Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Schneider CS

The "CS ***" 2007 version, I've already covered this year, but Schneiders' "basic" CS (short for "Claus and Susanne") also deserves some attention. It's a wine I've come back to again and again over the past three vintages or so. I tried the 2007 back at the wine fair in Lörrach, when it was drinking particularly well, and promptly ordered six (at a 10% fair-only discount), which I picked up earlier this week.

Weingut Schneider, Weiler Schlipf, Spätburgunder trocken "CS" 2007, Baden
An enticing ruby colour, this one. Strangely, there are notes in this that are vaguely reminiscent of cool peppermint. Creaminess and chalkiness abound on the nose - by no means "chalk 'n' cheese", but an elegant combination. More strawberry than raspberry, underscored with some darker fruit and more savoury notes.

On the palate, this seems to have no less stuffing than the "CS ***". I feel the difference - or one of the differences - is in the ageability; the latter seemed a lot more reticent and closed when I tried it again at the fair. Here, my mind is drawn back to a recent observation made on The Wine Rambler blog about the fact that you can't just simply load more concentration and power onto your wines the higher up the quality range you get. The differences, as Julian wrote, are more in the fine-tuning.

Having said this, the basic "CS" could barely be more fine-tuned for its own particular price bracket (EUR 8.90). Both light and firm, this has excellent balance, fine tannins, elegance in spades, freshness and yet an almost haunting mineral undertone. Exceedingly drinkable, but with a gravitas that would surprise many a Burgundy lover.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Maispracher Sunneburg

The area around Basel boasts some notable pockets of wine-growing activity, one of which is the idyllic village of Maisprach. The following 50 cl bottle of wine was received as a Christmas gift from some friends who live there. Their house appears in the drawing on the bottle label.

Maispracher Sunneburg, Buess Weinbau und Weinhandel AG, Baselbiet
As for the vintage, I haven't a clue - no such information was given on the label. I only realised this when I came to writing this post - not that it would have prejudiced my opinion of the wine (I'd like to think). Yet, it would be pretty for safe for me to say that the varietal was Pinot Noir.

Cherry, cloves and burnt rubber on the nose - and I mean this in a good way. Sappy fruit, nice tension and acidity on the palate, but smooth and moreish. Great complexity is not this wine's raison d'être, nor would I expect it to be. Just good, honest wine for sipping on a Sunday evening. I wonder why it had no specified vintage, though?

Wednesday, 15 December 2010


We got the Christmas tree up last Sunday - or that is, Jenny got the Christmas tree up while I fretted about various bureaucratic matters related to setting up a business. I know who had the more enjoyable time. That said, I'll be glad next year when the new day-job can begin in earnest.

To sooth my disposition, I opened this, the last of the six "Einzelstücke" I bought around three years ago.

Weingut Markus Schneider, Einzelstück 2005, Pfalz
Opaque ruby with brownish cherry rim. Fruity, floral, earthy and mildly savoury aromas all at once. Plum, cherry schnapps and violet perfume underscored with wild mushroom, dark chocolate, creamy vanilla and mocha. Supple, smooth and understated body with finely grained, silky tannins enveloping the palate, savoury roasted notes, some minerals and ample complexity. What follows is a long finish. This is not the jammy fruit blockbuster one might expect. The moderate aging has mellowed the various components, while the acidity is just sufficient to keep the taste buds keen.

At EUR 26, these wines weren't cheap. At the time, it was way more than I had ever coughed up per bottle. In fact, it's a figure that has only been exceeded once or twice since, and even then, only for the odd bottle - not a whole case. However, this particular purchase was made out of curiosity.

So, was the outlay worth it? I would say yes, to a degree.

When I first tasted this three years ago, I was dubious as to the merits of barrel aging for a wine made from Portugieser vines that were almost 80 years old, subscribing to the view that it was a shame that oak should get in the way of something so unique. However, the last three bottles consumed over the past year were eminently more enjoyable. They seemed to be at their peak already, "So why wait another three years?" I thought. Overall, the experiment was a good one.

Anyway, they're all gone now. Would I invest - if that's the right word - in another six bottles? I wouldn't rule it out, but maybe I should simply look at it as another box to tick off on my list.

Sunday, 12 December 2010


In the Pfalz, Bassermann-Jordan are one of the three "b"s, alongside Bürklin-Wolf and von Buhl - the three wine estates whose wines have graced many a royal dining table over the last 150 years or so.

The following bottle was purchased last June at the winery's vinothèque in Deidesheim.

Weingut Bassermann-Jordan, Forster Ungeheuer "S", Riesling trocken, 2009
I love Stelvin enclosures. So easy. The only problem with a wine like this one is treating it like a bottle of pop and forgetting to open it in good time before tasting. Into the decanter it went for some fast-track airing...

Laser lime-yellow appearance in the decanter, this shows a salty minerality on the nose somewhat reminiscent of flint. The soil in Ungeheuer has smatterings of basalt running through it, and one is indeed tempted here to make that association with the terroir. On the palate, a certain richness emerges, with stone fruit and more exotic notes. The acidity is taut and fine, lending elegance and structure. There are also some hints of redcurrant and, again, some stoney saltiness. What I like about the finish is the total lack of alcoholic heat. Instead, the faintest hint of sweetness is gently smothered in warm minerals and a talcy powderiness. This is less of a charmer and more a wine with pretentions.

As legend has it, Otto von Bismarck is supposed to have taken a shine to wines from Ungeheuer (German for "monster"), once exclaiming, "This Ungeheuer tastes monstrously good." Depending on whom you believe, the name Ungeheuer dates back either to 1460 when the term "Ungehuwer" is supposed to have been recorded, or to Johann Adam Ungeheuer, a scribe who lived in nearby Deidesheim and died in 1699.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Cheer up Alan Shearer

As a certain football chant sung by Manchester United fans begins... I was humming the tune to it while writing this post, so please bear with me - it's not as incongruous as it may seem.

We've just returned from a long weekend at my parents' in Lytham St Annes for some pre-Christmas festivities. The main reason for returning to England in early December, however, was to watch the Premier League match between Blackpool and Manchester United. Courtesy of family connections, we had been kindly invited to take in the match from one of the executive boxes, complete with the proverbial three-course menu of prawn sandwiches. Being a United supporter who was born in Blackpool, I can safely say that it would have been one of the highlights of my footballing life, irrespective of the hospitality on offer. I had also been looking forward to throwing chicken scraps down to my dad and aunt sat with the have-nots in row one.

All the more disappointing then to hear the day before that the match had been postponed due to the freezing weather. Blackpool's pitch is the only one in the Premier League without undersoil heating, and it was apparently bone-hard even despite the slight thawing we had on the morning of the game. The fixture should be rescheduled for midweek some time, but whether I'll be able to fly back to watch it is another question.

As consolation, here's a picture of the tangarine chocolate delight I received instead.

Incidentally, on our easyjet flight from Zurich to Manchester last Thursday, fellow passengers on the plane included former players Andy Cole, John Barnes and a rather glum-looking Alan Shearer. All three were on the way back home after England's World Cup bidding debacle.

Cheer up Alan.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Mea culpa

As a belated celebration at home last weekend, I cracked open a bottle of Zind-Humbrecht's finest. My better half bought it for me as my birthday present last year. A special treat indeed, and now it's time had come.

I poured the wine into the decanter, and... oh: "This looks suspiciously brass-coloured," I said. I've drunk extremely luscious Pinot Gris before, but this time I wasn't entirely convinced. Not sure what to expect, I dipped my nose into the glass - and was none the wiser. Hm.

Not one to take risks with such a lovely bottle (which cost my dearest a good few bob), I returned it to the shop in Basel on Monday, citing oxidation and/or cork taint.

The next day, another bottle of the same wine and vintage was ready for me to collect. The gentleman behind the counter proceeded to explain to me that he and all his colleagues had tasted the dubious bottle in question, and the unanimous verdict was that the wine was perfect in every respect. He went on to say that it was common for such wines to be more than a touch amber in appearance, but it was no problem, here was another bottle to take home with me..

Oh, the embarrassment.