Tuesday, 19 July 2011

No frills

As its Wikipedia entry explains, Kwik Save was a supermarket chain in the UK which went bust in 2007. I remember frequently going to our local Kwik Save on St David's Road South in St Annes as a young lad to do errands for my mother back in the 80s and early 90s. As a grumpy teenager, I was never that enamoured at the prospect, but it was preferable to going hungry.

In some ways, Kwik Save was the pre-emptive British answer to Lidl and Aldi (in the days before these two German powerhouses annexed the UK discounter segment). The shopping experience at Kwik Save was like no other. I'll always remember the functional shop fittings, the seemingly endless supplies of digestive biscuits and Hob Nobs, and their ubiquitous "No Frills" range.

Now, if there is a local winemaker for whom "no frills" might be a fitting tag, it would be Hermann Dörflinger of the eponymous Dörflinger Winery in Müllheim/Baden. It was Dörflinger's father who - much like the father of his famous Pfalz counterpart Hansjörg Rebholz - refused to ride the crest of the wave of cheap and nasty pap in the 1960s and continued fermenting his wines to dryness. Back then, contemporaries belittled Dörflinger's wines as tasting "sour"; it was only in the 1980s when people began appreciating dry wines again that the winery started getting the recognition it deserved.

I would say that Dörflinger's wines have "no frills" in sense that they exhibit utter clarity. Being fermented often right down to bone-dryness but remaining relatively light in alcohol, they have a very transparent, linear personality. They never leave you satiated after a glass or two, but instead encourage you to continue quaffing. That's always a good thing in my book.

The following wine is a case in point.

Weingut Hermann Dörflinger, Müllheimer Reggenhag Weissburgunder Kabinett trocken 2010, Baden
Light straw-yellow colour with yellow apple and cinnamon crumble on the nose. The palate is completely dry but with an underlying fruit character that shines through. Again, yellow apple emerges, along with pear. The overriding impression is one of freshness, and there is a subtle carbon dioxide tingle that accentuates this feeling on the finish. I wouldn't say that this wine is jaw-droppingly complex, but it is pure and exceedingly drinkable (edit: that was until a pesky fruit fly crash-landed in my glass).

Monday, 18 July 2011


This was no mumbo-jumbo sect gathering, but an annual hommage to sparkling wine on Saturday night in the gardens of local vintner's cooperative Bezirkskellerei Markgräflerland. Each year, the Bezirkskellerei opens its doors to the public for an evening of culinary, vinous and - at times, dubious - musical delights. Apart from bubbly, it was also possible to sample the cooperative's normal wines, so there was something for all tastes. Anyway, here are some photographic impressions (look at those industrial-sized vats!).

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Wet stone

Now onto the fruitier, lightier style of Riesling, albeit still tasting fairly dry in the grand scheme of things.

Weingut Markus Molitor, Zeltinger Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett feinherb 2009, Mosel
Pungent wet stone on the nose, with orange zest, floral notes and some yeasty hints. Bantamweight on the palate (i.e. not quite featherweight, to borrow a boxing analogy), with juicy satsuma and a minerally sensation akin to sucking stones. Now, I've never put a piece of slate in my mouth, but I can imagine Zeltinger Himmelreich's slate soils having had an ample hand in this. Following the soupçon of sweetness on entry, the finish is quite dry - and satisfyingly so. Traces of caramel also emerge over time.

I recently bought a case of this wine from a Swiss merchant doing a Markus Molitor promotion. Nearly all the other Molitor wines they were offering were legally trocken, but I consciously chose this one, sensing that it would be more versatile in pairing with food. I don't think I'll be disappointed.

Friday, 8 July 2011


Throughout my 11-year career as a translator in Switzerland, if I'd have earned ten francs for everytime I had to translate a Powerpoint presentation produced by some Swiss banker talking about "ein Win-Win-Szenario", I'd be a rich man by now. Ok, maybe that's an exaggeration. And yet, the phrase "win-win" is one that is beloved of the German-speaking corporate world. Bankers, pharmaceutical executives, HR managers, humble project leaders, IT bods... They're all at it.

And just because they did their MBAs in Boston, speak with an American accent or spent two years in London, it doesn't mean they can write perfect English. I'm a native speaker and I can't write perfect English either - though I hope you get half the gist of what I'm trying to say. On the other hand, I wouldn't think for one minute that my written German was good enough to translate into. Why should it work the other way round?

Anyway, rant over.

Weingut von Winning, Riesling "Win Win" trocken 2009, Pfalz
When wealthy local businessman Achim Niederberger bought Weingut Dr. Deinhard in Deidesheim a few years ago, he completed a treble of sorts following on from his previous acquisitions of Bassermann-Jordan and Von Buhl. This is because these three Deidesheim wine estates make up what is still called the "Jordan'sche Teilung" - the result of a bumper inheritance of vineyards that was split among three respective siblings in 1848.

From 1907 until the Great War, the winery was splendidly known as "Hauptmann von Winning’sches Edelweingut", before reverting back to "Dr. Deinhard" in 1918. It was only after Niederberger arrived on the scene in late-2007 that new life was breathed into the old "von Winning" moniker. Many of the estate's top wines now go by this name, although there is also still a very serviceable "Dr. Deinhard" range of wines, and - slightly confusingly - a Dr. Deinhard website.

But now onto the wine and that "win win" situation.

Appearance: quite a vivid yellow-straw hue, but nothing jaw-droppingly unusual.
Nose: a sheer precipitous wall of dry herbs; at first, it's hard to scale over this wall, but then hints of tobacco emerge (the sort people use to make their own roll-ups), followed by some red berry fruit and lemon zest sprinkled with sugar.
Palate: herbs continue their narrative here; there is a slight (and welcome) sweetness on entry, but that is quickly enveloped by a minerally dryness; this wine is far from austere though - a very Pfalz earthiness persists, and the herbs continue singing right through to a satisfying finish.

This is the most emphatically classy Riesling in its specific price bracket (EUR 10) that I've drunk in a long while - and you can't say fairer than that.

PS: The wine label deserves an honourable mention. It's really beautiful, and reminds me of a Picasso painting the name of which escapes me. The gold-leaved labels for the higher-rated classified vineyard wines are even more wonderful.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Summer sunset

And now for a photographic interlude; pictures taken yesterday evening from the top of Schlipf vineyard above the town of Weil (D).

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Gobelsburger GrüVe

Finally something slightly lighter, from a stately property in the Kamptal region of Austria. The monks who used to run it started growing grapes there in the late 12th century. This wine was a random purchase made at a department store in Basel.

Schloss Gobelsburg, Gobelsburger Grüner Veltliner 2010, Kamptal
Vivid, piercing lemony tones on appearance. This looks more substantial than I imagined. On the nose, apricot jam and white wine jelly with an ample sprinkling of white pepper. Some apricot and peppery notes translate onto the palate - along with some vegetative hints and a knob of butter. I would classify the body as light to medium. The finish is slightly on the short side, and I wouldn't mind a little bit more acidity - even though I realise that "GrüVe" is isn't meant to be that stomach-churning. These are just minor quibbles in the scheme of things. The wine does retain sufficient freshness and interest, and would be a killer with a variety of light dishes.