Georg & Stephan Schwedhelm, Riesling, Schwarzer Herrgott, 2019, Pfalz

20210915_204629Schwarzer Herrgott is one of the great 21st-century German terroirs – located in Zellertal, the most northerly part of the Pfalz. Divine in name, divine in quality. The Zellertal is quite a valley running from west to east, with the south-facing vineyards enjoying optimum sunshine in the rain shadow of the nearby Donnersberg mountain – the highest elevation in the Pfalz. Like other notable patches of the ‘Nordpfalz’, limestone is the predominant bedrock.

By the way, this is the Pfälzer iteration of Schwarzer Herrgott in the village of Zell. There is also a Rheinhessen Schwarzer Herrgott – a GG no less, referred to as ‘Zellerweg im Schwarzen Herrgott’, situated only a kilometre or two away, officially part of the Rheinhessen village of Mölsheim, and made famous by Weingut Battenfeld-Spanier with a Grosses Gewächs (GG) of the same name.

Vivid medium lemon in appearance, with an intense nose of wet chalk and lemon, with herbal essential oil and slightly vegetative hints. These are beautiful, pure aromas. Lemon continues on a concentrated, medium- to full-bodied palate, along with the aforementioned chalk expressed as a sort of silky film coating the teeth and mouth. Electrifying acidity with ample volume, leading to a long-lasting finish. A grand cru in all but name.

13.5% abv

Standard

Maximilian Greiner, Chasselas 2020, Badischer Landwein

20210804_202656Markgräflerland – the stretch from Freiburg to Basel – is bursting with interest at the moment. You have Hanspeter Ziereisen and his merry band of Landwein disciples (Dirk Brenneisen and Max Geitlinger, to name just a couple). You have an exciting new start-up on one of Baden’s best limestone terroirs (Weingut am Klotz). You have classical labels updating and redefining themselves (Schneider in Weil, Blankenhorn in Schliengen). You have names new and old offering ridiculous value for money (Lämmlin-Schindler, Rieger, Scherer & Zimmer). You have the boutique Wasenhaus duo, who are probably in a category of their own. You have the linear, no-frills Gutedel of Dörflinger (English for snörkellos). You even have the main grower cooperative, Markgräfler Winzer, lifting its own quality up a few notches in recent years. And let’s not forget the two Wassmers, Fritz and Martin – Pinot gurus who seem to have been around for ages, even though they haven’t.

All of these names, including Maximilian Greiner, produce Gutedel (aka Chasselas), one of the most underestimated of all cultivars. The grape isn’t popular (and little known) among British palates. Naturally light with modest alcohol and acidity, Chasselas is imbued with a certain neutrality that befits its Swiss origins. It certainly isn’t sexy. And yet, given time on the lees and in bottle, it manages pretty well to refresh and stimulate even without Riesling levels of acidity, while retaining a comforting, handcrafted, yesteryear character reminiscent of something you’d swear you’ve drunk before, even if you haven’t. Wine as pretty as a dumpling, to paraphrase US wine importer Terry Theise.

Apparently, it’s the understatement that makes Chasselas a dream with sushi and sashimi, although I have never tested this theory.

Inspired by Ziereisen’s Gutedel ‘10 Hoch 4’, the world’s most expensive Chasselas, more and more of the region’s growers are doing what their grandparents and great-grandparents used to do by affording the variety the requisite time and respect. This equates to generous skin contact, use of traditional presses, wild-yeast fermentation, longer periods of maturation in large, old wood (including acacia), and minimal, if any, fining or filtering. In other words, old-school. The result is a phalanx of new-wave Chasselas across Markgräflerland that are yeast-infused, minerally, complex and long-lived.

Maximilian Greiner farms according to biodynamic principles. He grows Chasselas, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier (the latter for his zero dosage Sekt). Greiner’s vineyards are properly in the foothills of the Black Forest: in the hamlet of Gennenbach and the villages of Feuerbach, Mauchen, and Obereggenen.

🍷  Pale lemon in appearance, with a nose that fills out and gains detail with warmth and air. Pear aromas initially, followed by hints of green apple and almond as well as a faint touch of bubblegum. Floral, meadowy notes – maybe also a suggestion of lemongrass. (Strangely, this reminds me that iconic Black Forest beer Rothaus Tannenzäpfle always has a hint of lemongrass.) An ever-so-subtle lime-lemon combo provides sufficient freshness on a silky medium-bodied palate. Much of the aforementioned notes on the nose offer complexity on the tongue, culminating in a long finish. Exceedingly delicious and right up my street.

Standard

Collective Z, ‘Bernvalley’, 2019, Pfälzer Landwein

20210410_203413This is a single-varietal wine made from old Portugieser vines situated in the secluded Berntal nature reserve (hence the English play on words).

Deep purple appearance. Lush if still little diffuse on the nose, with blueberry, black olive and a hint of dark chocolate. Well-integrated, fresh acidity and fine-grained but still quite pronounced tannins. Textured mouthfeel packed within a concentrated medium to full body, with cedar, soy sauce and a dash of Maggi. Savoury, complex and long, with a long life ahead of it.

Standard

Weingut am Klotz, Gutedel ‘Löss und Kalk’, 2019, Baden

20210115_201054-1The Reinecker family have been a mainstay of Sekt production in Markgräflerland for a good many years. Apart from turning the base wines of other wineries into fizz (a practice referred to in German as Lohnversektung), they also sell their own house range of sparkling wines. You could say that the Reiningers are, to a certain extent, the ‘Raumlands of Südbaden’. In 2019, the family entered into a still-wine collaboration with the illustrous Kaiserstuhl wine estate Weingut Franz Keller, buying up the Reingerhof wine estate that comprises three hectares at Isteiner Klotz overlooking the village of Istein. Isteiner Klotz is a limestone cliff that used to sit on the banks of the Rhine – until the 19th century, when Johann Gottfried Tulla straightened the river to improve boat navigation. Nowadays, the Rhine is set back from the cliff about 200 to 300 metres away on the other side of the A5 autobahn. This prime, south-facing vineyard land – long forgotten – is one of my favourite spots in all of wine-producing Germany. The location is depicted in my profile picture. (For the record: the vineyard’s official Lagenname is Isteiner Kirchberg.) Apart from Gutedel (Chasselas), the Reineckers and Kellers also grow Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir), Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris), and Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc). They recently took receipt of a small herd of Ouessant sheep that graze in the vineyard and help to give lots of natural goodness back to the soil.

Medium lemon colour. Nose of lemon accompanied by a noticeable whiff of popcorn as well lactic hints (think of a hard cheese like Gruyère). This wine also has a savoury dimension – spiced with cumin notes and a sprinkle of lightly toasted bread crumbs. Beautiful lemon and savoury characters continue on a slightly glazed, textured palate that gradually takes on greater complexity with more air. Strawberry notes also make an appearance. Bone-dry mouthfeel, with juicy acidity and a long finish.

Standard

Tabula Rasa #V18R, South Australia

Tabula rasa is Latin for clean or blank slate. The vintage is 2018; the R stands for red.

This is a blend composed of 76% Grenache (mostly old vines from McLaren Vale, apparently), 10% Shiraz, 9% Mataro and 5% Carignan. Dark ruby/garnet, this has blackcurrant ice cream on the nose, with a hint of vanilla. Brambly fruit on the palate. Keen tannins and good acidity lend eminent drinkability despite 14.5 per cent abv and a full body. This has a crown cap enclosure and contains only 0.5 litres. I can almost imagine turning up at a drinks party with this and imbibing it straight from the bottle like a beer.

Bought from our local bottle shop, Baythorne Wines. Only on sale in Australia and the UK, as far as I can tell.

Standard

Collective Z, ‘Der Sonne am nächsten’ (Touching the sun), 2019, Pfälzer Landwein


Christoph Ziegler’s day job consists of running a well-known wine advertising agency in Bad Dürkheim. With the help of his friends (‘Collective Z’), he also tends 1.5 hectares of old vines (planted 25 to 50 years ago) just outside Leistadt in and around the limestone sweet spot of the Berntal valley. It’s a small, secluded corner of the Pfalz, full of forgotten plots arranged in higgledy-piggledy fashion.

This is a rosé made from Dornfelder. Relatively dark in appearance – the wine looks almost like a very light red. On the Collective Z website, Christoph says it’s a ‘herbal bomb’. He’s right: think herbes de Provence on the nose, with rosemary, thyme, tarragon, oregano, etc. Or Ricola eucalyptus. Or – weirdly – squash ball. However, the fruit should not go unmentioned: aromas of ripe, sweet, succulent strawberry, which, come to think of it, remind me of other Pfalz rosés that I have had in my time. The Dornfelder connection.

Savoury notes such as bacon emerge on the second day. The herbal and strawberry duet continues on a medium-bodied, succulent yet dry palate. This wine has plenty of what the Germans call Schmelz – a wine-related term that German-to-English translators love to hate. It’s that ‘glazed’, mellow, almost melted sensation in your mouth. Sometimes it’s as if the wine is coating the palate in a thin, silky film, as is the case here. Sometimes the sensation is chewy. Certainly, the effect is tactile and, at times, even ethereal. Some clever people also think they can smell it.

The finish is long and pure.

Manual harvest followed by wild-yeast fermentation, then aged for 10 months in old French oak barrels. No fining or filtering.

Standard

Simone Adams, Spätburgunder trocken, ‘Kaliber 12’, Rheinhessen

It’s exciting when you get to taste your first wine from a producer of whom you have you have already heard much about. Ingelheim in Rheinhessen is for Pinot Noir a bit like what Westhofen or Dalsheim is for Riesling in the south of Rheinhessen – a legendary wine village forgotten during much of the 20th century, but excelling once again.

Simone Adams, Spätburgunder trocken, ‘Kaliber 12’, Ingelsheim, Rheinhessen
Dark ruby. Pronounced peppery notes, with black cherry and blackcurrant. Certainly more black than red fruit. Dijon clones? Distinctly herbal, stemmy aromas too. Almost reminiscent of eucalyptus – as if there’s also a dash of Shiraz in there.
If anything, the herbal theme intensifies on the palate, almost overwhelmingly so. Slightly drying (but satisfying) tannins, with malt notes, a hint of mint and a medium (+) body. Pure, chalky finish. Very distinguished for an entry-level Pinot.

Standard

Seckinger and Nussbaum

I wrote the following last July, but have failed to post it until now. Now all I have are distant yet pleasant memories. I regularly overthink things and probably thought I could improve the text at a later stage.
_______________________________________
There has been a notable buzz surrounding an up-and-coming generation of growers in Niederkirchen – a village that benefits from its proximity to the Mittelhaardt meccas of Deidesheim, Ruppertsberg, Forst and Wachenheim. The Fusser, Scheuermann and Seckinger wineries have all been making waves. All three practise biodynamics.

The Seckinger brothers in particular – Philipp, Jonas and Lukas – are arguably the best known of this trio of producers, thanks in part to their discernable social media presence.

Seckinger, Riesling vom Löss 2019, Pfalz
Pale lemon. Wet stone, hints of pineapple, white currant, touch of herbs – on both nose and palate. Dry as a bone, light and almost delicate on the tongue but with refreshing, electrifying acidity. Clean as a whistle. Pineapple more pronounced on the second day. White stone fruit also emerges. Still very youthful of course; I would be very interested to taste this wine in, say three or four years.

Nussbaum.Projekt, Sylvaner Löss und Kalk 2018, Pfalz
This is a garage winery involving three gentlemen called Matthias Rau, Benedikt Grein and Joachim Schmidt, who specialise in Riesling, Pinot Noir and Sylvaner. Their vineyard plots are located in Ruppertsberger Spieß and Königsbacher Ölberg – two privileged vineyards. I was lucky to grab a couple of bottles of this last year from a merchant based in the Rhein-Neckar region. Sylvaner fermented on its skins. Inaugural vintage.

Medium gold, or is it pale amber? Caramel pear aromas on the nose, pear and red cooking-apple peel. Medium acidity, light tannins, pleasant phenolic astringency. Think juicy, just-picked red apples from the best orchard possible. Tremendous volume on the nose. All the above translate beautifully on to the palate. Hard to believe that it’s only 11 abv.
________________________________________
This is the moment I stopped writing last July. However, the Nussbaum wine had great soul and was one the most memorable wines of 2020. My notes do it scant justice.

Standard

Wöhrle, Lahrer Kronenbühl, Spätburgunder, VDP.Erste Lage trocken, 2018, Baden

Medium, almost deep ruby. Definitely more red than black fruits, with kirsch notes and hints of smoke and tobacco. Mouthwatering on the palate. Tannins are elegant and medium. Nice acidic bite, with a florally, cherry-like theme and a herbal, salty, smoky finish. Caught this wine at its youthful, primary-fruit peak. This is gorgeous. I will wait on the other bottle for a good few years – or succumb to temptation. 13.5% abv.

Made from small-berried Burgundy clones. SC stands for ‘Selektion Carl’, because the first vintage from these young vines coincided with the birth of son Carl. Cold soak (maceration) followed by fermentation on the skins. Subsequent maturation for 16 months in new pièces.

Standard

Andreas Durst, Portugieser 2014, Pfalz – short notes on a Pfälzer Landwein

Haunting perfume on the nose, with concentrated raspberry, strawberry, violet, and Christmas spice. Chocolate and leather too. Complex and ethereal on the palate, with dense yet supple tannins lending both intensity and elegance. Long-lasting on the finish. This wine has an unfettered, beautiful old-school character born of low-tech farming and winemaking rooted in a respect for nature and based apparently on pure intuition.

Wine-related photography is Andreas Durst’s day job. Durst, born in Wuppertal, made a name for himself as the go-to photographer of Medienagenten, a wine marketing agency based in Bad Dürkheim (Pfalz). During his career, he has snapped pictures of, and for, the great and good of German-speaking wine.

In 2008, he moved to Bockenheim in the northern reaches of the Pfalz. It is there that he began making his own wine. His ‘cellar’ was a garage, but his vines (less than a hectare’s worth) lay on a bedrock of pure limestone. The ungrafted Portugieser plantings used for this wine date back to 1906 – they look appropriately gnarled and twisted.

For a more eloquent summary of Andreas Durst than I could ever write, read this by Stephen Bitterolf, the founder of US wine importer Vom Boden.

Standard