Weiler Weissburgunder

img_1656While my parents were over here for a long weekend before Christmas, my father and I cycled over into Germany to get some wines for the festive period from Weingut Schneider in Weil. (Don’t worry, no smuggling was involved; the duty-free limit for Switzerland was recently raised to five litres per person, so we took back six bottles each.) For red, we chose their Spätburgunder “CS” 2013 – a lovely Pinot Noir by anyone’s standards. More about that one at a later date. For white, we opted for the entry-level Weissburgunder from 2013. As Susanne Hagin-Schneider said to us, this wine is now the finished article. By this, she meant that a couple of years in bottle had rounded the wine. Its counterpart from 2015 betrayed a bit of youthful clumsiness in comparison.

Claus and Johannes Schneider, Weiler Weisser Burgunder 2013 trocken, Baden
Notice the ‘Weiler’ in the name? This is the same sort of labelling that you see for Ortswein (the VDP equivalent of villages level in Burgundy). I wonder whether the Schneiders are on the radar of the local Baden VDP? Frankly, they should be.

Pale straw with almost greyish-greenish hints. Salty on the nose at first, then peach, brioche and maybe some starfruit come to the fore. This, in itself, is more expressive than when I last tasted this wine in summer 2015. Back then, the wine’s true character was probably concealed a little under notes of crushed stone (or was it crushed bone?). Yet, nothing is loud. Overall, the impression is of purity and elegance. On the palate, there is a a touch of pithy starfruit bitterness on the one hand; on the other, an ever-so-slight nuttiness along with salty notes that end in a mouth-watering, fresh finish. While the wine remains on the light side of medium-bodied, it possesses plenty of grip and length. Good stuff.

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These wines have brought me pleasure of late …

You wouldn’t think the tiny sub-region of Tuniberg in Baden was necessarily a hotbed of Riesling, but the limestone that permeates the soil there certainly doesn’t do any harm.

Kalkbödele, Riesling Kabinett trocken 2014, Baden
Crushed stone wimg_1620ith pithy citrus hints on the nose.
Fairly light on the palate. Pithy citrus again and slightly waxy, with a silky film on the tongue. Not a loud wine, rather murmuring and understated. Essentially quite light, ‘straight down the middle’ and refreshing. But not banal. A light, limpid Kabinett trocken from one of the warmest places in Germany. Who’d have thought it?

Now foimg_1618r a local hero.

Claus and Johannes Schneider, Weiler Spätburgunder trocken 2014, Baden
Healthy dense ruby in appearance with a suggestion of garnet on the edges. Stemmy and earthy on the nose, with fresh marzipan and distinct red fruit notes such as raspberry. Perfumed almost. Mint slowly emerges too – the smell I’ve detected in the past when the soils are very calcareous.
Sappy and juicy on the palate, showing a great deal of finesse for a Pinot Noir under 10 euros. The tannins also lend plenty of grip and seriousness to proceedings. On a personal level, this is a very poignant wine – I know the site it comes from like the back of my hand, having lived in Weil for nine years and explored the vineyards countless times. I’d probably take a bottle of it with me on a desert island.

Finally, my first ever Johner. No idea why their wines have escaped my inspection until now.img_1617

Karl H. Johner, Grauer Burgunder trocken 2015, Baden
This estate is based on the Kaiserstuhl. Its sister property is on the other side of the world in New Zealand. Karl-Heinz Johner’s son Patrick, whom I met briefly at a fair in Zurich some years ago, is also quite well known on the German social-media wine scene for his You Tube videos.

Standard light-yellow in appearance, were it not for a few reddish hints on the edges. Finest Williams pear and touch of cream on the nose. Dense and aromatic, bursting with savoury personality. Slighty nutty.

I laughed incredulously when I took my first sip. So concentrated and long. Ample but athletic – like a decathlete. Toffee and pear with a citrus aftertaste. Apricot is the most prominent element for me though. The acidity is refreshing and perfectly integrated. Some 10 per cent of this saw the inside of an oak barrel, and this lends the wine its savoury dimension. The finish is long. What lingers in my mind is the beautiful taste of sweet, ripe, picture-book grapes on a mellow, sun-drenched October day.

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Lügle 2009

img_1394These short notes are going purely on memory. After decanting the wine for about three hours, we drank it over dinner and then as an accompaniment to David Attenborough’s latest documentary, Planet Earth II.

Ziereisen, Weissburgunder ‘Lügle’ 2009, Baden
This was the final bottle of two that had been in our cellar since 2011. The first one, opened in early summer 2016, had been corked – much to my chagrin. Thank goodness this one was alright.

Quince and exotic citrus fruits on a fairly rich nose, backed up by a very faint, yet fine hint of wood and a suggestion of banana. Very multifaceted on the palate – a refreshing squeeze of citrus amid more exotic fruit notes such as pineapple. For me, the wood is very discreet but it has a very distinct old-school characteristic that conjures up images in my mind’s eye of the locally produced casks in Hanspeter Ziereisen’s cellar. Enjoyed in a large Burgundy glass, this wine has a medium to full body with complexity and a good backbone of freshness. I think it benefited additionally from the airing in the decanter, too.

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Corks

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Éguisheim

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.

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