jamie goode's wine blog

Monday, January 18, 2010

Grunhuas Abs Kab 02: a beautiful Riesling

Just the sort of Riesling I'm always in the mood from, from one of my favourite German producers. Great label, too. Glad I bought two bottles of this, and wish I'd bought a few more.

Maximin Grünhäus Abstberg Riesling Kabinett 2002 Mosel Saar Ruwer, Germany
7.5% alcohol. Very fresh, precise and taut with lovely spicy grapefruit notes as well as lemon and melon fruitiness. Beautiful balance and freshness to this nicely concentrated Kabinett that displays some complexity and brilliant focus. Just lovely: the style of Riesling I can drink all the time. 93/100 (£13 Lay & Wheeler)

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Loosen Erdener Treppchen Kabinett 2008

I like 2008 as a vintage in the Mosel. It's not regarded as a great vintage, but what I appreciatee about it is the fact that the Kabinetts actually taste like Kabinetts: they are fresh, lean and precise with good acidity and without too much richness. Here's a nice one that I'm enjoying at the moment, from Loosen but bottled under Marks & Spencer's own label.

M&S Ernst Loosen Erdener Treppchen Riesling 2008 Mosel, Germany
Really fresh, with lovely grapefruit, melon, apple and pear notes. There's a bit of richness, but the sweetness is really well countered by the acidity. A really delicious fruity style with some minerally seriousness to it. 90/100 (£11.99 M&S here)

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Some serious Riesling

I know how incredibly boring it must be to keep hearing the same message repeated here ad nauseum: Riesling, when it is done well, rocks. And Germany just seems to do it so well.

I love it, as do most wine trade people. It seems that the average consumer remains to be convinced, though. But this is a serious Riesling, made in a dry style, and it's fantastic.

Reichsrat von Buhl Kirchenstück Forst Riesling Trocken Grosses Gewachs 2008 Pfalz, Germany
Amazing aromatic, spicy, limey nose leads to a vibrant, precise, minerally, limey, grapefruity palate with great concentration and a spicy freshness. There’s a melony, honeyed richness in the margins but the dominant theme is the steely minerality and high acidity. A taut, enthralling Riesling with real precision. 93/100 (UK agent www.worldwineagencies.com)

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Monday, September 14, 2009

A tragedy unfolds in Germany's Mosel region

I visited the Mosel for the first time in May. It's one of the world's most spectacular wine regions, making wines that are unique: crisp, mineralic off-dry Rieslings, as well as sweet yet beautifully balanced Rieslings of incredible intensity. It's one of the wonders of the world.

Yet for some bizarre reason, there are plans (now at the very advanced stage) to put a huge great bridge over this viticultural treasure, causing irreperable damage. It's a tragedy.

Mike Steinberger has written a great article on the subject here in Slate magazine, outlining the issues.

This weekend there was a protest against the bridge, with Hugh Johnson (pictured) and leading German wine writer Stuart Pigott delivering speeches.

Who is to blame? It's the Rheinland-Pfalz government. This High Mosel Bridge, carrying the B50 road is, in Johnson's words, 'a folly.' I don't know if anything can be done about this, but if it comes to pass it will be deeply sad.
Added later: here's a video of Hugh's speech -

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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

A busy day: Chile, Australia, Germany

A brief post at the end of a busy day. It began at China Tang in the Dorchester (fabulous, amazing toilets here - the best I've yet seen, perhaps with the exception of the futuristic pods at Sketch). This was for a tasting lunch celebrating the 20th anniversary of the wonderful wines of Shaw & Smith from Australia's Adelaide Hills.

Then off to the Wines of Chile annual tasting (pictured). Consistency is the key to Chile's success, but I also found excitement with two producers: Vina Leyda and Matetic. This was followed by some socializing over beer at a post-tasting party.

Then it was off to The Mercer in Threadneedle St to have dinner with Lenz Moser and Donatus Prniz von Hessen from the Rheingau. Fabulous mineralic, precise Rieslings here from this now revitalized estate. More later.

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Sunday, September 06, 2009

Organic German Riesling

You don't find all that many organic wines in Germany. It's surprising. I suppose in the Mosel it's hard to be organic, when you have small plots of vines in many vineyards, some of which are so steep that they have to be sprayed by helicopter. Anyway, here's an organic Riesling from the Rheingau that I quite liked.

Peter Jakob Kuhn Riesling Trocken QbA 2007 Rheingau
11% alcohol. Yellow colour. Savoury, minerally, limey nose with a hint of honeysuckle and apple. The palate is bone dry and mineralic with complex savoury, citrussy fruit and good acidity. Full flavoured with good food compatibility. 88/100 (£11.99 The Winery)

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Friday, July 24, 2009

A rich Mosel kabinett

Here's a rich-styled Mosel Riesling kabinett. I guess it's not as crisp and bright as I really like them, but it's still a really good effort. Sealed with a Vino-Lok (glass) closure, this is a good food wine.

Paulinshof Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Kabinett 2007 Mosel, Germany
Pale yellow colour. Focused sweet melony fruit dominates with a citrus pith and white peach edge, as well as good acidity. There's a hint of spiciness, and it is quite broad textured. Off-dry but with a savoury dimension, possessing more weight of flavour than some kabinetts. Good concentration and depth. 10% alcohol. 90/100 (UK agent Enotria)

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Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Video: visiting Helmut Dönnhoff in Germany's Nahe region

A short film from my recent visit to Dönnhoff, one of Germany's top producers.

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Thursday, July 02, 2009

The future of wine publishing: the Gault Millau war

Interesting situation developing in Germany. It seems that one of the most influential German wine guides, Gault Millau, has asked producers for a voluntary fee of 195 euros (see here). I suppose, should the guide be in real trouble, then you can understand the pass the plate approach.

However, the response of an elite group of producers (see here and here) has been to send an open letter saying that they won't pay, and that because of this perceived 'problem' of not paying, they don't want to be included in future editions of the guide, and they won't be sending any more samples.

When you take a look at the calibre of the estates involved, effectively doesn't this seem to signal the end of the Gault Millau guide? They've called on the favour bank, and found it empty.

[added later] I've done some asking around. It seems that (a) it wasn't a straight donation the publishers were asking for, but optional payment in exchange for books, placards, certificates and so on - the two authors would not know who paid and who didn't; (b) some competitors may have been trying to stir up trouble; and (c) some producers may have been looking for a chance to vent their spleen.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Not more Riesling, surely?

OK, last Riesling for a while. Had a glass with lunch and now a glass to finish the otherwise wine-less evening.

It's Dr Loosen Blue Slate Riesling 2006 Mosel. 8% alcohol. It's a slight step up from the Dr L Riesling (which is bought-in fruit) - a qualitatswein made from estate fruit, which retails at just over £8 in the UK, and is available from Bibendum and Somerfield.

This is better than the already very good Dr L, and shows tight, minerally, spicy grapefruit and lemon character, with a hint of sweetness. I love the freshness and transparency. It's very easy to drink, but there's a precision here that would make it a good food wine. Brilliant value for money and probably the perfect introduction to Mosel Riesling for those who don't really drink it much.

I know everyone gets really excited about Auslese and above, but there's something to be said for decent Kabinett-styled wines like this, with their freshness and acidity - there are just so many more occasions where you can drink them. And they're much better value.

Just a couple of days left until I'm off to Australia for the Landmark Australia Tutorial.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Need another Riesling fix

I'm going big on Rieslings at the moment. Rather boringly and predictably, my trip to Germany has switched me on to the magic of Riesling such that I'm actually finding myself enjoying it and not just admiring it and feeling like I ought to enjoy it more.

Three tonight.

Kees-Kieren Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett 2005 Mosel, Germany
9.5% alcohol. Deep yellow in colour, this is much richer than you'd expect from a Kabinett - it's almost like an Auslese, never mind a Spatlese. Rich, sweet melon and peach fruit on the nose, which leads to a richly-textured sweet melon and apricot palate with a hint of spice. Bold, rich and ripe, this is deliciously plump, but well balanced. 91/100

Kurt Hain Piesporter Goldtropfchen Riesling Kabinett 2005 Mosel, Germany
9% alcohol. Full yellow colour. There's lovely balance here between the ripe, plump, melony fruit and the more mineralic, spicy citrus notes. It's quite zippy and fresh, but rich and ripe at the same time. I like the balance this wine shows. A rich style of Kabinett, perhaps reflecting the vintage. 90/100

Leitz Rudesheimer Burgweg Riesling Kabinett 2006 Rheingau, Germany
9.5% alcohol. Yellow colour. There's a distinctive struck match reductive note here on the nose, as well as a hint of cabbage. It's not unpleasant, but it does take away from the purity of the wine. The palate is crisp, bright and focused, but I don't think reduction works very well in the context of a delicate wine like this. You have to be careful when you use tin-lined screwcaps. 82/100 (£8.99 Tesco)

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Bank holiday wines

Continuing my theme of really good inexpensive wines, here are a couple more you should try if you can.

The first is Dr L Riesling 2007 from the Mosel, which is the entry level Dr Loosen wine made from brought in fruit. At just under £7 in loads of outlets (Sainsbury, Waitrose, Tesco et al) it's a cracking introduction to Mosel Riesling with brilliant balance and a hint of sweetness.

The second is one of Portugal's best value wines: Sogrape's Pena de Pato 2005 Dao. Brilliantly vivid, brightly fruited and with a twist of meaty, spicy complexity, it's a modern-styled yet expressive red wine that massively over-delivers for its £5.99 price point (Waitrose, Majestic). Buy by the case for summer drinking, and chill lightly on hot days.

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Video: the spectacular vineyards of the Mosel

Here's my first video from this week's trip. It's a film showing three spectacular Mosel vineyards: Urziger Wurzgarten, Erdener Pralat and Wehlener Sonnenuhr.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

The wonderful Germany trip: a quick summary

I'm still very excited about this week's visit to some of the leading German producers, even though today was mostly consumed with driving down to Devon and back (on a Friday before a bank holiday) to pick up older son from school.

It was my first visit to German vineyards, and however much you read, however much you taste the wines, it only really makes total sense for me when I actually visit the patch of land the wines come from. I guess this is why I try hard to integrate pictures and videos in with my content here at wineanorak.com - I want to give you a feel for where the wines I'm talking about come from.

For this trip, organized by ABS Wine Agencies, I was with a group of buyers and merchants - not fellow journalists. It was a great bunch of people, and we had some fun. We began by visiting Johannes Leitz in the Rheingau, and appropriately enough for a gorgeous summer's day, he took us to the vineyards around Rudesheim (below is the Schlossberg vineyard). Some of the slopes were amazingly steep, with the rows planted up and down the hill. This is quite a contrast to the Douro (another steep vineyard area which I'm very familiar with) where the vineyards are terraced when they reach a certain gradient. We went back to Leitz and tasted through a large range of wines, with a bit of lunch, too. The Leitz wines at the top end really shone, and I was quite taken by the Trockens (the drier-styled wines) from 2008.

Next stop was the Nahe, and Helmut Donnhoff (pictured top). He's one of Germany's most celebrated producers, and the wines he showed us in an extensive tasting were absolutely brilliant. We then visited two of his vineyards: the beautiful Niederhauser Hermannshole, and the spectacular Felsenberg. We tasted a couple more wines at the top of the Felsenberg as the sun set, and then headed off for dinner with Helmut and his wife.

The following morning we had a double appointment at Gunderloch in the Rheinhessen. First, Fritz and Agnes Hasselbach showed us their fantastic Gunderloch wines, and then Paul Furst came over to show us his remarkable Franconian whites and Pinot Noirs. We followed this with lunch, before heading out to view the vineyards stretching between Nachenheim and Nierstein.
Then it was off to the Mosel, for an extended visit with Ernst Loosen. We drove along the Mosel, stopping off at the Erdener Pralat vineyard, before making our way to the spectacular Urziger Wurzgarten vineyard (above) with its terrifyingly steep slopes. We also had a look at the Wehlener Sonnenuhr vineyard, before dining very well at Ernie's place. Dinner involved an extensive blind tasting of some amazing wines, including 88 Lynch Bages, a 1976 Meursault from Leroy and some old Riesling. Dinner finished at around 2 am, at which point five of us walked back to our hotel for some much needed kip, while the three who were being given a lift back to the guesthouse with Ernie somehow ended up in the bars of Bernkastel, drinking all sorts of strange things, and not getting back into bed until 04 30 h.

They paid for this the next day: they looked rather peaky when they finally showed up, an hour and a half late, for the following morning's tasting of the Loosen wines. 2008 is looking like a really good vintage for quality growers, with the extra acidity bringing brilliant freshness when there's the fruit to go with it. It's a Spatlese/Kabinett vintage, which I like.

The Bernkastel three looked even peakier on the journey to the Pfalz that followed. They were broken men. Ernie, however, was his usual self!

Our final appointment was at JL Wolf, the Loosen outfit in the Pfalz. These wines, while being very tasty, weren't in quite the same league as the others tasted on this trip. But then they are more affordable. Full write-up of all to follow.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Germany (2)

Here's another picture of the Urziger Wurzgarten vineyard in the Mosel. These slopes are unbelievably steep and must be terrifying to work.

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In Germany

Apologies for the lack of activity here on the blog for the last couple of days. I have been in Germany without internet access, but visiting some fantastic producers and some amazing vineyards.
For now, just a few pictures will have to suffice, because I am in the airport waiting for my flight home. Top is the village of Urzig, taken from the Urziger Wurzgarten vineyard (which is pictured above), and then below is the Rudesheimer Berg Roseneck vineyard in the Rheingau.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

A decent Riesling from JJ Christoffel

Much of the time I'm reporting here on samples. But I do still buy wine, although not as much as I'd like, or I should. This is one I paid for.

I'm drinking it at the end of a long day in the office - the first in a couple of weeks - during which I've been sorting out my diary and beginning to tackle the back-log of things that need writing up. I punctuated the day with a lengthy walk, all the way round Virginia Water lake, with RTL. It was wet and grey, but still enjoyable. Tomorrow I'm off to Manchester, technically my home town, for the day for the 50 Great Portuguese Wines tasting.

This is a Riesling Kabinett from JJ Christoffel, which I purchased as part of a mixed case a couple of years ago. I really like Mosel Kabinett. One of the best things about it is that the wines usually have an extended drinking window.

JJ Christoffel Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Kabinett 2005 Mosel, Germany
A rich, weighty, off-dry Riesling with honeyed, melony fruit and some spicy minerality. It's beautifully textured and balanced, with more density and richness than you might expect from a typical Mosel Kabinett. There's some bright liminess, here, too. It's a style of Riesling that can't really be done convincingly anywhere else in the world, with the possible exception of some bits of New Zealand. It would get a higher rating were it not for the slighly sugary, syrupy note on the finish. But that's nit-picking - it's a really nice wine. 88/100

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Late night wine VLOG: four German Rieslings

The latest of the late night wine VLOGs: I taste four German Rieslings, despite the best efforts of RTL.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Riesling QBA from 2007 that just sings...

As I've said before on this blog, if you are in the wine trade you have no choice about which your favourite white grape is. It *just* has to be Riesling. Well, with wines like this, it's not difficult. It's beautifully balanced and delicious. The only problem? It should really be a pound or two cheaper, I think.

Reichsrat von Buhl Riesling QBA 2007 Pfalz, Germany
Delightfully fresh, light, bright and aromatic, with lovely lemon and grapefruit zippiness. There's a hint of sweetness on the palate, but overall it is dry and minerally; mouthwatering and precise. Brilliant stuff. Sealed with a Diam closure, and 11% alcohol. 89/100 (£10.39 Laithwaites)

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Pinot Noir from Germany: three good wines, including a trophy winner

A video of me tasting three German Pinot Noirs, including the one that won the Decanter World Wine Awards Pinot Noir tropy this year. Notes on the wines are below.

Kendermanns Pinot Noir Special Edition 2007 Pfalz, Germany
Quite pale coloured, which is often a good thing with Pinot Noir. This shows somewhat muted aromatics, but lovely fresh, slightly sweet cherryish fruit on the palate with nice smooth texture and a hint of green sappiness. It’s not the most complex Pinot ever, but it does taste like Pinot Noir, and it’s a satisfying drop with attractive ripe fruit. 86/100 (£7.99 Tesco)

Villa Wolf Pinot Noir 2006 Pfalz, Germany
Pale cherry red colour. There’s an attractive herby, savoury, minerally character to the nose which shows some lightly aromatic red cherry fruit. The palate has a smooth, elegant sort of fruitiness, with a hint of grippy spiciness backing up the red cherry fruits, as well as a trace of undergrowthy complexity. A light, attractive Pinot of real merit. 88/100 (£9.99 Oddbins, £7.99 if you buy any 12 wines)

Meyer-Näkel Dernauer Pfarrwingert Spätburgunder Grosses Gewächs 2006 Ahr, Germany
This is a really beautiful, complex wine. It’s the follow-on vintage from the one that won the Pinot Noir trophy at the Decanter World Wine Awards 2008. Fantastically aromatic nose reminds me a bit of a really good Marlborough (New Zealand) Pinot Noir: it’s sweet and forward, with bright fresh cherry fruit coupled with subtle green sappy and herby medicinal notes. It’s really attractive: one of those wines that you just want to smell again and again. The palate is complex with spicy dark cherry fruit coupled with red berry notes. It’s sweet, but savoury at the same time, with some plummy bitterness in the background, good acidity and some grippy tannins, but always the sweet fruit is to the fore. This shows just how good German Pinot Noir can be, but it does come at a price. 93/100 (£41.50 The Wine Barn, http://www.thewinebarn.co.uk/ )

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Sunday, August 31, 2008

A delightful Riesling Kabinett Trocken

On the way back from Graz through Frankfurt airport (busy, horrible, much prefer Munich where I changed on the way out) I looked at the wine selection. Just one bottle caught my eye, amid a sea of big brands and rather obvious international wines - this deliciously crisp and focused Riesling from Schloss Vollrads. Sealed with a Vino-Lok, it's a trocken (dry) style which is very popular in Germany, but isn't seen all that often in the UK.

Schloss Vollrads Riesling Kabinett Trocken 2007 Rheingau, Germany
Minerally, lemony nose is focused and precise. The palate is crisp, limey and acidic with lots of minerality. A pure, zippy sort of Riesling with beautiful focus. Highly food compatible and bone dry. 12% alcohol. 89/100 (9 Euros)

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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Pinot Blanc times two: Luxembourg and Germany

Pinot Blanc is a wallflower grape that never gets much attention. Yet it can deliver really attractive wines. Tonight, two examples - one a cheap German from the Pfalz, the other from Luxembourg, freshly listed by Waitrose in the UK. Both are attractive, versatile whites with relatively modest price tags.

Palatium Pinot Blanc 2007 Pfalz, Germany
Bright, fresh and fruity with some melony richness to the fruit, as well as a touch of honey and a crisp, slightly herby, citrussy finish. With a hint of sweetness and a subtle smoky hint, this is a rather stylish, versatile, fruit-driven white that's good value for money. 84/100 (£5.29 Tesco)

Clos des Rochers Pinot Blanc Wormeldange Nussbaum 2006 AOC Moselle Luxembourgoise
I think this is the first wine from Luxembourg that I've tried, and it's pretty good. It's a sort of cross between Germany and Alsace in style. The rich, fruity, smoky spicy nose has real appeal. The palate is just off-dry, with a hint of sweetness to the rich, spicy, herby, baked apple and citrus fruit, which finishes nice and spicy. The high acidity keeps things fresh. A sophisticated white wine that's pretty useful with spicy food. This is actually really good value for money. 89/100 (£8.99 Waitrose)

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The death of Kabinett...almost

Germany’s Mosel region, which produced some of the world’s best Riesling, uses a classification known as the Prädikat system, which is a hierarchical system with six different levels based on the ripeness of the grapes. When this was introduced, in 1971, the problem was getting the Riesling grapes ripe, and only the best fruit from the best sites got into the Spätlese and Auslese wines (the levels above this, Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese, relied on the concentrating effect of botrytis). But now, the effects of global warming mean that sugar levels are rising in the grapes, and the lowest end of the classification, Kabinett, is in danger of extinction. This is because the great vineyard sites are turning out grapes that have higher sugar levels than those you’d normally associate with Kabinett.

Is this a problem? Yes, if like me, you love Kabinett Rieslings. They’re fantastically fresh, with lovely tension between the high acidity and the sweetness. They are bright enough to go really well with food, as well as being good for casual sipping. Nowhere else in the world can make Riesling in such a focused yet light style. And because they are at the bottom end of this hierarchical system, they are also affordable.

These days, many of the Rieslings labeled ‘Kabinett’ are actually far sweeter and richer than the traditional Kabinett style. It’s perfectly legal to pick Riesling grapes at Spätlese levels of sweetness and then declassify these to Kabinett, but what’s the point of doing this? It invalidates the Prädikat system. Today’s wine is a Riesling Kabinett that tastes like Kabinett, from Dr Loosen, whose US office recently sent out a press release highlighting the problem that Kabinett faces. Loosen’s response has been to release a new Kabinett without a vineyard designation, based on less exalted vineyard sites where the grapes don’t get quite so ripe. “Kabinett is the lightest, most delicate style we produce,” says Loosen, “but in recent vintages our grand cru sites have become too warm. So we’ve gone to cooler sites to find the fruit we need to keep the true Kabinett style alive.” But he has shown with his regular Kabinetts that he is keen that a wine labelled as a Kabinett should actually taste like one, which is a good thing.

Dr Loosen Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Kabinett 2007 Mosel Saar Ruwer, Germany
A delightfully bright example of Kabinett, with a lovely aromatic, fresh lemony, flowery, honeyed nose. The palate has a brilliant balance between the sweet tropical fruit and the high grapefruity acidity, with some spicy complexity and lovely precision. Fruity, fresh and low in alcohol (7.5%), this is the perfect lunchtime wine, but it’s also great for casual sipping, and would work well with light seafood dishes. Just off-dry, but still very fresh. 90/100 (£11.99 Waitrose, Booths)

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Sunday, March 09, 2008

Some nice wines with friends

I have a few nice wines to report on, from a dinner last night here chez Goode, where I was joined by David Bueker (visiting London from the USA) and Greg Sherwood MW (of Handford Wine). I'd never met David before, but I have communicated with him over a period of years on internet wine bulletin boards. Sounds weird, I know, meeting up with people you met on internet boards, but all the 'real life' interactions I've had with fellow wine nuts have been positive ones, and last night was no exception.

Three is a nice number for a wine dinner, and we had some really interesting wines. David brought along a Schloss Gobelsburg Riesling Heiligenstein 2006 Langenlois, Kremstal. I love Austrian Riesling, and this is a really superb example of dry Riesling at its best. It's rich and mineralic, with plenty of weight and a nice texture. Drinking very well now, but good for another five, I reckon. I'd already opened a Reinhold Haart Riesling Piesport Domherr Spatlese 2005 Mosel Saar Ruwer, which was nowhere near ready to drink. It has the richness of an Auslese with lovely spicy apricot, honey and citrus flavour. I think it's a superb wine, but not for broaching now. Another Riesling I opened by way of comparison, Torzi Matthews Frost Dodger Riesling 2005 Eden Valley, was very reductive, with lots of burnt match character and a rather grippy mouthfeel. I wonder whether this was because of the tin-lined screwcap.

A fourth Riesling we tried was Dr Loosen Beerenauslese 2006, in 187 ml bottle. It was sweet and rather simple, lacking complexity (this is now in stock at Waitrose). Greg brought a couple of bottles. The first, Chateau de Donos Corbieres 1989 was still alive and had some evolved earthy complexity. The second was probably the wine of the evening. Louis Latour Chateau Corton Grancey Crand Cru 1990 was just singing. It's one of those rare wines where you feel you are drinking it at its peak. Smooth, mature and really elegant, I'd rate this at 94 if you forced me to put a score to it. I really liked the next wine, but it had its work cut out following the Burgundy. It was Domaine du Gros Nore Bandol 2000. Spicy and dense, as you'd expect from Bandol, but with fantastic purity of fruit, too. I have 11 more bottles of this, and I'm pleased about that.

Finally, Tamellini Vigna Morogne Recioto del Soave 2003 is sensational. Deep coloured, it is a thrilling viscous sweet white with complex apricot, honey, peach and vanilla notes. I guess for me this would tie for wine of the night. It's amazing stuff (another gem from Les Caves de Pyrene).

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Body clocks and Riesling

You can't cheat your body clock. No matter how savvy a traveller you think you are; no matter how many time zones you've flown through in the last decade; no matter how well you can rationalize the various issues surrounding the circadian clock and its resetting - when you've flown back from New Zealand to the UK you feel really bad, as I have been feeling today. It is more than just tiredness - it's a profound sense of unease with all sorts of endogenous rhythms out of sync. Since arriving in the UK at 6 am this morning, I've felt rubbish.

Still, there's wine. Right now, I'm drinking a really satisfying, affordable Riesling - Ernst Loosen's Blue Slate 2006 Mosel Saar Ruwer. It's a mass of grapefruit and lime freshness, with plenty of that indefinable character 'minerality', and just enough honey and melon sweetness to bring the wine to a delightful poise where all the flavours work in balance. At £7.99 from Somerfield this is a really good buy, and I'd recommend this to anyone as a textbook example of top quality Riesling, if they were wondering what all the fuss surrounding this variety was about.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

A dry Kabinett from Fritz Haag

Riesling Kabinett can vary in style. These days there are some that taste as rich and full as Spatlese. They should be quite fresh, and in a just off-dry style. Now this one is at the more austere, dry, minerally end of the spectrum - it's a Kabinett trocken, which means that it's fermented for longer, reaching 11.5% alcohol as opposed to the usual 8 or 9, making a more-or-less dry wine. This style isn't seen in the UK that frequently: we tend to prefer it if the high acidity that grapes grown in this part of the world possess is balanced out by some sweetness. Although this isn't my favourite ever Kabinett, I think it works quite well, and the dryness makes for a less pretty, more food friendly style.

Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Kabinett trocken 2005 Mosel Saar Ruwer, Germany
The nose shows some sulfur dioxide, and is really minerally and tight. Not revealing too much at the moment. The palate is crisp and fresh with some reticent limey fruit and nice minerality. A very light, quite acidic style that has lovely purity and freshness, but not the depth you might expect from a slightly sweeter wine. Give it a few years and this may put on a bit of complexity: with the level of sulfur dioxide present, it isn't going to keel over any time soon. 88/100 (from French and Logan, part of a mixed case of 05s purchased a while back)

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

On the Riesling trail again

I've tasted a number of Rieslings recently. Here's one that really thrilled, that I'd rank up there with some of my top Riesling experiences. The slight downside is the cost. I'm guessing that most people are prepared to splash the cash for some wine styles (Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne) but not others (such as the Loire and Germany).

Willi Schaefer Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Auslese Nr 14 2005 Mosel, Germany
This is a really fantastic Riesling. Intense, thrilling palate with wonderfully complex, almost spicy, limey fruit. Really good, precise acidity offsets the rich, sweet melony fruit. Concentrated, fresh and precise, with great balance. 94/100 (£21.60 Tanners)

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

More on that serious variety, Riesling

Riesling, the grape variety with a moral premium.

I've tried two more over the last couple of days, both of which were enjoyable, without being incredible. But then they aren't expensive wines. I've rated the Kabinett marginally lower than the Spatlese, but I can think of more occasions where I'd drink the Kabinett. Both are at a heady (for the Mosel) 9.5% alcohol.

Reinhold Haart Piesporter Kabinett 2005 Mosel Saar Ruwer, Germany
Quite limey with a slightly spicy nose. Aromatic and fresh with some minerality. The palate is crisp but with some melony richness, adding a smoothness and modest plumpness to the texture, and there's a bit of complexity already. Not too sweet: you could almost use this as a dry wine at the table. Quite delicious. 88/100 (http://www.frenchandlogan.com/)

Karthauserhof Eitelsbacher Karthauserhofberg Riesling Spatlese 2003 Mosel Saar Ruwer, Germany
Yellow/gold colour. Quite minerally. Not terribly sweet tasting because of the acidity, but it is off-dry. Thick textured but still fresh. This is a precise sort of wine with a bit of spicy richness on the mid-palate. Quite a long finish. 89/100 (http://www.frenchandlogan.com/)

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Now for...a serious grape variety

Forget Merrr-loww. What about a serious grape variety? Like Riesling.

Riesling has a moral premium among white wine grape varieties. Wine geeks love Riesling. Have to.

Over the next few weeks I'm going to be taking a Riesling focus, which in real terms means drinking a lot of the stuff. I began tonight with three wines, two from Australia and one from Germany, but all in a vaguely similar style.

Yalumba Y Series Riesling 2006 South Australia
Bright, crisp and a bit smoky and minerally, with a nice herbal tang and an assertive, almost spicy citrussy character that's common to many Aussie Rieslings. There's also a bit of talcum powder character. A clean, precise style that is bone dry and food friendly. 87/100 (£6.50 Winedirect.co.uk, Auswinesonline.co.uk)

Mesh Riesling 2006 Eden Valley, Australia
A collaboration between Jeffrey Grosset and Robert Hill Smith (www.meshwine.com). Alive, limey, perfumed nose with a lovely crisp, bone dry, mineralic palate that verges on the austere with its high acidity, but it isn't heavy or phenolic. Distinctly savoury, this closes up a bit on the finish which is very tight. It would be interesting to see what this wine - sealed with a tin-lined screwcap - would look like under a closure that allows just a little more oxygen transmission. 90/100 (c. £14 Wine Society, Winedirect.co.uk, Handford)

Darting Durkheimer Michelsburg Riesling Kabinett Trocken 2005 Pfalz, Germany
Precise, crisp, lemony nose with a minerally, spicy edge. The palate is crisp and dry with a lovely citrussy character, together with a hint of honeyed warmth. Overall, this is crisp and dry, and quite simular to the Australian style, albeit with a bit more carbon dioxide spritz. A nice wine, and good value. 88/100 (£6.99 Marks & Spencer)

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A big Malbec and a Black Tower

Three days without rain now. Looks like we're going to get a summer (of sorts) after all. And two rather different but quite interesting red wines to report on.

But first a slight digression about oak. Have you ever noticed that oak is very much more obvious when you open a bottle and pour it immediately, than when you've opened a bottle, poured some wine out and then let it sit (or decanted it)? I wasn't keen on the Lafage Roussillon white I reported on recently immediately after I'd opened it because of the obvious new oak, but it settled down after a night in the fridge. The Torres Gran Sangre de Toro also came across as overoaked immediately on opening, and was better some hours later. Tonight's first red also seemed much more oaky on opening than it does now, some three hours later. Why is this?

First up we have a very good Argentinean Malbec. This isn't a subtle wine: it's extracted, it's very ripe, it's quite alcoholic, and 14 months in French oak were needed to tame the tannins. If I was the winemaker I'd make some adjustments here which I think could turn this very good wine into a superb one. I'm enjoying it, still, and for the price it's good value if you're in the mood for something big.

Salentein Malbec 2004 Valle de Uco, Mendoza
Very deep coloured, this inky dark wine has a full nose of ripe dark fruits, spice, some minerals and new oak. The palate is bold, ripe, spicy and quite tannic with sweet spicy oak adding a slightly confected quality. There's high alcohol evident, too. It's a big old wine with plenty of oomph, but there's some spicy complexity, too. Begging for a big steak to go with it. I'd probably have preferred this to have a touch less extraction, a little less ripeness and a bit less oak, because the vineyard is clearly an excellent one, but for the price this is very good value and if you are in the right mood, it's more-ish. 89/100 (£8.49 Tesco)

The second wine can be seen to the right of the Salentein in the picture. Yes, folks, this is Black Tower, but not as we know it. This successful German brand, a frequent guest at dinner parties in the 1970s along with its peer, Blue Nun, is back. The wine in question, in the distinctive (and appalling) tall, tower-like bottle with a mottled finish, is a red, made from Dornfelder and Pinot Noir. It's actually quite drinkable.

Black Tower Dornfelder Pinot Noir 2006 Pfalz, Germany
Hideous bottle shape. Deep coloured with sweet red and black fruits on the nose, showing creamy blackcurrant fruit. The palate is summer pudding in a glass - blackberries, raspberries and blackcurrants - with some sweetness and a juicy quality. Some residual sugar here? Astute commercial winemaking. 82/100 (£4.49 Tesco)

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Wine with cheese, again

Apparently, the best way to gain weight is to eat at night, just before bed. I remember reading this advice in an interview with Vin Diesel, normally a tough, shaven-headed, six-pack touting hard guy who had to put on weight (and hair) for the excellent Find me guilty. He snacked on ice cream, late at night, and his six pack became a two-tyre.

Now as a person who likes to eat and drink, but doesn't want to become a fat boy, I'm on a continual diet (of sorts). I don't eat as much as I want, most of the time. It's tough, though, because I do love food.

Indeed, one of the things I've noticed about fat people - and I'm not being judgemental here, because I truly believe that beauty resides within, and you should feel good about yourself whether or not you conform to society's shallow obsession with appearance - is that they do enjoy their food. Forget about all this talk concerning metabolic rates and leptin gene status: if you have a friend with a big belly, just watch how much they eat. It's an eye opener.

I digress. Anyway, I have a weakness. I like to snack and drink late at night as I work. I've never had a six-pack, and this is probably why.

Tonight, I'm nibbling on Comte and bread, along with two rather different wines, both of which work quite well with the cheese. The first is the remainder of the Karlsmuhle Riesling Kabinett 2005 I reported on here a few days ago. It's amazing how well these young Rieslings keep in the fridge. Off-dry Rieslings seem to be a good match for quite a broad range of cheeses.

The second is a brilliant young Alentejo (Portugal) red - the 2006 Monte da Peceguina from Malhadinha Nova. It's amazingly vibrant, with ripe, pure summer fruits complemented really well by some grippy tannins and good acidity. I think it's this sweetly fruited, vibrant, juicy character that makes this a red wine that works with slightly harder (but not hard) cheeses like Comte. It's a wine that bridges the new and old worlds.

Some more thoughts on wine and cheese. Wines that rely on tannins for structure work less well with cheese than wines that rely on acidity. This is why whites generally work better with cheese than reds. Unusually for reds, the Peceguina relies more on acidity for structure than tannin; therefore, it works quite well with cheese. Tannins and cheese are a bad match, generally.

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Riesling Kabinett: two compared

Two Rieslings compared. The suprise reappearance of the English summer led me to crack open two Riesling Kabinetts. Kabinett really appeals to me: it's usually a fresh, bright style of Riesling that drinks well young and combines freshness with a bit of sweetness to good effect. But it's also a wine style in danger of succumbing to global warming, with grapes achieving higher ripeness levels in the Mosel each year.

JJ Christoffel Erdener Trepphcen Riesling Kabinett 2005 Mosel Saar Ruwer, Germany
Pale coloured. Fresh with some carbon dioxide spritz. Wonderfully delicate and precise with lime, honey and lemon notes. The palate has a rich yet light texture with some minerality. Lovely freshness and a bit of complexity. I like this a lot. 90/100

Karlsmuhle Kaesler Nies'chen Riesling Kabinett 2005 Mosel Saar Ruwer, Germany
Quite deep coloured. Powerful limey, herby nose with some appley sweetness. The palate is quite full, just off-dry, with a distinctive herby edge. Refreshing acidity. A food wine. 87/100

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Loire and Germany for dinner

Yixin Ong was in town, so on Friday night he convened a wine nut dinner at RSJ, with myself, Rahsaan Maxwell and Tom Blach. Tom and Rahsaan are people whose writing I've read on the internet, but have never met before. It was a very nice evening, with some interesting wines and a couple of near misses - wines that were good but had the potential to show better. (Pictured, left to right, are Tom, Yixin and Rahsaan.)

We began with a sparkling Vouvray from Huet - a 1987 - which was quite lovely. It was delicate and bright, but had a little of that Chenin funk that worked really well. This was followed up with an old Muscadet - the 1990 Luneau Papin Muscadet Le L D’Or. Initially we wondered whether this might be corked, but then decided it was just showing rather faded, along with some distinctive savoury minerality that stuck out a bit. Not at ease with itself, and others had fared better with this wine recently. 2000 Domaine de la Bellivière Coteaux du Loir Hommage à Louis Derré was a remarkable, lightweight red wine with a minerally, gravelly edge framing some slightly meaty but otherwise very fresh fruit. Lovely and expressive: points chasers would hate this. Then we moved on to a pair of Germans. 2006 Willi Schaefer Graacher Domprobst Spätlese #17 was expressive, minerally and a bit zippy from some carbon dioxide, and had some lovely weight to the fruit. 2006 Daniel Vollenweider Wolfer Goldgrube Spätlese GK was much richer, with over 100 grams/litre of residual sugar, and a thick, rich texture. Stylish and in need of some time for the complexity to emerge from all that sweetness. Finally, we went for a big gun, spotting the 1971 Huet Clos du Bourg Moelleux 1ère Trie on the list at a decent-ish price. Sadly, it was tiring a bit. It came up at room temperature, so we decanted and chilled it in the ice bucket, only for it to turn from light brown to dark brown in 20 minutes. It was still nice - under the oxidation there was the memory of a complex wine, but sweet Vouvray is usually pretty much immortal, so it was a shame not to get a pristine bottle. The evening came to an end and we were relatively full of wine, and Yixin was tired enough to fall asleep on the last train home. But he bravely revived enough when we got back to crack open a half of Reinhold Haart 2005 Piesporter Goldtropfchen Riesling Auslese, which was showing lovely lush fruit with a nice transparency to it, and the promise of greater things to come.

Evenings like this remind me why wine is such an interesting subject.

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