Pinot Noir from Trimbach

20180128_200948So far, this is one of the best wines I’ve had this year.

Trimbach, Pinot Noir Réserve 2015, Alsace
As with Bürklin-Wolf in the previous blog post, we’re talking here about an icon of dry Riesling. However, this Pinot Noir is an education in itself.

Vivid ruby/garnet with pinkish edges. Very pure and linear impression on the nose. Less the charmer and more a masculine, minerally character with not an ounce of fat. Maybe a whiff of red or black forest fruit, but nothing too overt. Was this aged solely in inox or in wood? I can’t detect anything pointing to wood.

Unfettered, sinewy and precise on the palate. Medium-bodied and bone dry. The tannins feel slightly crunchy in this mere baby of a wine, but they are well-integrated. Some red fruit emerges, but in a firm, no-nonsense, athletic style. Refreshing acidity washes over the back palate and into a long finish. This is a 180-degree departure from the mushroomy, sous bois smell of the undergrowth or the comforting savouriness of many other Pinots. What we have instead is the intense purity and linearity of a wine that puts its proverbial front foot forward.


Pinot Noir from Bürklin-Wolf

I currently have a backlog of notes to write up. Here is a short adaptation of some scribbled notes I made back in January.

Dr. Bürklin-Wolf, Pinot Noir 2012, Pfalz
Dark ruby with hint of brown on the edges already. Fresh in the nose, however, with the initial whiff of warm squash balls as well as minty notes. Then raspberry and hints of blackcurrant.. Great structure on the palate. Stemmy, minerally (yes, I know …), raspberry, elegant, good finish.

Surprisingly excellent from a winery known more for its world-class dry Rieslings.20171211_200055


Cuvée X and the tale of 2007

20171203_183748I have always had a soft spot for 2007. Weather-wise, I can still recall the spring heatwave in March and April. Everything blossomed really early in Basel. The sun shone intermittently thereafter. The summer rain fell at just the right times and in judicious quantities. Peak temperatures around the mid-20s were the norm. But the autumn was gorgeous. In short, the climatic conditions were conducive to properly functioning human activity – even if the city’s open-air swimming pools welcomed fewer visitors than normal.

What is good for man is also good for the vine. And 2007 was a very solid year for both white and red. Though maybe more so for red – the warm spring and autumn, added to a moderate yet still half-decent summer, resulted in plenty of crucial hang time.

As is normally the case, conditions further north in the Pfalz were very similar. Based on this knowledge, I treated myself to three bottles of 2007 ‘Cuvée X’ a few years later. This was probably Knipser’s flagship red at the time. Essentially a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, Cuvée X – along with its rare, super-premium sibling Cuvée XR – seems to me to have been one of the trailblazers for a whole slew of bold yet elegant red blends that were still relatively unheard of in Germany in the early 2000s. Other ‘game-changers’ that spring to mind include Markus Schneider’s ‘Steinsatz’ as well as Andreas and Steffen Rings’ ‘Das Kreuz’.

My first bottle, opened in around 2012, was still way too young. Now here is the second bottle, a full 10 years after the vintage.

Knipser, Cuvée X 2007, Pfalz
For the wine’s colour, see the photo below. Immediate elegance on the nose. Dark chocolate, mocha, concentrated dark forest fruits and savoury tobacco. This sounds quite dense and brooding, but the aromas are pure and understated. Green peppers also emerge a little later. Incredibly elegant on the palate too, its fresh acidity almost reminding me of a Pinot Noir but with a somewhat darker, denser characteristic. The tannins are supple and melt on the tongue, lending a silky, airy mouthfeel that belies the medium-to-full body underneath. Waves of complexity wash over, with tertiary notes of lead (pencil shavings), iron (blood) and cigar tobacco, as well as dark berries and mocha. This leads to a long, persistent finish. It feels effortless. The 2007 vintage has done an ample job on its own in providing the requisite polish and ripeness. Instead, as with so many of its Germanic ilk that it helped to inspire, the wine oozes structure and elegance.

Ten years on and Cuvée X is starting to come into its own.



Orange wine

No, it is possible to make wine from oranges – but in this case I mean something different. Orange wine is the ‘fourth wine’ after red, white and rosé. It is the result of treating white-wine grapes like red-wine grapes by fermenting them on their skins. This skin contact gives red wines its colour, tannins, mouthfeel, etc. If we apply the same approach to white grapes, the subsequent wine will often have a distinctly orange or amber colour.

In my wine-drinking life, I’ve probably only tasted a small handful of ‘orange wines’. All of them were Pinot Gris – a grape with a naturally dark red brickish/greyish colour that lends itself to some judicious skin extraction. A good example is Friedrich Becker’s Grauburgunder Kalkmergel, which acquires its vibrant salmon/amber colour from 42 hours of maceration before pressing. However, the skin-on-skin theory also applies to white grapes of a more conventional appearance – like Sylvaner.IMG_20171106_205104_179

Terms of Venery, Sylvaner 2013, Prekmurjie, Slovenia (bottles produced: 900)
Wines of Momentary Destination is the venture behind this wine. In their own words, WMD are a ‘pop-up winemaking collective, making one wine, in one place for one year only’. The result is the ‘Birds&Bats Wine range’, which currently comprises four different wines, most of which are already sold out.

Little did I know, but Slovenia is apparently one of the global epicentres of orange wine production. Uroš Valcl, the winemaker at Murof winery in north-east Slovenia, produced this particular ‘orange’ Sylvaner. Valcl probably would have become a professional basketball player had he not inherited his family’s wine estate.

As you can see from the photo, the wine is either a luscious golden or pale amber colour, depending on your perspective. Highly interesting on the nose. An initial sherry-like whiff, then expressive souk spices and nuts. I also get the impression of innate freshness (acidity) as well as red berry fruit. The sherry-like notes are less redolent of oxidation per se and more of a dried fruit character. Almost quite Christmasy. By day two, notes have emerged that remind me of quince jam and blood orange. Maybe also a hint of squash-ball rubber. Yes, really.

Rich on entry, with a slightly chewy, textural mouthfeel. It’s hard to place the wine in context, given that my practical experience of orange wines is so limited. Nevertheless, this is undeniably quite a powerhouse. The 14 per cent abv is certainly discernable but expresses itself more in terms of potency than any overt heat. Although this is more or less a dry wine, the alcohol also imparts a certain sweetness. On the first day, the wine shows a slightly dried yellow-fruit characteristic combined with a touch of bitterness. The acidic backbone is of medium strength but provides just enough counter-balancing freshness. Tannins are indeed present – not of the furry type, more in terms of a slight bitter twist on the tongue. On the next day, the wine feels less chewy. It also seems drier to me. The dried fruit is less obvious. A hint of chalkiness takes its place. By day three, the wine has become streamlined and easier to drink. I am even inclined to utter the word ‘elegant’. Throughout all three days, the finish is long.

Overall, this is a delicious wine by anyone’s standards. Certainly, it is a Sylvaner unlike all others I have drunk – and it has whetted my appetite for more. It is the type of bottle that would go equally well with salmon fillet on the one hand and a nice juicy steak on the other. This, I am sure, owes much to the skin contact afforded the grapes, which does indeed bring out an additional tactile dimension akin to red wine. Great stuff.20171109_105115



Pfirmann from the sleepy village of Wollmesheim in the Südpfalz are a winery I’ve been following for a number of years. I tried, and liked, some of their wines on a trip to Prowein in Düsseldorf a number of years back. I still have no idea how I got accreditation for that event – all I said was that I was a translator who blogged about wine in his free time.

Pfir20170710_210831mann, Mütterle, Riesling trocken 2014, Pfalz
Distinct lime on the nose. Like a lime cordial. Then quite a blistering aroma that reminds me of crushed bone or sea shells. Maybe some floral nuances and starfruit too. Noticeably on the slimlined, elegant side for a wine with 13.5 per cent alcohol. But still flavoursome. There is ample inner density and complexity. The lime notes on the nose translate like-for-like onto the palate. Iodine-like mineral water notes and a touch of quince. Keen acidity and very dry. By no means austere. Serious, yes. But not austere. The longer I keep taking sips, the more grip and succulence come to the fore.  Exceedingly moreish and mouthwatering – the contents of the bottle seem to evaporate magically over the course of the evening.

The label looks so cool, it hurts.


Scherer & Zimmer, Gutedel spontan


Since leaving Basel at the end of April, my wife and I have been reacclimatising ourselves to everyday UK life. Although we are feeling much more settled five months on, we have no idea what awaits us in the next year or so, let alone the next five years.

Yet whatever happens in the meantime, I can always content myself with ordering the wines from my old hunting ground every so often. A sizeable proportion of my most recent order consisted of Gutedels from Markgräflerland. This was the stand-out bottle:

Felix Scherer & Micha Zimmer, Gutedel ‘spontan’ trocken 2015, Baden
Spontaneously fermented (from the grapes’ own yeasts) in used Burgundian pièces. Bright light yellow with an ever-so-slight reddish hue. Biscuity on the nose, with hints of peanut as well as well-integrated wood. Savoury and yeasty in the mouth. A refreshing lime-like tingle of acidity washes over my palate – unusually so for a Gutedel. Quite concentrated in what is ostensibly a light to medium body. Little fruit to speak of. In my mind’s eye I can visualise crushed dry white stone. The acidity returns to lend elegance on the finish. Made in much the same idiom as Ziereisen’s Steingrüble, I would say. Even the price (12 euros) is quite similar. Like Steingrüble, this represents classic ‘old school’ Gutedel. A very worthwhile handcrafted wine.


Brenneisen, Läufelberg

They say distance makes the heart grow fonder. In my case, it’s our current distance from Markgräflerland – the source of so many underestimated wines. Thankfully, I can still order wines straight from source. Orginally, I ordered three bottles of Dirk Brenneisen’s ‘Himmelreich’. The merchant (Markgräfler Weintheke) were down to their last two bottles, so I received a bottle of their ‘lesser’ Pinot Noir instead, including the resultant price difference. This was no disappointment at all, because – in the interests of full disclosure – I’ve blogged about the wine before.

Dirk Brenne20170906_202921isen, ‘Läufelberg’, Spätburgunder 2011, Baden
Aged for 20 months in used oak barrels, and unfiltered. Ruby in appearance, with a lovely immediate stemminess on a fragrant nose. Almost (rose-)watery, along with hints of strawberries. If you ‘heard’ the aromas as musical notes, they would be the top notes, so to speak: brilliant red light in a glass.

Note that none of my scribbled notes on this wine mentioned the words ‘oak’ or ‘wood’.

Unashamedly sexy and voluptuous on the palate. Medium-bodied at the very most, with oh so rounded tannins. It sounds like a cliché … but it was velvety. A wave of refreshing acidity then takes over, whipping the momentary decadence into shape. Beautiful balance. There is a meagre 0.6 g/l of residual sweetness, but this wine is still so generous. Es ist eine Wonne – a sheer delight. This is a wine that keeps on giving.

I drank the whole bottle over an evening while taking down these scant notes.