Archive for May, 2014
When I mentioned German wines, most people make funny faces in response. It has become very apparent to me, the words “German wines”, conjure up images of sweet, syrupy wines for many.
There are many things I would love to say about that, but we’ll save that discussion for another day. I would prefer to instead focus on the thought that ALL wines can be made dry, medium dry, medium sweet, sweet & dessert in style…….depending on what the winemaker wants to do…..whether it is Cabernet, Chardonnay, sparkling, red or white.
While it is true that there are many German wines which are made sweet, there are also many wines vinified DRY. For many years, VINO regulars have been asking us to do a German wine tasting.
Well, here it is. We chose to do a DRY white wine tasting first, because it is regarded as the purest form of German white wine.
Great producers believe any flaw in a dry white wine can readily be seen, smelled & tasted in their dry wines. The growing & selection of grapes is therefore of paramount importance.
In addition, for this tasting, we looked to feature 4 of the VERY best dry wine producers out Germany…..kind of a dream team!!!! The goal is to show tasters what excellence is. Wines like these don’t come around too often….just another opportunity to learn!
2012 Hans Wirsching Scheurebe DRY
The Scheurebe grape variety was an attempt to have a grape variety which had Riesling-esque nobility but would ripen earlier. It was created by Dr Scheu in the 1916, when he crossed the Riesling grape variety with what is now believed to be a wild grape variety. While it has had its moments over the years in production, I would say, most thought of it as a secondary grape variety, used for bigger production. Part of it can be attributed to its seemingly lack of acidity & its real citrus like flavors. To date, for me, the finest Scheurebe’s are undoubtedly produced by Hans Wirsching of the Franconia region. Their estate vineyard sites are high in gypsum content. The 2012 was harvested at 88 degree oechsle & 5.9 total acidity. Wirsching Scheurebe has some “quietly” exotic fruit, along with the minerality….with a little more roundness, which would appeal to a wider spectrum of wine drinkers, without taking away from its wonderfully friendliness. Well worth checking out to say the least!
2012 CF Wines Muller Thurgau DRY
Next in the line-up is the CF Muller Thurgau, which is a wine crafted for DK Restaurants by Paul Furst of Franconia, Germany. The Muller Thurgau grape variety was created in 1882 by DR Muller…..by crossing Riesling with what is now believed to be the Madeleine Royale grape variety. This resulting grape variety was one of the other Riesling crosses which caught quite a few eyes for its potential. The finest is undoubtedly produced from Paul Furst, under his family’s label Rudolf Furst. Their estate has but ¾’s of a hectare (red sandstone soils) planted to this grape variety. One cannot help but be amazed at how ethereal & effortlessly light in weight it is, which is further enhanced by the innate minerality from the red sandstone the vines grow in.
Here is a DRY Riesling from one of Germany’s true iconic Masters—Helmut Donnhoff of the Nahe region. Sourced mostly from Schlossbockelheimer Felsenberg (90%) the rest comes from his Niederhausen Hermannshöhle & Leistenberg vineyards—both steep,, rocky hillsides which has lots of porphyry rock soils. Wonderfully pure, captivating & remarkably food friendly!!!!
The Rothenberg Cru is a gentle, red slate soiled slope rising from the Rhein River, which produces some undeniably powerful, masculine Rieslings. The 2011 GG was harvested at 95 degrees oechsle & 5 total acidity. Despite the power & immense concentration, I marvel how unboastfully this wine comes across. In the 90’s these GG styled wines from this estate were MEGA-intense, tight fisted & unyielding. What a change!!!! Truly masterful. This estate is really in the “zone” right now.
A co-worker came up to me yesterday to say, “Boy it’s a hot one! I think this is going to be a real hot summer”.
Yes, summer is just around the corner! The sun will be more glaring and the days are getting longer. It is a time to change–lighter clothing, lighter & fresher foods & also the kind of wines we drink.
The profile of wine conducive to hot weather sipping is also lighter in body, fresher, crisper, lower in alcohol content and usually less oaky.
So here are some recommendations on how to find such wines, especially those offering great value for the dollar.
The first place to look would be in the sparkling wine category. French Champagne is always a treat, no matter what time of the year and there are also many apropos bubbly selections from California. For real value, however, consider Italian Prosecco or Spanish Cava. The finest are often medium dry to dry, have remarkable lightness on the palate and are absolutely delicious at half the price!
Another reliable source for summer thirst-quenchers is German Riesling. The ideal style for me at least would be a medium-dry version, which has just a hint of sweetness to round out hard edges and should translate into more moderate alcohol levels. Plus, you will be amazed ate how versatile this style of Riesling really is, from the picnic table to the barbecue setting to a home cooked Asian stir fry.
White wine lovers should also consider lighter, crisper styles of sauvignon blancs from California and France’s LoireValley.. For value seekers Chile can be quite a treasure chest for bright, clean, completely refreshing Sauvignon Blancs and similarly styled Chardonnays as well.
For the Chardonnay lover, Summer is really the opportune time to sip well chilled ,UN-oaked versions of this grape, which thankfully there are a quickly growing number of delicious renditions more readily available.
For the real foodie, you have probably already read in some magazine, Summer is the time for dry, exuberant, deliciously fruit driven pink wines. As the traveling gourmet well knows, this is THE wine style most commonly served this time of the year at cafes and bistros along the Mediterranean basin. WHY? Because the best ones are thirst-quenching, incredibly food friendly and gulp-able.
The best advice from there is to serve the wines well chilled and have some fun this summer.
Lastly, for the red wine drinker, ‘tis the time for Beaujolais (hopefully true artisan, “boutique” versions) and more elegant, prettier styles of Pinot Noirs. Choose one, where delicious-ness is the priority.
It’s NOT that often we run across white wines from California, which have the weight of Chardonnay, with unique-ness & interesting-ness, especially on such a high level as these 2 display. You should, therefore, take a serious look at these 2.
2011 CARLISLE “THE DERIVATIVE”
Winemaker/owner Mike Officer has made quite a name for himself through his big, full throttle red wines, many of which comes from really old vineyard sites. If you look at the scores & ratings his wines perennially get, you will be astounded, as he seems to do it below the radar screen. Curently he produces but 2 white wines. The 2011 Derivative is 66% Semillon (from Monte Rosso vineyard, which was planted in 1886) on a steep, rocky Mayacamas hillside, on the Sonoma side, fermented in 37% new oak; 24% Muscadelle (from Pagani Ranch, planted in 1920) fermented in stainless steel & 10% Palomino (from Saitone Ranch, 118 year old vines) fermented in old oak. Yes, it is safe to say, this is an Old Vine cuvee! Leave it to someone like Mike Officer to have the discipline & dedication to collect & produce a wine like this.
2012 LINNE CALODO “CONTRARIAN”
As you may know, we are avid fans of the great potential Paso Robles has for making interesting wines. A lot can be attributed to the limestone/silaceous soils of the westside. These poor soils not only help to slow down sugar ripeness, but also help to deftly create buoyancy in the finished wines. While many of the region are looking to Viognier, Roussanne & Marsanne to produce whites, we have seen even more potential for interesting-ness so far from grape varieties such as Grenache Blanc, Picpoul & Vermentino. I think most aficionados would agree one of the 2 leading the charge of moving Paso Robles onto the world stage is Matt Trevisan of Linne Calodo. Here is his one 2012 white wine.
“I planted Grenache Blanc and Picpoul in 2007. My older Contrarians were Roussanne Viognier blends, but I felt like they lacked the acidity to be refreshing on a hot day. Basket pressed whole cluster for 48 hours with some skin soaking contact. pressed into a concrete 2000L tank. Native fermentation, co-fermented as the different picks come in. I can only handle 1-2 tons at a time for pressing, but I make so little of this white that I can take my time. I leave it on lees til 1 month prior to bottling then clarify by racking. Unfliltered, unfined. No barrel for this vintage. Viognier for this vintage is from Denner. I use the Viognier to just slightly round out the acidity. I’m planting a half acre of Vio on the new piece to either use in this blend or with the reds”.