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.

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Sven Nieger

More (b20170728_072510one) dry Riesling like this, please.

Sven Nieger, Riesling trocken 2014, Landwein, Baden
Understated straw/light yellow. After decent airing, this smells unerringly of the type of fine lemony salt crust that chefs use to season fish. We’re talking top-quality salt and lemons. It’s a beguiling aroma. Utterly dry on the palate, with heaps of salt as well as lemon, lime, herbs and not a single ounce of fat. The wine’s medium body is at once lithe, steely and electrifying. The acidity is keen but not sharp.

(A slight element of organisational chaos still reigns chez Jones since we moved back to the UK, the upshot of which I have been writing all my wine notes on small pieces of scrap paper. I may have accidently put my scribblings for this wine out with the paper recycling, so these tasting notes are missing something at the end. Suffice to say though that this is exceedingly good for an estate wine.)

Incidentally, Sven Nieger repeatedly fell foul of the tasting panel in Freiburg who are responsible for ensuring that the local wines are ‘typical’ representatives of the Qualitätswein label. They kept rejecting his wines, so he decided to bottle them as Landwein (the equivalent of vin du pays) instead. Earlier this year, he and other colleagues including Hanspeter Ziereisen helped to inaugurate the first-ever Badischer Landweinmarkt in Müllheim.

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Gegen Gerade

The wines of Christoph Hammel first came to my attention through the coverage they were getting on the Facebook discussion group, Hauptsache Wein. This one appealed to me the most on account of its name (and the philosophy behind it).

Hammel & Cie, Rie20170630_201544sling ‘Gegen Gerade’ 2015, Pfalz
Not to be confused with ‘Gegengerade’, the backstraight on an athletics track, ‘Gegen Gerade’ translates literally as ‘against straight’ and roughly as the opposite of ‘straight down the middle’ or ‘straight as a die’ – or, in this case, as the antithesis of the generic and the banal (think ‘run of the mill’ or ‘same old’), a rebellion against the straightjacket or received wisdom of modern winemaking. In practice, Hammel used hand-harvested grapes from his oldest Riesling vines, letting them ferment spontaneously in a 100-year-old wooden cask before leaving the wine to rest a while sur lie. The result is a dry-tasting wine with a very light touch of natural residual sweetness. Wines like this were, by all accounts, much more commonplace a hundred years ago as natural yeast floras are not necessarily as efficient as a cultured yeasts. Though I seem to recall that a debate raged on Facebook not so long ago as to how much residual sweetness the Rieslings of yesteryear actually used to have. The trockenistas insist that Rieslings used to be really quite dry way back when – though the question is how dry. Then again, who cares?

It is safe to say that this wine isn’t bone-dry, but neither does it taste that sweet to my palate. Admittedly, some trockenistas may be a little more ‘RS-sensitive’ than I am.

This wine shows spiciness on the nose, with lime and pineapple expressiveness the order of the day. More spice on the palate. This is highly drinkable. Pineapple again, along with peaches and a slight creaminess that belies the non-bone-dry style. This wine has a good acidic backbone, and is generous but not overly so. To borrow a steak-related phrase, the fruit is still very much à point as opposed to overripe. It might not necessarily be that complex, but it demands attention on account of its naturally pure Riesling personality on the one hand and lip-smacking succulence on the other.

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Köbelin, Grauer Burgunder Kabinett trocken 2016

As guests at the annual winery courtyard fest (or Hoffest) at Weingut Kiefer in Eichstetten back in 2011, we went on a tractor ride through some of the terraced vineyards for which the Kaiserstuhl district is very well known. As we left the village and began ascending the vine-clad foothills, the decidedly 21st-century design of Arndt Köbelin’s new vineyard building caught the eye. Köbelin’s aesthetically pleasing bottles labels are just as streaml20170704_190333ined.

Arndt Köbelin, Grauer Burgunder Kabinett trocken 2016
I would call this type of wine the Königsdisziplin or blue riband discipline for the best winegrowers on the Kaiserstuhl. Along with their entry-level Spätburgunder, this is their ‘calling call’, as it were. A wine made in considerable quantities but with the ambition of matching the country’s best entry-level Rieslings in quality.

Healthy pale yellow in appearance, with a smoky pear and peach bonanza awaiting me on the nose. Dry yet succulent on the palate, with a continuance of the pears and, again, a certain smokiness. This is a Kabinett with 13 per cent abv – which is par for the course in Baden where sprightly Kabinetts are few and far between. Entry level this may be, but the quality is outstanding. On the one hand the straight-lined fruit personality is infectious, on the other the finish is amply long, showing a savouriness and smokiness that would grace more expensive wines. It is also extremely enjoyable. The acidity is mouthwatering. It’s hard not to keep sipping.

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Litre

I ordered some wine from Germany recently. Twenty-four bottles in total. The first time I have ordered in bulk for a long time. Even taking postage and packaging into account, this is a much cheaper option than buying directly here in the UK (see my last post for more details on that).

Unless I am sitting at a wine fest somewhere in the Pfalz, I rarely venture into litre territory. However, I couldn’t resist including a couple of bottles of this bad boy in my order.20170630_072139

Jülg, Riesling trocken (litre) 2015, Pfalz
Incidentally, Jülg are building an excellent reputation for their Pinots Noirs. One of the other wines I ordered was their ‘Spätburgunder Kalkmergel’ – more about that particular wine at a later juncture.

Straw-coloured with an understated nose. Maybe some underripe peaches and a touch of apricot, but nothing that turns this Riesling into a fruit cocktail parody of itself. Much the same on the palate. Clean and fresh, but nothing too biting. In fact, this wine has a calm demeanour and is delicious to drink in large gulps. The finish is ample and almost silky, I would say – something which, in itself, is pretty sensational for a litre offering. I certainly get a sense that Jülg afforded even this wine the requisite time to find its inner balance. Good value.

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Adieu Basel

It has been quiet on here for quite a while – the reason being that my wife and I have now moved back to the UK. After 17 years living and working in the Basel area, I am currently going through some sort of ‘expat re-entry shock’. However, we have landed in a half-decent place, so I have no reason to complain.

That’IMG_2133s enough personal stuff. Time to get this blog started again.

There is a small wine shop situated not far from our new abode that specialises in what it refers to ‘craft wine’. I had never seen the term before visiting their website, though I suppose the people who coined it logically had the craft beer trend in mind. In practice, what they sell are ‘organic, biodynamic and natural wines’. The store, located in a former railway station, really is tiny. Actually, it’s more like a stand than a store. Bottles with labels ranging from the quirky to the wacky dominate what little shelf space there is.

They sell a Riesling priced normally at around 9.50 euros in Germany. Thanks to UK duty and the abysmal exchange rate into pound sterling, the wine’s retail price here is a whopping £17. Even the price in Switzerland is cheaper in comparison. I’ll let you make your own conclusions about that.

Nevertheless, I still wanted to purchase at least one bottle. However, it had sold out by the time I visited the store a second time with exactly this intention in mind. Instead, I left with a bottle of this similarly priced substitute.

Domaine de la Sénéchalière (Marc Pesnot), La Bohème 2015, Vin de France, Bretagne sud (pays nantais)
This is something completely different. Made from the Melon de Bourgogne varietal that is commonly grown in the Muscadet appellation, to which Marc Pesnot’s property belongs geographically, if not legally.

Golden or almost pale amber in appearance. Initially almost like Christmas on the nose, with honeyed orange peel reminding me of Basler Läckerli, as well as hints of ginger and Seville marmelade. This is an evolving aroma … soon I get Sherry-like notes along with raspberry jam. Similar characteristics on a dry palate, but then a cidery element emerges. This is reminiscent of the meady flavours of Pierre Frick’s ‘natural wines’. Certainly an acquired taste, and certainly very vin nature. The texture is slightly chewy. The wine does not offer much to me in acidity, but yeasty secondary notes offset this to a certain extent, providing some complexity.

Fast-forward to the next day. “Do all ‘natural wines’ taste of apple mead?” I ask myself as I start sipping again. Yet, these cidery notes start to recede all of a sudden. Now we have pear and something more tropical on the nose. Melony on the palate, then a minerally sensation takes over. Acidity – almost non-existent yesterday – has come belatedly to the party. Admittedly, a meady suggestion continues to linger in the background, but I’m starting to get it now. The finish lingers for a good minute. Ultimately, this is a very interesting find. A no-brainer really, but this wine evidently needs a lot of air.IMG_2134

 

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Weiler Schlipf

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Back label

This was the red we had at Christmas.

Claus and Johannes Schneider, Weiler Schlipf Spätburgunder CS trocken 2013, Baden
Pale to medium ruby with transluscent edges. Stemmy and slightly minty aromas at first, with warm herbs and spice, followed by a crushed stone note and a hint of red fruit. Over time, the nose becomes finer and more perfumed, showing mainly red fruit (raspberry) underlaid with some slightly dark fruit.

Warmth and concentration on the palate, but with a chalky elegance and coolness of fruit expression acting as a counterpoint. Savoury comfort, complexity and concentration within a medium body. Again, the colour of the fruit is mostly red but some darker elements are also interwoven. Although supple and fine, the tannins remain assertive enough to lend extra background and density, while the acidity provides ample freshness. Overall, it is this contrast between savoury complexity and warmth on the one hand and elegance and freshness on the other which best sums up this wine. The long finish is beautifully balanced between these two characteristics. Some wines can be overly earnest; this one is just relaxed and assured of its own worth. The Schneider ‘style’, which to my mind is very linear, pure and unfettered, very much shines through here. By this, I suppose I mean that the wine, amid its complexity, does not try to be something it isn’t. It’s ‘at ease in its own skin’, as it were. Amen.

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