Thursday, 19 May 2011


Knipser and Kuhn are established stars in the German wine firmament, but Laumersheim neighbour Mario Zelt is seemingly hot on their heels.

There seems to be something about the Laumersheimer terroir that got lost in history. Certainly, old parcels such as Burgweg (Im Grossen Garten), Steinbuckel or Kirschgarten never used to share the same renown as the choice vineyards of the Mittelhaardt. Apparently, after the Napoleonic wars, the moneyed classes preferred to settle in choice locations such as Deidesheim and Wachenheim at the foot of the vineyard slope. Consequently, these villages are where the posh wine estate mansions were built in the 19th century. Villages situated out in the sticks like Laumersheim suffered in comparison. Laumersheim's best wines were mostly consumed by the village inhabitants and rarely made it further afield. It's only really been the last 20-25 years or so that people have sat up and taken notice.

I met Herr Zelt at Prowein in Düsseldorf in March and was able to taste a fair few of his wines. One of these was his top Saint Laurent - a grape varietal thought to have originated in the Alsace but which is now mostly native to Germany (Pfalz, Rheinhessen) and Austria (particularly Neusiedlersee).

Weingut Zelt, Grosskarlbacher Burgweg Saint Laurent trocken 2008, Pfalz
Dark ruby with a purplish-red rim. Cranberry, "After Eight" chocolate mints, wooden tobacco box, musty library with some vanilla underlay. (Sorry, my imagination was running a little riot while I was scribbling my notes.) Darker berry fruit on what is a fairly chewy palate. Wild flower notes, firm but supple tannins. Some sweet oak extract and a medium finish. The barrel ageing is noticeable and needs time to bed in. Showing good promise though.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Streamlined 2010s

At the Badische Weinmesse, Baden's premier annual wine fair, one of the nice discoveries I made were the 2010 Pinot Blancs and Gris. A lot of them were noticeably slimmer than previous vintages. The same applies to other regions like the Pfalz - which brings me smoothly to the following short notes.

Weingut Philipp Kuhn, Weisser Burgunder "Vom Kalksteinfels" 2010, Pfalz
Lovely little bubbles of CO2. Apricot on the nose. Blossomy and some melony notes. Very attractive. Slimline but retaining substance on the palate with further yellow fruit accents and a slight caramelly hint. Noticeable minerally tang on the finish.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Roter Gutedel

Vintners' cooperative "Haltinger Winzer" was in the local news recently after winning one of the four designated categories in the annual Gutedel Cup. Winemaker Markus Büchlin is understandably quite proud. What was unusual about this victory was that the grape varietal wasn't pure Gutedel, but a mutation called Roter Gutedel (or Chasselas Rosé). However, the wine in question was, technically speaking, still white.

Jenny and I were able to taste the wine within the cooperative's grounds during our bike ride on 1 May, and were suitably impressed. Later, on a recent supermarket visit to Germany, it was evident that the wine was selling like the proverbial hot cakes, so I quickly grabbed a couple of bottles for future consumption.

Haltinger Winzer, Roter Gutedel 2010, Baden
Straw bordering on golden, with a honeydew melon reflexes showing up the colour of the grape varietal. Not really a pale rosé, but with the same suggestive hue as, say, a blanc de noirs.
Lovely red melony notes on the nose. Expressive and inviting. Maybe even some minerally hints. The honeydew character translates onto the palate. Luscious yet sappy and light. Delicious.

It just occurs to me that Roter Gutedel might actually be blended by winemakers in Markgräflerland into regular "Gutedel" bottlings as a matter of course. I suspect this might be their secret weapon of sorts, adding extra personality to the finished wine - in much the same way Alsace's vintners add touches of Auxerrois into their Pinot Blancs. However, I stand to be corrected on this.

Pictured here is a Roter Gutedel vine; I took the picture quite randomly in early September 2007 in a parcel situated at the edge of the Haltinger Stiege vineyard (bordering Weiler Schlipf). Maybe it's the parcel used for the wine(?).

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Pfalz blending

The 2007 vintage of the following wine has been covered in The Wine Rambler. My focus of late was on the 2008 version.

"Basic range" red blends costing anything from 7 to 13 euros are all the rage in the Pfalz at the moment, it seems. The Pfälzer, in particular, have cottoned on to a winner here: combine international varietals such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and the like with indigenous grapes such as Dornfelder and Portugieser, with new crossings such as the voluptuous Cabernet Cubin or Cabernet Dorsa, or with old Mitteleuropa favourites such as Blaufränkisch (Lemberger) or Zweigelt, and, hey presto! The result is affordable, smooth dark red wine with an individual, interesting and faintly Germanic personality. At least that's the idea.

Without doubt, some bottlings are better than others. Mano Negro, one of Philipp Kuhn's interpretations, would probably make it into the category's top echelon - though that's not to say I don't have my quibbles.

Weingut Philipp Kuhn, Mano Negra 2008, Pfalz
Opaque ruby. Haven't seen a wine this dark for a long time; "Mano Negra" is Spanish for black hand, by the way. It used to be called "Terra Nigra" at the beginning, but the property had to switch from that for trademark-related reasons, I think.
Spicy nose with some oak sweetness and dark chocolate. Restrained at first with notes of green paprika. Over the next couple of days, forest fruit emerges.
Supple on the palate but with an acidic backbone and blackberry flavours. There's a bitterness in the tannins, though, which remains throughout and tempers my enthusiasm and enjoyment. Maybe this is a characteristic of the relatively cooler 2008 vintage.

The density and yet balance of this wine are impressive. However, I'm missing some lighter notes. Not necessarily my type of wine.

PS: I attended the Badische Weinmesse on Sunday and tried lots of Pinot Noir; it made me remember how much I love that grape.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

This and that

Owing to work, the blog has suffered slightly over the past couple of weeks. We've also managed to get out and enjoy life, though - which, in the scheme of things, is more important.

First, we had a lovely Easter. One of a number of highlights was going hiking in the Jura on Easter Monday.

We then celebrated Kate and Wills getting hitched at a barbecue with friends in Basel-Land, before going on a May Day bike ride in Germany, stopping at various points along the route for a Gutedelschorle (spritzer). Pictured are a May pole and a stork.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

"Shoy-ray-beh" from the Pfalz

Something sweeter now.

Weingut Pfeffingen, Scheurebe Spätlese 2009, Pfalz
No apologies for my focus on a few Pfeffingen's wines of late. After buying directly at the winery, it's just the way the cookie crumbles at the moment in terms of wines we've been drinking.

Going merely on memory: an exotic, highly expressive nose of blackcurrant and lychee fruit. Sweetish entry on the palate, but in balance with the acidity which gives the wine backbone. Textured and well structured, this went well with our dessert of apple crumble. Considerable length. Scheurebe rocks.