Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Rivaner's revenge

Müller-Thurgau (or Rivaner) is an oft-derided grape. Planted the length and breadth of wine-growing Germany, it is synonymous with the bad old days of Liebfraumilch. Its planting acreage has generally fallen over the last 15 to 20 years in favour of other varietals. However, there may now be a counter-movement afoot. Berlin-based wine writer Stuart Pigott recently launched his own 2009 "Grosses Gewächs" vintage from a Müller-Thurgau vineyard lent to him by Weingut Stahl in Franconia. And Stahl themselves have been earning plaudits for their own interpretation of this, the ugly duckling of grapes.

Attitudes to Müller-Thurgau are probably more relaxed in Switzerland. This may be because Hermann Müller, the oenologist who cross-bred the varietal, hails from the Swiss canton of Thurgau. Müller didn't want to lend his own name to the varietal's moniker in his country of birth, which is why the Swiss call it "Riesling-Sylvaner" instead (previously "Riesling x Sylvaner"). This synonym conveys quite an imposing if misleading image, given that Müller-Thurgau's cross-breed parentage has relatively little to do with either Riesling or Sylvaner/Silvaner. Nevertheless, the "Riesling-Sylvaner" name has stuck, which, I suspect, has done the wine's domestic sales no harm at all.

The following Müller-Thurgau was interesting as it hails from the Swiss tip of the hill on which Claus Schneider makes his fabulous Pinots barely a 100-200 metres away in Germany.

"Schlipfer", Riehener Riesling-Sylvaner 2009, Gemeinde-Rebberg, canton of Basel-Stadt
This wine is vinified and bottled by Swiss supermarket chain Coop, but the municipality of Riehen is responsible for tending the vines and harvesting the fruit. Very brief notes, these: showing subtle muscat notes on the nose, with a clean, bright palate of lemon zest. Quite elegant for what it's worth. A short yet fresh finish to what is an engaging if everyday wine. I enjoyed quaffing it too much to write much more.

1 comment:

  1. It is quite interesting that you too see signs of a quality MT revival. Julian has recently looked into MT in more detail and had a similar reaction to yours (Stahl wines were in the mix, of course). For me it is more difficult to track these wines as they are really hard to find in England, apart of course from the Liebfraumilch-style blends. Swiss wine, never seen one here... Torsten