For most of us, it isn’t the fantastic and great wines of this world that are of particular interest. The chance to taste a top-end Burgundy is a treat, but a rare one: the affordable, everyday wines are the ones that matter and when they offer the potential to surprise with great quality at a fair price, that’s what the majority of drinkers are looking for.
Dr. Bürklin-Wolf is one of the Pfalz region’s best producers and their Grand Cru (Großes Gewächs) wines are some of the best in Germany. Their Kirchenstück Riesling is of world-class quality and one of Palatinate’s most sought-after wines. However, the attention to detail at Dr. Bürklin-Wolf goes right down to the Gutsweine – wines produced using vines owned by the producer all over the region – no single-vineyard stuff and not even sourced from one single commune. Whereas these wines might not showcase the individual site and terroir of one vineyard, they act as ambassadors for the region and are the wines that most people will drink.
Dr. Bürklin Wolf’s Estate Riesling is already fantastic, one of Germany’s best VDP Gutsweine (estate wines) and this Pinot Noir is just as good. I’ve said it a thousand times: most Pinot Noir in Germany is forgettable at best: unripe, sour, earthy and translucent; it offers good holiday drinking but, when you take a few bottles home, you realise that it was the heat-of-the-moment that forced you to enjoy the wine. This one and a small number of others are exceptions to the rule. German Pinot Noir can be brilliant and whilst this is almost guaranteed with the single-site wines for 30€ and upwards, it can be rare if you don’t know where to look if your budget isn’t quite that high.
Cherry red with a Barbie-pink hue.
The wine is rather expressive on the nose with plenty of red fruit: Cassis, black cherry and cranberry take on the major roles but are joined by a particularly pleasant red plum aroma. The earthy touch commonly associated with German Pinot is there but plays a largely background role. There is a touch of wood too, nothing dominant but extremely helpful in presenting the fruit.
The attack is a sweet berry mixture lead by the Cassis and cranberry but it also includes black fruit in the way of blackcurrant, black cherry and even blueberries. The body is nice and ripe: notes of red apple move onto a cleverly-created wooden finish with bite despite being mild and reserved. This shows off some nice cedar wood character with a touch of smoke.
Again, it’s the attention to detail that makes this wine so impressive. Rather than just make a Pfalz Pinot Noir, you can tell that a highly-skilled winemaker chose to craft this wine as if it were a more prestigious and expensive wine. The Pfalz-terroir is there and so too is the sense of German Spätburgunder but the exquisite use of Barrique is so balanced and neither prominent nor jobless in presenting the wine – just right. Priced at 13€ the value-for-money factor is excellent and, even if the wine were 10€ more expensive, it’d be a fair buy.
Auxerrois is a relatively rare varietal in Germany. Whilst it is one of the better white Pinot varietals for making the most out of cold climate locations, it isn’t exactly common – especially when you consider how much Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay is made in Germany. It is a shame because Auxerrois can be incredibly expressive – if done well.
This basic entry-level wine was produced by a partnership that no longer exists: the Weinhaus zu Weimar and the Prinz Zur Lippe. Whilst the Weinhaus zu Weimar still does exist, its vines are now in the hands of one of the Saale-Unstrut cooperation growers. Prinz Zur Lippe had invested large sums of money into the project but was always disappointed with the local winegrowing boards and councils for trying to prohibit the company building a winery on the site – the grapes therefore had to be transported to the Schloss Proschwitz winery in Zadel, close to Meissen in Saxony. Over time, the project proved costly and the Prince sold his vines in the middle of last year. The 2014 vintage was his last, and future vintages will no longer carry the Lippe rose, or indeed the signature of the Proschwitz winemakers. However, the wines are still readily available and the 2013 vintage is offering excellent drinking right now.
Apricot yellow in colour.
Lots of stone fruit with a great deal of sweetened peach and dried nectarine. There is a fair amount of yellow pear on the nose and a touch of quince as well.
The wine is smooth and fruity on the attack with all of the stone fruit in the nose plus a dash of quince and apple juice on top. The body is thick with the yellow fruit and occasionally pulses with acidity from the apple and quince. The finish is discreet and brings with it a hint of wet rock but also a touch of white pepper.
Like all Saale-Unstrut and Sachsen wines, to rate a wine like this taking its price tag into consideration is a mistake – at nearly 17€ the wine is far from cheap and, being completely honest, it’s far from being one of the best German Auxerrois wines I’ve ever drunk. Still, it is incredibly well-made and showcases Saale-Unstrut of being more than capable of producing high-quality dry wine. When a project like this comes to an end, it’s always a shame. When you consider the impact climate change will have on this region in decades to come, a few established and big-name producers can only do the region a favour.
The Nahe is probably best known for its Riesling and yet a number of wineries also use the valley’s slate soils to grow Pinot vines. The combination of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir grown on slate is quite interesting: you get the fuller Burgundy notes of Pinot but with a freshness and mineral structure found in cold-climate slate wines. Pinot Blanc expresses this perhaps best but Pinot Noir is also very good at making the most of slate soils – Pinot Noir is, like Riesling, one of the best varietals for showing off the soil it grows on and, when it is handled like a white wine (e.g. little to no skin contact), it can really be very good in presenting a region as a whole.
Tesch is a well-known producer in the Nahe valley and, like most other Nahe producers, the Rieslings are the wines that most people are looking for. However, alongside a range of other products, they also make this fabulous Blanc de Noir named ‘Deep Blue’ after the ocean that used to exist there 20 million years ago.
Pale salmon – more rosé gold than pink.
Very fresh in the nose with a fair amount going on: most noticeable are the red berries: cherries and raspberry that eventually lead onto a thick strawberries and cream aroma. There is a hint of wet rock in the background and fresh herbs too.
The attack is very smooth. Lots of berries dictate the start: raspberry, strawberry, cranberry and perhaps even a touch of sweetened plum. The body moves onto Rhubarb with a unique vanilla and cream touch: custard perhaps – even ice cream. The finish is crisp however and brings in those slate notes – they are slightly dampened by the power of the fruit, which is probably just as well, otherwise they might feel a touch out of place.
Certainly a wine worth trying and one that fits excellently with fresh whitefish – not acid-driven as is often the case in both Nahe and Blanc de Noir wines, the body is big and warming whereas the overall feel is fresh and relaxed: the entire point in Blanc de Noir.
One of the most prestigious producers of rosé wine in the world, Domaines Ott’s Clos Mireille estate is situated right on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the Côte d’Azur. This unique location gives the wines a completely different feel than the often sweet, fruity rosé wines from this part of the world – thanks to the cool winds and sea spray, the wines can sometimes feel rather cool – more cold climate minerals than Southern fruit. The clay soils of the Clos Mireille estate are essential in the final composure of the wine – slate-like compounds are key to the wine’s structure. This wine is a cuvee of Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Pale pink with orange touches – the same colour as the new iPhone.
The first things to come through are citrus peels: grapefruit, lemon and Clementine but lemon juice is allowed to emerge – only in the most discreet way however. Wild Raspberry, a hint of strawberry and even cranberry is in there but blink and you’ll miss it. The Mineral compounds: white pepper and salt pick up where the berries stop – the wine reminds immediately of wet rocky outcrops.
The citrus takes the main stage again here: lemon peel, then juice, then pink grapefruit although only the sweeter notes with the bitterness hidden behind a splash of wild strawberry and raspberry. The full fruit notes are never really fully exposed but move on to sage, mint and some floral pulses and then white pepper and then the wine is almost completely finished – discretion and fine tuning seldom seen in rosé.
Rosé is commonly labelled as wine for people who don’t usually drink wine and yet, when you drink wines like this, you realise just how good it can be and why some rosé deserves to appear in fine wine journals. This is some of the most expertly created rosé I’ve ever tried – the attention to detail in displaying the terroir is phenomenal and the cliché notes of overpowering red berries are not missed – this really portrays how good rosé can be.
I too was impressed with the 2013 Riesling Brut from Reichsrat von Buhl (read my review here). After years of producing just another Winzersekt the 2013 Riesling Brut was the first large-scale proof that, after years of being otherwise mediocre, Riesling also works well in sparkling wine. With the bone-dry signature of new winemaker Mathieu Kauffmann, the Von Buhl series (in particular the still Rieslings) has come back out of the shadows and, alongside Dr. Bürklin-Wolf and Von Winning, is back at the forefront of Pfälzer Wein.
The 2013 Rosé Brut was released a few months after the Riesling Brut to much anticipation. Now sold-out, orders were limited to six bottles per customer – my handler was only able to sell me four bottles before he ran out as well, unable to replenish stocks.
The wine is made entirely of Pinot Noir (or Spätburgunder in German). Aged for no less that 15 months on the yeast, the grapes are sourced from prime vineyards in the Pfalz region.
An elegant salmon pink with rose-gold gleam and a fine mousse.
Very fruity and yet incredibly discreet – nothing perfumed, nothing too bright and yet remarkably fresh: raspberry, strawberry and a hint of grapefruit with a toasty (although reserved) note.
The attack is both refreshing and yet not sharp: the sweeter side of grapefruit, raspberry and the strawberry in the nose are the first to appear and make up the body with the tarty appeal of rhubarb – no bitterness. The finesh is nice and toasty but in no way compromises either the freshness of the wine or the discreet appeal of the sweet red fruit. A touch of vanilla is perhaps there but plays a very background role.
A very well-made sparkling rosé and one of the best value-for-money bottles available in the pink bubbly sector altogether. Miles better than nearly all of the Champagne wines that retail for twice the 25€ price tag, the appeal is that it is so fresh. Whilst you might associate German Pinot Noir with earthy, Cassis-driven wines; this is clean, modern and very elegant.
If you can get hold of a bottle, you will not regret it. If you already have some in the cellar, it drinks beautifully now and will do for a long time yet.
During a three week holiday to Cornwall this summer, I stopped off in Nanstallon to pick up a few bottles of what is considered to be Cornwall’s best bubbly: Camel Valley. Apart from a backdrop of rain and grey skies on that very July day, the vineyard was a pretty sight – still not one that I am used to in England.
Unlike the flagship products of many other big-name UK wineries, Camel Valley’s Brut isn’t a Champagne wannabe but rather a unique and very English approach to winemaking. The varietals that make up the wine are therefore not Chardonnay, Meunier and Pinot Noir but Seyval Blanc, Reichensteiner and Huxelrebe.
Pale gold with a fine mousse.
Fresh orchard fruits, lots of grapefruit as well – an underlying spice with white pepper and fresh herbs – yeasty notes are rather covered up reminding of lemon cake rather than bread.
Quite sharp on the attack with green apple and grapefruit juice (only the sweet elements mind you). This moves on to a lovely lemon syrup that leads the way into a body of green fruit: green apple, ripe pears and gooseberry - the finish isn’t particularly big and powerful but it does allow the fruit to stay on the tongue long after swallowing. Fresh parsley and white pepper finish off the wine discreetly and expertly.
A good English bubbly – I like the English feel to it with the massive fruit in the body and on the nose and enjoy the way the wine’s finish doesn’t kill that off. The structure isn’t necessarily defined but I suppose that does make it easier to drink and less forgettable. Alongside Chapel Down, this is one of the best-priced English sparklers on the market – the Cornwall Brut might not be the most delicate of the English bubblies but it certainly is a true patriot when it comes to defining what the ‘English Style’ could possibly be – a true bulldog in a market sector where nearly everyone else is trying to be a poodle.
Markus Molitor appears fairly often on this page and there’s a good reason for that: the wines are both fantastic and, thankfully, wonderfully affordable. Neighbouring wineries with wines that are just as good from the same sites are often twice or three times as expensive.
Whereas the majority of wines sold in the domestic market are dry, it’s no secret that the finest wines to emerge from Germany’s finest Riesling vineyards are off-dry and their fruit structures are best off-set with a very rewarding level of residual sugar.
Zeltingen is best known for its Sonnenuhr vineyard and the Himmelreich site is situated at the top of the very same slope with much the same slate soil.
Straw yellow with a hint of green
Rather clean although hints of freshly chopped herbs and grass are almost immediately noticeable. After a few seconds grapefruit, watermelon and cloudy freshly-pressed apple juice emerge and so too does orange peel and eucalyptus.
Sweet and silky on the attack, apple juice is the first note on the scene and this carries on right into the body taking green pears, mango and kiwi onto a long but finely-composed finish with a eucalyptus and green tea finish ending in a bite of slate.
This is the kind of wine the Mosel is famous for: long, juicy Riesling with just enough bite to remain refreshing and yet still have plenty of sinful residual sugar. It would fit brilliantly with really spicy Asian cuisine but it drinks fabulously on its own as well. Priced at around 13€ it offers excellent value from money and gives you a great insight into one of Mosel’s most underrated vineyards.
I recently reviewed a Chasslie from a communal winegrowers association but I thought I’d take a look at the stuff being made by the wineries of the region too. Chasslie and indeed the varietal it is based on: Chasselas (Gutedel) is a speciality of the Markgräflerland. With almost no acidity, this grape fits excellently with delicate food: particularly poultry and white fish.
Julius Zotz is based in Baden’s Heitesheim and this wine grows entirely in the Heitersheimer Maltesergarten winery. The wine spends five months on the yeast sanding off all of those sharp splinters – no acid, almost no fruit and a smooth, creamy feel are the results.
Pale straw yellow
Predictably the wine is rather yeasty on the nose and reminds of fresh white bread. Behind this note though is a touch of stone fruit: peach and maybe even some lemon peel.
There isn’t much of an attack here – the wine slowly introduces itself and first on the scene are fresh pears with a hint of peach. The body is characterised by honey melon but these notes eventually give way to a long, smooth, creamy finish.
OK, this isn’t a fine wine – it’s a regionally specialty that is little known outside of the Markgräflerland. It is however special and whilst there isn’t much going on in the wine itself, the feel is rather unique and it does make the wine great with food. For those who experience indigestion: this is a fantastic choice - to lovers of wine with bright flavours and a touch of acidity, this is probably best avoided.
I’ve recently tried a few wines from this Westhofener winery in Germany’s Rheinhessen and have been astonished as to how delicate winemaker Katharina Wechsler is able to work with traditional powerful varietals. Typically Rheinhessen Riesling, Grauburgunder and the like is full of sometimes overpowering fruit and a thick chalky note that often feels out of place. Her wines however are all very delicate and incredibly crafted: smooth, easy-drinkability and character and three terms I use to describe nearly all of her wines.
Weingut Wechsler operates the Benn vineyard entirely and this Riesling makes use of what it some of the finest Riesling terroir in all of Rheinhessen. It was probably designed to be opened in a few years time but my handler informed me of its excellent drinkability right now.
Satin Gold, very shiny.
Lime cordial, lemon peel and green apple made up the nose but so too did almonds and limestone.
The attack is of sharp lemon juice but this eventually gets milder giving the drinker some of the finest lemon notes I’ve ever experience in any wine. Grapefruit, orange peel but also a touch of orchard fruit is presented as well: delicate yellow apples and green pears. The finish is crisp and brings chalk but only a touch – enough to complete the wine and remind of the fantastic soil here without risking an off-balance, cloudy affair.
I probably did open this a little too early – with a few years in the cellar, the sharpness of the lemon would go away and the fruit probably improve through this. The Wechsler touch is there though – delicate elegance although this Riesling offers a tad more power than most of the rest of the range. Once again, the possibilities of producing wines based on Riesling appear endless.
Let’s clear one thing up to start with: the word “halbtrocken” (off-dry/medium) appears on the label of this wine – that isn’t the case: legally maybe, but not in terms of taste.
Ernst Triebaumer is one of Burgenland’s most established producers. Popular mainly for its unique wines based on Blaufränkisch, it produces a number of white varietal wines in Austria’s beautiful Burgenland.
Burgenland itself is famous for Blaufränkisch – this varietal is hardly-known on the mainstream market and yet it is capable of producing fantastic wines full of character that soak up the local soil like almost no other red varietal. Zweigelt is widely planted, as are Chardonnay and a handful of other white varietals.
Bright, white gold
Lots of apricot and biscuit on the nose, this wine was both fruity and full of minerals. Apples and pears eventually came through on the nose.
The attack was rather sweet: apricot, yellow apples and banana and the body with slightly acidic reminding of lime juice – the eventually went on to make a creamy, smooth, buttery finish with a slight woody bite at the end.
Despite the fruity aromas, there was a vegetative taste that comes through in lots of Chardonnay – however, many choose to cover this note with wood: not in this product which is nice: the wine felt incredibly natural – it didn’t feel artificially layered as is so often the case – it felt like an unoaked Chardonnay from France: allowed to show off Chardonnay as a varietal rather than what is possible to do with it.
-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