Category Archives: Pfalz

#WineStudio Session XII: Germany’s Lesser Known Varieties

The wines discussed in this article were provided as samples by Rudi Wiest Selections.

I remember talking with my good friend Stefano of Clicks and Corks sometime earlier this year, and we were talking about blogging and samples we sometimes receive. He was astonished that I did not seem to get as many samples as he receives (he blogs mostly about Italian wines), and I had to inform him that there are simply not that many distributors of scale that carry German wines: Rudi Wiest and Terry Theise being the two big ones, with several smaller importers like vom Boden filling in the niches. I told him I wish I could get to try some of Rudi Wiest of Terry Theise’s portfolio, but that it was unlikely, being rather far away from the bigger markets.

Imagine my surprise and happiness when I was approached by Tina Morey of Protocol Wines, the host of #WineStudio and #WineChat, informational weekly wine chats on Twitter, asking whether I was interested in participating in the #WineStudio they were organizing in cooperation with Rudi Wiest Selections to highlight some lesser known varieties from Germany!! I happily obliged. If you’re into German wine, it is hard not to have had wines that Rudi Wiest imports. Their list is not very extensive, but they boast some of the best producers in Germany.

#WineStudio is Protocol Wines’ wine education program in which wineries and distributors get a chance to provide a deeper look into what they or their area is doing wine-wise. The discussions are a lot of fun, I have to say, so it is usually worth checking out even if you don’t have the wines to try along.

While Germany doesn’t have the grape variety that Portugal or Italy or Greece have, there are still a bunch of grapes that are not really well known abroad but drunk by a significant number of Germans. This was our chance to explore these more.

We tried and discussed a total six wines over the course of four weeks, and in my book this was hands down the best #WineStudio event yet. I guess my predisposition for German wines and some background knowledge made this a really great exercise. Let me tell you about the wines, because they pretty drinkable! Also, they were all dry wines and I get many questions about which dry wines from Germany I can recommend, so this is a good list.

Schloss Hallburg Silvaner and Wirsching Scheurebe

Schloss Hallburg Silvaner and Wirsching Scheurebe

We started with a 2011 Graf von Schönborn – Schloss Hallburg Silvaner Dry and the 2012 Hans Wirsching Iphöfer Scheurebe Kabinett Dry, both from Northern Bavaria’s region Franconia (Franken). Silvaner, a cross between Traminer and Österreichisch-Weiss (literally “Austrian White”), rules in Franken. I have heard frequently that Silvaner is the grape for people that cannot deal with the acidity in Riesling but like Riesling aromatics, and it is widely used in Germany as a very food friendly wine. Scheurebe was created in 1916 by Mr Scheu by crossing Riesling with an unknown wild variety and is considered highly aromatic.

The 2011 Graf von Schönborn – Schloss Hallburg Silvaner Dry (12.5% ABV) was quite expressive in the nose, with tons of peach aromas, with melon and pear and some baked apple complementing the picture. On the palate, the wine showed hints of coconut, good balance, and a certain creaminess. I was missing some acidity, but that is just something I want in my whites, and 2011 wasn’t kind to those loving acidity…All in all a tasty wine that should be great with sushi from what I heard from others.

The 2012 Hans Wirsching Iphöfer Scheurebe Kabinett Dry (pronounced Shoy-ray-buh, 12.5% ABV) weirdly reminded me of a Gewürztraminer in the nose: I got lychee, papaya, then some grapefruit and lime. Intensive, intensive nose. Couldn’t stop smelling. On the palate, the wine showed a nicely tickly mineralitywith a light mouthfeel. The lychee persisted, with pineapple coming to the mix, what an interesting wine. I knew Scheurebe as a rather boring wine from my early youth, usually way too sweet and gooey, but this one had a great dry finish, and still brought out all those amazing aromatics….if you want to surprise friends, this would be a good choice, also for the bottle shape, which is the typical bottle in Franken called Bocksbeutel (which means “goat’s scrotum”), makes for a conversation starter…

Rebholz Pinot Blanc and Schloss Hallburg Pinot Gris

Rebholz Pinot Blanc and Schloss Hallburg Pinot Gris

The following week, we tried the 2012 Rebholz Pinot Blanc Dry from the Pfalz (Palatinate) and the 2012 Graf von Schönborn – Schloss Hallburg Pinot Gris from Franken. In German these grapes are known as Weissburgunder (Pinot blanc) and Grauburgunder (Pinot gris), and I have had good experiences with the two grapes in the past when they don’t make an appearance as a bland Pinot grigio or Pinot bianco. In Germany, these wines tend to be fruitier, which I appreciate…

The Rebholz Pinot Blanc (13.5% ABV) had a fresh nose with stone fruit, pear and melon as well as hints of vanilla (I doubt it saw any wood in the production process, though). On the palate, the wine was warming yet crisp, with coconut, liquorice, lychee and pear aromas. There was a good balance in the wine, despite the significant alcohol it still felt light-footed and had good length. The wine was made from mostly 70 year old vines, which is pretty impressive for an entry level wine. I liked this expression of the grape.

The Schloss Hallburg Pinot Gris (12.5% ABV), in contrast, was much more subdued on the nose. I got lemon, apples, almonds, and in general the aromas seemed more ripe than in the Pinot Blanc. The wine had a great mouthfeel to it, it was deep and drawing me in, with good heft and good acidity. The aromas I mostly got were peaches and melon paired with nice creaminess. This wine was rich, and yet remained refreshing. The interesting thing was that it felt heavier than the Pinot Blanc, despite having significantly less alcohol.

Becker Pinot Noir and Schnaitmann Lemberger

Becker Pinot Noir and Schnaitmann Lemberger (weird labels, huh?)

The final week was dedicated to two red wines: A 2011 Becker Pinot Noir Dry (from the Pfalz) and a 2011 Schnaitmann Lemberger Dry (from Württemberg). Germany has actually been making great strides in producing Pinot noir (also known as Spätburgunder in Germany), and it is always exciting trying more of these. Lemberger is prominent grape in the Southern-most parts of Germany.

The Becker Pinot Noir (13.5% ABV) poured in a surprisingly dark cherry red. I loved its nose, which was full of gummibear aromas (open a bag and stick your nose in, it’s divine!) and cooked cherries. On the palate, it was initially soft and pleasing, with good acidity. Then, it became spicy, with tons of cassis and red currant aromas, some branchiness with was welcome, and some smoke. The currant aromas persisted throughout the finish, and that made me like the wine. It might have been a bit rough around the edges, and there were some bitter aromas in the finish, but overall a decent wine.

The Schnaitmann Lemberger (13% ABV) poured as dark as a Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, and its nose was full of flowers, raspberries and blackberries. What a great way to end a night! On the palate, very fruity, with strawberry and raspberry and all-spice and good vanilla aromas that gave it body. This was really, really tasty. As in want more of this right away tasty and the rather low alcohol ensures you won’t be in trouble for it. It remained refreshing all throughout, and this was Nina’s favorite of all the wines by an arms length…

All in all? It’s seriously worth trying other grapes from Germany. Will that replace my love for Riesling? Nope. Will I ever think as highly of a white grape as I do of Riesling? Nope. But the wine universe is full of interesting grapes that make for good switch ups when you want to expand your palate. Always worth it. And, if you’re on track for the Wine Century Club, some of these grapes will surely help you cross the finish line and you won’t suffer for it! :)

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Tracy Lee Karner: 2011 Forster Kirchenstück Riesling inspires happiness

Somewhere, beyond the SeaThis is the fifth installment in my guest blogger series “Somewhere, Beyond the Sea”. For this post, I asked the author, life enjoy-er, honorary German (at least in my book), and good friend Tracy Lee Karner to contribute. I met Tracy through her blog, when, on a whim, I decided to comment on her post about whether blogging is just another cherry-berry pie in the sky back in August 2012. The ensuing conversation led to more contact, and by now I consider her and her husband Ken pretty much family. What I love about her blog is that you never know what to expect when you head over there. Sometimes it is writing advice, sometimes memorization help or language tips, and sometimes just plain fun. Tracy embraces life, and her blog shows it. Also, she is among my top commenters which says something about her commitment. Long story short: Go check out her blog. Thank you, Tracy!

Sometimes it's wine, sometimes it's water that makes us happy enough to yodel...

On a fine day in May, a good drink might make a person happy enough to yodel.

“Then, because of the [wine] and mostly and mainly because we were for that one moment in all time a group of truly happy people, we began to yodel.” (M.F.K. Fisher, H is for Happiness.)

I had spent an exceedingly fine May day with my husband, my dear friend Kai and his wife, with blue skies, wispy clouds, and apple-blossom scented sea breezes. Its magnificence echoed the last May day Kai and I had been together–same weather; same invigorating realization that the season of cooing doves and joyful air has sprung; same sweet and easy friendship.

The last time in 1979 in Hamburg, we were sixteen, walking, shopping, eating and talking, talking, trying not to mention that we didn’t know when or if we would ever see each other again. I was leaving soon to live the rest of my life in America.

In the present re-creation of that wonderful day, we again knew time was short. He and his wife would end their visit and return to Germany.

But for the moment we were together and blissful, gathered around a small marble-topped table in a cafe on Federal Hill in Providence, drinking cappuccino, sharing a lusciously layered chocolate torte. I resisted that urge to yodel because it would have annoyed the people who were there to buy fresh pasta, Italian cheese, salami or olives. Besides, I’m an incredibly poor yodler.

But I was that happy, I could have raised my voice in spontaneous, merry song.

The day ended as all such days end, with tearful embraces. And then they were gone.

We had our memories and a bottle of wine, 2011 Forster Kirchenstück Riesling Kabinett Trocken (dry) Deutscher (German) Prädikatswein (quality wine with specific attributes).

Before we opened it, I asked the amazing-riesling-expert Winegetter what should I know to appreciate this gift? He willingly shared his expertise, explaining that the grapes were grown in a 3-1/2 hectares vineyard behind the Forst village church on the wine road (that’s near Kai’s home).

Recently Ken and I opened the Forster Kirchenstück as an aperitif, according to Oliver’s suggestion.

Small bottle, long skinny neck with a too-long cork, unusually difficult to open (slightly annoying). I, however, was determined to love this wine. Kai gave it to us!

In the glass: Tinged the color of a nearly-ripe yet slightly green bartlet pear, so pale as to appear almost clear. Crystal transluscence.

Nose: Faint blossoms–apple & honeysuckle. Uncomplicated. Hint of fresh grass.

Mouth: Thinnish. Fresh, quick taste of tart apple, crisp mineral undertone, short lemon finish. I’d love this with fresh-shucked raw oysters.

Overall: Nice–but Ken found a flaw. On the middle-to-back sides of his tongue, a bitter-pucker sensation, the residue of green apple peels. Recommended therefore with some reservation. Less than perfect, but pleasant enough, drinkable and refreshing.

(Thank you, Stefano Crosio, for introducing me to the Italian Sommelier Association guidelines for wine review. I really like this 3-pronged method!)

More subjectively–and why I liked the wine despite the flaw: it opened a magical window into timelessness, taking me back to Germany, October 1978. I was telling Ken all the details, about picking grapes for a vineyard near Forster Kirchenstück and eating deliciously earthy, pit-roasted potatoes out of my hand, whole, with nothing but salt.

His turn to talk: in the twenty years of our marriage, he frequently mentioned his time as sous-chef at The Wagon Wheel Lodge, but had never before described the German butchers Heinrich and Albert who educated him about Riesling.

Albert looked something like a blond, not-quite-so-plump Ed Asner. Heinrich was taller, nearly six feet, with piercing pale blue eyes. Dark brown short, side-parted hair and a face not unlike Martin Luther’s.

Those were the guys who taught Ken sausage-making, and how to drink dry Riesling (with Weisswurst, or boiled cod, and sometimes with a dense white bread, toasted, topped with an egg poached medium).

With our next sip we, of course, drank to friendships–old and new.

So what do you think? Would you like this wine? And if not, is there a particular Riesling (or any wine) that could make you yodel like Franzl Lang? (you have to click here, really you have to hear happiness!)

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