All posts in

Riesling

Post comments
Taiwan: Too Cold for White Wine

With the arrival of May the hum of air conditioning units in the streets of Taipei signals the beginning of summer. It is a much discussed point of bemusement to many wine professionals and enthusiasts alike, that during these sultry middle months of the year, Taiwan continues to exist on a vinous diet that remains obdurately red in hue.

Whilst I have become tired of the clichéd assertions of producers from cool climate areas insisting on the suitability of their region’s wines to East Asian cuisine, tasting some fine German Rieslings at the weekend was a delicious reminder of their ability to both slake a thirst and enliven a tired mouth in a manner not possible with reds. Telling people that they should try something new, especially when it is a white wine that isn’t made from Chardonnay, is not an easy sell in this part of Asia but then again, I don’t like being told what to do either. The relative dearth of pavement restaurants that leaves people with little choice but to venture indoors is not conducive to increased consumption of white wine. Once inside and away from the oppressive sub-tropical sun, those hoping for a glass of something white and refreshing are too often confronted with the effects of seriously efficient cooling systems ensuring that this desire is quick to dissipate replaced instead by the more prosaic needs for survival, such as a hot toddy and a blanket.

But if you do stumble across a restaurant that doesn’t consider a dining experience to be ruined by temperatures above that found in your average igloo, then think about drinking something white. Below are three Germans that deserve a place in anyone’s fridge.

All of these wines are made with Riesling and all come from exceptional/superior vineyards.

Schloss Lieser, Brauneberger Juffer, Kabinett, Mosel, 2014, 7.5%
Note: On first pouring, due to its relative youth, there is a slightly sulphurous air to the aroma. However after ten minutes, the struck match character is replaced by a hay-fever inducing pungency of summer flowers that is remarkable in its intensity. Medium-sweet but with a high-line of supporting acidity makes this both an easy and engaging glass. A textbook Kabinett that will happily sit in your wine fridge for another decade.
Price: 1499NT (or £15 in UK from winedirect.co.uk)
Score: 17/20
Available from: Vinoza in Taiwan 

Joh. Jos. Prüm, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Spatlese, Mosel, 2010, 8.5%
Note: Sweet with enamel-stripping acidity, the ebullience of this wine left me wide-eyed and laughing. Intense and pure this needs no accompanying food just a sunny day or disposition. A classic Spatlese that will only improve over the next ten years.
Price: 2000NT (or in the UK, £25 as part of a case of 12 from justerinis.com)
Score: 17/20
Available from: Pro Wine in Taiwan 

Reichstrat Von Buhl, Forster Pechstein, Grosses Gewächs, Pfalz, 2010, 12.5%
Note: Salty and biting, this dry Pechstein nips at your tongue as it bullies its way across your palate. Too forceful for a mere aperitif, it requires food to help tame its exuberance. Magnificent now but even better in another five years.
Price: 1950NT (or in the UK, £35 from theonlinechateau.co.uk)\
Score: 17/20
Available from: Schmidt Vinothek in Taiwan

Sniff NL Bottle Block

 

Post comments
Austria: A Statement of Intent

On Wednesday, Taipei hosted the ‘Best of Austria’ the most impressive attempt so far by this bijou European to win the hearts of Taiwan’s wine cognoscenti. The turnout was as impressive as the importers, who were enthusiastically doling out wine to guests following the introductory seminar and guided tasting. These are the true champions of the wine world, their desire to spread the word of the under-appreciated to the uninitiated takes guts. Whether Taiwan is quite ready for Gruner Veltliner and Zweigelt (nevermind Rotgipfler) is open to debate but for the development of a true and sustainable Taiwanese wine culture to thrive, the likes of Austrian wine needs to gain a foothold.

In stark contrast to this rather grand event, the evening brought the opportunity to attend a much smaller yet equally excellent BIVB (Burgundy Wine Board) live tasting, hosted by the hugely knowledgeable Ingrid Lin. Burgundy is well represented in Taiwan and the Austrians can only hope that at some point in the future their wines are talked about with as much reverence as the best from the home of Pinot Noir. Ms Lin, a certified educator for the BIVB, gave our group three pairs of wines from the famous neighbouring villages of Gevrey Chambertin, Morey-Saint-Denis and Chambolle Musigny. Each pair consisted of a village wine and a premier cru and all six wines were from the 2011 vintage. As an exercise in benchmarking stylistic traits inherent to these villages, it proved extremely worthwhile and outlined a model that the Austrians would be wise to imitate; education is, after all, key.

Burgundy’s reputation is borne on the back of just two varieties (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay) and although the Austrians lack a red variety with the same nobility as Pinot Noir, they do have Riesling and Gruner Veltliner. The biggest issue for these two grapes is their colour; not being red remains a hindrance in this part of the world. Yet if the Austrian Wine board can craft a well-funded education programme (like the BIVB’s), the inherent high quality of these two noble varieties, allied to the enthusiasm of the importers, can bring Austria the attention its wines so readily deserve.

Below are four wines from Austria and Burgundy.

Hiedler, Reserve Thal ‘10TW’, Kamptal, 2013, 13%
Grape: Gruner Veltliner
Wine-making: Matured in stainless steel
Note: This was ‘proper’ Gruner, it was a little spicy and peppery with a mouth-coating oiliness (in a very pleasant way) and had drive and intensity through the citrus tinged palate. Very clean, very pure and very delicious.
Price: Approx 35USD
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: Not currently available in Taiwan 

F.X. Pichler, Smaragd ‘Loibner Loibenberg’, 2010, 13.5%
Grape: Riesling
Wine-making: Matured in old oak
Note: Magnificent. Intense and concentrated with a restrained stone-fruit nose and a salty, mineral-like and hugely persistent finish. Yes please!
Price:
Score: 18/20
Available from: www.eslitegourmet.com.tw 

Harmand-Geoffrey, Gevrey Chambertin, Vielles Vignes, 2011, 13%
Grape: Pinot Noir
Wine-making: 12 months in 40% new French oak
Note: Perfumed with iris, cherry stone and exotic spice this was the most approachable of all six Burgundies tasted. Powerful and firm of tannin but with a freshness and concentration that elevated this to the ranks of a great village wine. Good value.
Price: Approx 30GBP
Score: 16/20
Available from: Not currently available in Taiwan 

Domaine Taupenot-Merme, Gevrey Chambertin, 1er Cru ‘Bel Air’, 2011, 13.5%
Grape: Pinot Noir
Wine-making: 12 months in 30% new French oak
Note: Arguably the best wine of the evening if as of yet not the most forthcoming, this was quiet and restrained on the nose with some floral and savoury characters but on the palate it promised much. Concentrated, firm, powerful but bright-eyed, this was still barely out of short trousers but with the structure for further positive development over the next 5-8 years.
Price: Approx 55GBP
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: This exact wine is not available in Taiwan but this producer is represented by www.chateaux.com.tw

Sniff NL Bottle Block

 

Post comments
Dry White Wines for Keeping

The vast majority of the world’s wines are made to be drunk within a couple of years of bottling and this is particularly the case for whites. Without the preservative effect of the tannins found in red wines, the fruitiness and virility of white wines fades all too quickly, yet as with most things there are a raft of honourable exceptions.

Burgundy from the great villages of Puligny, Chassagne and Mersault as well as the hill of Corton, are capable of producing wines that can last a generation. In the last month I have had bottles from these areas (one is listed below) that were more than a decade old and full of vibrancy. But what else is there? I wrote earlier in January about Von Buhl in Pfalz and there is no doubt that the best of these dense, steely and profound Rieslings will continue to develop and shine over the coming twenty years. With the imminent arrival (in Taiwan) of the wines of Von Winning, also of Pfalz, Riesling’s significant age-ability will again be highlighted.

For those who like the idea of aged Sauvignon Blanc, the best examples are to be found in Pessac Leognan, Bordeaux. These wines usually feature some Semillon and are matured in oak making them less overt but more complex than is usual and the finest go on to give years of custard scented pleasure. Outside of Germany and France it is less common to find white wines that are built for the long haul. Spain has the tradition of aged white Riojas but this oxidative style that smells of hay and mushrooms rather than fruit and flowers is dying. Only Tondonia still produces this grossly underappreciated and magnificent anachronism. (Below I have reviewed Murrietta’s new(ish) white that replaced their wonderful traditional Rioja).

Lastly, in future years it may be that South Africa starts to produce age-worthy Chenin Blancs (think Alheit, Sadie, Mullineux) that can match the longevity of Savennieres in the Loire. This variety has the requisite acid and extract to age beautifully and when allied to the will of the new generation of South-African winemakers, this should be a new source of fine dry white wines for keeping.

Hospices de Beaune, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, Cuvee Francois de Salins, 2004
Grape:
Chardonnay
Wine-making: Oak fermented and matured
Note: Not cheap but this is still as fresh a daisy with excellent concentration and drive. Rich and ripe with oodles of fruit and saliva inducing acidity, this should last another ten years.
Price: 6,250NT
Score:
17.5/20
Available from: Winebay 02 2733 3303

Marques de Murrietta, Capellania (single vineyard), 2009, 13.5%
Grape: Viura
Wine-making: Matured for 20 months in in new French oak.
Note: As disappointed as I am at the departure of the old, more overtly oxidative style, it is hard not to be impressed by this much more modern wine. Fantastic mouth-feel that is both creamy and rich coupled with baked apple and citrus fruit aromas, this promises improvement over the medium term. Whether it will have the longevity of its predecessor will become clear in the years to come. Price: Not currently available in Taiwan but approx. $30USD globally
Score: 17.5/20
Available from: N/A

Von Winning, Forster Ungeheur Grosses Gewachs, 2013, 12%
Grape:
Riesling
Wine-making: Fermented in old wood.
Note: More forgiving than the Von Buhl Rieslings of a similar quality with a slightly softer and less dense/firm character. Perfumed with sweet apple a subtle minerality and good persistence. This will continue to reveal itself more fully over the next decade.
Price: Approx 2,500NT
Score: 17/20
Available from: Soon to be available in Taiwan from Vinoza

 

Sniff NL Bottle Block

Post comments
Germany: The Profound and the Pure

Being the birthplace of Riesling, Germany has the enviable ability to produce some of the world’s most arresting wines. There are, of course, other grapes grown here and there are excellent examples of Silvaner, Weissburgunder aka Pinot Blanc, Spatburgunder aka Pinot Noir and Lemberger aka Blaufrankisch, but it is Riesling that rules.

A recent tasting of four dry wines from Von Buhl in the Pfalz (a northerly extension of the Alsace region in France), demonstrated the mixture of acidity, density and fruit purity that imbues these wines with such profundity. This honourable and ancient estate has a new winemaker at the helm (from the 2013 vintage); Mathieu Kauffmann. His previous position as chief winemaker at Bollinger, suggests he already knows how to make a decent bottle of plonk and it would be surprising if Von Buhl did not benefit significantly from his efforts.

On tasting Mr Kauffmann’s first vintage it was satisfying to see that the intricate but rather confusing labels have also been given a positive make-over. This coincides with the most recent attempt by the VDP (Verband Deutscher Qualitats und Pradikatsweinguter), a self selected group of some of Germany’s best producers, to make labelling terms that relate to quality more clearly understandable. The VDP’s system resembles Burgundy’s hierarchy that starts with generic (Bourgogne) wines before moving through village, 1er Cru and Grand Cru. The VDP use the terms Gutswein (literally good wine but that effectively represent the region like Bourgone does in Burgundy), Ortswein which are wines produced from a village’s better vineyards and Erste Lage and Grosse Lage that translates as 1er and Grand Cru respectively.

The reluctance of many to spend significant sums on quality white wines beyond the best of Burgundy is short-sighted. The finest Rieslings from Germany have the vitality and the structure to evolve and provide pleasure over the long-term and are therefore worthy of a place in your wine fridge, cellar or store.

Von Buhl, Pfalz, Riesling, VDP.Gutswein, 2013, 12.5%, Organic
Grape: Riesling
Wine-making: No new oak influence
Note: This really sets the tone for the wines that follow. Apple like with pointed acidity and some phenolic grip that provides all of these wines with sculpted muscle. The most approachable and a wine that can be enjoyed now.
Price: See local market
Score: 15.5/20
Available from: Schmidt Vinothek in Taiwan but not this vintage currently

Herrgottsacker, Deidesheimer, Riesling, VDP.Ortswein, 2013, 13%, Organic
Grape: Riesling
Wine-making: No new oak influence
Note: A little more fruit and a touch more density, there’s not a lot in it but I think its worth trading up from the gutswein to this.
Price: See local market
Score: 16/20
Available from: Schmidt Vinothek in Taiwan but not this vintage currently

Forster Musenhang, VDP.Erste Lage, 2013, 12.5%, Organic
Grape: Riesling
Wine-making: No new oak influence
Note: This is still very tight and austere, almost unfriendly but has the structure required to suggest that this will evolve nicely over the next 3-5 years.
Price: See local market
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: Schmidt Vinothek in Taiwan but not this vintage currently

Forster Jesuitengarten, VDP.Grosse Lage, 2013, 13.5%, Organic (As this is a dry Grosse Lage wine it has the additional term GG or Grosses Gewachs on the label)
Grape: Riesling
Wine-making: No new oak influence
Note: By far the most complex and aromatic with a smokiness and an alluring mix of grapefruit and spiced apple. Again very dense and tightly wound but this should uncoil itself over the next ten years. Not cheap but very good wines rarely are.
Price: See local market
Score: 17.5/20
Available from: Schmidt Vinothek in Taiwan but not this vintage currently

Sniff NL Bottle Block

Post comments
Mclaren Vale, the importance of soil and an afternoon with Chester

Chester d’Arenberg preaches minimalistic interventions in both vineyard and winery…but not apparently when it comes to the number of wines produced, currently standing at a mind-boggling sixty four.

This is a result of his somewhat ‘old-world’ view of things. Soil appears to be the most important factor to Chester, something with which many a Frenchman and woman would heartily concur. This results in a melange of wines that makes Chester and d’Arenberg somewhat of an oddity yet his mildly eccentric nature seems untroubled by how others may view him. Having never tried all sixty-four wines it is impossible for me to attest to a definitive house style, however of the wines I have tasted it is restraint both in fruit concentration, oak and power that makes the reds moreish rather than wearing. Mclaren Vale is traditionally a home of full-throttle, ripe, chocolatey Shiraz that has a sweetness enhanced by maturation in American oak with its overt vanilla and coconut character. Chester’s wines are more meaty, more savoury and made with less emphasis on extraction and new oak influence. Whether this is what you want from Mclaren Vale is up to you, however Chester’s wines should sit more comfortably with your evening meal than most.

For all of the notoriety that d’Arenberg has achieved for its red wines it was the two whites on the tasting table that I appreciated most. The Dry Dam Riesling was much less ‘bony’ than examples often are from Clare Valley further north. This is partly due to the dollop of sugar left in the wine to help balance the acidity and results in either the perfect accompaniment to a summer’s day or pre-prandial aperitif. The Money Spider was also delicious exhibiting Roussanne’s touch of honey, quince and apricot character. Whenever I have Roussanne like this I always wonder why people bother with the blowsier Viognier. Roussanne is what Viognier wants to be when it grows up.

Below are my favourites from the seven wines tried:

The Dry Dam Riesling, Mclaren Vale, 2013, (old vine and low yields), 10.6%
Grape:
Riesling
Wine-making: Stainless steel. Very high acidity balanced with 13g/l of residual sugar. Still tastes dry/off dry.
Note: Almost water white and with an intense aroma of lime sherbert and fresh tennis balls. Really delicious with the citrus fruit feeling ripe rather than sweet due to the small amount of residual sugar remaining in the wine. Fresh, vibrant and persistent.
Price: 840NT
Score: 17/20
Available from: Creation Wine & Spirit Inc.   02-97918870

The Money Spider Roussanne, Mclaren Vale, 2012, 13%
Grape:
Roussanne
Wine-making: Stainless Steel fermentation and maturation.
Note: Delicate floral nose accompanied by a little honey, quince and apricot. Moderate-full bodied with enough acidity to support the rich, mouth-filling palate. Harmonious.
Price: 950NT
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: Creation Wine & Spirit Inc.   02-97918870

The Dead Arm Shiraz 2006, Mclaren Vale, 14.5%
Grape:
Shiraz
Wine-making: 20 months in mixed oak, some French some American with a portion being new.
Note: Beginning to show some signs of maturity, this complex Shiraz has aromas and flavours that encompass spice, meat, fennel, and an earthiness supported by ripe, full and supple tannins. No real overt oak flavour and the mix of sweet and savoury fruit provides a well balanced wine that clearly has the ability to age for another decade. Great length on the finish. Rather fine.
Price: (none left of the 2006) but the 2009 is 2,400
Score: 18/20
Available from: Creation Wine & Spirit Inc.   02-97918870

Sniff NL Bottle Block

Post comments
The Myth of Minerality

When asked what star sign I am, I declare myself a Virgo although I have no understanding (or belief) as to why my birthday should influence either my character or future. My relationship with the astrological is similar to the one I have with ‘minerality’ in wine. I willingly say something tastes ‘minerally’ whilst all the time knowing that this is nonsensical. Apart from the fact that vines derive the vast majority of their needs from the process of photosynthesis, all of which happens very obviously above ground (away from the minerals), the insolubility of most ‘minerals’ and their inert nature, prevent us from being able to taste or smell them.

An example of this occurs in the vineyards of Sancerre and Pouilly Fume, whose wines are often lauded for their ‘mineral’ complexity. Some are particularly rich in flint (silex as the French call it) whilst others have more chalk. On tasting countless examples from this area I found that I could indeed detect the differences in the aromatic qualities of wines grown on different soils…but neither of them tasted of chalk or flint. It is more likely that the position of the vineyard, its aspect as well as decisions made in the winery, are more profound reasons governing these differences.

At best, using the term ‘mineral’ allows the taster/producer to communicate the vigour or drive in the wine and is invariably used in a positive sense. At worst it does the exact opposite, placing a barrier between the taster and the wine as they wrestle with a concept that has no apparent basis in fact. I would never want wine to be seen as a simple beverage. Being from and of the land is one of its greatest selling points but we must be wary of perpetuating terminology that excludes rather than encourages people to try wine, the world’s finest drink.

…Having said that, below are three very ‘mineral wines’.

Henri Bourgeois, ‘La Bourgeoise’, Sancerre, 2010
Grape:
Sauvignon Blanc
Wine-making: Stainless Steel
Note: Too much Sancerre is un-deserving of the appellation. It could be argued that magnificence is a rare commodity from any region of production (however famous) but lean and green Sancerre is depressingly common. Yet this is Sancerre at its best. Mineral, almost salty, taut whilst being approachable and aromatically opulent with pink grapefruit, passionfruit, white peach, nettle and a feminine muskiness that is all ‘glow’ and no sweat.
If you are familiar with the wines of Henri Bourgeois then you will know already that they set the Sauvignon Blanc standard extremely high. If you want an exceptional example of how good Sancerre can be, I suggest you buy a bottle or two to share with someone worthy, you won’t be disappointed.
Price: 1,900NT
Score: 18.5/20
Available from: Finesse

Domaine Wachau, Terrassen Smaragd, Wachau, 13%, 2010
Grape: Riesling
Wine-making: Old casks and stainless steel
Note: Wines with the ‘Smaragd’ designation are the most full –bodied of the Wachau’s wines. They are also dry and this has an expressive peachy, almost tropical nose. Perfect with clams or abalone.
Price: 1300NT
Score: 17.5/20
Available from: Szity Wine Cellar

D’Arenberg Footbolt Shiraz, Mclaren Vale, 14.4%, 2010
Grape: Shiraz
Wine-making: 12 months in American and French oak
Note: Just to prove that ‘minerality’ is not the preserve of white wines from cooler climates. Earthy and meaty with black fruit and licorice aplenty, this is powerful but well balanced with enough acidity and tannins to support the ripe fruit. Very good value.
Price: 950NT
Score: 16.5
Available from: Creation Wine & Spirits

Sniff NL Bottle Block