20191204_205213Skin-fermented Gutedel? Oh yes.

Scherer-Zimmer, Gutedel ‘MG’ trocken 2015, Baden
The ‘MG’ stands for Maischegärung, which is German for fermentation on the skins, i.e. the juice was fermented before it was pressed and separated from the grape skins. As with red wine, the grape ‘solids’ are moved up, down and around the fermentation vessel to encourage the extraction of colour and flavour (among other things).

Gold/amber colour. Sherry notes on the nose to begin with. These gradually dissipate to leave caramel, strawberry, apricot and peach – a panoply of aromas, but this is really expressive. Maybe even some lacquer – it’s hard to describe but that’s the best descriptor I can find. Only a very faint hint of wood complementing the Gesamtkunstwerk.

Mild but noticeable phenolics/tannins on the palate. Medium alcohol, acidity and body, but nothing else is ‘medium’. All the above aromas return as intense flavours, complemented by some slightly dried fruit notes, a silky texture and a very long, saline finish. Delicious.

Easily one of the best wines that I have drunk this year. Maybe the best.


You can’t beat a vomiting unicorn.


Postscript to Lämmlin-Schindler’s Gutedel (see post of 8 Nov. 2019)

Just had another bottle. I almost feel I damned it with faint praise. This is a crystalline, assertive, concentrated, fruit-driven, pure, clean wine with a long finish. It’s also up there among the best Gutedel I’ve drunk in the clean-as-a-whistle, fruity idiom.


Le Clocher

20191113_192053More Gutedel – this time going by its synonym Chasselas.

Blankenhorn, Chasselas ‘Le Clocher’ trocken 2017, Schliengen/VDP.Ortswein, Baden
Deep lemon in appearance. An initial whiff of apple strudel, followed by green apple and pear. Very intense aromas emerge: vanilla and lactose-like notes of cheese, along with roasted notes, citrus, white chocolate, single-malt peat and wet stone. More pear, peat and vanilla on a palate of pronounced intensity. Medium acidity with a long, silky finish that coats the mouth. This is a serious wine that is still rather young, so it is a pity I only have one other bottle left.


Christopher Michael

20191108_194426-1Pinot Noir from Oregon is a new one for me. Although I have read a lot of good things about the wine scene over there, I hasten to add. Domaine Drouhin and Kelley Fox Wines are names that ring a bell. This random bottle was a good introduction.

Christopher Michael Wines, Pinot Noir 2015, Oregon
An interesting change from most Pinot Noirs I know. Medium ruby with reddish hints. Quite aromatic on the nose, with dominant, pronounced red cherry. There is a slightly confected touch as well, almost reminding me of cherry cola. Spicy cinnamon and some stemmy notes also emerge.

The cherry theme continues on the palate. If anything, it becomes even more intense. I also detect a sprinkling of spice. Medium acidity and medium (-) tannins. Very clean and linear. I don’t detect any secondary flavours. Did they raise the wine in stainless steel? The well-integrated alcohol (13.5%) lends body (medium [+]) and intensity (medium [+]), although the finish is middling. Maybe this is not the most complex of wines, but this is an honest, well-made Pinot with a good, silky, delicious Pinot-like mouthfeel.



20191107_175222After passing my WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) Level 2 course in Wine in 2005 in Basel, I finally got round to doing Level 3 in spring this year. Fourteen years later.

The seven-week course consisted of six daytime classes on the first floor of a pub in Bristol, plus an extra day for the examination. There were only seven of us in the class to begin with, and we were quickly reduced to six after one participant – a chirpy Welshman – dropped out for family reasons.

We used INAO tasting glasses during the course. INAO stands for the ‘Institut national de l’origine et de la qualité’ – a body that regulates protected designations of origin in France. The INAO also defined what it regards as the universal wine tasting glass. The wife and I are no stranger to the INAO glass, having accumulated a veritable stockpile of these receptacles from visits to wine festivals in countless villages from Basel to Freiburg over the years. For WSET purposes we had to pour around 50 ml of wine, which was more or less to the point on the glass where the bowl is just starting to reach its widest point. This was particularly useful when judging colour intensity. For example, place a glass containing 50 ml of red wine over a sheet of paper with writing on it: if you’re unable to see the print when looking at the wine from directly above, then you can safely conclude that the wine is deep purple, ruby, garnet or whatever.

The INAO tasting glass has other practical uses. For example, we tend to host quite a few fondue/raclette cheese feasts during the colder months. The size of these glasses means that the wine never gets too warm before you drink – although you end up pouring more wine as a result. Both fondue and raclette also involve a lot of physical interaction. You don’t want your precious Gabriel/Zalto/Schott Zwiesel/Riedel/Sophienwald glassware (tick where appropriate) caught up in a tabletop blur of arms, hands, plates and cutlery. The diminutive INAO glass, on the other hand, is perfect in this environment.

I used them again only the other night – and wrote my brief notes more or less according to the WSET Level 3 Systematic Approach to Tasting Wine®:

Lämmlin-Schindler, Gutedel Alte Reben trocken, VDP.Ortswein, Mauchen, 2017, Markgräflerland, Baden
Medium lemon-green colour.
Aromas of pear, green apple and honeysuckle, along with hints of quince and maybe candied lemon. Medium intensity on the nose.
Dry on the palate, with medium (-) acidity, medium alcohol, medium body, medium (+) intensity of flavour – showing much the same fruit characters as on the nose, but with greater expression. The finish is medium.

Quality level: good, if not very good. Based on ‘B-L-I-C’ (balance, length, intensity, complexity), I think this wine has very good balance and intensity. Length and complexity are middle of the road, but this is no shame for wine still costing just under 10 euros. Objectively, ‘good’ is the very least I would give it. The wine would certainly rate higher if I were being more subjective (the only level above ‘very good’ is ‘outstanding’). Herein lies my criticism of the WSET approach: you are analysing the wine like a doctor would analyse an x-ray. There is no room for emotion. Great in the exam room, not so good for a wine blog.

In truth, this is a picture-perfect Gutedel with lovely pure fruit expression and more intensity and urgency than most others of its kind. It makes me reminisce about Markgräflerland and its culinary and vinous delights.


Les Pionniers

20181211_190540Overall, I find the wine selection in most UK supermarkets to be rather lopsided. There is still a heavy focus on industrially produced wines from the English-speaking New World that are named after some poor animal’s tail (take your pick) or ‘carefully sourced’ from some paddle-less creek. Another gripe – although this could be said for the English-speaking wine industry as a whole – is that the cult of the winemaker also reigns supreme, i.e. you will stress at all costs that whoever ‘crafted’ the wine is also ‘heading up winery operations’. However, even in these troubled times, there are still some affordable little gems that are able to speak for themselves eloquently enough.

Co-op ‘Les Pionniers’ brut, Champagne
This is an own-brand champagne, though the label doesn’t state who actually produced it at source. Healthy medium-light yellow, with fine bubbles. Attractive brioche and butter on the nose, with hints of blackcurrant. Impressive biscuity concentration.
Pure and clear on the palate, with uplifting acidity and less stuffing than the nose might have suggested (no more than medium body). Lip-smackingly dry, with berry fruit (mostly redcurrant) and a satisfying finish. With ample structure and integrity, this fizz punches above its weight.


Das Kleine Kreuz

003 (2)After ‘Das Kreuz’, here is the ‘lesser’ of the Bordeaux blends that the Rings brothers produce from the ‘Das Schwarze Kreuz’ vineyard situated to the south of Freinsheim. Incidentally, Andreas and Steffen Rings have now relocated their winemaking operations from a backstreet near the village railway station to a spanking new site in the middle of this vineyard.

Andreas and Steffen Rings, Das Kleine Kreuz 2009, Pfalz
This is mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Laurent, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Dark, almost opaque red. Densely packed aromas. The finest dark chocolate imaginable combines with currants to evoke something slightly akin to Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut. There is also has a slight Amarone/Rumtopf characteristic. I remember this wine’s initial dark fruit of youth. This has developed into something even more voluptuous. Hints of iron lend an interesting counterpoint. Velvety smooth on the palate with mellow tannins. Full-bodied concentration with dark and dried berry fruit. The 2009 season was warm, and this wine is a blockbuster with 14.5% abv. Certainly not a bottle to drink on your own in one sitting. Nevertheless, there is enough freshness to lift the opulence and density onto a higher, extremely delicious, multilayered plane. I would say that this red is at the perfect stage right now. The finish is long – with serious structure framing the wine’s silky smoothness.