Sunday, 28 November 2010

Ziereisen Christmas tasting

Amid a flurry of snow, I ventured out on Saturday to attend the Ziereisens' Weihnachtsdegustation. A very enjoyable few hours ensued, tasting the winery's latest bottlings and sampling some wines from befriended properties such as Van Volxem, Beurer and Domaine de l'Horizon. What struck me most was the friendly, down-to-earth welcome I received from all concerned.

As a little treat, I bought three bottles of Hanspeter Ziereisen's maiden vintage from newly planted vines up in the Jaspis vineyard above Efringen. As the vines are so young, the wine costs slightly less than the established Jaspis Alte Reben. You normally wouldn't think such youthful vines would make such a substantial wine.

Weingut Ziereisen, Pinot Noir Jaspis "Jungfernlese" 2008
Quite opaque ruby for a Spätburgunder. Wet wood on the nose, some cherry/raspberry fruit as well, but very understated. On the palate the elements are still quite tight but loosen markedly on the second day. Sweetness from the well-integrated oak, plenty of extract, well-integrated tannins, strangely pleasant bitterness on the finish. Astoundingly tightly woven, although this needs time (i.e. years) to unfold. The other two bottles will be left well alone for now.

Incidentally, things have been fairly quiet of late on the blogging front. But for good reason. In addition to preparing to become freelance, I proposed to Jenny on 20 November. We were in Paris to celebrate our respective birthdays, which are two days apart, and it seemed to me the perfect time to fall on one knee and pop the question.

She said yes!

Friday, 26 November 2010

Pride of Swabia

Some of you may already have heard that Germany's "Gault Millau Wineguide" has awarded Weingut Aldinger with this year's "Collection of the Year" prize. Based in Fellbach on the outskirts of Stuttgart, the Aldingers enjoy an excellent reputation throughout Germany for their consistently outstanding range of reds and whites. Yesterday evening, I watched Gert and Matthias Aldinger being interviewed on the weekday magazine programme Landesschau Baden-Württemberg, with presenter Jürgen Hörig quizzing them about winning the accolade.

It was an entertaining little feature. Hörig descended somewhat into hyperbole, referring to the Aldingers' Lemberger as the "bester Lemberger aller Zeiten" ("the best Lemberger of all time"), and as a "Wuchtbrumme" ("powerhouse" may be the best translation given the context). Matthias Aldinger's reference to "Kontrolliertes Nichtstun" ("Measured idleness") to describe his approach to vinification also rang a bell as a particular mantra employed by umpteen winemakers across the land. Rather quaintly, Herr Hörig mistook this for modesty.

Anyway, a proud day for all Swabians.

The interview can be viewed here.

[Edit: In hindsight, the comment "Rather quaintly, Herr Hörig mistook this for modesty." sounds a bit snobbish. However, I just think sometimes it would be refreshing if Winemaker XY said something like, "No, actually, we ensure optimum cleaniness in the cellar, add a cultured strain of yeast to kick-start the fermentation process, apply temperature control throughout, regularly rack the wine..."]

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Expovina and Gaga

Another wine fair was on the agenda last Sunday, as was Lady Gaga.

Travelling to Zurich with my better half and a handful of other friends at midday, we first hit the wine ships at Bürkliplatz. Wine tasting on a boat is not something I'd attempted before, so this seemed novel enough to try out. From my point of view, the idea of attending was somewhat less professionally motivated than it had been at the previous two wine fairs, and more for the sheer fun of it. Having said that, I still managed to part company with a few business cards. Overall, we had an enjoyable visit, despite feeling vaguely seasick by the end.

Now, Lady Gaga is probably not to everyone's taste, but she certainly can't be accused of not putting on a good show. Originally, I had passed up the chance for a ticket to her concert. However, I was lucky enough to claim a ticket at the second time of asking. Which was just as well, because it was a brilliant show.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Wine fairs

On the last two weekends, I've attended two different wine fairs. The first one was the Basler Weinmesse, Switzerland's second-biggest wine fair), the second a more local affair in Lörrach, Germany: "Hieber's Weinmesse". Armed with my new business cards, my respective visits were admittedly less about the wines and more about meeting winegrowers face to face and explaining what I have to offer from a translation perspective. It was a worthwhile experience for me on both occasions, and I even managed to get my face in the paper after the fair in Lörrach (click here; it's an unflattering photo: I'm the one smiling goofishly and looking deceptively thin as the man from Winzer Krems pours some Grüner Veltliner into my glass).

Aside from professional matters, some general observations:

The Basler Weinmesse was without doubt the bigger, slicker affair. Nevertheless, the fair in Lörrach is also very well organised (by local supermarket chain Hieber). At both fairs, the emphasis was both regional and international.

In Basel, you had stands devoted to Swiss growers from the Basel region and further afield, and stands devoted to wines from "old world" countries such as France and Italy (the latter being a firm Swiss favourite) and from the new world. Then there were the guest regions: Austria and the Geneva area.

In Lörrach, the "demographics" very much reflected the make-up of the wine community in Baden, i.e. cooperative-focused yet with a good handful of private properties. There was also a fair selection of wines presented from overseas.

On balance, I probably preferred the slightly cosier, more familiar experience offered in Lörrach. Set in a popular concert house, the event has become a firm fixture on the local social calendar. And I could see why. With room to mingle and free finger food (antipasti) included in the price of the ticket, the ingredients were there for having an enjoyable time. The idea of splitting the event into three distinct sessions (Fri night, Sat afternoon and Sat night) was also inspired, I thought. I went on the Saturday afternoon as the other two sessions were already sold out. This was probably the best option in hindsight, as I had more chance to devote enough time to all of the stands I visited.

There were a number of highlights, although the following two encounters stood out for me: 1) the lovely chat I had with Simone Lanz at the Basler Weinmesse and the beautiful Grüner Veltliners she poured me from Kremstal, and 2) talking in Lörrach with Martin Schärli, the head of operations at Weingut Kalkbödele and tasting his winery's gorgeous selection of Weiss-, Grau- and Spätburgunders.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Fruit cake

My aunt and uncle visited us last weekend, bringing with them the most succulent, raisiny English fruit cake you could imagine. Baked from a mixture that included more than a good dash of brandy, it is one of those cakes that would probably last a year and more if stored correctly. Interesting as it would be to test that theory, I can't imagine it lasting that long, if you catch my drift.

We both ate a piece each this evening, to follow a main meal of steak with mushroom and red wine sauce. The accompanying wine was purchased earlier this year.

CARM, Quinta do Côa Reserva 2006, Douro DOC
Firstly, CARM stands for "Casa Agrícola Roboredo Madeira". The grapes are all indigenous Portuguese varietals - Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz - and were harvested from one of the Douro's synonymous terraced sloped vineyards. Quinta da Côa estate is found found in an area "designated as a World Heritage Site, where the paleolithic rock carvings in the valley of the Côa, a tributary of the Douro, reveal a flourishing culture which goes back 25,000 years" (see website).

Opaque in appearance with a ruby rim; we're talking Australian Barossa darkness. The nose is a brooding mass, showing floury black and red fruit, spicy, oaky sweetness and raisin. This floury notes continue on the palate. Almost monolithic in body. However, in terms of structure, a juicy vein of acidity lends immense drinkability, belying the 14.5% alcohol, while the tannins are suggestive of a certain wildness and minerality. The finish is long and smooth. A wine to be drunk when the weather is dank and cold outside. Potential for a good few years to come, but drinking just fine at the moment. Decanted over two hours prior to serving, which was just as well.