Friday, 30 March 2012


I once flew back into Basel one afternoon in May and looked out of the window shortly before landing. We had just crossed over the Vosges mountains when, looking up north along the Rhine to Freiburg, I could see the plain dotted with lots of white patches. Most of these patches were on the other side of the river in Germany. "Ah, asparagus!" I thought. The white patches were countless fields covered in tarpaulin - the key to producing white asparagus. The Germans love their "Spargel" (pronounced "shpar-gel" with a hard "g") - and Silvaner, they say, is the wine that suits Spargel to a tee.

That perfect annual marriage between wine and vegetable will have to wait a week or so. In the meanwhile, I've been able to console myself with the following, which went just as well on its own:

Weingut Sander, Mettenheimer Schlossberg, Silvaner trocken "Alte Rebe", 2009, Rheinhessen, Germany
A bread-like whiff on the nose. Burnt brioche. In fact, it reminds me of something just ignited. There is also something faintly vegetal. Imagine you put a match to some brioche and some parsnips, for example - and then ignited them. Quite pungent. The vegetable-like aromas are also akin to pulses, i.e. beans of whatever shape or form.

Vegetables persist on the palate, with no fruit to speak of. Bready again and fairly complex with a pleasant bitter note on the finish. Bone dry. On the second day, some fruit does emerge (pear) - with a hint of opulence and sweetness. Throughout, however, there is a welcome lightness (or coolness) to this wine.

Silvaner is relatively unchartered territory for me. I've tried precious little of the stuff, if truth be told. Spontaneously, it reminds me of Chablis - or at least one I drank last year, to be precise. In relation to other wines, I would place it (taste-wise) somewhere inbetween a good Swiss Chasselas (Gutedel) and a Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc).

There will be a couple more Silvaners to follow over the next couple of weeks or so.

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