Thursday, 1 March 2012


Given its good density of better-than-average wineries, its relatively compact size and easy proximity to a connecting train station, the village of Maikammer seemed as good a venue as any for our little wine-tasting tour to see whether we could help our friends identify some choice wines for their wedding (see last post).

Our first port of call was Weingut Stachel, a traditional yet modern family-run winery. It would probably be fair to say that red wine is their speciality, yet we liked virtually all the wines we tasted - red and white. Erich Stachel himself greeted us as we arrived. Apart from pouring us wine, he happily chinwagged with us about this and that: from extolling the virtues of his hard-working Polish harvest workers, to lamenting the Greek economy, or reminiscing about the south of England. Once he had poured the wines, Herr Stachel also invited us down into the cellar where his son Matthias was hard at work cleaning one of the stainless steel vats from the inside. Having once cleaned a wooden vat from the inside myself, I can assure you that this is no job for claustrophobes.

The Stachels, father and son. Note the head lamp worn by Matthias Stachel - essential headwear for anyone diving head-first into the pitch blackness of a wine vat.

In short, we had a great time chez Stachel. We made sure we bought a few bottles before leaving, because the quality on offer was impressive. My favourite was the top Spätburgunder Heiligenberg from 2007, but other highlights included the Riesling Alte Reben, the smooth Cabernet Sauvignon and the peppery Syrah.

Next stop was Weingut Faubel. Visiting as we did on the second weekend in February, with the new vintage yet to be bottled, the number of white wines on offer was severely limited at this particular winery. This, I suspect, was also a result of their relatively small harvest in 2010. As I'd heard and read good things about Faubel, this was a disappointment. Nevertheless, I bought a decent bottle of a Riesling from 2009 that was still on sale.

Following a hearty lunch at the Golden Ox, we walked down the road to Immengarten Hof. It was here that we appreciated the positive effect a spacious, modern vinotheque with a relaxed ambience can have. Unfortunately, this particularly winery lacks such a conducive setting. Despite the patience and friendliness of our host, it was hard to muster much enthusiasm for wine-tasting in the small, creaky, almost "dining-room-like" room in which we sat. In mitigation, the freezing temperatures outside (around -10C) probably didn't help matters either. Secondly, the same issue reared its head again regarding a lack of white wine. The few whites we did taste were exclusively of basic Gutswein quality. We joked with our friends that they should have scheduled their wedding differently... Thankfully, things looked better on the red front, with the two interestingly named blends, "Fourplay" and "Cupido", standing out.

Our fourth and final winery visit was at Dengler-Seyler. We were the last visitors to their very swish tasting room that afternoon. Winemaker Matthias Seyler was therefore able to pay us a lot of attention, which we very much appreciated. I wouldn't say we "saved the best till last" in view of the great time we'd also had at Stachel. Nevertheless, all the wines we tried at Dengler Seyler were immaculate and impressive without exception, from Riesling and Weissburgunder through to Spätburgunder. It was obvious that Herr Seyler is someone with a deep love of his profession and the natural environment in which he works. Among other things, he explained how he and his counterparts from other wine estates visit Burgundy once a year to select barrels for their cellars and how much he respects the work of local coopers who provide him with the hand-crafted products he requires.

In terms of red wine, Herr Seyler's top Spätburgunder "R" from 2009 impressed me greatly. However, I thought the "lesser" 2008 Spätburgunder "Tradition" stole the show on account of its elegance, balance and drinkability. The whites were on the same quality plane, if not higher. We tried two of the three top Rieslings, Heiligenberg and Heidenstock, and were able to identify the clear differences characterising these two different lieux-dits. The second-level Riesling, DerDenglerSeyler, is a blend of these, the winery's top three vineyard blocks (the third site being Schlangengässel), all of which are situated in Heiligenberg - the name of the vineyard as a whole. One other Riesling worth mentioning was the 2010 Riesling Kabinett - a wine without any designation as to its level of sweetness. However, it was off-dry on the palate - and quite electifying at that. We bought two bottles respectively of that, the Riesling Heiligenberg and the Spätburgunder Tradition.

In conclusion, Stachel and Dengler-Seyler are two wineries firmly on my radar now. I think our two friends also feel the same way. What wines they choose for their wedding - this, after all, was the objective of our a little jaunt in the first place - remains to be seen, but it was pleasure to make acquaintance with some exciting wines.

Barrels at Weingut Stachel

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