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
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
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.

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
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.

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
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.

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


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.

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.