Monday, 8 December 2008

Two Schneiders

There a quite a few vignerons in Germany who go by the name of Schneider. One of them, Markus Schneider of Ellerstadt in the Pfalz, has carved a niche for his wine thanks to his excellent Rieslings and red blends that combine local varietals such as Portugieser and St Laurent with more internationally recognised varietals such Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Syrah. As you can see from his website, he is also good at marketing. However, the quality of his wines speaks for itself. I'm fortunate enough to own a few bottles of his 2005 "Einzelstück" (see photo), which was made exclusively from a single parcel of Portugieser vines that was planted in the 1920s on the sandy flats of Ellerstadt. Portugieser is regarded in the Pfalz as somewhat of a workhorse varietal producing light and cheery reds for everyday consumption. It's quite rare to find them at the high end of wine ranges, However, in a blind tasting you'd be forgiven for mistaking this particular "Portu-geezer" for a top Rhone or Italian red.

Schneider was recently awarded a third Gault Millau "grape", as was another Schneider winery a lot closer to home: Weingut Claus & Susanne Schneider from Weil am Rhein. Personally, I couldn't be happier for them, given that they're my local winery, so to speak. Their range of wines covers Spätburgunder, Gutedel, Weissburgunder, Grauburgunder and Chardonnay, but thanks to the chalky soil of the Weiler Schlipf vineyard, it's the Burgundy varietals which you could call their specialities. Steep limestone slopes - very reminiscent of Burgundy terroir - and a favourable climate lend both reds and whites tremendous elegance and minerally character. The wines also offer great value for money.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Cab Sauv?

I went on a walk today through the local vineyards. Being freelance, I can do this on Monday afternoons, although this job status is soon set to change from the beginning of November, after which I'll be on a proper day job like everyone else.

My goodness, it was a lovely day, and very mild (around 21C). What interested me was that probably around 10-15% of the vineyards parcels in Weiler Schlipf were still unpicked. With rain forecast for tomorrow and Wednesday, I was surprised that there weren't any teams of pickers out this afternoon, apart from the two souls on a tractor who I think were harvesting their parcel for the Bezirkskellerei. From Wednesday onwards, it'll be markedly colder. However, a high front will set in again from Thursday onwards, so I don't think the imminent change in the weather should worry the vintners too much.

Anyway, the way the vintage has shaped up so far, it looks like local wine growers have had a relatively stress-free time of it. The weather in September was really cool at times and some grape varieties (notably Gutedel) weren't yet at optimum ripeness. This meant that wineries were in no hurry to send their teams out into the vineyards. Instead, they waited for more of the sun's rays in October so that the grapes could achieve physiological ripeness. And, over the past couple of weeks, the sun finally shone in abundance.

One particular parcel interested me. The black grapes hanging there were obviously not pinot noir. These were quite young vines - probably no older than 10 years - so I came to the conclusion that the grapes might be what Germans refer to as an "international" varietal. I know that the Bezirkskellerei do grow some Cabernet Sauvignon on Weiler Schlipf, so I'd be inclined to plump for that. I can usually recognise vines from the pinot family due to the shape of the leaves, and these definitely weren't pinot noir.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Pot pourri

Apologies for the huge break again inbetween posts. It's been an eventful few weeks for me, and it's been hard to keep track. Anyway, I eventually got through the six bottles from Wiesloch, plus I've started on a couple of wines from the winery in Bad Dürkheim. Unfortunately, I didn't make proper notes, so the following is more or less based on memory. Featured are three Wiesloch wines, plus one from Weingut Pfeffingen. I'm refraining from giving scores, though I may start doing that for other wines in future, probably according to the 100-point Parker scale:

Großsachsener Rittersberg Weißburgunder Kabinett trocken 2007
Nice flinty aromas with yellow fruit. Elegant.

Wieslocher Spitzenberg Riesling Kabinett halbtrocken 2007
Light, spritzy, well balanced with nice fruit. Sensorically speaking, still dry, despite being a halbtrocken.

Zeuterner Mannaberg Müller-Thurgau QbA halbtrocken

"Uergh, a Müller-Thurgau!", I hear you say, and not even bone dry. How uncouth. But how this wine surprised me... Pears! And I don't mean that pear-drop whiff of sulphur you sometimes get with recently bottled wine, but lovely succulent September orchard pears. Most pleasant and most surprising. Definitely not for wine snobs.

Weingut Pfeffingen, Ungste
iner Herrenberg Riesling Kabinett trocken 2007
This just oozes class. The label - which recently underwent a face-lift - is quite un-Germanic. Cleverly, it uses a back label to show all the information every German winery is legally bound to include. Lovely minerally characteristics, quite elegant, but with that characteristic Pfalz oomph.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

German red wins international pinot noir prize

Yes, that's correct. A Dernauer Pfarrwingert Spätburgunder Großes Gewächs 2005 by Weingut Mayer-Näkel beat all-comers including the best Burgundy, Chile and New Zealand had to offer. This result maybe isn't as cataclysmic a the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976, but it's certainly a feather on the cap of the German wine industry. I think the wine in question costs about EUR 48 (about GBP 40 when you add on all the duty), which I suppose is probably just as well. Reassuringly expensive, you could say.

The most astonishing aspect about this is probably the fact that the region where the wine was produced, the Ahr, is situated only just south of Bonn. The vineyards there are vertiginous, however, with volcanic slate soil. And the Dernauer Pfarrwingert vineyard specifically is, by all accounts, a veritable sun-trap.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Manna from heaven?

Heidelberger Mannaberg Spätburgunder Weißherbst 2006

Check this out, an off-dry pinot noir rose.

This was the first from the aforementioned Wiesloch selection I've tried. Wiesloch is a town situated just south of Heidelberg on the western borders of what is known as the Kraichgau.

Now, the first thing that caught the eye with this wine was its name, Mannaberg - apparently a Großlage situated south of Heidelberg, taking in the towns of Leimen (where Boris Becker grew up) and Rohrbach. So, was it Manna from heaven..?

Well, I would class this as the sort of wine you could drink quite happily on your balcony or in your garden on a barmy summer's evening. Nothing remotely star quality about it, but a wine like this doesn't need to be. There's definitely room in my fridge for wine like this. I don't want you thinking I quaff Clos Sainte Hune all the time... Virtually brick orange in colour (see photo), it was refreshing on the nose, mainly showing what I think may have been melon. Nice clean palate. Still redolent of some sort of melon.

According to the Wieslocher Winzerkeller website, this wine is EUR 3.50 (though I got it for free), and is reminiscent of ripe strawberries, not melons. There's no accounting for taste.

Saturday, 6 September 2008


Thanks to a good contact from Heidelberg who visited yesterday en route to the England-Andorra match in Barcelona today, I've been able to procure 12 bottles of white wine - six bottles of which are assorted 2007-vintage rieslings (three dry kabinetts, two off-dry kabinetts - my favourite! - and a dry spätlese) from family winery Weingut Pfeffingen from Bad Dürkheim, and the other being a pot-pourri of local wines from Winzerkeller Wiesloch in deepest Kraichgau (Riesling,Weißburgunder, Grauburgunder, a Spätburgunder pinky...even a Mülller-Thurgau, for heaven's sake). I look forward to tasting some of them over the coming weeks.

Friday, 8 August 2008

Mosel eat your heart out

Weiler Schlipf

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Wine in Germany - death of a tradition?

I spotted this old thread in the American Rob Parker forum run by Mark Squires. I must admit, I'm with Terry Theise and David Schildknecht on this one.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Cracking wine for under 5 euro

This has to be one of the best red wines under 5 euro I have ever tasted.
A 2006 Oberrotweiler Henkenberg Spätburgunder trocken from the Kaiserstuhl region. Cost EUR 4.99.
Lovely and smooth with plenty of complexity. Produced by the Kaiserstühler Winzerverein in Oberrotweil, it outshines the most of the fare the competing wine cooperatives in and around Weil produce for the same price. You'd also be hard-pushed to find a pinot as good as this under 10 pounds in the UK.

Friday, 4 April 2008

My first 2007

Britzinger Sonnhole Riesling Kabinett halbtrocken, Baden, Markgräflerland. Price EUR 4.99. I wanted a nice light wine this evening. At 10.5% alcohol, this fitted the bill. Not the most demanding on the nose and palate, but I wasn't expecting fireworks. I tend to find that a little extra residual sweetness goes a long way in rieslings, which is why I chose one in the "off-dry" style. Most Germans would read "halbtrocken" and their "residual sugar" alarm bells would start ringing. However, this is still a pretty dry wine for international tastes. In fact, maybe even a little more RS would be good for this wine.

Riesling isn't that common in this most southwesterly part of Germany, so the odd bottles of the stuff that are made tend to be novelties.

Friday, 14 March 2008

100th anniversary of VDP Pfalz

Last weekend saw the VDP Pfalz (the Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweingüter - or Association of German Prädikat Wine Estates - for the Pfalz) celebrating its 100th anniversary. The highlight of the festivities were the Weinbergsleuchten, whereby the top dozen or so grand cru vineyards of the region were lit up at night. I would have loved to have seen that, given that the Pfalz is probably my favourite wine region of all, but I couldn't because of work commitments. Photos of the event are currently on the front page of the VDP Pfalz website.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Ötlinger Sonnhole

Markgräflerland, Baden

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Weiler Schlipf Spätburgunder trocken 2005 - Weingut Claus & Susanne Schneider

I opened this bottle yesterday evening. For what you pay (EUR 7.20), you get a very dignified wine that punches above its price category. Very elegant pinot noir aromas, and quite nervy on the palate. Mineral notes and discreet earthy fruit that isn't too "in-your-face". Quite dry, and noticeable acidity without bordering on astringency. Carries its 13.5% alcohol well. Forgive these rather unsystematic tasting notes!

Saturday, 1 March 2008


Last year, I tentatively launched a blog entitled "Teutonic vineyards" devoted to my passion for wine, and German wine in particular. After a promising start, my contributions dried up owing to lack of time. I subsequently aborted the project and eventually deleted the blog and the contents thereof. Now, with the dust having finally settled a few months later, I've decided to start afresh but with a slightly different approach. This time, in addition to random notes and photos concerning German wine and vineyards, I will also endeavour to include tasting notes now and again.

Anyway, to kick off, this is my "home vineyard", Weiler Schlipf. This is Germany's most southwesterly vineyard. Rising steeply from a residential area in Weil's most easterly neighbourhood, it rewards the casual walker with impressive views over the Basler Bucht (Basle Basin) and the Rhine valley. Back in the 18th century there was an earth-slide on this hill that took away a huge portion of vineyard. This was probably due to non-porous nature of the soil which became so saturated that the earth - literally - moved. True story!

It's no coincidence that the verb “to slide” in the local dialect (Alemannisch) is “schlipfen”.

The main grape varieties in this vineyard are the Pinot varieties, and especially Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder). Facing south to southwest and situated close to the house below that reflect the heat back up the hill, Weiler Schlipf is a heat trap. With average temperatures and precipitation similar to the levels found in Germany’s warmest town, Ihringen, by the Kaiserstuhl, grapes have little difficulty ripening here. Weingut Claus & Susanne Schneider, in particular, make impressive wines from Schlipf's chalky terroir.