Friday, 30 January 2015

Late January in Basel

Thursday, 29 January 2015


Valentin Schiess first got into wine 25 years ago, working in a wine cellar in Spain. He subsequently gained winemaking experience in Australia, New Zealand and California, before studying oenology in Dijon. He now has his own winemaking cellar in Gundeldingen or "Gundeli", as the locals like to call one of Basel's grittier neighbourhoods just south of the railway station. What is unusual is that he is situated in the middle of a big Swiss town, while his grapes come from three disparate corners of Switzerland: Walenstadt (canton of St. Gallen) on the eastern shores of Walensee, Salgesch (Valais) in the Rhône valley, and Jenins (Graubünden) in the Rhine valley. Winemaking isn't his main job. During the day, he works as a quality controller for a large German enterprise. Local rag Tageswoche wrote a profile on Herr Schiess last year. This is his white wine.

Valentin Jakob Schiess (Vinigma GmbH), Priora 2013, Switzerland
Made from Humagne Blanche and Petite Arvine. With the corresponding website not yet fully up and running, and without a smartphone to hold over the QR code (I'm still the proud owner of a daftphone), I'm making an educated guess in stating that the grapes were sourced in Valais. *** (Correction, 3 March 2015: the website is now very much up and running! Thank you Valentin Schiess höchst persönlich for pointing this out to me!) *** A very healthy light yellow in appearance. Immediately, a distinctly flinty whiff rises up from the glass, along with smoky notes, pear and some succulent yellow fruit. Smoky minerals on the palate, with brioche-like notes. This is on a par with, and faintly reminiscent of, an excellent Silvaner I tried a few years back. It lingers on the finish. Otherwise, this is clean as a whistle and medium-bodied but, at 13.5 percent alcohol, actually quite a hammer of a table wine in the best sense of the meaning.


Weingut Bassermann-Jordan, Forster Ungeheuer "S", Riesling trocken 2009, Pfalz
Vivid straw/lime yellow. Flintstone, lime and dried herbs. However, the most distinct whiff is of quince. I drank a quince spritzer once last summer and it reminded me of the smell of countless Rieslings. Not only was the spritzer refreshing, but it refreshed my memory too. The scent is quite bright and breezy, but ripe. There is a slightly glazed characteristic too, along with more tropical notes on the second day.

Quince is even more pronounced on the palate, but dried herbs also take centre stage. Overall, the effect is fairly expressive. Nevertheless, any fruity elements there may be are concealed behind what is a bitingly mineral middle part and lingering finish. On day two, the wine feels somehow silkier in the mouth.

This bottle (with a screwcap enclosure) was in our cellar for four and a half years. The wine still tastes very youthful. 

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

One litre of Riesling, please.

This is worth a quick mention (in German).

Weingut Markus Schneider, Ein Liter Riesling trocken 2013, Pfalz
Dichtes Stohgelb mit einem grünlichen Schimmer. Frisch und fruchtig in der Nase. Nix für Mineralienlutscher. Dieser Wein hat vor der Abfüllung sicher nur Edelstahl gesehen, und dies auf sehr reduktive Art und Weise. Man riecht die üblichen Verdächtigen Düfte wie Pfirsich, Mango und Maracuja. All dies setzt sich im Gaumen fort. Weiterhin fruchtig mit einem erfrischenden Säureader. Erfrischend kurz im Abgang, aber verdammt lecker. Ein Wein zum Wegtrinken. Eher "geiles Zeug" als "grosser Stoff", aber was soll's.

In dem Sinne verweise ich Sie gerne auf folgenden Blogbeitrag von Herrn Felix Bodmann alias dem Schnutentunker:

Wednesday, 21 January 2015


Another random buy from a wine shop in Basel, although I'd already heard favourable things about this winery situated down near Perpignan.

Domaine Gauby, Les Calcinaires Rouge 2011, AOC Côtes du Roussillon-Villages
This is a blend of Syrah, Mourvèdre, Grenache and Carignan.

Opaque with a purple-hued edge. The smell of chalk, chalk and more chalk. Dry chalk like on a blackboard. Very serious and somewhat reticent at first. This needs plenty of air for some amount of time. As the wine opens up, it begins to show blackcurrant and plum. Very elegant indeed.

Very chalky again on the palate. Do you see a theme here? It is as if the grapes have literally sucked chalk out of the ground. This distinct mineral characteristic creates a certain austerity, which becomes less pronounced the longer the evening goes on. Black fruit eventually emerges from under the gleaming white layer of chalk. Very dry and pure. Medium body. Certainly, a wine that demands contemplation and time. Not easy to like at first sip, but ultimately quite wild and charming. This is Gauby's entry-level red. The much more expensive Muntada is their flagship wine.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Boar-ish behaviour

The bottle of the following wine is shaped the same way as the type of glassware Jack Sparrow and his lads might glug directly from. Ah, shiver me timbers.

Villa Wolf, Phaia 2010, Pfalz
Mosel doyen Ernst Loosen acquired Villa Wolf when it was an ailing shadow of its former self back in the mid-1990s. Things picked up from then onwards, although you tended to hear less about the winery from around the early to mid-2000s. If you believe the critics, things dipped again a while ago. Nevertheless, fresh blood arrived in 2011 when Loosen handed the day-to-day running of the estate to Patrick Moellendorf and Sumi Gebauer, a young couple who met while working at Dr. Loosen.

As Villa Wolf is based in Wachenheim, it almost goes without saying that the estate's main focus is Riesling. However, this red blend (of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Dorsa, Merlot and Dunkelfelder) is worth mentioning in its own right.

Phaia, also referred to as the Crommyonian Sow, was a wild pig in Greek mythology that "ravaged the region around the village of Crommyon between Megara and Corinth, and was eventually slain by Theseus in his early adventures" (Wikipedia). According to the bottle, this wine is for those who find Villa Wolf's Spätburgunder too elegant and refined for their tastes and prefer nozzling their snouts in something a bit more rough and ready, hence the reference to a "Drecksau" (or "filthy swine") on what is also an attractive back label.

The wine itself is very dark and brooding in appearance, with slightly purplish edges. Promising on the nose: brambly, ripe dark and red berry fruit (particularly morello cherries and some minty notes). Definitely some class and poise here. The alcohol is "only" at the 12.5-percent mark, but there is a notable level of concentration. Both dark and red again on the palate. Very smooth and I don't mean to damn with faint praise exceptionally tasty. Simply fun to drink and easy to understand. Medium-bodied with a very decent finish.

I bought this bottle at a 30-percent discount for CHF 12 at a store in Basel, which is maybe even a little less than what it retails for in Germany, even after pricing in the euro's very recent dramatic fall against the Swiss franc.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Three stars

Now for something faintly Burgundian from the Kaiserstuhl. This is the second of two bottles, the first having been opened almost four years ago.

Weingut Reinhold & Cornelia Schneider, Weißer Burgunder Spätlese trocken *** 2009, Baden
Pale golden yellow with greenish gold-leaf glints. Quite a savoury vegetative smell of the root variety (fennel? parsnip? potato mash?) along with some woody scents. Peachy notes on the first day, but these dissipate 24 hours later. Fairly dense and concentrated. A little salty with slightly waxy suggestions.

These is virtually translated like-for-like on the palate. Still fresh despite the evident ripeness of the vintage. This wine has a medium to full body but remains very lean, minerally and athletic, with a lingering savoury aftertaste. Impressive and pretty much ready to drink.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Bernhard Huber's Spätburgunder Schlossberg

Starting the year as I mean to go on. ... That would be wishful thinking, as it's not every day I get to enjoy a wine like this. I bought this bottle courtesy of a little monetary birthday present from my mother-in-law. Vicky, you are the best mother-in-law ever.

Weingut Bernhard Huber, GG Schlossberg "R" Spätburgunder trocken 2011, Baden
Had it not been for Vicky's kind donation, I would have been highly reluctant to spend so much on one bottle. As it happened, it gave me the chance to enjoy a top "Burgundian" red wine still at a fraction of top Burgundian prices.

Bernhard Huber passed away last summer. Judging by the tributes that poured in, he was revered not only in his home country but admired by his colleagues and kindred spirits in Burgundy and beyond.

Starting the year? Ending it more like. It was New Year's Eve and my wife cooked a lovely meal for us consisting of rack of lamb, new potatoes, roasted carrots and balsamic cherry tomatoes. In anticipation, I had opened the bottle 24 hours in advance, putting the cork back in immediately. The bottle was then bought back up from the cellar an hour before the meal was served, so as to warm up slightly but not too much.

Hecklinger Schlossberg is a steep gradient of 72 to 96 percent with the same type of yellow limestone soil that prevails on the Côte de Nuits. Quite a dark reddish sort of ruby. Immediately very approachable on the nose. Extremely pure and fresh, but imbued with great aromatic density. Cherry, plum and a distinctive minty scent, along with nuts, hints of curry and the finest and most unobtrusive note of cedar you could imagine. What sets this wine apart is its incredible freshness in the mouth. And I really mean fresh. For all its individual aromas and flavours, it is the scintillatingly mouthwatering acidity that leaves the most indelible mark. Frankly I've barely tasted a fresher wine, red or white. Multi-layered and concentrated on the one hand, yet finely boned and cooling on the other, with not an ounce of fat. A bone-dry chalky mintiness emerges, lending complexity and elegance. It goes without saying that the finish is exceedingly long. Even for a wine in its relative infancy, this must be one of if not the best Pinot Noir I've drunk in my life.