Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Horcher reloaded

I return briefly to a wine I was quite enamoured by last year.

Weingut Horcher, Cuvée CM 2008 trocken, Pfalz, Germany
This has grown on me even more since the summer of 2012. It cost just under than EUR 9 a bottle and I have rarely enjoyed such good value in a red wine per se, let alone a German red wine. It offers an elegance and structure that is frankly astounding for a red wine in its price bracket. The enclosure is screw-top but the wine has developed noticeably. The pencil lead characteristic remains, but this is now accompanied by leathery, dark dried fruit notes on the nose as well as even more finely grained tannins that add complexity on the palate.

I mentioned in my previous posting about this wine having something almost Pinot-esque about it, despite being a classical Cab/Merlot Bordeaux blend. I would stick with this view but add that this is attributable to the total lack of harsh purple tannins and superficiality experienced in red blends of a similar price. A prototype for others to follow, me thinks.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Basler Fasnacht is different.

Basler Fasnacht ended today at 4 a.m. - one of only a handful of carnivals that take place after the Ash Wednesday curfew.

If you've ever attended a carnival in Germany, Basel's version may confuse you. Aware of cultural sensitivities, the local tourist board has even started offering "crash courses" to German tourists visiting Basel during what people here call die drey scheenschte Dääg (the three most beautiful days of the year). Unlike the famous carnivals in Mainz, Cologne and Düsseldorf, active participation by spectators through dressing up or wearing face paint is frowned upon. It is this and the melancholic side to Basler Fasnacht that unassuming visitors from north of border initially have trouble adapting to - hence Basel Tourism's aforementioned re-educative endeavours. Despite being organised in typically Swiss clockwork fashion, there is none of the forced humour and "fun" that blights German carnivals. And the social and political commentary - rendered in the local Baseldytsch dialect - is biting, despite the masks all participants must wear.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Halenberg R

Unlike the previous wine, I have the privilege of owning another five bottles of this specimen. Good job, because it needs at least another five years, I would say.


Weingut Emrich-Schönleber, Monzinger Halenberg, Riesling - R - 2009, Nahe, Germany
The 2009 vintage was picture book. By way of anecdote, I recall the glorious warm, sunny weather here in Basel at the end of September 2009 when Jenny and I first moved in together. Perfect weather for grapes, I remember thinking at the time. A bit hot to be lugging sofas and wardrobes around.

The effects of those halcyon days of late summer/early autumn are evident here. This wine shows a vivid, ripe yellow hue. Nevertheless it is reticent on the nose. Eventually, some orangey hints emerge along with maybe some stone fruit.

It's a whole different story on the palate. Altogether a lot more expressive with finest Seville oranges and juicy peaches. A creamy sensation coats the teeth, making the wine seem fuller bodied than it probably is. Like the 2011 Halenberg GG, this is complex juice and the finish is long, though maybe not quite as long.

Analytically on the off-dry side of dry, this is the type of wine they used to produce in abundance back in the day when yeasts often failed to ferment the must to bone dryness. Fermentation would end naturally at around the medium-dry point instead. This "reserve" (released in September 2012, hence the "R") is hailed as a luxury accompaniment to food, and I would wholeheartedly agree. However, it's crying out for years of cellar time to gain greater precision and balance. While the 2011 GG stepped up to the mark immediately and focused the senses thanks to its no-nonsense dry transparency, this "R" still needs to shed its puppy fat. Once it does, it will be spectacular.