I’ve mentioned before that Silvaner is underrated. Almost non-existent outside of Germany and Alsace, the varietal struggles on the domestic market too. Entry-level wines often lack complexity and don’t contain the same aromatic impressions of cheaper Rieslings and aren’t as universally easy-drinking as perhaps a Pinot Gris (Grauer Burgunder). You can read my blog entry about Silvaner here – I am a huge fan of the grape and, given the right terroir, it can produce phenomenal wines – without wanting to exaggerate, it sometimes has the same quality level as Riesling and, particularly when we only consider dry wines, often excels above Riesling in certain vineyards.
Every now and again comes along a wine that proves this and even rarer than that, every now and again comes along a wine that leaves you speechless: I love Silvaner, but even I didn’t know it could be this good.
I’m talking about the 2015 Maustal GG from Zehnthof Luckert – probably the best Silvaner I’ve ever been lucky enough to taste. I’ve tried many of the winery’s products in the past and have always liked their style – creamier, yeastier and fuller and yet remaining featherlight – not many pull this off so well: often creamier wines are left feeling too bold in the glass and this doesn’t always age well when there is a profound lack of acidity – Luckert have done a wonderful job here.
With lemon zest touch and a dash of orange peel, the wine is immediately present in the glass with an almost Burgundian promise on the nose. There is lemongrass, lemon balm, oven-warm brioche and cheesecake on the nose as well as caramel-infused pop-corn. On the palate the wine plays a wonderful game with the drinker: it feels bold for a few seconds: yeasty, creamy, like clotted cream and yet this vanishes into clarity and drive giving the wine an almost ghost-like presence in the glass: the structure is phenomenal and perhaps the only thing more awe-inspiring than the taste. The build-up is spot-on, the body is, and I’m sorry for the superlative here, utterly perfect with buttery complexion and yet this isn’t overdone – there are no slippery, clumsy notes but total composure. The finish is long, smooth and resorts back to its slender self, a touch of cream is left on the tongue and the wine plays out an almost floral, almost zesty swansong before it eventually disappears.
If ever you’ve doubted Silvaner, check this out. The wine is both typical of the Franconian style and yet somehow vastly different as well – bold and yet balanced, chalky and yet refined. Astonishingly good.
Cape Moby is a line of South African wines from the cool-climate region of Walker Bay on the Atlantic Coast. The region's wines profit from a deeper character due to the oceanic climate: reds remain intense and structure-orientated rather than offensively fruity, wines remain crisp and dry without high fruit extract.
This red cuvee is made up of four varietals: the very Bordeaux Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon coupled with the typical varietals found in South Africa: Shiraz and Pinotage.
Deep ruby red in the glass, the nose impresses with blackcurrant and black cherry. This is off-set with excellent licorice and tobacco notes encompassing the strong and yet not prominent wood in the background. On the palate, the black fruit is very reserved and here you are presented with plum and pomegranate. Also in the body are the notes of licorice, tobacco and cedar wood. The tannins, wood and acidity are all wonderfully mild making this wine already very pleasurable to drink.
Cape Moby is widely available on the German market, For information about finding this wine where you live, contact me and I'll gladly assist you.
The Antinori brand is an important one in Tuscany and yet the winemaking family operates wineries in other regions of Italy and the world too, from Chile to Franciacorta and from Piedmont to Apulia.
The Prunotto winery in Alba, Piemonte has been part of the Antinori dynasty since 1989 and creates several typical Piedmont red wines. With several Barolos in its portfolio, it also creates a handful of wines based on the Barbera varietal - one of North-West Italy's most important varietals.
Plum red in the glass with a pink hue, the wine is very aromatic in terms of red berries on the nose: wild strawberry, blackcurrant, black cherry and raspberry. There is a wonderful spice mixture of black pepper, cloves and a touch of juniper, pine nut and smoke. On the attack is the predictable Piedmont acidity that does its job in holding the wine together. From the berry attack through the spicy body and onto the very dry finish, the wine remains in constant harmony with the acidity and a touch of wood in the background.
A very well made Barbera from an underrated and sometimes purposely misunderstood winery.
Prunotto in the UK
Prunotto in the US
The French have Mouton-Rothschild, Italy has Sassicaia and Germany has Egon Müller. Possibly the only world-famous wines to orignate from Germany are those from Dr. Loosen, Robert Weil and Egon Müller – the latter being, by far and away, the most expensive.
The Scharzhofberger site is so synonymous with Egon Müller that, in wine circles, if you say the vineyard’s name, Müller’s wines are the ones you think of despite several wineries owning parcels in what is Germany’s most-famous vineyard.
But it is Egon Müller that is so commonly associated with this slate-soil site in the Saar region (a sub region of the Mosel) and for good reason. The off-dry and nobly sweet wines from this winery and from this vineyard belong to the world’s finest white wines – on a par with top whites from Burgundy – despite being vastly different.
Pale, golden yellow in the glass, the nose of this wine is slightly different to the Mosel and Saar Kabinetts I have tried in the past. There is far lesser reliance on fruit and the mineral aspects: slate, white pepper, fresh herbs are far more prominent. There is fruit in the way of pear, a touch of something tropical (mango, papaya, pineapple) and a decent amount of fresh apple juice. Interesting too is the way the residual sugar is worked into the wine – believe it or not but it is not immediately noticeable – of course this isn’t a dry wine: that is obvious, but the fruit is so composed and worked into the spice structure that it isn’t bright: it doesn’t dominate as is so often the case in Kabinett. The fruit does come through but the slate aromas coupled with a unique sense of smoke and the fresh herbs on the nose run the show leading to a very clean finish – unusual for Kabinett which often remains sweet and syrupy on the palate.
A fantastic Kabinett which presents the soil perhaps better than any other wine of the same classification from this site – composed, clean and remarkably addictable.
Egon Müller wines in the UK
Egon Müller wines in the US
Named after what is perhaps the world’s greatest rock album, the wine parallels the album in the sense of being so very different to everything that came before it. Like all Springfontein wines I’ve tried up until now, its true character lies in the detail and the structure, rather than individual elements of fruit or spice.
Made up of barrel-fermented, white-pressed Pinotage, Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay grown all on limestone, the wine is aged in used, small wooden barrels of different geographical descent. The wine didn’t undergo a second malolactic fermentation lending the structure an acidic backbone, something that is crucial to the entire wine’s character.
In fact, I often talk about structure and, in such big powerful wines, it plays an incredibly important role: here it is expertly applied: the attack with its citrus edge (lemon and grapefruit), the body with a touch of stone fruit (white peach and apricot) through to a chalky finish: complete with salt, green herbs and white pepper – this is all held together by the acidic backbone and the constant pulsation of wood: (thankfully lacking the cliché-like vanilla and smoke elements so many New-World whites are dogged with).
This big wine is very different – incorporating a great deal into one wine with the heavy reliance on the two varietals South Africa is famous for, it still manages to impress with elegance and completion. Very much like the Pink Floyd album of the same name, it is ambitious, sometimes absolutely crazy and yet utterly brilliant, wonderfully structured and, once the bottle is empty, it’s time to hit the play button again and open a second one.
Springfontein in the UK
Contact the winery for further availability information
Dr. Bassermann-Jordan is a Riesling winery and its wines are some of the finest in the Pfalz. With its two sister wineries: Von Buhl and Von Winning, they form the Deidesheim Teriffic-Trio: three very different wineries with very different styles all made using grapes from pretty much the same vineyards in the same communes.
Let me present of one Germany's most famous winery's craziest products though: Pithium 2012.
Here you'll find Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris) and Gewürztraminer and it is aged in clay amphoras rather than wooden barrels or stell vats. This lends the wine a unique cloudy, orange appearance which, depsite irritating at first, is quite attractive.
Pithium is one of those rare exclusives lurking in the backrooms of classic Pfalz wineries. Not advertised on the winery's webpage and remarkably hard to locate, this is one of the freak-show wines emerging from the shadows in the darkest corner of a winery's vat room.
Ageing wine in clay might seem new and it is in Germany and Austria's modern wine production however it was the practised approach to making wine in the countries where wine was first made and, in some of them, still is: Georgia, Armenia, Moldova and the like. With a long maceration with the grape skins, the wine acheives a fuller set of aromas and, having not been filtered before bottling and with as little wine-cellar work as required, these remain in the wine for the drinker to discover. Interestingly the grapes are sourced from the Ruppertsberger Reiterpfad, a fantastic Riesling site in the Pfalz.
In the nose is a mixture of floral elements, Belgian Witbier, Brioche and coriander. There is a touch of vanilla but it's kept at bay with by the other notes in the glass.
The wine is a fair amount stronger on the tongue however: a thick acidic approach with cloudy, unsweetened lemon juice, a thick sense of clementine and grapefruit peel. There are definitely notes of fresh hops in the wine and these bring in a sense of white peach (although only the skin aromas) and a touch of banana. The acidity reminds of Belgian Gueze (an acidic style beer from Brussels) and fits remarkably well with the rest of the wine. Long and spicy on the finish, this wine is extremely well executed and offers immediate rewarding drinking - even for those who rarely drink such specialist products.
Whilst it can be very hard to find, this is one of those approachable natural-style wines rather than those that really do have an acquired taste for orange and white-grape-macerated wines. This is the kind of wine that would impress someone who drinks a lot of exotic Belgian beers - similar notes, executed in a similar way.
Dr. Bassermann-Jordan in the US
Dr. Bassermann-Jordan in the UK
There are probably four major names in the production of German wine and their wines are sought after in every country: the winerys' labels are immediately recognisable and their wines, some of the world’s best: Jos. Joh. Prüm, Egon Müller, Robert Weil and Keller. Whereas the previous two deal mainly with sweet wines, Keller’s strength is universally applicable: consistently producing some of Germany’s finest dry wines and also some of its finest sweet wine too: much like Robert Weil in fact.
The producer's single-vineyard and prestige cuvees are sold out, year after year, including the Hubacker GG. It serves as one of the producer's calling cards: world-famous and, arguably, one of the world's best-priced fine wines.
The Hubacker vineyard is defined by its limestone soil however, when the wine has aged a little, those chalky notes are restrained leading to a puristic take on dry Riesling: yes the soil plays a role in the wine but it doesn't define it solely as is sometimes the case in Rheinhessen. It's fair to say that this wine is probably a bit young and yet the key to good wine is that it can be enjoyed at every stage of its lifetime - this wine delivered on all levels.
With a brief hint of gooseberry on the attack, the only chalk-element of the wine is noticeable: creamy and, until the body picks up, intensely smooth. When the body kicks in, you all-of-a-sudden realise why people go crazy about this wine. Fully ripe stone fruit: sweet apricots, yellow plum and a decent helping of yellow peach. There is a thick sense of pear in there as well that gradually picks up momentum until the finely-spiced finish takes the reins: vegetative notes with nettles, green herbs and perhaps a hint of green pepper: you would be forgiven for thinking this wine grew on slate rather than chalk thanks to a smoky feel to the finish.
A true stunner, priced at around 50€, it certainly isn’t cheap but it impresses immensely and is, undoubtedly, one of the world’s finest dry, white wines, much like its bigger and vastly-more-expensive brothers.
Keller in the US
Keller in the UK
There are a few vineyards with a selection of unmistakable characteristics. Erden's Prälat is one such vineyard and all of its wines are immediately recognisable - perhaps only Ürzig's Würzgarten is parallel in terms of vivid personality in the Mittelmosel region.
Slate isn't limited to this vineyard but the way a kind of evergreen-woodsmoke is worked into this, paired with a faint whiff of lighter fuel: it can only be Prälat. Fruit is pushed into the background in the nose but there is sweet apple compote, quince and maracuja - some lime is lurking in the slate's shadow and so too is juniper.
Whereas many wineries in the Mosel region experience international recognition, there are so many smaller producers doing just as good a job. Without the backing of the VDP or multi-national parent companies, their wines remain little-known and, as a result, have a much lower price. Besides Meulenhof, there are hundreds of Mosel producers, many of which have vines in some of the region's finest vineyards.
On the attack is lime, green apple and sweet lemon. This moves onto cooking apple (think crumble), the promised quince, a touch of pineapple and then a unique display of red fruit: rhubarb and even raspberry. The wine finishes on slate, smoke, white pepper and a satisfying sweetness that keeps the piercing acidity at bay.
Fabulous wine with an awesome signature touch - this is about as Prälat as it gets.
Meulenhof in the UK
Meulenhof in the US
Occasionally a wine comes along and is completely different. Not only does it impress through its appearance in the glass, its wonderful aroma and fabulous taste but just because it is so different to anything that has come before it. Being different alone is a risky business: you run the risk of appealing only to niche audiences but if you can combine being ever-so-slightly different with beloved and traditional elements: success may be coming your way.
I am, of course, talking about the elements of taste that natural wine brings with it: the unmistakable taste of a long, full grape maceration with skins in white wine. This is an acquired taste and, when combined with zero filtration and no sulfites: this is unlikely to be a product with mass appeal. Taking the individual element of full skin maceration and then creating a “regular” wine is becoming popular practise but rarely does this practise appear in the elite world of German Großes Gewächs. Up until recently, only traditional and typical wines made the bar which makes the St. Nikolaus from Peter Jakob Kühn an exotic exception: hats off to the future-looking VDP Rheingau for approving this wine. It wears its double G with pride and yet sports its own look – like a fashion-lover wearing this season’s must-have accessory and yet remaining true to their individual style, maybe even defining which items next year will become “must-have”
There is very little else comparable in the GG realms – similarly good wines: yes but nothing that tastes like this.
Firstly it’s important to realise that this is a very young wine and it wasn’t really intended to be opened so early – the wine takes a while to fall completely into place but impresses at all stages: from straight-out-of-the-bottle at 8˚C, right through to an-hour-in-the-glass at 15˚C.
Immediately present in the nose is a delicate sense of citrus: mainly lemon peel but also a remarkably fresh aroma of honeysuckle. There is a touch of apple and, running in the background and hints of ripe, yellow apple and plenty of spice: sage, mint, a touch of smoke (possibly hinting at flint) and white pepper.
Straight out of the bottle, the wine plays a set of highs and short breaks between individual phases: it starts with fresh citrus: pink grapefruit and dried citrus peel, this vanishes and is eventually replaced by yellow fruit: yellow plum, apple but nothing too strong. This vanishes as well and is finally replaced by a unique sprinkling of sherbet to finish the wine off with sweetness, a touch of acidity and plenty of Rheingau spice. All the while a yeast-wood note runs throughout and leads into the aforementioned finish.
The highs and pauses are brought a lot closer together – the individual elements run into eachother and the citrus on the attack becomes more defined: thick, freshly-preshed grapefruit juice with lemon and Clementine peel backing it up. The body is also fuller and there are yeasty notes involved now too: lots of apple but nothing sharp (a bit like apple pie with the yeast notes)– there is a small amount of apricot in there and this leads on to the finish which has calmed down a lot and now reminds of rhubarb (unsweetened) – tart and excellently brought into white pepper, sage, mint, thyme and fresh grass.
This wine is very unique and, whilst it does carry a few elements of natural wine, it isn’t necessarily one that only freaks can enjoy. Actually it offers a bright picture of the future of this style of wine: seldom is it done as well as this and never before has it carried a GG logo on the bottle. Priced at around 40€, this wine is selling-out fast so grab it while you can!
Peter Jakob Kühn in the UK
Nosiola is an age-old varietal that has fallen out of fashion in Trentino and the other regions in North-East Italy. In the past it was always fermented on the skins in clay amphora. Foradori continues this practise and produces this wonderful, light and yet remarkably fresh wine with perhaps a specialist touch although universally enjoyable.
The wine requires a great deal of air and shouldn't really be enjoyed too cold – use red wine glasses to enjoy this fabulous naturally-inspired wine and don’t leave it in the fridge for too long.
The first thing you notice on the nose is that this immediately reminds of red wine: there are red fruit notes, a sense of wood in there and this is backed-up on the palate as well. There are also dried petals on the nose, a decent sense of acidity and black tea.
A fabulously complex, if not sharp attack with plenty of notes: grapefruit, pomelo and green apple but this turns into a thick body with rhubarb, unripe apple and even a touch of something pickled: gherkin, possibly even Sauerkraut. Quick on the finish with a dry kick and a lovely chalky undertone.
A unique wine and a very rewarding drinking experience. Priced at around 35€, this wine is one to be treasured by specialists and lovers of natural-style wine. Perhaps a little too unique for regular wine drinkers, even a novice will appreciate the attention to detail though.
Foradori in the UK
Foradori in the US
-Sud de France
-Pinot Blanc (Weißburgunder)
-Pinot Gris (Grauburgunder)
-Pinot Meunier (Schwarzriesling)
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-Medium / off-dry
-Brut Zero/ Brut Nature
-Medium / off-dry