Friday, 25 February 2011

Laible's "SL"

Another Laible today, this time a notch higher in the ripeness stakes. Does "SL" stand for "Selektion Laible"?

Weingut Andreas Laible, Durbacher Plauenrain Riesling Spätlese trocken "SL" 2009, Baden
Lovely citrus/lime nose showing hints of elderflower. A refreshing understated palate of citrus, peach and minerals. My better half says she likes it. Ripe acidity and an elegant, long finish. Everything feels quite effortless - or nonchalant almost. A cool balanced mouthfeel. The 13% alcohol is barely noticeable. More feminine and alluring, and less earnest, than Pfeffingen's Herrenberg. At EUR 11.50, a relative bargain.

Thursday, 24 February 2011


Nestled at the foot of grand cru vineyard Ungsteiner Herrenberg, Pfeffingen Estate is the epitome of picture-book Pfalz.

Weingut Pfeffingen, Riesling Herrenberg "M" Riesling Grosses Gewächs trocken 2009, Pfalz
The "M" refers to "Mardelskopf", which is a sub-plot of Herrenberg that can be pinpointed on old land registers. Demarcated by sandstone walls and hedges, it offers an ideal microclimate for growing Riesling with its limestone soils covered by a top-soil of loess and loam.

An aroma quite unlike anything I've experienced springs out of the glass. Eventually, the best descriptor I can apply to it is "pickled artichoke". I'm still curious though, so I search the Internet for previous tasting notes. Finally, I stumble upon this, where the word "graphite" is used. Graphite? Spontaneously, I think of golf clubs made of graphite, but they don't smell of anything. But then the penny drops: "Oh, graphite as in pencil scrapings. I see..."

Moving swiftly on, I also detect peach - though that's far less interesting than pencil lead in the grand scheme of things.

Peach also envelopes the palate, along with apricot, lime, redcurrant and spicy, earth notes. The best thing about this wine, however, are its tactile qualities. By this, I mean the way it feels in the mouth. There is a certain viscosity and warmth there, plus the finish just goes on and on, leaving me with a satisfied glow. Very dry but very balanced, this Riesling is merely a toddler in ageing terms, but it is a very earnest infant.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Siamese eagle

Fritz Keller is a busy man.

Son of the late Franz, who founded the eponymous Franz Keller winery, he not only makes wine but also oversees operations at the adjoining Schwarzer Adler ("Black Eagle") restaurant. And that's not all: he has been heavily involved in running German Bundesliga club SC Freiburg for a good many years and was recently officially voted in as the club's new chairman - succeeding the late Achim Stocker.

In terms of wine, Fritz also entered the world of cheap 'n' cheerful a couple of years ago, with the launch of his own "Edition Fritz Keller" range for Aldi - an admirable if somewhat left-field move, if you ask me. What is certain is that it caused quite a furore.

The Aldi range has been covered sufficiently elsewhere on the web; instead, the following wine is from Herr Keller's main wine estate selection.

What struck me from the outset was the wine label. The black "siamese eagle" emblem in the middle with golden sword, staff and crown is very impressive and very German. In fact, I would go out on limb here and challenge anyone who can present me with a more German-looking label. I actually quite like it. In a parallel world, you could almost imagine it lining up in midfield for the Germany in the "Wine World Cup". (And as Gary Lineker once said, football is all about 22 players in shorts running after a ball, and in the end the Germans win.)

Anyway, the wine...

Weingut Franz Keller, Oberbergener Bassgeige Grauburgunder QbA trocken 2009
"Bassgeige" is German for "double bass", which apparently refers to what the shape of the vineyard in question used to look like before it was reparcelled in the 1960s and 70s.

Straw in appearance with red-goldish reflexes. On the nose, cloudy honey, smoky notes, mirabelle and roasted peanuts. Medium bodied on the palate, with further smokiness and a slightly roasted characteristic. Having said this, the wine is refreshing yet has some gravitas and succulence. The finish is minerally and long. In terms of enjoyment and quality, this Grauburgunder is neck and neck with the Bercher Weissburgunder. In general, "WBs" always seem to edge it for me over "GBs". Nevertheless, I'm very much taken by this wine's bone-dry elegant style.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Blisteringly good

We bought the following wine almost a year ago at an Iberian wine tasting event; its time finally came recently. Remembering how inordinately minerally it tasted back then, we were looking forward to matching it with a nice slab of steak.

Doing steak, there is always a fine line between triumph and disaster. Prepare it for too long, and the meat will end up rubbery and hard. However, taking the steak off when you think it's sufficiently done (medium-rare in our case) is always a bit of a dare. That uncertainty until you finally cut through the steak can be unnerving. This time, the meat was perfect.

And the wine?

Joan Simó, Sentius 2006, Priorat DOQ, Catalunya
Opaque cherry/ruby with a minty and - yes, you've guessed it - minerally entry on the nose. It's not so much fruit that I come up against, but a complex wall of tannins instead. Full-bodied, soft and creamy on the palate. Said tannins are massive but velvety. They envelope the mouth and give off minty, greeny peppery notes here and there. Meanwhile, the minerality is positively blistering. The whopping 15% alcohol is hardly noticeable, though you already feel the effects after one glass. If there was ever a red wine that cried out for oak, this is it. Yet, what roasted notes there are remain discreetly in the background.

Grown on Priorat's slate soils, this is a blend of Garnacha, Cab Sauv., Merlot, Syrah and Carignena - and for the price (CHF 28.50), it's a top wine. Drinking very well at the moment, but I have no doubt it will continue to improve for some years. For the moment, everything is humming away behind a monolithic wall of radio disturbance. [Blimey, did I just write that?] If I were to borrow an analogy, I would probably pick the following song by Oasis. The year is 1996, and Liam and Noel are at their zenith but about to slide down the slippery slope of self-parody. Not that this wine is anywhere near the slippery slope yet, I hasten to add. Anyway, nifty helicopters.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Does exactly what it says...

Wine descriptions on wine bottle labels can often sound quite twee and samey. "Chief winemaker xyz has crafted a wine that evokes xyz's local terroir...fruit driven...picked at optimum ripeness...ideal with cheese and pork scratchings." (I made the last bit up.)

I'll save you my amateurish description of the following wine, not just because it has been covered elsewhere (I concur with the final comment at the bottom of this post, by the way), but because the label does my job for me.

I'll translate instead:

Weingut Ziereisen, Steingrüble 2009, Baden
"Fully ripened, hand-picked grapes from 25-year-old Gutedel (Chasselas) vines were spontaneously fermented in a large wooden vat, using the grapes' own yeasts. The wine was bottled after being left on its lees for 11 months. Flinty notes with ripe, elegant acidity and minerally hints on the palate."

Monday, 14 February 2011

Beer for Valentine's Day

My better half knows what I like...

...and I like what she knows.

Friday, 11 February 2011


The castle overlooking the village of Wachenheim has to be one of my favourite places in the Pfalz. From there, you can survey the expanse of vines extending into the valley for about two to three miles beyond, and then further into the fertile plains of the Vorderpfalz and the Kurpfalz with the cities of Mannheim, Heidelberg, Karlsruhe and Ludwigshafen visible on a clear day. (Admittedly, Ludwigshafen isn't the easiest on the eye from closer up.)

From this vantage point, it is also possible to spot the various properties owned by Bürklin-Wolf in and around Wachenheim: an English garden, a croquet lawn, various stately mansions and courtyards, a small theatre... You get the idea.

Bürklin-Wolf dominate Wachenheim like no other property. My memory of them dates back to Easter 1997 when I took my parents there to taste and buy some wines. That's a long time ago now, but the nostaglia lingers.

But now to today's wine:

Weingut Bürklin-Wolf, Wachenheimer Riesling trocken 2009, Pfalz
Bürklin-Wolf adhere to the Burgundian classification system. This Ortswein is the equivalent of a Burgundy Cru Villages.

A whiff of citrus and herbs on an otherwise quite reticent nose. Acidity is this wine's friend. We served it with fish cakes and home-made tartar sauce on the first day, which dulled this effect somewhat. On the second day, the acidity was clearly there, but ripe and appley with a faint herbal tinge. Anything but a fruit extravaganza, this drinks well but has a certain austerity.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Now on a tweet near you

I've bitten the bullet and signed up to Twitter.

Let's hope I don't descend into any Kevin Pietersen or Darren Bent moments.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Beautiful Weissburgunder

I'll let you into a little secret: Jenny are I are currently in the deadly serious process of trying various white wines that could potentially make it on to the table at our wedding. Around nine months before the big day, and we've already decided on the red wine. I'm not naming any names, but it was a relatively simple choice in the end. Sourcing enough of the stuff could be the tricky part, but we'll see.

It could be a more complicated proposition with the whites, because there are a plethora of possible permutations. But first things first: you can never go far wrong with Weissburgunder. This wine was the latest in our exploratory mission.

Weingut Bercher, Burkheimer Feuerberg Weissburgunder Kabinett trocken 2009, Baden
Purchased in Freiburg last Saturday, along with the Laible and four other wines as a sort of "tester pack". Medium-intensity aromas of pear, cream and peaches. These translate into a succulent palate of pear and dried fruit. The wine is uplifting, pure and elegant. Relatively mild but still refreshing, Weissburgunder is kind of "everyone's darling", and I'm sure this one would stand up to scrutiny from our respective relatives and friends. I love it, but I might be tempted to go up one notch to the dry Spätlese for practical purposes. Anyway, it's still early days.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Andreas Laible

Baden isn't that famous for Riesling, but there are pockets of top quality here and there: in Ihringen, for example, and in parts of the Ortenau such as Neuweier and Durbach. The latter village boasts a small handful of excellent properties including Weingut Andreas Laible, probably the most renowned "Riesling winery" in Baden.

Andreas Laible's son Alexander is making a name for himself with his own variety of wines, one of which I tasted in 2009. Yet, it's Alexander's dad who's still the reference point for all things Riesling in Baden. Time to acquaint myself then.

Weingut Andreas Laible, Durbacher Plauenrain Riesling Kabinett trocken 2009, Baden
I chose this Kabinett as a light introduction. I wasn't disappointed.

A wonderfully floral nose eventually evolving into succulent peach and orange zest. More exotic peaches on a mouthwatering palate. Medium-light in terms of body, but with ripe acidity and so much flavour. The finish is satisfyingly dry and briny. Text-book dry Kabinett.