Monday, 30 January 2012

Riesling, Pinot & Co.

Organised by the German Wine Institute, "Riesling, Pinot & Co." is an international wine roadshow of sorts for German wine. Last Monday saw the 2012 season kick off in Zurich. Other venues this coming year will include Helsinki, Copenhagen, San Francisco, New York, Amsterdam and Brussels.

I took the train across to Zurich to be there at the Konzerthaus, and there was an interesting cross-section of producers awaiting me. Apart from a sprinkling of VDP producers showcasing their wines at the Konzerthaus, the focus also seemed to be on covering as colourful an array of quality regardless of affiliation. Hence, we had VDP stalwarts such as Mosbacher, von Kesselstadt and Künstler rubbing shoulders with the likes of the Südpfalz Connexion (Messrs Kranz, Siener, Leiner, Scheu and Gies), Weingut Johner, Winzerhof Thörle (whose Pinot Noir came third in that recent London taste-off) and my local favourite Weingut Claus Schneider.

As is normal at such events, I only got round to tasting half as much as I wanted to. I should be more efficient and ruthless, although the opportunity to talk to the vintners in question tends to outweigh other considerations.

Nevertheless, I was especially glad to taste something from the former East Germany for the first ever time, courtesy of Schloss Proschwitz near Dresden. They had a Weissburgunder, a Frühburgunder and a Spätburgunder on show. I liked all three.

I devoted some time to the Mosel, namely [sharp intake of breath] Weingut Witwe Dr. H. Thanisch, Erben Müller-Burggraef. This reminded me that I need to drink more wines from the Mosel and, specifically, traditional Kabinetts and Spätleses with residual sugar.

My experience of Rheinhessen is still relatively limited, but I enjoyed what I tasted. Weingut Riffel was a worthwhile discovery. Erik Riffel comes across as extremely passionate about his wines and the vineyards in which they are grown. His top Riesling, "Turm", was fascinating to smell and taste - imbued with an unusual kick in the nose and the taste of stone (quarzite, apparently) on the palate. Unfortunately, Winzerhof Thörle and Weingut Seehof, Fauth were somewhat of a rush job at the very end of the evening. Of the former, I tried notably the same Spätburgunder from the Saulheimer Hölle vineyard that earned plaudits in London, albeit this one was from the next vintage (2009). The wine seemed very polished but rather too young at this stage. Of Florian Flauth from the latter winery, I noted that he looks a little bit like Chris Martin from Coldplay.

These two aforementioned final stops on my tour were such a rush because of the time I spent at the stands of the following:

Aside from his wines, Patrick Johner from the eponymous Weingut Johner in Baden is also noted for his blog. Although I'd never met the man before, his was consequently a face I already recognised. To be honest, I sometimes feel a bit of a fraud in the company of fellow (wine) bloggers - especially ones who know more than just a bit about wine, as Patrick Johner undoubtedly does. I was therefore in two minds about mentioning my blog to him. In the event, I did. His response was to pour a 2006 Chardonnay for me that wasn't on the official list and ask what I thought it smelt of. "It's a bit a buttery and bread-like" was my answer. That wasn't quite what Herr Johner had in mind: he said it reminded him of chicken broth! Moving swiftly on (in all senses of the meaning), I was particular taken by the young 2011 version of his Weissburgunder/Chardonnay blend. This is an early bottling that shows more overt fruit than the main version that will be bottled in March. Having rested on its lees longer, the latter will be more of a wine for laying down. Despite having been filled very recently, bottling no. 1 is very drinkable. More a wine for instant enjoyment than for philosophising.

I also made a bee line for the Südpfalz Connexion - first Kranz, then Siener, then Scheu (I had to forgo the other two unfortunately). Among other things, it was interesting to compare the Spätburgunders from Boris Kranz and Peter Siener. Kranz's style is very much based on freshness with crunchy dry tannins, while Siener's Pinot Noir is smoother and silkier. I would say the latter interpretation is probably more approachable in youth, but the former will likely come into its own a few years further down the line.

There was an interesting exchange I had with Klaus Scheu regarding vineyard names. He is not permitted to use his old vineyard parcel names Raedling and Strohlenberg on his labels; only those vineyards officially registered in the now infamous German wine law of 1971 are allowed. In his village of Schweigen, Sonnenberg is the one recognised vineyard. No other names can be written out - which is why Scheu renders Raedling and Strohlenberg on his labels as R**DL**G and ST**B**G (excuse my French). Although such names are genuine relics from days of old, when many a lieu-dit within a specific vineyard was demarcated, designated, valued and taxed accordingly, German law is - if you'll excuse the tautology - a rigid beast. It doesn't help either that these two particular sites are actually situated just over the border in France.

Other notable ports of call included Benzinger, Kiefer and Schneider:

I enjoyed tasting Benzinger's Rieslings and red wines, including a Dornfelder that was incredibly smooth and un-Dornfelder-like. A couple of their wines have already been subject of closer examination in this blog. One got the thumbs up, the other sort of did despite the slight caveat I inserted.

Weingut Kiefer's hospitality may be vaguely familiar to the more regular readers of this blog, but their wines are also very decent, with one particular Spätburgunder ("Dreistern" 2007) and a Scheurebe sweety lingering in my memory of what I tasted that evening.

An enjoyable chat with Susanne Scheider of Weingut Schneider in Weil, the town I lived in from 2000 to 2009, was what really caused me to lose track of time at the end of the evening. Not that I was complaining. During my stay in Weil, I'd never really conversed at length with either Frau or Herr Schneider, so it was good to put that right. Susanne served me a wine that wasn't on the official line-up: their top-of-the range, barrel-aged 2009 Pinot Noir, a very youthful wine that will need lots of time - precisely something that I lacked last Monday.

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