the front (the name of an old vineyard delineation?).

Weingut Becker-Landgraf, Riesling trocken (Gutswein) 2008, Rheinhessen
Green-gold leaf tinge, reticent nose, but slowly developing an interesting steely sharpness. The palate is as clear as glass. Lime and puckering, steely acidity. Clean and refreshing. Slight heat from the alcohol. In my book, it could do with a touch more residual sugar to be more accommodating, although I do respect it for it's no-holds-barred dryness. A solid estate wine.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Swiss on a roll?

A picture from last Tuesday's Euro 2012 qualifier in Basel between Switzerland and Wales. In the end, a fairly straightforward if slightly flattering 4-1 win for the hosts. We were in exactly the same seats as we were for the England match, only this time the fencing behind the goal was gone!

Friday, 15 October 2010


There's currently more than an autumnal nip in the air here in Basel; it's getting quite cool and the thermometer is set to drop to single figures (in celsius) during the day this weekend. We were in shorts last Saturday.

Time then for a pinot noir to warm the proverbial cockles.

Weingut Leiner, Spätburgunder trocken -reserve- 2006, Pfalz
Attractive ruby red with a watery, slightly brick-red hue around the rim. Mushroomy, savoury "forest floor" on the nose (imagine hunting for truffles). On the palate, spice, chocolate, cooked raspberry/blackberry and marzipan. In terms of structure, subtle, finely woven tannins combine with refreshing acidity to show smoothness, balance and texture. Complex spices reverberate in the finish. Quite a lateral instead of a linear taste. By that, I mean the tautness that keeps everything together initially yet gradually broadens, becomes more generous but maybe no more complex with more air and warmth. Less a cerebral sort of wine and more the kindly, weathered, saddle-worn country yokel, if you get my gist. But no less fascinating for it.

There were "issues" with the 2006 harvest throughout large swathes of the Pfalz, but I have few with this wine.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

The problem with Grosses Gewächs

David Schildknecht - Robert Parker's eyes and ears in Germany - recently wrote a thought-provoking piece about the Grosses Gewächs (grand cru) classification in Germany. It was originally posted on the members-only Mark Squires' Wine Bulletin Board but has since been integrated into free-access content. Admittedly, it's quite lengthy, but worth a read by anyone with an interest in German wine; click here.

I'll nail my colours firmly to the mast now and say that I am in firm agreement with virtually all of Mr Schildknecht's critique. I hope it's taken on board in the constructive manner it deserves. Sometimes, people on the "outside" are what are needed to point out the blindingly obvious to those on the "inside" who are oblivious. This is a case in point, I feel. Although Schildknecht would seem to have such a deep knowledge of German wine that it almost seems dismissive to call him an "outsider".

Monday, 11 October 2010

Von der Fels 2009

Just a very brief summary* today of one of Keller's most popular wines of recent years:

Weingut Keller, Riesling "von der Fels" 2009, Rheinhessen
My notes on this are scarce and based purely on memory, because frankly, it was so enjoyable we quaffed it down of an evening while watching some especially mind-numbing Saturday night television. I tried last year's vintage, which was very good, yet 2009 is maybe even better.

Complex fruit aromas, of which mandarin stands out the most. Overlaid with peaches and minerals on a juicy, elegant palate. Light-footed yet oozing gravitas. Ripe, juicy, mouthwatering acidity. Pinpoint precision in a lingering finish.

* If you're looking for an altogether more detailed and thoughtful look at "vdF", try this for starters (it's in German though).

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Pfeffingen Scheurebe

Although drunk in small doses over a four-day period, the following wine grabbed my attention from the off. Weingut Pfeffingen in the Pfalz should need no introduction to Scheurebe lovers. The 2009 vintage marked the maiden bottling of a new wine from the Fuhrmann-Eymael family: Scheurebe SP (the "SP" stands for "Selektion Pfeffingen") - a dry Scheurebe inspired, according to the winery, by the best white wines of the Loire and Bordeaux. One-third of the juice was fermented in new American oak barrels, the rest in stainless steel vats.

You know, I'm becoming increasingly convinced that the dry Scheurebes that "work" are the ones where the levels of residual sweetness are pushed to the permissible legal boundaries.* This is "exhibit A", so to speak:

Weingut Pfeffingen, Scheurebe SP Spätlese trocken 2009, Pfalz
A crazy nose of lime, blackcurrant and passion fruit. The fusion of aromas almost knocked me back. There is also a slightly vegetative note, but a far cry from the weedy aromatics of certain other trockens. Elegance and poise dominate a palate of zingy lime sherbet and pinpoint-precision lemon sorbet. Barely a suggestion of wood, but enough to lend character and body. Cool, exotic, smooth and chalky, culminating in a complex, long finish. Outstanding grand cru quality for a very un-grand cru price.

This wine has a screw-top enclosure and is certainly fine for drinking now. It is still has a lot of potential though.

*On later referring to the technical sheet that was enclosed with the delivery, I saw that the amount of residual sweetness was over 7 g/l. The statutory ceiling for trockens is 9 g/l. Normally, I wouldn't quote such piffle, but I think it's of relevance here.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Indian summer on the Rhine

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Acoustic session

Acústic Celler is a project based in the DO Montsant appellation in Catalonia. I'd tried their red earlier this year at a wine tasting in Basel and was suitably impressed. Their white is just as compelling. As the name implies, the wine-growing philosophy is akin to the "unplugged" concept seen from Tesch: use of traditional wine-growing methods and tools, and avoidance of modern technology to make wines that are as natural a reflection of their origins as possible... [it says here]. Admittedly, I am aware that worthy phrases such as "actionism in the vineyard, minimalism in the cellar" (see Werner Elflein's German-language blog) sometimes appear to be no more than a marketing gimmick if not backed up in practice. But no chance of that with the following wine, I think.

Acústic Celler, Acustic Blanc 2009, DO Montsant
Straw yellow with greenish hints. Made from the Macabeu (Castillian: Macabeo) and Garnatxa (Garnacha) Blanca grapes, this hits you with a burst of finest red rust and a squeeze of lime. For me, the effect is strangely reminiscent of fish. Quite pungent. There is a certain wildness amid the fresh and bright aromatics that otherwise abound. An ever-so-subtle creaminess then emerges. On the palate, the riff of noble (bicycle?) rust continues relentlessly. Another twist of lime rushes around the mouth. Only then do I get some tell-tale hints of vanilla - but we're talking top-draw Notarianni. Normally, I'm not a big fan of vanilla in white wine, but this works because it's just irresistible. Lots of extract swishes around, lending the wine complexity and depth and accompanying what is a long, satisfying finish. Brilliant.

Price: a little over 11 euros or CHF 22.50; although I bought it for CHF 17.10 thanks to a double-whammy special offer + wine-tasting-related discount.