Sunday, 17 November 2013

Philippi Pinot Noir 2001

Bernd Philippi made a name for himself for his world-class dry Rieslings from the Kallstadter Saumagen vineyard named after an original Pfälzer delicacy. His Pinots Noirs play more of a secondary, niche role, but the temptation of a bottle of 2001 vintage was too great for me to resist.

Weingut Köhler-Ruprecht, Pinot Noir "Philippi" 2001, Pfalz, Germany
Dark ruby with a light brownish rim. As almost expected from a wine of this age, mushroomy notes of autumnal undergrowth come to the fore. Sweet strawberry and cherry with a complex whiff that reminds me partly of something ferrous and partly of something more savoury (think meaty or "animally"). There is also a slightly ethereal greenish note, but overall the effect is maybe a little darker than some other Pinots I've recently tried.

The savoury theme continues on the palate with the tannins adding a slight astringency and grip. While the wine exhibits undoubted complexity, its personality is also a touch rustic (or "unaffected", shall we say). Less of the cool elegance and more of something borne of the farmyard with wellies on... Nevertheless, this Spätburgunder is very structured and balanced - thanks not least to the sweet dark red fruit notes that soften the mouthfeel at the end. Bought for 21 euros at a wine shop in Freiburg, and good value for that given the age and the quality - even though I suspect at least another five years of being left alone would do it no harm at all.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Brücke Spätlese 2003

This went well with homemade Masala curry but was also a treat on its own.

Weingut Dönnhoff, Oberhäuser Brücke Riesling Spätlese 2003, Nahe, Germany
Light shimmering gold. Showing much less age in appearance than the Keller Spätlese. Clean as a whistle if a little shy on the nose. With more air, wax, spice and creamy notes emerge, but no fruit as such. The palate is more expressive. Creamy and immaculate with serious substance. If it were human, this wine would have a supple physique. There is a lovely sweetness but the acidic backbone hits home midway through. Great balance. Then it's a story of candied citrus and cream on what is an impressively long finish.

Slightly embarrassing to say, but this was my first Dönnhoff wine ever. This, an older wine in Helmut's flagship disciple, was nevertheless the best possible introduction, I daresay.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Hubacker Spätlese 2000

On our wedding anniversary last week, my wife and I went to Freiburg to eat some sushi and then go shopping for some household items. The latter activity wasn't necessarily my idea, but afterwards I was allowed to browse around a wine shop stocking an excellent collection of German wines, young and old. For a few minutes, I was as wide-eyed as a boy in a sweet shop...

Despite the fabulous array of dry German Rieslings on show, I opted for two aged Riesling Spätleses and a 12-year-old Pinot Noir. This is one of the Rieslings.

Weingut Keller, Dalsheimer Hubacker Riesling Spätlese 2000, Rheinhessen, Germany
Beautiful deep golden with an amber tinge. It's obvious that this has a few years under its belt. On the nose, it has a wonderful beeswax aroma along with honey, caramel and a slightly savoury, buttery whiff. Clear on the palate with honey and wax. Despite only having 7.5% alcohol, this is far from the sugary gloop that certain people would have you believe (usually those who think they just like "trocken" and nothing else). Its silky body feels almost weightless in the mouth. This is thanks to the acidity which just about keeps the lusciousness in check and contributes to what is basically a dry-tasting, complex finish that still manages to remind me of caramel and, specifically, of those Highland Toffee bars I used to enjoy as a child. It is a sensation that lingers in the mouth for a good couple of minutes.

It's great to try older Spätleses. They remind me of when I first got into German Riesling.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Lügle reloaded

I opened the first of two bottles of this in early 2010, and the second last Sunday. The fact that it had been laid down for almost four years in total had done it no harm at all. On the contrary...

Weingut Ziereisen, Weissburgunder "Lügle" 2007, Baden
"Lügle" is the name of the specific plot of vines in which this wine was grown, although Efringer Ölberg is the official generic name for the vineyard in which this plot is located.

Dull golden straw in colour (actually a bit like brass, come to think of it). Aromas of freshly cut pineapple, then some melon and lemon curd. Maybe some red berries too. Expressive with vanilla hints that are well-integrated and enhance complexity. These then bring out an additional animally whiff, delicate citrus and some dried leafy notes. On the palate, pineapple and maybe some apricot to begin with. An intensely salty tang then takes over midway though. This positively cuts through the fruit, although some bright and harmonious savoury hints linger throughout. The saline sensation continues into a long and satisfyingly complex finish.

I opened this a good four or five hours before trying it with dinner but, considering the intense smell I caught when sniffing from the bottle immediately after pulling the cork, I suspect the wine would also have showed well right from the off.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Weil Riesling trocken 2012

The wines of Weingut Robert Weil are totally new ground for me. This is the winery's entry-level dry Riesling.

Weingut Robert Weil, Riesling trocken 2012, Rheingau, Germany
Light straw with a greyish hue. Apple aromas initially, before developing more luscious fruit notes over the evening as well as a whiff faintly reminiscent of moisturiser. Apple and white peach flavours with good structure. The acidity is buffered noticeably by a mildly creamy sensation and ever so slightly stoney hints. Otherwise, this is tasty, uncomplicated fare. On the wrong side of 10 euros by some distance, however - which is my only quibble irrespective of how prestigious the producer and vineyards are.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Autumn Austrian

Saturday saw the start of this year's Herbstmesse (Autumn Fair) in Basel, Switzerland's oldest fair spanning over 500 years of history. Meanwhile, the local wine fair (Basler Weinmesse) also began, and I for one intend to pay this event a visit over the course of the coming week.

I first acquainted myself with the following wine at Basel's wine fair around seven or eight years ago (I can't remember when exactly). Normally, you can't buy bottles for immediate consumption there, but the man at the stand showing this one for tasting purposes kindly made an exception. What followed, if I recall correctly, was a Riesling-fuelled Saturday evening back at my place.

Fast forward to September 2013 and I spot the 2010 vintage of the same wine lying forlornly with other bin ends in some random wine shop in Basel. My mind immediately wanders through the haze of time back to that day in the mid-Noughties. Despite the years that have passed, the bottle is imminently recognisable on account of its beautiful label. I never made notes on the original wine (2003 or 2004 vintage, most likely), so this has been a long time in coming.

Weingut Jäger, Riesling Smaragd, Ried Achleiten 2010, Wachau, Austria
Greenish straw in appearance. Lovely minerally whiff. Honey, peaches and ripe, red-cheeked apples. Crystalline and highly structured on the palate. Bone dry with ample alcohol, but totally balanced. The acidity is electrifying and will ensure that the wine will stand the test of time. Yet at no stage does it feel harsh. Salty minerals, candied lemon and peaches all the way. The finish is long.

Absolutely top class. What is refreshing is that this wine has not been filled into one of those heavy bottles that are meant to elicit reverence among wine lovers but feel like lead weights when you lift them. There is no point in that anyway when a wine like this speaks for itself.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Malterdinger Riesling

Bernhard Huber is renowned for his Pinots. Riesling might not be the first thing on your radar when you think of him. However, the following wine was mightily impressive.

Weingut Huber, Malterdinger Bienenberg Riesling Kabinett trocken 2009, Baden, Germany
Nice bright yellow straw in appearance. An expressive nose with stone and citrus fruit, then yellower fruit notes gradually taking over proceedings. There is also a whiff that almost reminds me of lacquer (this is more pleasant than it sounds).

Quite a voluptuous body for just 11.5% alcohol. Feels quite "urgent" in the mouth in that a lot is going on here. Definitely in the yellowy apricot camp in terms of fruit. Mineral, herbs, a sweetness than actually isn't sweet but is more of a sensation reflecting the aromatic ripeness of the grapes and the extract that goes with it. The acidity is fresh and pure, but I love the overall succulence. And the finish is long.

Don't be put off by the fact that this is from the Pinot-heavy region of Baden. Based on this, Huber makes cracking Rieslings too.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Idealistically speaking...

I don't normally do something so extravagant, but I Regional Bahn-ed it all the way to Schliengen just to buy six bottles of this at Blankenhorn.

Weingut Blankenhorn, Pinot Noir Idealiste Barrique trocken 2009
Ruby in appearance. Nose remains reticent throughout with raspberry, spice, chocolate and an ever so slight greenish hint. Velvety, elegant and amply structured. Quite a grippy sensation throughout on the palate. Dark berries, raspberry and a touch of chocolate. Already complex and great with food, though it still needs some time to bed in and shed its puppy fat.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Nebbiolo

I discovered a bottle of this in a wine shop in Lörrach. The only other Nebbiolo produced in Germany that I can think of is from Brenneis-Koch in Leistadt in the Pfalz.

Winzergenossenschaft Laufen, Laufener Altenberg Nebbiolo trocken 2008, Baden, Germany
Bright ruby with a beige rim. Redcurrant, then blackcurrant, then redcurrant again. Some rusty iron hints and leathery notes.

Similar red/blackcurrant ping-pong on the palate. And then come the tannins... Whooomph! They pucker the mouth almost instantly. The acids, on the other hand, are keen but no more than that. Once the tannic attack subsides, the aftertaste lingers a fair while and reminds me of black chocolate.

I really shouldn't be surprised by all this, given that Nebbiolo is the sole constituent of Barolo which, on account of said tannins, often takes at least a decade to soften. However, all is not lost. Combined with food, the tannins show themselves in a more merciful state, allowing the wine to mellow nicely. This saves the day to a certain extent, leading me to conclude that this particular Nebbiolo is still just about worth the experiment (on my part), the effort (on the part of the vintners' cooperative in Sulzburg-Laufen) and the cost (EUR 17.50).

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Basel buvettes

Basel has always had a fond relationship with the River Rhine, to which a popular local anthem bears testimony. When the weather is favourable, people in Basel congregate by the Rhine to play. Some even take a dip. In recent years, thanks in no small measure to landscaping improvements on the riverbank, a number of outdoor bars (or "Buvetten") have begun attracting the crowds on the Kleinbasel side of the Rhine. There are four buvettes in total, spaced out along the promenade on the right bank of the Rhine (along the stretch of river you see here).

Noticing some time ago that these bars served some interesting wines, I thought it would be an enjoyable and interesting venture to do a little tasting tour. The plan was to order a different glass of wine at each buvette. I would then give a respective mark out of 10 to each wine as well as separate marks judging each buvette in terms of a) its general feel-good ambience, and b) the views it afforded looking out toward the river. My wife joined me on this little excursion.

So, here we go...

Buvette Dreirosen
www.buvettedreirosen.ch
This is the furthest north of the four buvettes. At the risk of generalising, the rule of thumb is that the further downstream you go, the edgier and more "alternative" the river bars become, shall we say. If Rhyschänzli, the furthest buvette upstream, is sneered at in some quarters as being "too mainstream" (whatever that means) and full of expats sipping latte macchiatos (not guilty, your honour), then I suspect Dreirosen likes to be regarded as the exact opposite.

On arriving, we are pleasantly surprised however at the varied mix of people who are sitting out by the bar on this sunny, warm mid-to-late September afternoon. If the patrons are meant to be "alternative", then they're doing a pretty good job concealing it.

Wine: Wyyguet Rinklin, Gutedel 2010, Riehen, Switzerland
Nutty, pear, fresh acidity. Simple and straightforward but a good aperitif.
Mark out of ten: 6.5

In my eyes, the best thing about this buvette is its proximity to one of the ferries that link both sides of the river. A group of elderly men in animated conversation are playing boules on a nearby strip of gravel. People are either sitting at tables and chairs or are lounging by the river's edge. While the view isn't this bar's strong point (6), the atmosphere (7.5) is friendly and chilled out.

Oetlinger Buvette
www.oetlinger-buvette.ch
So, if Dreirosen is maybe a little less edgy than its reputation, then the next stop is supposed to be the place to be seen for the student/self-styled hipster crowd who have made the Feldbergstrasse/Klybeckstrasse area their own in recent years. Maybe there is some truth to this, as a lot of the patrons do seem to be younger than us.

Wine: Weingut Konstanzer, Silvaner 2011, Baden, Germany
A clear step-up from the previous wine. Exotic fruit such as mango, mingling with freshly cut apples. Great fun and far more interesting than I would dare to expect from a Silvaner litre bottle.
8.5

Another positive thing to note is that this buvette serves its wine in full-sized glasses. The wine tastes all the better for it.

Situated at the end of Oetlingerstrasse - one of my favourite roads in all of Basel - this buvette offers an improved view of the Rhine (7.5), despite the incongruously glass-facaded offices of Basel's world-famous architectural duo Herzog & de Meuron, which are situated directly opposite on the other side of the river. The atmosphere is again fairly quiet (7.5). Maybe the students are still nursing their hangovers.

Flora Buvette
www.flora-buvette.ch
Making its debut only earlier this spring, Flora is the new kid on the block among Basel's buvettes. Taking its name from the up-market Florastrasse nearby, it has proved a welcome addition. Of all four bars, I would say it attracts the most eclectic crowd.

Wine: Jauslin Weine, Riesling x Sylvaner 2011, Muttenz, Switzerland
Very muscatty; floral notes and some lychee. Sounds a bit hothouse, yet it is anything but. Quite minerally for a humble Müller-Thurgau. The best wine of the four, by a whisker.
9

I love the ambience here (9.5). The man who runs the place also seems a genuinely nice guy. He tells me he comes from Muttenz where the wine was grown. In terms of its compact, well-thought-out layout, this buvette wins hands down, offering a lovely framed view of the traditional old townhouses across the river (9).


Again, the wine comes in a nice large glass.

Rhyschänzli Buvette
www.rhyschaenzli.ch/buvette_kaserne
If you want a nice quiet drink in the shade of a large tree with good views across the river towards the old town in Grossbasel, then this is your place. Because it is the closest to Basel's main bridge, the Mittlere Brücke, it probably attracts the most pass-by clientele. Inevitably, this will include the odd tourist. I know people who wouldn't be seen dead there, but, personally, I've always thought this bar's popularity speaks for itself.

Wine: Weingut Bischel, Weissburgunder trocken 2011, Rheinhessen, Germany
Minerally with pear, lychee hints and a creamy texture. Very moreish and just perfect for quaffing.
8.5

I've already mentioned the view (9), but this buvette is not far off in terms of ambience either (8.5). With ample space, the tables and chairs are well spread-out and positioned just a little further away from the bustle of the riverbank. This is the ideal place if you enjoy people-watching. An Italian ice-cream seller regular plies his trade nearby, which is another plus. Some people complain about the time it takes to get served, but I find the queues get whittled down fairly quickly.

The wine glass is smaller than at the previous two bars, but at least it's a proper ISO tasting glass.

**********

If you ignore the subjectiveness of my scoring for a moment, I would say that all four of the above bars are worth a visit, offering something for all tastes (in all senses of the meaning).

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Dörflinger Spätburgunder

It's Pinot Noir time again.

Weingut Dörflinger, Müllheimer Reggenhag Spätburgunder Barrique trocken 2011, Baden, Germany
Word of mouth is a wonderful thing. Hermann Dörflinger probably benefits from it more than others. His website is a single-page study in understatement (albeit with a nifty pop-up to tell customers the directions to his winery). And yet, Weingut Dörflinger figures in many a wine list around these parts and beyond. My theory is that, with Dörflinger, you simply know what to expect - which, in these fast-moving times, is not always a bad thing. All his wines will be fermented down to bone-dryness - and just in case you doubt this, Hermann will helpfully state on the wine label how little residual sugar you're drinking. A boon for diabetics.

And the wines themselves are more than decent, too.

Grenadine with a youthful purplish hue. A leathery whiff on the nose, top-heavy with expressive brambly mix of red and black fruit. Some spicy hints and quite brooding in character. This translates almost like-for-like onto the palate. The tannins are young but already quite accommodating. Dense and complex mouthfeel. The oak ageing is barely noticeable apart from a touch of spice. Packing a surprising punch in relation to its otherwise moderate 13% abv, and also drinking better straight out of the bottle than 24 hours later. Overall, this is disarmingly pure, straight and to the point - very much like Dörflinger's white wines of which I have had more experience.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Mimus

Basel has a wine shop dedicated to German wine. It's called Wyhuus am Rhy, which is local dialect for "Weinhaus am Rhein". Buoyed by the previous weekend's meeting with Barry Fowden, I went there the other day to get a single bottle of good Pinot Noir. Due to the extra import duty and the generally inflated cost of everything in Swiss francs, buying German wine in Switzerland can be a bit of a pain. However, I still get the odd bottle in Basel now and again if I'm feeling lazy.

Christina Krebs, who runs Wyhuus am Rhy, said she still had one bottle remaining of the following Pinot. As it was the last bottle, she also kindly sold it to me for a generous discount that negated the usual "Swiss surcharge". Thank you very much.

Weingut Dr. Heger, Spätburgunder "Mimus" trocken 2008, Baden, Germany
Light ruby with watery edges and an encouragingly brownish hue. An undeniably distinct smell of fatty bacon leaps out of the glass, along with beautiful aromas of luscious raspberry and red cherry. There is also a hint of marzipan. Bright, elegant, rippling and juicy on the palate. Fresh red cherries, finely grained tannins with a good acidic backbone. This is firmly on the red-fruit side, which I love. Fine and subtle on a long finish.

From start to finish a real pleasure to drink.

Apparently, Joachim Heger's father's nickname was "Mimus".

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

A meeting of fellow bloggers

I'd like to think that this blog doesn't take itself too seriously. Since its beginnings in autumn 2009, a lot of what I have produced on here has simply been "train of thought" material as it were, written for my own satisfaction and enjoyment. For this reason, I've never really bothered adding an additional page explaining in clear, concise terms what this blog's raison d'être actually is. I've never really thought it was necessary, nor when I started this blog did I know for sure what its raison d'être actually was. Whoever stumbles upon "From Blackpool to Basel" will carry on reading if they like what they read - or they'll surf somewhere else. Free choice - that's the beauty of the Internet.

However, those who do stay on my site for more than a fleeting moment will have noticed over time that I tend to write about some wine or other. Like a fair few other people who cover wine via the medium of a blog, I write about my hobby purely from a wine lover's perspective. This, almost by default, has resulted in the odd spot of dialogue with fellow bloggers in recent years. Very rarely has it led to actual encounters with like-minded individuals

Therefore, it's all the more enjoyable when I do actually get to hang out with someone. When Barry Fowden got in touch with me a few weeks ago saying he was going to be on holiday in Kappelrodeck-Waldulm and whether it might be possible to join him at short notice for some food and wine at his favourite place the Rebstock one evening, I was delighted to accept his generous invitation. Not only that, but I thought it would be even better if my wife Jenny also joined me on this little trip to the northern Black Forest. Unsurprisingly there was no room at the inn at the Rebstock on a Friday night during high season, but we managed to obtain the last room available at the nearby "Schwarzwälder Hof Faxe".
View from our hotel

Friday, 6 September
After kindly picking us up in his car at Achern railway, Barry drove us to Kappelrodeck where we first stopped for some (iced) coffee at Zuckerbergschloss before checking in at our hotel in Waldulm with plenty of time to spruce ourselves up before dinner at 6 p.m. on the restaurant terrace of the Rebstock.

Sign posts outside the Rebstock
I have to say at this juncture that it's often hard what to expect when meeting someone whom you have previously only known through the virtual ether. But Barry was easy to get along with immediately. We really enjoyed his company.

Evidently, our host had put plenty of thought into the evening's vinous entertainment. All the wines (three of them!) were fantastic.

First up as an accompaniment with our variety of amuse-bouche starters was a Tement Sauvignon Blanc "Zieregg" Barrique 2008 from Südsteiermark in Austria.
Barry said it could have done with more air, but this was my first ever SB from South Styria and, frankly, I wasn't complaining. When you drink a particular style of wine for the first-ever time, it is often hard to pinpoint and describe the flavours you are tasting. Nevertheless, I could distinctly make out nettles - an intriguingly fresh smell. That and some gooseberry, enveloped beautifully in a complex, savoury barrel-influenced cloak. A real eye-opener and the antidote to some searingly weedy SBs I have had in recent years.

Barry
After a little foie-gras-based "greeting from the kitchen", Jenny and I had three of the four "Versucherle" ("Little Temptations") on offer for starters respectively:






- Fried quail's egg on chanterelles and organic wheatmeal
- Pumpkin terrine
- Cream cheese and gorgonzola mousse with fig chutney and grilled bacon
- Muscat pumpkin soup

Not bad for preliminaries...

Then for my main course I ordered this: Gefüllte Elsässer Wachtel (entbeint, mit einer Fülle aus Apfel, Gänseleber und Blutwurst) angerichtet auf Traubenwirsing, mit Kartoffelplätzchen.


Nice presentation...
("Stuffed Alsace quail (boneless with an apple, foie gras and black pudding filling on a bed of savoy cabbage with grapes and crisp potato cakes")). Both Jenny and Barry went for the lamb medallions with goat's cheese, rösti and vegetables

The two Pinots Noirs then arrived:

Weingut Martin Waßmer, Schlatter Spätburgunder "SW" Barrique trocken 2007, Baden, Germany
An extremely mouthwatering wine. A slightly more purplish colour compared to the Gleichenstein, and this was reflected in darker fruit characteristics as well as noticeable tannins to begin with. But this came into its own as a culinary accompaniment. Plummy notes translating into a lovely refreshing backbone that danced the proverbial tango with the food on our plates. Tasting increasingly savoury as the evening progressed. All three of us were unanimous in our praise. I left the scoring to Barry...

Weingut Freiherr von Gleichenstein, Oberrotweiler Eichberg Spätburgunder Barrique trocken 2007, Baden, Germany
More cherry-like but creamier and softer than its counterpart from across the Rhine valley. Its velvety, relaxed personality belying its relatively high abv of 14%. Great stuff but drinking gradually better towards the end of the evening and, paradoxically, without food - its complexity more suited to solo sipping than Alsatian quail.

Barry scribbled down notes on both wines. He handed me a notepad at the start of the evening, but to be honest I was struggling to know what to write and decided to give up on that. All the above is therefore based on my memory and overall impression.

Jenny and I
After a wonderful five hours of eating, drinking and talking outside on the terrace (luckily the weather was still mild enough), we bade each other goodnight and arranged to meet again later the next morning. 




Saturday, 7 September
As we looked out through our hotel window the next morning, we could see mist still hanging over the surrounding hills. It had rained overnight. Thankfully the day itself was an altogether drier affair.

After a leisurely start, we agreed to meet Barry again at 11 o'clock. From the Rebstock we went on a short walk up through the vineyards.

Barry then played the tour guide, chauffeuring us through the village of Sasbachwalden and then up into the Black Forest. We stopped for a breather at Mummelsee before heading on along the beautifully rugged Black Forest High Road (Schwarzwaldhochstraße), then back down to Durbach. But barely were we in this well-known Riesling-growing village then we headed up again through the vineyards to the lofty perch on which Schloss Staufenberg stands. Impressive views with Flammkuchen and liquid refreshment followed.


Afterwards, it was down the winding vineyard road again in Barry's car and onwards to the next railway station in Appenweier where we said our goodbyes before the train journey back to Basel.

Cheers Barry.


 

Friday, 6 September 2013

GG in all but name

This is more like it...

Weingut Emrich-Schönleber, Monzinger Halenberg Riesling trocken 2010, Nahe, Germany
Officially one notch down from the GG, but I daresay many other wineries would be proud to sell this as their top wine. Dry herbs with pronounced stony characteristics on the nose. Quite a stern personality - like a fist full of crushed, dark rock. Toffee notes also emerge.

This wine is probably only medium-bodied but it is massively structured (if that isn't a contradiction in terms; "big-boned" may be a better descriptor). Peaches along with that prickly, stone-like personality again. Ripe but pinpoint acidity. Persistent, reverberating finish. This is dry Riesling with all the trimmings minus the grand cru price tag.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Münzenrieder & WG Britzingen

Two wines, two brief recounts.

Weingut Münzenrieder, Heideboden Reserve 2011, Neusiedlersee, Austria
This is a blend of Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch and Merlot. Dark grenadine with a purple rim. Purfumed, florally and slightly confectionery on the nose. I don't smoke but there may be a hint of loose tobacco. Brambly on the palate with a chocolately feel. The tannins initially come over quite rough and indelicate at first. The wine develops gradually, gaining a slightly smoother structure over 48 hours. The finish is middling at best.

I was genuinely excited by this, a reasonably priced blend of Austria's two best-known red wine varietals plus Merlot, but came away rather disappointed. Not my cup of tea.

Winzergenossenschaft Britzingen, Riesling halbtrocken 2012, Baden, Germany
Very expressive with pink grapefruit, lychee and ginger on the nose. US wine importer Terry Theise would probably find this wine quite fetching in a kinky sort of way, as it almost reminds me of Scheurebe. (If you're wondering what I mean, read Mr Theise's latest Germany catalogue.) This is meant to be off-dry but comes across a bit sweeter than that. As a style, I love off-dry, but this one is a teeny weeny bit flabby as the acidity feels quite tame. This is Markgräflerland for you, I suppose. The Gutedel is normally much better.

Nevertheless, I could drink this again - which is more than can be said for the first wine.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

This isn't your everyday wine glass.

Nor is it a joke. According to the man who designed it, the glass lets you enjoy wine in "three dimensions". To be honest I was slightly sceptical at first, despite having helped translate the related advertising pamphlet. But after acquiring two Bordeaux glasses last week, my view is altogether more positive. It's all to do with how the wine flows into your mouth, which depends on three specific ways in which you hold the glass. I don't want this blog post to start sounding like an advert, so I won't be mentioning the brand name*.

Suffice to say, the glass isn't just fun to use - it also provides quite a different wine-tasting experience to that offered by conventional glasses.

*However, if you do want to learn more, feel free to contact me directly (see the contact details on my business website by clicking on the logo at the top-right of this page).

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Riesling Herrenpfad

I bought the following bottle on a whim, as the name "Meyer" rang a bell. Andreas Meyer from Heuchelheim-Klingen has some namesakes (and peers) not too far away in Rhodt unter Rietburg who are also in the "up-and-upcoming wine-grower" bracket (Marius and Stefan). I might have confused him with them to be honest, but I won't be doing that in future.


Weingut Meyer, Riesling Herrenpfad trocken 2011 - Goldkapsel -, Pfalz, Germany
Reticent on the nose at first, but some red berry notes gradually emerge. The palate is more expressive, tasting of classically succulent and soft yellow-fleshed peaches. This Riesling is very dry with acids that, to me at least, are more austere than shy and retiring. However, the peach notes manage to squeeze an unlikely sense of sweetness into the wine. The brief finish is slightly disappointing, as is the touch of alcoholic heat that accompanies it. Quite a firm, "masculine" wine. Enjoyable if you like that sort of thing. And I do to a certain extent. Great label.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Haltinger Chardonnay

Now for something closer to home, from the village of Haltingen situated just north of Basel. "Haltinger Winzer" is the official name of the local wine cooperative. Compared to its peers, this Winzergenossenschaft is relatively small, accounting for around 55 hectares of vineyard. Since Markus Büchin took over the reins in the cellar in 2009, the quality of Haltinger wines has come on in leaps and bounds. Compared to previous times, there now seems to be a much greater focus on expressing the natural characteristics of the grape varieties and plots at their disposal. I also particularly like their website - created and updated by Joachim Ott, a local freelance journalist and photographer.

Haltinger Winzer, Chardonnay trocken 2009, Baden, Germany
In colour, this wine is not too dissimilar to our dining room table from a well-known Swedish furniture store. Happily, the woody influence is a lot more discreet on the nose, translating into yeasty notes that support what are predominantly green apple and starfruit aromas. The general effect is maybe more reminiscent of Chasselas/Gutedel aged in large oak casks than Chardonnay.

On the palate, starfruit is noticeable again along with green melon, grapes and some spicy wooden cask flavours. Mentioning grapes probably seems slightly absurd, but that's what I smelt. Balancing this out are some seriously appley notes. The winemaker evidently didn't wait for the malolactic fermentation to kick in. On the other hand, the spiciness of the wood not only lends this wine ample body and complexity but I daresay quite a sweet-and-sour affinity with Asian cuisine as well.

My wife and I were both unanimous in our appreciation for this Chardonnay. That must be a first.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Rote Erde

After white and yellow comes red.... (Please click on these links for some previous context.)

Weingut Braun, "Rote · Erde" Riesling trocken 2012, Rheinhessen, Germany
Admittedly, comparison with the previous two Braun Terroirweine is somewhat skewed due to the differing vintages. As you will have noticed, I started with a 2010 (Weisse Erde), moved on to a 2011 (Gelbe Erde) and now have a 2012 in front of me (Rote Erde). Nevertheless, all three wines have their own distinct character. Whereas the white-soil variant showed pungent dry-as-a-bone salinity, the yellow-soil wine was much more overtly exotic albeit with some interesting earthy notes.

Like its two cousins, I bought this bottle in a supermarket. For some unknown reason, this particular specimen was adorned with just one label. The "back" label customarily showing the wine's alcohol content and exact provenance was missing. However, what I already knew was that the red soils on which the vines for this wine grew are situated in and around Nierstein and Nackenheim, i.e. on Rheinhessen's classic steep incline along the banks of the Rhine. This slope is often translated in Germany as the "Rhine front", which is a blatant calque of "Rheinfront" in German but maybe has more war-related connotations in native English.

Anyway, to the matter at hand. Red apple, dry herbs and yeasty, bread-like notes on the nose. In general, this wine has an altogether more herbal feel to it than the other two. Sweet bread and apricot on the attack, followed by the iodine-like hints of fizzy mineral water. In the mouth, the wine feels silky yet light-footed. It certainly flows down smoothly. The finish is pinpoint. On the second day, the fruit recedes almost completely. What is left are merely herbal, mineral-water notes. What alcohol there is is barely noticeable.

This wine clearly shows a sense of place, as do its aforementioned peers. I would maybe place this one above the others on account of its underlying minerally grip that seems to have legs for plenty more years.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Staufen

A lovely wine festival that my wife and I attended in Staufen at the beginning of this month has prompted me to write the following brief missive:

Staufen im Breisgau is situated just south of Freiburg. The town's biggest claim to fame is its association with Dr Faustus, the inspiration behind Goethe's Faust. According to legend, it was in Staufen where Dr Faustus is reputed to have made his pact with Mephisto.

Staufen's more recent, and probably more dubious, claim to fame dates back to as recently to 2007, when geothermal drilling caused extensive damage to the fabric of its old town. Some of Staufen's oldest buildings, including the town hall, were affected, showing visible hairline cracks from ground to roof level. According to the latest measurements, the ground in the centre of Staufen is currently rising three to five millimetres each month. Earth movements of that kind can, of course, cause long-term damage. Only at the beginning of this month, the first building in Staufen was demolished as a result of the irreparable damage caused.

Thus, it was poignant that the proceeds for the official wine glass at this year's festival went to the foundation working to stop Staufen from literally crumbling to the ground (see photo).

Staufen darf nicht zerbrechen!

Monday, 29 July 2013

Bischel Riesling

This wine was the theme tune to the summer rain that arrived yesterday evening to wash away the dust and the grime after temperatures of around 38C during the earlier part of the weekend. Rarely was there a more fitting accompaniment.


Weingut Bischel, Appenheimer Riesling trocken "Terra Fusca" 2012, Rheinhessen, Germany
Christian and Matthias Runkel run the show at Weingut Bischel. The two brothers belong to a new generation of twenty and thirty-somethings who are knocking on the door of Germany's elite club of winemakers. I had the pleasure of talking briefly with Christian Runkel at the Prowein fair in Düsseldorf last March and was able to taste through a small selection of his wines.

As I attended a state school in the UK, I was lucky to avoid Latin. However, the ancient (i.e. dead!) language is still part of the curriculum at grammar-school ("Gymnasium") level in Germany. As a result, Latin phrases still pop up surprisingly regularly in German popular culture, regardless of context. According to the helpful eudict.com site, "terra fusca"  is Latin for "brown earth". This is Weingut Bischel's village wine, produced from the estate's oldest Riesling vines in and around Appenheim.

Innocuous greyish straw yellow in appearance, but then the fireworks begin. At first, we verge on greenish fruit territory (pineapple, gooseberry?), but that's probably just my mind playing tricks on me. Instead, herbal notes come to the fore along with a more luscious, exotic touch that suggests mango but is probably more along the lines of peach and apricot. On the second day, an almost candied lime aroma springs from the glass along with fresh herbs.

Medium-bodied on the palate with a knife-edge balance between sweet stone fruit on the one hand and lime and mineral on the other. These minerally notes add complexity. The acidity, meanwhile, is electrifying and lends pinpoint focus. The finish is more than ample.

Like much of Rheinhessen, this wine is on the veritable cusp between southern ripeness and northern coolness. By all accounts, the 2012 vintage offers a teeny weeny bit of that mind-altering 2010 acidity but retains much of the overall ripeness found in 2011 and 2009. Sounds like the perfect year for Rheinhessen.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Weiler Weinweg in Flammen

Now to recount a lovely event that took place on 20 July in the vineyards overlooking the German town of Weil am Rhein. Weil is Germany's most southwesterly town, situated adjacent to the Swiss border and the city of Basel. The "Weiler Weinweg" is a 4-km public route through these vineyards, starting just below the village of Ötlingen, taking in the lieux-dits of Ötlinger Sonnhole and Haltinger Stiege, and finishing in Weiler Schlipf which overlooks the old, original neighbourhood of Weil.


The inaugural "Weiler Weinweg in Flammen" took place in 2005, borne of an idea among the local vintners of Weil, Haltingen and Ötlingen. This event featured wine and food stands amid a sequence of logs (see above) that were set on fire along the footpath. This culminated in the "Tulpe" (or Tulip, see photo) at the end of the route. Visitors who stayed long after sunset were treated to a grandstand view of the big firework show in Basel to mark Swiss National Day.

Unfortunately, a long hiatus followed until the local wine-growers next hung out their bunting in 2011. Due to the novelty factor and the beauty of the location, they were overrun by the sheer number of visitors this second time round. Food ran out at all the stands long before sunset.

They tried again this year but with more success. This was thanks in no small measure to some judicious scheduling. As it clashed with a popular local wine fest in Efringen-Kirchen, there were maybe less visitors than there might have been. The decision to bring it forward away from any Swiss festivities was also a good idea in itself, I think.

Anyway, es war wunderschön!

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Shelter Winery sparkler

My wife and I recent recently enjoyed this bubbly together one Friday evening on the balcony with a selection of antipasti goodies: green and black olives, tapenade, sun-dried tomatoes and other savoury nibbles.

Shelter Winery, Sparkling brut 2008, Baden, Germany
Yes, this is "Shelter Winery" despite being a German vineyard. Based in Kenzingen in the northern part of the Breisgau district of Baden, the winery owes its name to the air shelters (or bunkers) of the old Canadian NATO airforce base near Lahr. Today, "Black Forest Airport Lahr" operates mainly as a freight airport and occasionally as a destination for privately chartered jets. In 2003, vintners Hans-Bert Espe and Silke Wolf moved their fledging winery into one of the airport's holes in the ground. Although a grass-clad roof, thick concrete walls and a heavy steel door provided a functional home of sorts, Lahr was always going to be a temporary base given that the airport authorities kept forcing Espe and Wolf to move like nomads from one shelter to another. The two winemakers, both of whom studied together at the renowned Geisenheim wine school, consequently built their own tailor-made winery in Kenzingen from where they now access their vineyard land in and around Kenzingen and Malterdingen.

Before establishing Shelter Winery, Espe and Wolf spent some time learning their trade in the Pinot Noir hotbed of Oregon, USA. (Hotbed? Maybe "cool climate" would be more accurate.) I met Herr Espe briefly a couple of years ago at a wine fair in nearby Offenburg, where he came across to me as a studious yet down-to-earth sort of bloke. I was quietly blown away by the small selection of wines I tasted, all of which, I am tempted to suggest, were embued with the same calm, unhurried personality of their maker.

I especially remember the above-mentioned sparkler from that day's tasting in Offenburg. As a Pinot blanc de noir, its fresh strawberry aromas and finely toasted notes also paired excellently with our antipasti spread. Its fine bubbles as well as its mouth-filling creaminess and complexity were top notch. I didn't make any written notes as such, but I would conclude by stating that this bubbly was a veritable treat and, even at 19 euros, a snip compared to other sparklers of similar quality I can think of.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Cricket

Ah, the smack of leather on willow, cucumber sandwiches and cream teas on the boundary, ripples of applause from the members' pavillion, wearing ties in the midday sun... On a glorious summer's day, I doubt there are few things more quintessentially English than the game of cricket. And just as the weather was coming good last week, the Ashes series between England and Australia began.

Cricket was, is and will always be part of the fabric of English life. This is reflected, among other things, by the sport's contribution to the English language through metaphors. You can be stumped, hit for six, or bowled a googly. Alternatively, you can break your duck, get caught out, have a good innings (normally after having passed away), swing both ways, go in to bat (sometimes for the other side), keep your end up, play off the back foot, play off the front foot, or offer a straight or dead bat (especially to awkward, niggling questions from newspaper journalists). Cheating, on the other hand, is just not cricket. Even on a sticky wicket.

Talking of wickets, it would be worth pointing out that a cricket groundsman in Australia is referred to as the "curator". In UK English, the "groundsman" or, occasionally, "groundswoman" is generally the person in charge of maintaining and nurturing the (grass) surface of play in cricket and other sports (except for golf - they're called "greenkeepers"). Unfortunately, Germans now commonly refer to all groundsmen and groundswomen, regardless of sport, as "Greenkeeper" - with a capital "G" and no "s" in the plural, in keeping with German grammar. Personally, I blame Uli Hoeness.

As a romantic, I would like to think that winemaker Roland Pfleger grew up watching cricket in Australia in some sort of parallel universe. Herr Pfleger's top red wines belong to his "Edition Curator" line. Although, in reality, Herr Pfleger probably sees himself more as a curator in the sense of someone who nurtures his vineyards and wines as opposed to ensuring a decent batting track that still offers a chance for the bowling side. (Strictly speaking, the German noun "Pfleger" means "carer", "care worker" or "nurse".)

This, I admit, is a slightly roundabout way of introducing my next wine, which is not one of Herr Pfleger's top wines but worthwhile nonetheless.

Weingut Jakob Pfleger, Herxheimer Kirchenstück Merlot trocken 2010, Pfalz, Germany
Generally ruby in appearance with violety hints. Cool and cherry-like on the nose with leathery notes and a touch of dark chocolate. On the palate, the impression is similar. Coolness of flavour and overall elegance are the main themes. This wine has a lovely silky texture but with adequate acidity to keep the juices flowing.

Priced just below 10 euro, this is a very good effort and - I am sure - a good introduction to the more rarified quality of the Curator range.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Heußler Riesling

The wines of Christian Heußler have long been on my radar. His winery is based in Rhodt unter Rietburg, a village I photographed from the top of the Rietburg chair-lift a few years ago (see opposite). As is very much the case throughout the Pfalz, the soils in and around Rhodt are a veritable patchwork. Apart from limestone, red clay, loam, sand and skeletal sandstone, one of Herr Heußler's plots has granite underfoot.
Weingut Heußler, Riesling Spätlese trocken "Granit" 2010, Pfalz, Germany
According to the back label, the plot in question is to be found in the Rhodter Schlossberg vineyard located directly below Villa Ludwigshöhe, a classical Italianate villa perched at the top of the incline.

These short notes are purely from memory.


Vivid yellow to pale yellow in appearance. This has spice, red fruit (redcurrant, strawberry) and earthy tones on the nose. Translated onto the palate, the impression is of sweet, luscious grapes with some of the aforementioned spice. No sign of any granite. Given the resplendently bright definition of its colour, you would expect this to have more than its still-reasonable 12.5% abv.

This Riesling forfeits a little bit of elegance on account of its shortish finish and slightly rough, rustic mouthfeel. Nevertheless, this latter characteristic that also lends it a certain charm. All in all, still pretty good and a wine I would like to revisit in future.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Mittelhaardt Rieslingschorle

All things considered, the compact yet picturesque garden at Weingut Reichsrat von Buhl counts among the posher places you could think of to drink a nice cold Rieslingschorle on a sunny, warm early afternoon in June, but this is what my wife and I did a couple of years ago. Not all Rieslingsschorles are born equal, as ample experience has told me over the years. The specimen served to us that day from a humble litre bottle at von Buhl definitely counts among the creme de la creme. What I remember was a luscious ripeness that totally confounded me - all the more so given that the vintage was the oft-maligned 2010. It was merely a spritzer, but it was still a reminder for me that the Mittelhaardt really is a blessed area when it comes to Riesling.

The following wine continues in the same vein.

Weingut Heinrich Spindler, Forster Ungeheuer Riesling Kabinett trocken 2011, Pfalz, Germany
On the nose, you could say that the usual citrus comes to the fore. That may be true, yet the notes are of a lively lemony intensity. More lemon cake than lime soda. Over 48 hours, this initial excitement subsides, but the wine continues to shine on the palate. Peaches and over-ripe lemon. This Riesling is moderate in body and alcohol, although I suspect a mere nudge upwards in terms of the ripeness of the grapes would have seen it reach Spätlese trocken levels pretty quickly. In its designated category, this wine is representative of the type of Riesling I would associate with the Mittelhaardt: generous fruit, elegant, revitalising acidity, with some earthy complexity.

Good for a Rieslingschorle, though that would probably be a waste.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Brenneisen bubbly

I would say the following sparkler is pretty hard to procure unless you live down here in and around Basel or in Markgräflerland or order directly from the producer. For just under eight euros (if I recall rightly), it offers very good value.


Weingut Brenneisen, Weissburgunder Sekt Brut 2010, Baden, Germany
Light gold with fairly fine bubbles. Quite a Chardonnay-esque nose with moderately luscious and firm yellow fruit as well as certain yeastiness expressive of the oak casks in which the initially fermented wine matured for nine months prior to another 12 months of bottle fermentation. Ripe acidity. Drier on the palate than the nose would suggest, with some biscuity character.

This was consumed on its own but, if truth be told, is a little too concentrated to be quite right for lone sipping. On the other hand, a whole platter of antipasti goodies would be ideal - preferably alfresco, given the time of year.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Non-native translations, native wine

Back to English now. The last blog post was a departure from the norm that I very much enjoyed but will probably not be making a habit of, given the extra time and effort it entailed. While I do recognise that a good few people write (wine) blogs in languages other than their native tongue and achieve a high degree of linguistic polish in doing so (London and Munich's resident Wine Ramblers, to my knowledge, providing one of the best examples out there), my little incursion into German territory also underscored the golden rule for me as a professional translator of not delivering texts in any other language other than the one I was brought up in. That's English in my case. Expressing this in another way: I would frankly be kidding myself if I thought my recent German-language blog post was of native-speaker quality.

Incidentally, the German Federal Association of Interpreters and Translators (or BDÜ for short) publishes a quarterly periodical for its members in which articles have occasionally been written in English by German native-speaker translators. Although the authors in question undoubtedly have the requisite German academic qualifications to translate into English, their texts can usually still be identified by the trained eye as "non-native". This, I feel, is symptomatic of the practice in German-speaking countries whereby professional translators also regularly translate from their native language, due in my view to a uniquely Germanic obsession with academic qualifications and titles. By this, I mean that once someone has an academic certificate entitling him or her to translate into a foreign language, this is often what counts ahead of all other considerations - such as actual written skills or the wisdom, or otherwise, of translating into a foreign language in the first place.

But I digress.

Today's ever-so-brief notes relate to a wine produced very close to home - barely three miles away as the crow flies, to be precise.

Weingut Röschard, Weiler Schlipf Weissburgunder trocken 2012, Baden, Germany
I admit that it was the winery's revamped bottle labels first and foremost that attracted me to this Pinot Blanc. It's amazing what a bit of marketing can do.

Yellow apple on the nose. Otherwise somewhat reticent over the course of the three evenings I tasted the wine. Again, yellowish apple on the palate. Tasty and light with keen acidity and some minerally personality. I suspect the shy bouquet may open up a little over the course of the next few months or so - it's still early days. Overall, good value for around EUR 6.50 from the supermarket (or EUR 5.80 from the cellar door).

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Markgräfler Markenwein

In den Nullerjahren haben sich einige Markgräfler Weingüter zusammengetan, um eine im wahrsten Sinne des Wortes gemeinsame Marke zu produzieren. Seitdem haben sich die Grünen, Blauen und Rosa Markgräfler im Bewusstsein vieler Weinfreunde hier unten in der Regio verankert. Dank der bunten aber klaren Flaschenausstattung und nicht zuletzt der bodenständig guten (Basis-)Qualität der angebotenen Weine hat sich diese Linie als absoluter Verkaufsrenner erwiesen.

Im Übrigen hat das Markgräflerland sicher noch eine Handvoll kultverdächtiger Weine zu bieten. Damit denke ich nicht unbedingt an die Rhinis, Spätburgunder XXL oder Laufener Altenberge dieser Welt, sondern eher an die etwas leichteren Gewächse. Will sagen: Man kann es drehen, wie man will, aber letztendlich regiert im Markgräflerland immer noch der Gutedel.

Das freut mich persönlich, denn für mich drückt der Gutedel am authentischsten den Character dieser Region aus: Leise und landschaftlich im besten Sinne - mit einem Tiefgang, der meist unterschätzt wird.

Die Bezirkskellerei Markgräflerland in Efringen-Kirchen ist für einen gewissen Gutedel zuständig, zu dem ich schon seit vielen Jahren genau wegen oben erwähnten Tugenden immer wieder zurückkehre. Die Gutedel mancher renommierten Markgräfler Weingüter wissen zwar zu beeindrucken. Allerdings zählt der Isteiner Kirchberg Gutedel QbA »Exklusiv« trocken seit vielen Jahren für mich klar zu den besten Vertretern dieser Traditionsrebsorte.

Wie seine bunten Zeitgenossen (siehe oben) ist der Isteiner ebenfalls so eine Art Markenwein, indem er Jahr für Jahr einfach zuverlässig gut ist. Und dafür kriegt man - für den äußerst fair kalkulierten Preis von EUR 6,40 - auch das sprichwörtliche Maul voll Wein. Er trinkt sich fast besser im Herbst als im Frühling, was für einen Gutedel auf den ersten Blick eher ungewöhnlich scheint. Im Körper ist er ja kaum üppiger als der normale Riesling Kabinett trocken. Vor allem durch seine ausgeprägte Nüssigkeit wirkt er jedoch etwas kompakter als der übliche Sommerwein. Zumindest nach meinem Empfinden.

Sogar die Stadt Basel hat seine Vorzüge schon längst erkannt. Jedes Jahr präsentiert die Bezirkskellerei 500 Flaschen ihres exklusivsten Gutedels als offiziellen „Basler Staatswein an die Basler Stadtregierung. Die nächste feierliche Übergabe des Basler Staatsweins findet am Samstag, den 8. Juni statt. Letztes Jahr hat der Gourmet-Blogger lamiacucina einen sehr schönen Beitrag über diese spezielle Zeremonie geschreiben, wie ich finde.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Riesling from Gimmeldingen

What a beautiful label.
I bought a six-pack of the following wine during our recent sojourn at the Mandelblütenfest in Gimmeldingen. Sitting in the garden of Weingut F. Ohler, enjoying the last rays of the evening sun over a Rieslingschorle, it was simply too tempting not to take home a liquid memento of our trip to the Pfalz.

Weingut F. Ohler, "Aus den Gärten" Riesling trocken 2011, Pfalz, Germany
I stand to be corrected, but the name "Aus den Gärten" ("From the gardens") sounds like the grapes for this wine were grown in the Mandelgarten and Biengarten vineyards adjacent to the village of Gimmeldingen.

Fairly nondescript straw-yellow in appearance, but the nose is lovely. Initially only murmuring to begin with, the aromas need a day or two to express themselves fully. Initially, they emerge as lime and lemon, then a keynote of peach reverberates through. Maybe some floral hints, too. Quite a charming scent.

A touch of crunchy acidity on the palate with a lovely stone-fruit personality. Kabinett weight. The dryness lends the requisite precision and forcefulness. Generally uncomplicated but there is enough nuance there to keep me happy.

Actually, more than happy. I love Pfalz Riesling and I love this wine. Certainly, my wife and I look forward to enjoying the remaining five bottles over the summer months.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Gelbe Erde

Here are brief notes on the "yellow-soiled" counterpart to a wine I recently blogged about.

Weingut Braun, "Gelbe · Erde" Riesling trocken 2011, Rheinhessen, Germany
Unassuming straw-yellow with a whiff of tropical fruit - or mango, to be precise. The mango really isn't that loud but quite distinct nonetheless. Maybe some fennel and a hint of earthiness in there too. (Incidentally, my better half detests fennel. Luckily, she still liked the wine.)

For all the sunshine-in-a-glass yet mildly agricultural notes on the nose, this has a surprisingly demure, cool, dry taste. However, at the risk of contradicting myself, it still feels quite generous in the mouth. The body weight is a modest light to medium, though the acidity feels relatively moderate. Maybe the wine actually lacks the same minerally pinpoint precision as "Weisse Erde" as a result.

While its white counterpart is mineral-driven, this wine is more upfront fruity. Though there is nothing wrong in that per se, and the experience is certainly a worthwhile one due to the comparision it affords.



Monday, 22 April 2013

Läufelberg

Following on from an unusual wine last year, I'm giving Egringen's favourite winery Weingut Brenneisen some more coverage today with a Pinot Noir dating back a few years. The Brenneisen family sell their wares (fruit and veg, home-made bread, pastries, eggs, flowers and wine) every Saturday in front of Matthäuskirche here in Kleinbasel (i.e. Basel on the right bank of the Rhine). I've heard good things about them since my first encounter, so now it's time for something more "conventional", shall we say, within a Baden context.


Weingut Brenneisen, Spätburgunder trocken "Läufelberg" 2007, Baden, Germany
Dirk Brenneisen produces four different Pinots. A basic offering, one called Hütte ("Hut"), this wine (costing EUR 10), and his premium wine, the aptly named Himmelreich ("Heaven"). I went for this particular bottle because, unlike the others, it had already had a few years of ageing under its belt.

Along with the Tüllinger hill that separates Weil from Lörrach and the Katzenberg rising northwards from Efringen-Kirchen through which Deutsche Bahn's ICE passenger trains now hurtle underground, the Läufelberg hill is one of Markgräflerland's first meadowy precursors to the higher altitudes of the southern Black Forest. Although being known first and foremost as the moderate incline that overlooks the picturesque villages of Fischingen, Egringen and Schallbach, it is also a specific plot of vineyard - as are Hütte and Himmelreich. Whereas Hütte is vinified in traditional large oak casks, Läufelberg undergoes 28 months in used oak barrels (this is according to the label, but it says "24 months" on the website). Himmelreich, meanwhile, is from 34-year old vines and matures in oak barrels of which one-third are new and two-thirds have been used before.

Anyway, this ruby-coloured Läufelberg with lighter beige hints round the edges opens up with a quite a luxurious whiff of dark morello cherries and chocolate. I think I've noticed this in quite a few Pinots in the area from the Kaiserstuhl down to Basel. It also smells slightly sweaty in a farmyard sort of way. On the palate, the body is medium, the acidity fresh and the tannins velvety - still offering scope for further ageing. The cherry and chocolate theme continues. The effect is a little Christmassy, but thankfully there is no sign of any strawberry/raspberry-esque kitsch entering proceedings. The finish is medium.

For its price, this is genuinely good value from a local producer who - apart from getting a mention in Stuart Pigott's Weinwunder Deutschland book - is still fairly unhailed.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Mandelblütenfest

Heike Larsson sums it up much better than I can in her Pfalzweinproben blog, but here are a few photographic impressions of our visit with friends to Gimmeldingen in the Pfalz for the Mandelblütenfest (the "Gimmeldingen almond blossom fest"). The scheduling for this annual fest always depends on the weather in spring. Cold temperatures meant that this year's festivities took place much later than normal.