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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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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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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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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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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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

A lovely Spatlese, a good film, and a close shave

Tonight I'm drinking the remains of the Reihnold Haart Piesport Domherr Riesling Spatlese 2005. It's a remarkable sweet wine of real class, with bold apricot and honey fruit, together with a fat melony texture, and a citrussy freshness. As I mentioned in my earlier post, it's weighty enough to be an Auslese. I don't know how you'd use this wine: perhaps its best suited to casual sipping. I'd never put it with a dessert, and it would be wasted paired with spicy food. It would probably age well for 30 years or so? Hard to tell.

The film in the title is one we watched yesterday afternoon. Michael Clayton is one of the best films I've seen of late. Starring George Clooney and Tilda Swinton, it's a clever legal thriller that starts at the end and then fills all the gaps in later. You need to have your wits about you to keep track of what is going on. John Grisham-ish, but a bit smarter. The writing and acting are excellent, and the pace is just about perfect, building to a very smart, stylish ending. Highly recommended.

The close shave involved RTL and a busy dual carriageway. We were at the Wheatsheaf, Virginia Water, celebrating the engagement of Jeni and Johann. We'd taken RTL for a quick walk. Coming back, before we had a chance to get her on her lead, she darted off, through the pub car park, and onto the A30, where she proceeded to run more-or-less randomly across all four lanes, causing cars to swerve and then to stop, so that a large tailback was generated as we tried to catch her. Several motorists joined in the rounding-up excercise, which was very public spirited of them. Finally, she was caught, and we were embarassed and relieved. We are certainly bad dog owners.

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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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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Three Rieslings: Chile, South Africa and Germany

Riesling rocks, even though it's the grape that we in the wine trade have to like. By this, I mean it carries a moral premium and gets talked up perhaps more than it should, because there's this groundswell of opinion that Riesling is the greatest grape variety, such that to suggest otherwise makes you feel like a heretic.

Tonight I'm trying three rather different Rieslings. First, an inexpensive Mosel Riesling, and then two Rieslings from new world countries not normally associated with this variety: Chile and South Africa. Both are quite interesting, made in very different styles, and, at £7.99, relatively affordable. I wouldn't say these wines were quite yet ready to compete with the best from Germany, Austria and Alsace - they are more works in progress. But it is encouraging to see what strides are being made with this variety in the new world.

Morrison's The Best German Riesling NV, Mosel Saar Ruwer, Germany
There's a whiff of minerally sulfur on the nose, which leads to a soft, off-dry palate with honeyed tropical fruit character bolstered by some minerally acidity. Nicely balanced, and at just 8% alcohol this is a really refreshing, quaffable wine. 82/100

Cono Sur Vision Riesling 'Quiltraman' 2007 Bio Bio Valley, Chile
This attractively packaged wine has a forward, perfumed nose of bright lime notes mixed with minerals, sweet honey and floral overtones. The palate is quite rich, with a talcum powder and lime character, together with some savoury minerality and some richness of texture, which I suspect in part comes from a bit of residual sugar, and in part from the high alcohol (14%). It finishes off with crisp acidity. This is a powerful style of Riesling, but it's balanced and quite crisp. A striking wine, and given further experience here I reckon future vintages will be even better. 89/100 (£7.99 Majestic, but £6.39 if you buy two)

Paul Cluver Weisser Riesling 2007 Elgin, South Africa
'Weisser Riesling' is a term used in South Africa to describe the true Riesling variety, and this wine comes from the cool climate Elgin region. It's an elegant, dry style of Riesling with apple and lemon fruit combining with a distinctly crisp, mineralic core to make a bone dry wine with a distinctly savoury character that is extremely food friendly. This is a moderately serious wine that is extremely versatile, and represents good value at the price. It is stylistically similar to Clare Valley Riesling, I reckon. South Africa should be making more Riesling, although I imagine it can be a tough wine to sell. 88/100 (£7.99 Jeroboams/Laytons)

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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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