To celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary yesterday, my wife and I spent a rainy afternoon making what was originally intended as a hot plate for use in the kitchen. In the UK, your fifth wedding anniversary is traditionally referred to as your ‘wooden anniversary’. (Apparently, the US has a completely different rota of commemorative materials.) A few years ago, a friend of ours supplied with us the wooden base for making the hot plate. All we needed to do was stick on the corks. Anyway, we’re very proud of the result – and have dimg_1391ecided to put it on the mantlepiece instead.


Von Winning, Ungeheuer 2011

I visited the von Winning estate in Deidesheim late last year for a pre-Christmas event and was largely impressed was what I tasted. The 2014 Rieslings – from their inox-fermented ‘Dr. Deinhard’ collection, to the full range of barrel and cask-aged wines under the von Winning moniker – were excellent. I also enjoyed trying the much-acclaimed ‘Sauvignon Blanc I trocken’ – a very ‘deep’, accomplished wine without doubt. It was pleasing to note that oakiness wasn’t issue at all with the Rieslings. I knew from past reports that the first couple of vintages under Stephan Attmann’s stewardship – starting in the late 2000s – divided opinion, but the barrels and casks have evidently bedded down and shed their overt woodiness in the meantime.

Here iimg_1365s an example from 2011 – still from the early(ish) years.

von Winning, Riesling Ungeheuer GG trocken 2011, Pfalz
Bright, shimmering yellow. Lemon on the nose, with oak hints albeit only to the extent that they accentuate the citrus and lift it to an even higher plane. Many of the Ungeheuer Rieslings I have tasted over the years have shared these same distinct lemony aromas. A terroir note? I can also smell earthy, spicy notes – very Pfalz-like, you could say.

The oak influence on the palate is so discreet as to render it negligible from a sensory point of view. However, the structure that the oak lends is so impressive, expressing itself in a silky mouthfeel with a noticeable film that coats my tongue. Medium-bodied with lemon again, yet the acidity is so ripe and mature. A bready note also emerges, providing an extra layer of complexity. The finish is long. A superb wine by anyone’s standards.


Zind-Humbrecht, Goldert

img_1362-mediumI’m on a bit of an Alsace trip at the moment. Made a beeline for Zind-Humbrecht’s wines at the local wine shop the other day … was looking for some Riesling … left with a bottle of this instead. Tried it in the shop from of those new-fangled Enomatic devices first, and that influenced my decision.

Zind-Humbrecht, Muscat Goldert Grand Cru 2012, Alsace
Along with Müller-Catoir’s Muskateller (German spelling of the same grape), this has to be the best example of Muscat I’ve tasted. However, there is a considerable contrast in styles between the two. MC’s version is vivid and cleansing, whereas ZH’s practically body-slams you to the floor with its sheer muscle. Let me explain.

Medium yellow in appearance with a very faint reddish tinge on the edges. Striking minerality on the nose – of the pungent type that often reminds me of warm squash balls. Very complex with notes of ginger and fennel – maybe also a spicy, curry-like element in there too. Over time, the squash ball aromas come even more to the fore.

Like a coiled spring in the mouth: focused, poised and athletic. Cask notes are evident, but they are well-integrated and discreet. Some of the aforementioned minerality is also noticeable. The warm ginger/spice notes are less pronounced though. Instead, searing grapey intensity, a dry mouthfeel, tremendous purity, and a medium to full body without an ounce of fat combine with great forcefulness and grippiness. The alcohol is 14 per cent, but this seems just about right within the context, lending stature, directness and food-friendliness. Over the course of the four days it takes for me to finish the bottle, hints of rhubarb and a certain waxiness also emerge.

Without doubt, this wine has been made for the long run, as the proverbial spring is still firmly coiled. Indeed, Olivier Humbrecht gives ‘2017-2027+’ as the optimum drinking window. For now, though, this is a lean, mean athlete. A fine wine by anyone’s standards and a new dimension to what I thought Muscat was capable of.



My img_0699-mediumwife’s parents visited us here in Basel recently. We took them to the picturesque village of Éguisheim in Alsace one day. It’s a short and easy ride away from Colmar railway station – well, ‘easy’ if you have a car , which we don’t. Buses do run from Colmar station, but timetables are sparse to put it mildly. We scheduled our journey to arrive in Colmar just before the only bus between early morning and early evening left for Éguisheim at 12.25 p.m. However, we still almost missed our connection because the bus that we thought went to Éguisheim was now going in a completely different (and unannounced) direction; the bus driver said we should take a different bus that was leaving at the same time but from a departure bay about 100 metres away.

This shambles was half-expected, to be honest. Buses in Alsace seem geared solely to school children and any random rush-hour commuters mad enough to want to take such mode of transportation. I had already prebooked a taxi back to Colmar for us at half five in the evening, as there were no bus connections back.

The village was worth the effort though. The last time I had been there was back in summer 1998 – riding through by bike during a day off from working at a vineyard in nearby Pfaffenheim. After a generous, hearty lunch at the Auberge des Trois Châteaux, we did what tourists do and looked around. I then popped into the vinothèque of Domaine Pierre-Henri Ginglinger to taste and buy three bottles of crémant and three of this, their 2013 Eichberg grand cru Riesling.

Pierre-Henri Ginglinger, Riesling Eichberg GC 2013, Alsace
Jean Ginglinger & Fils was the name of the winery I worked for in 1998. These Ginglingers are no relation, but they also apply organic principles like their namesakes.

Clear, light yellow. Very clean on the nose, with distinct citrus notes and a touch of flint and earth. A hint of lacquer. A little reticent all the same.

Lemon and lime with whiimg_1304te peach on the tongue. Sure, it’s a dry wine by my non-German standards at least, but there is a generosity there that belies its modest 12.5 per cent alcohol. Barely medium in body, and still very young, clean, refreshing and pure – but with the suggestion of an inner, minerally core that augurs well for the future. Very drinkable now, but I think this wine will begin to blossom in five years or so.

Price? Under 16 euros. For a grand cru! (Although the next vintage, 2014, now costs 17 euros.) Whether we’re talking here of the same quality level as, say, a Grosses Gewächs in Germany is a moot point, but the wine itself has a lot of integrity.


Very easy drinking

The clue is in the title.img_0689-small

Peter Lauer, ‘Alt Scheidt’ Riesling feinherb 2015, Saar
Very pale straw in appearance; slate, red apple and – as the temperature rises – slightly savoury, nutty hints and a suggestion of peach. Light and pure in the mouth. Red apple again, with deliciously succulent yet dry finish making the contents of the bottle almost evaporate before my eyes.

Friedrich Becker, ‘Vom Kleinen Fritz’ Wildwein rot 2013, Pfalz
Very dark ruby in colour with peppery hints on the nose. I don’t know what the exact constituents of this blend are, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Syrah played a small part. On the one hand, smelling quite smooth (dark cherry, plum), and on the other fairly fresh and stemmy. Is this wine a mix of well-known globetrotters such as Syrah and more down-to-earth local varietals (St. Laurent, for example)? Anyway, quite an ample, firm medium body on the palate, but smooth with the aforementioned dark fruit and barely noticeable tannins. Some minty greenness keeps things interesting. In short: a substantial but easy-to-understand wine.img_0693-small

‘Vom kleinen Fritz’ refers to Friedrich Becker Jr. As he explains in a poignant documentary that was aired last year on German television, this wine was intended for the Japanese market. They love their ‘Wildschwein’ (wild boar) over there, hence the name ‘Wildwein’. To anyone who understands German, I can warmly recommend the documentary. The wine is good too, albeit quite a bit less complicated than the father-son relationship between the two Fritzes in the film.

Kesselring, Riesling trocken 2015, Pfalz
Going purely on memory now, as I made zero notes. Lovely red apple and white peach on the nose. Great balance on the palate, with ripe acidity and just the right combination of succulence and steel. What I love most is this (organic) wine’s surprisingly silky texture as it washes over my tongue. Significantly, my acidity-sensitive wife failed to wince, which is always a good sign when it comes to Riesling – that might sound like I’m damning it with faint praise, but nothing could be further from the truth. At around EUR 6.50, this is a candidate to become our official house wine forthwith.

As you can see, all three labels stand out in their own way.img_0879-small



IMG_0688 (Small)

As far as I know, there is at least one other, somewhat more famous, ‘Frauenberg’: the Rheinhessen cru which, in no small measure, owes its renown to the exploits of Klaus-Peter Keller and Hans Oliver Spanier.

This particular Frauenberg, on the other hand, overlooks Mauchen, a sleepy village in the borough of Müllheim in Südbaden.

Lämmlin-Schindler, Frauenberg Spätburgunder GG 2011, Baden
Quite dark and dense for a Pinot, with a surprising purplish tinge around the edges. An initial whiff of raspberry and blackberry on the nose, followed by a suggestion of apple. Earthy, rusty, blood-like hints, along with a sprinkling of wild herbs. Stuffing and structure on the palate, though quite softly-softly in terms of its flavours (merely a little raspberry and some green stemminess).

After leaving the wine half-full in the fridge, I return to it five days later. Certainly quite a lot more open now, with black cherry as well as dried herbs and a spicy, slightly animally note on the nose. In the mouth, it’s less about the flavours and more about the tannins – which are supple and minerally. This is a beefy wine, albeit one with a good acidic backbone and considerable potential lurking underneath. There is nothing limpid about it at all. Definitely Pinot, but in a different idiom to the elegance, transparency and leanness of many its cousins nowadays. Grand cru where the emphasis is on stature and masculinity. I’d give it at least another five years.


Two countries, two wines, one grape.

With one or two similarities …

Louis Bovard, ‘Terre à Boire’ Épesses 2014, AOC Lavaux, Vaud
On receiving the Gault Millau award for Germany’s ‘wine collection of the year’ in late-2014, local grower Hanspeter Ziereisen from Efringen-Kirchen name-dropped Switzerland’s Louis Bovard as being a producer he admires. This was in my mind while drinking this.

IMG_0654Golden straw in appearance. Reticent at first but opening up gradually, this is a quiet, unassuming representative of the Chasselas varietal (referred to as Gutedel in Germany). Notes of iron and Golden Delicious on the nose, with slight hints of caramel. Very clean and linear on the palate, with a concentrated, almost peach-like characteristic along with Golden Delicious again. Balanced with a touch of chalkiness lending just enough freshness. The abv is 12.5 per cent. Light to medium body, medium length on the finish. In practice, this is an entry-level wine – but one offering good refreshment. I seriously need to try Bovard’s Médinette from Dézaley one day.

Röschard, Gutedel trocken 2015, Baden
A few of this Weil-based producer’s wines impressed me at this year’s Müllheimer Weinmarkt, including this one. Straw-coloured with slight hints of chalk, hazelnut and pear. Very pure and ‘straight down the line’ – like it’s Swiss cousin. And elegant too. Dry as a bone in the mouth, but juicy and mouth-watering. Light to medium in body, with apple and pear striking the main chords. A refreshing medium finish. Sometimes, simple pleasures like these are the best. Empty in no time. The abv is 12 per IMG_0655cent.