Mystery German wine….

Torsten, The Winerambler, likes his German wines and he likes to trip me up with his unusual and rare finds so it was with much anticipation that I arrived at his house last night. He had promised a mystery wine and he swore I wouldn’t be able to guess what it was. Well, I have to say the cards were stacked against me, seeing as other then my favourite Riesling, I don’t have that much experience with German wine blind tastings but I was game. I had had various obscure wines at Torsten’s before so I thought I might have a fighting chance. I had seen the label briefly so I knew it was a VDP and it looked like a Weingut Knipser but that’s all I knew. While we waited for the risotto to cook, Torsten poured the wine. A clear vibrant yellow, it looked like a bright summer’s day in a glass. Nosing it, not too aromatic, bit of apricot and overripe peach, you know when it get’s to that point when it’s just about to turn and go off, not unpleasant just very sweet and slatey, you could smell the rocks. On the palate, more of the very ripe peach and apricot but with great acidity and honeyed toasted notes. Did I detect a hint of petrol? Aged riesling!? no, too obvious….a rather oily, mouthfeel…hmmm, Semillon? Viognier? No. A finish of bitter Seville orange marmelade…pinot gris aged in barrel (well, he did say it was unusual)?  Nope. Oaked chardonnay? Not-uh. By now I just started naming off all the white German varietals I could think of, sylvaner, pinot gris, gruner even! I did get into the ballpark with it’s age, guessing it to be about 9 -10 yrs old, it’s 8 yrs old, a 2003. Although Torsten  was enjoying this guessing game, he finally put me out of my misery and did the great reveal…..the Knipser 2003 Gelber Orleans Auslese. The what? Gelber Orleans? Yeah, like me or anyone outside of...

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An over the top aromatic German red but how does it taste?

“I want you to be as critical as possible about this wine.” That’s not usually a directive one gets at a wine tasting at a friends house but this was no ordinary wine and it was The Wine Rambler‘s house. We had in front of us, a German red wine. Pale ruby and almost translucent in colour, we were drinking it blind and had no idea what it was made of, other then German red grapes. Incredible aromatic, raspberry and ripe black cherries aromas swirling above the rim glass, practically jumping out and shouting smell me! smell me! I was not the only one with this opinion, some comments from my drinking companions – ‘the nose is so charming, you expect a little more from the palate’; ‘lovely nose, fragrant.’ It was almost impossible to ignore this wine, it was so invitingly aromatic. I just wanted to grab this wine and hug it to my bosom. So far, it was winning plaudits on the nose front. Now it was time for the taste test. Cherry coca cola! Sweet, ripe black cherries, the sensation was overwhelming. I didn’t even have to think about the words to describe the taste sensation. Alas, after the initial cherry rush, it seemed to fade into oblivion. As someone observed, it ‘…could have a little more concentration on the palate.’ A very light drinking wine, it was reminiscent of a beaujolais nouveau, the flavours rushing at your tongue but by the time it hit the back of my palate, it had disappeared, like smoke on the water. If only those flavours had stuck around a bit more, this was a wine that I would have liked to have savoured. We were all a bit disappointed that the wine didn’t have more staying power as it seemed to promise so much and then fall down at the last swallow. That was  until Torsten revealed that the winemaker, Lukas Krause is just 20 years old! Wow! When I was 20, I was...

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Wine and sushi at Tsuru in the City

When eating sushi, wine is not most peoples drink of choice. By why not? What if I told you I prefer wine with  Japanese food or, more specifically, sushi and wine? Why? How? Where? Well, it shouldn’t surprise you that I have wine with just about every meal but wine and sushi can be perfect dinner partners for everyone. Last year I went to a food and wine matching night at Tsuru sushi at Bankside near London Bridge. I thought it was a brilliant idea to match sushi with wine. People often think that it’s near impossible to match Japanese food and wine but Tsuru had done a good job of it and it was a fun evening all round. You can read about the evening and watch the video here. Forward one year and Tsuru have expanded to a new location in Bishopsgate, The City of London. I went to their  opening the other night and was curious to see how the whole food and wine matching was going and if they had stuck to the idea of promoting wine with Japanese food. Happily, I can say that wine is still an integral part of their menu and not only that but Tsuru is striving to make good wine affordable to their customers. Too many restaurants in London feel the need to gouge the customer on the wine list but luckily Tsuru is not one of them. The most expensive wine topping out at £32 for a Macon Verze from the biodynamic producer Domaine Leflaive in Burgundy and Philloponant champagne priced at £34.50, might even be cheaper then in the shops. Their wine list is short but packed with wines that can show off the best against those sometimes very strong Japanese flavours. The list mostly sticks to French wines but does stray into German and Italian terroir now and then. The 2007 Sybille Kuntz Estate dry Riesling is a wine that matches very well with the sweetness of teriyaki while still being...

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German pinot noir – Markus Molitor 2001

“It’s been a while since we had a wine meet up. Up for one this week? ” The Winerambler sent me that message one afternoon and who was I to refuse? He always has a great selection of German wines, many of which you just can’t get here in the UK. We had a selection of reds and whites but the most interesting was probably the Markus Molitor Trarbacher Schloßberg 2001 pinot noir. Markus Molitor has been the winemaker since the tender age of 20. Although his family has owned the vineyard for 8 generations, it was  Markus who had the vision to restore his family (and by extension the Moselle Valley) wines to their former glory. Pinot noir or spatburgunder has a long tradition in Germany but it’s only recently that the Molitor estate has  focused its full attention on the varietal. Molitor’s vineyard the the Trarbacher Scholsberg vineyard is situated on steep stony slopes with slatey soils, low yields, spontaneous fermentation and natural yeasts along with maturation in small oak barrels produce elegant, balanced wines. The WineRambler had a 2001 Molitor pinot noir set aside for us that evening and it was just fabulous. Autumnal leaves, mushroom, black truffle, tobacco and maybe a hint of pate (could have been the plate of pate that was sitting next to it but we won’t quibble on that). The nose was ever evolving and after some time we revisted it and I could swear that a savoury marrow aroma had now replaced the autumnal leaves. On swishing it around, a velvety palate, savoury black cherries with a smoky bitter chocolate finish. It was like someone had taken a bitter chocolate bar and stuck it in a smokehouse for a day or two. The ’01 was really showing well and Markus Molitor has certainly been able to do fantastic things with his pinot noir. Any red Burgundy lover would be very satisfied to have this wine to drink on a cool autumn eve. Thanks again to...

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German Pinot Grigio, Heger Oktav 2008

Yes, you read that right, GERMAN pinot grigio or grauburgunder as they say in German. It seems that the Italians do not have a monopoly on European pinot grigio. The Germans have also gotten into the act, although Heger has been making wine since 1935. The winery was founded by Dr. Max Heger near the town of Ihringen in what is one of the warmest parts of Germany, the Kaiserstulh region, which is dominated by a long extinct volcano. It’s warm enough here to grow cabernet sauvignon and Ihringen supposedly has the highest average temperatures in Germany. Heger has a reputation for knowing how to work with barrique barrels to age their wines. The wine we tasted, the Heger Oktav 2008 had spent time in large oak barrels which did much to produce a robust yet subtle wine. I was introduced to this wine by who else? The WineRambler. He just loves to spring all these, what we would consider, non-traditonal German wines on The Winesleuth. The Germans however, have been working with various international varietals for many years. It’s only now that I’m discovering all the other types of wines that Germany  has to offer.   Back to the wine, a lovely yellow in colour, this pinot grigio was certainly like no other I had ever tried. Even the more expensive Italian pinot grigio’s were nothing like this one. Toasted oak notes on the  nose with some ripe apple and honey notes following onto the palate. An elegant yet powerful wine, a startling surprise. Orange peel, lanolin and very mouthwatering. This wine had loads of character and a definitive orange/clementine profile with a certain spiciness on the palate that I coudn’t quite put my finger on. Very well balanced with an supply mouthfeel but at the same time a prickling sensation on the gums which just made it all the more interesting to drink. It finished however, not with a bang but more like a thief in the night. One minute it was there and the next it was gone! Nonetheless, I enjoyed this...

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…and now for something completely different-German syrah, Knipser 2003

Does this look like a German wine to you? Doesn’t look like the pale, watery German reds I’ve met in the past but this was no ordinary red, it was a German syrah. The Wine Rambler had done it again, surprising me with a German red the likes of which I had never encountered before, a lovely syrah from the Pfalz, better known for their flinty rieslings then supple reds.   The Knipser brothers have been experimenting with syrah since 1994 when they decided to plant the vine in their vineyards in the Rhineland-Palatinate. The wine is considered experimental because German wine laws are even more dictatorial and martinet about what types of grapes grow where and, since syrah is not considered an indigenous varietal, it falls outside of the wine laws of Germany. Hence the term experimental, although if this is an experimental wine. I can’t even imagine what a non-experimental wine would taste like. The Knipsers  have been using barriques since the 1980’s so they know a thing or two about oak and it is clearly evident in the Knipser 2003 syrah. The oak is so finely integrated that it’s difficult to know where the oak ends and the fruit begins. The wine was decanted for about half an hour before we tried it but it was starting to open up nicely and got progressively livelier as the night wore on. The syrah was matured in French oak barrels for 20months and it was apparent on the nose, a toasty vanilla scent with a black fruit profile slowly revealing itself with each sniff. After a bit of time, caramel, cocoa, green peppers and licorice also started to show thru the toasty mist. On the palate, supple and smooooooth….full bodied, which despite the colour was still a surprise. I just couldn’t get over the fact that this was a German red wine. I’ve had Austrian reds before but nothing prepared me for the depth of this wine. Tasting it, baked fruit at first, followed by...

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