Immediately distinguishable due to their telltale bottles, Franconia wines are widely available all over Germany, if not a little expensive outside of the production region itself. Of course, the traditional Franconia white grape is Silvaner – the grape’s adopted home and the vineyards of northern Bavaria (geographically, certainly not politically) are undoubtedly the best in the world for producing it.
Zur Schwane is a VDP winery in the German wine production region of Franken, accountable for a large number of first-class white wines and even a few Grand Crus (Großes Gewächs). Recently however, the winery has taken on a fresh look and a new direction – they bottle fantastic everyday wines, not in the traditional Bocksbeutel (the bottle shape pictured above) but in standard clear Bordeaux-shaped bottles with snazzy labels aimed at a younger generation than would traditionally drink Franconia wine.
This Silvaner was one of the old bunch though, a real meaty, thick Kabinett from the vineyards surrounding Volkach, one of Franconia’s most important wine communities.
Bright green gold.
With an attack of lime, gooseberry and crisp green apple, the eventual aroma is one of yellow fruit: apple, apricot, peach and pear. There is a faint sense of pepper on the nose and a slightly salty feel too.
Although the strong sour attack was dictated by lime and waxed green apple, the mineral notes were the most important factor behind this wine. With a sandy feel, a slight taste of chalk and a sprinkling of green pepper, the wine also contained herbal notes of thistle and sage together with the fruit cocktail of sour citrus and green and yellow orchard fruits.
A very young and fresh wine big on the attack but altogether rather mild – I particularly enjoyed the way the minerals stole the show half way through and how the strong citrus was almost immediately put out by the sandy, salty soil which brought the vegetative and herbal notes with it. I found this to be the perfect wine for sushi (as you can also see above) – powerful enough to be present but never too strong – a better pairing than Riesling which can sometimes be a bit too hefty.
Now, I’ve posted a few Meiser reviews on here before and all of them roughly adhere to the same criteria: they’re all very good, they are all Spätlese wines and all of them are lovingly made in Rheinhessen by the Meiser family.
Of course Gewürztraminer is somewhat of an exotic varietal in Germany, famed for its cultivation on the other side of the Rhine in Alsace and from a few boutique producers in Austria. It is however a fixed part of any wine store’s range although rarely found outside of the simple Q.b.A format. This bottle is somewhat of a rarity from 2010.
A very radiant golden green shone from the glass
Alongside a strong vegetative note was a sense of pronounced citrus: grapefruit and lemon mainly. Stone fruit, pepper, slate and rose petal could also be picked out.
The attack was very mild and dictated by lovely apricot and elderflower. The petal and vegetable notes came through in the body alongside pink grapefruit and paprika. The spice structure was rather complicated with notes of stone, pepper and green herbs (basil, oregano). The finish was long and honey-syrup like - the age of the wine came through here too with a light woody feel after swallowing.
A lovely wine combining the extra sugar of Spätlese with a rather mild and fragrant varietal. The honey-notes of the residual sugar fitted perfectly with the flower petals and the discreet citrus really nicely with the apricot and other stone fruit. Drink it now though, it won’t hold for much longer.
Wegeler is, of course, no stranger to those who enjoy both the Rheingau and Mosel Riesling scenes and this bottle, from their Rheingau domain, is also one of Germany’s best known.
Created using prime fruit from the winery's First Growth vineyards, it is created similarly to the best Claret from the Bordelaise in France where the best fruit counts rather than only selecting grapes from what is considered as the best vineyard. However this Spätlese is far from the ‘Gutswein’ it would be officially classified as by the VDP – it’s much more than that: truly one of the best Rieslings I’ve ever tried.
You can read more on Rheingau Riesling by clicking here. Alternatively, if you wish to find out more of this, one of Germany's most important wineries, visit their homepage by clicking here.
Strangely enough, it was bought from an Italian chain restaurant for the hefty price of 18,50€.
For such an old (relatively speaking) white, the colour was surprisingly bright – no sign of aging (no light coppering of the body and brown hue) – the colour was a decent gold with a faint hint of green.
With the hefty slate tone of top-end Rheingau Riesling being one of the first things noticed, minerals made up the strongest part of the nose – there were notes of wood and pepper too but also a vegetative feel despite a wide variety of fruit in there: yellow pear, lemon, stone fruits and also a splash of grapefruit.
Again, the minerals were easy to pick out and prominent: slate again followed by a peppery note and a body and finish full of fruit – particularly apple and pear but also lemon, grapefruit and lychee. The initial finish was fairly bitter with a decent amount of tannin bite – this died and let into a long, sweet finish in which the lemon made a reappearance together with a hint of wood reflecting the wine’s age. Acidity was strong but digestible and balanced at all times.
A fantastic and very complicated wine which I believe I drank at its prime – a few more years and I could have opened a bottle of Sherry, a year earlier and I’d have tasted only spice. The creamy finish mixed with acidity is typical of Rheingau Riesling Spätlese but seldom have I seen it pulled off so well.
Jesuitenhof is a winery run by Andrea, Klaus and Moritz Schneider in the peaceful commune of Dirmstein in Rhineland-Palatinate in Southern Germany. Situated within the Pfalz winemaking region, the winery produces many different varietals typical of the area (albeit with Auxerrois and Chardonnay spicing up the assortment).
The Pfalz is one of Germany’s largest winegrowing regions and, thanks to names like Dr. Bürklin-Wolf and Reichsrat von Buhl, a major player both in the inland marketplace but also abroad. Unfortunately however, alongside Rheinhessen, the Pfalz region is also known for its production of average wines fit for everyday consumption but rarely exceeding that – interesting wines are few and far between and the Pfalz (with Rheinhessen) account for a large percentage of 3-4€ wines in Germany’s many, many supermarkets.
Riesling in the Pfalz exceeds this expectation though – unlike in Mosel where this grape usually stays calm and discreet, the Palatinate soil and sun bring out very distinct notes of lime and strong citrus which, although found too in the Rheingau and other production regions, especially dominate the taste of the wine. This wine, despite being young and relatively (by Pfälzer Riesling standards), belongs to that category – a Kabinett wine sourced from only one vineyard (Dirmsteiner Jesuitenhofgarten) – Einzellage Riesling at 6-7€ a bottle.
A very light white gold, almost clear with visible Carbon Dioxide in the glass.
Very fresh and piercing fruit made up the nose with the inevitable sweet lime found all over the Pfalz. There was also some green apple available which brought with it tropical mango, papaya and a hint of banana. A honey-like aroma also arose from the glass bringing rose-petal and a slight sense of perfume with it – not out of place though.
As predicted in the nose, citrus made up most of the attack with the fresh and juicy lime being responsible. This carried on bringing some lovely notes of gooseberry, seldom so refined in Riesling and the crunch of bright green apples not quite at utmost ripeness. Most surprising was the tannin bite at the end bringing with it a taste of slate and pepper but also the bubbles of CO2 – toasty and woody. The residual sugar held the whole thing together for a silky smooth experience.
A very fresh and very (maybe too) young Riesling from evidently modern winemakers. With a storage potential of up to three years this was a mixture of typical Pfalz production but also classic food wine – it was actually recommended to me as an asparagus wine and, although doubting this at first, it would probably fit quite well. Well made Riesling at a decent price.
Whereas Rheinhessen and Pfalz are the main culprits when it comes to generic and dull German wine, particularly those bottles produced for the home market, there are a few gems waiting to be uncovered out there and not all of the wineries producing them belong to the prestigious VDP organisation.
One such winery in Rheinhessen is Meiser who produce a wide range of traditional German varietals in a variety of formats from simple everyday QbA wine right up to Spätlese and Auslese wines, most of which are dry.
This Spätlese (literally 'late harvest') Gelber Muskateller or Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains is a homage to days gone by when this varietal, now more well-known in France and Italy, was more widely used - thanks to cold-climate Germany and the grapes' exposure to disease and rot, many wineries gave up with the varietal a long time ago and replanted vineyards with the more popular Riesling and Müller-Thurgau vines.
With a striking off-yellow colour, this wine appears both bright and full.
The first to hit the nose are the sweet yellow fruits of apricot and peach although there is a small amount of pear and apple to detect too. Red berries are lurking in the nose somewhere as is the piercing sensation of lemon meringue, slate and a small sprinkling of black pepper. As if the smell wasn't full enough already, a sweet floral aroma finishes off the nose.
Again, yellow fruit is the first in the attack - apricot, apples and pears but also banana and pineapple. The high-level of residual sugar gives the whole thing a honey-like feel but the tannin bite at the end of the finish reminds you that it is a dry wine and whilst the finish is long, it is composed and doesn't carry on needlessly.
A very good but also fairly unique dry white. Meiser are good at Spätlese dry wines and this is a serious recommendation if you want to try this varietal for the first time. With its strict composure but every aroma and taste you can expect from Gelber Muskateller it makes for a very good white for soft cheeses but also poultry and seafood.
Briesgau, Baden, Germany
Auxerrois is one of my favourite grape varieties and whilst not the best known of the Pinot family, it probably creates some of the most balanced and delicate wines grown in Northern Europe. Famed for its utilisation in Alsace and the Northern Bourgogne, Auxerrois is also grown in Germany's Baden.
Weingut Bernhard Huber is one of Baden's most-important names and one of the relatively few (considering Baden's size) VDP wineries in the region. With his single vineyard wines being well-known for their fantastic quality based on the Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris varietals, Huber is one of the few traditionalist VDP wineries who produces wines made using typical French grapes Chardonnay and Auxerrois.
This wine is of Kabinett classification (higher level of residual sugar than stardard 'quality wine') and its fruit is sourced from various vineyards around the town of Malterdingen.
With a bright but discreet satin gold, this wine had the appearance of cream-coloured rose petal.
The thick honey-like structure of the sugars really helps bring the fruit of the nose into the foreground, yellow fruit was the first to hit: peach, nectarine and yellow pear were the most prominent notes but there was also a faint sense of something tropical to pick out too: honey melon was definitely there and so was a faraway lending of citrus served up by fresh lemon peel. Floral notes also came through with the fragrant smell of elder-flower probably being the most noticeable.
The yellow fruit was also the most noteworthy of both the attack and body of the taste of the wine - peach and nectarine lingered on the tongue whilst lemon and melon rounded off the finish - one which wasn't particularly powerful but crisp and complete nonetheless- litte in the way of mineral but appeasing nonetheless.
This was a very composed and delicate wine - not powerful but not weak, one which makes excellent drinking to light dishes, freshwater whitefish or vegetable recipes. Composure, elegance and smooth sugar structure were the defining characteristics, completed with a well-composed, yellow fruit body.
Rheingau - Riesling varietal, dry
Nothing quite says Riesling like Rheingau and nothing in the Rheingau is better than getting a taste for Einzellagen - individual vineyards whose grapes are pressed, fermented and bottled separately. This means that wines can be located back to exactly where they orignally grew. This is obviously not a unique practice: it's done in the Bourgogne and even other areas of Germany too however the Rheingau vintners also produce something called Gutswein(e): these are wines made using (usually) just the same varietal but from all or several of their vineyards - this creates a very general-Rheingau feel to the wine, but nearly all of the companies who produce such bottles tend to find their wines tasting rather similar.
Hochheimer Hölle is the largest Einzellage in and around the town of Hochheim and is reserved entirely for the growth of Riesling. Whereas some of the sub-vineyards within the 'Hölle' (not 'hell' but an old German word for 'hill) are well known for their wines and even achieve higher classification status, this one doesn't but that doesn't mean that its worth forgetting about. Domderchant Werner produces several wines, some with higher classification levels and a simple Gutswein as well. This one retails for about 11€ and I bought it from die Korkenzieher in Essen, Germany.
A lovely bright satin gold. Shiny straw yellow.
Lots of sweet lime, quite a bit of ripe green apple too. Lots of spice: earth, pepper. On the fruit face, there is pineapple and peach too, albeit fairly difficult to detect.
Lime is a good place to start but this isn’t as strong as you’d first think. The apples kick in and they’re not as sour as the nose promises: more yellow in colour than the green promised in the nose. There is also a lovely note of green pears which finishes with some tannin which hints at potential long-term ageing. The wine finishes with a long sweet finish complimented with mineral decoration.
A fantastically approachable Rheingauer with more character than the generic wines from both VDP and non-VDP estates. The wine is a lot more refined than bottles of a similar price category and the sharp notes sometimes found in some Rheingau Riesling are dampened making it also attractive for someone who enjoys Riesling but has trouble with the acid it contains.
Sourced from the first quality vineyard of Iphöfer Kalb in the tiny Franconian town of Iphofen, this Silvaner sold in the traditional Bocksbeutel of Franken is one of the classic wines of the region. Often dull and over-vegetative in some parts, Silvaner/Sylvaner is experiencing a drop in popularity amongst German consumers. However the wines of Franken tell a different story: nowhere else in the country (and probably world) does Silvaner grow quite so well and with so much character.
The Kabinett wine in dry variant is a classic example of just how good Silvaner can be in a German wine industry dominated by Riesling and the Burgundy varietals. The family-run winery of Brennfleck has been producing local wine in and around the towns of Iphofen and Sulzfeld for more than 400 years. This one retails for around 8€ and was sourced from a local supermarket.
Bright straw yellow, nice and thick with a certain amount of Weinstein.
With the familiar vegetative and herbal feel of silvaner, some lovely thick citrus was detectable and really quite pleasant. I was left imagining something a lot more full of acid than I’m used to from Silvaner and the final helping of peachy fruit and some really mineral-laden notes were especially welcome.
A very thick wine from start to finish: there was an acidic attack livened up by some fresh lime and the tannic bite of grapefruit too. Peach came through on the palate but was subdued and the hit of sugar was both in place and complimented the fruit perfectly. There was some rather gritty granite on the spice front and the wine ended nice and smooth with a long but clearly-defined finish.
This wasn’t just good Silvaner, this was good white wine altogether. With the uniquely charismatic and regional features typical of Franken alongside the traditional feel of Silvaner, this is a great wine to enjoy with any meal or simply on its own. Priced at under a tenner, it also represents great value too. A recommendation, I’m looking forward to trying some of the wineries other wines in the near future!
Schloß Johanisberg is probably one of the Rheingau’s most famous and important wine producers. Growing only Riesling and widely acclaimed to be the inventor and pioneer of the Spätlese principle (literally late harvest), the products from this winery are widely praised as being some of the most defining products of the Rheingau region.
This Kabinett wine (or Rotlack as the winery describes the classification) is half-dry and from the vintage 2010 which was the year in which German vintners harvested and produced their smallest amounts of wine in over 25 years. For the Rheingau, 2010 was a complicated year with varying climatic conditions and a very mild summer. Thankfully the autumn was bright and warm leading to many wineries creating some great wines.
Glowing golden straw yellow
Thick with green apple and lime, there was also a lovely tropical note to the aroma with lashings of honey melon, mango and some luscious red fruit in there too for good measure: raspberry and possibly even strawberry.
Sweet fruit was the first thing to hit the palate with a very long and smooth sweet lime taste which carried on right through to a rather unexpected tannic finish. There were other notes of sweet fruit plus a unique smokey experience on the finish which was long and enduring and left the lime to continue way after swallowing.
A great Rheingauer and a true ambassador for the region defined by sweet lime, big acid and a controlled and harnessed sense of power and might. The wine wasn’t as Feinherb (off-dry) as expected and left the drinker satisfied and wanting his glass refilled.
Dörflinger Müllheimer Reggenhag Weißer Burgunder Kabinett Trocken 2010 (Markgräflerland, Baden, Germany)
Visiting the Markgräflerland is always a treat and the lovely town of Müllheim is a must-stop for any wine tourist thanks to its many wineries and restaurants.
Weingut Hermann Dörflinger is a very small winery located in Müllheim that produces traditionally Badische wines made from typically grown varietals (Pinots and the German Classics). The winery also produces one or two of the more exotic varietals that Baden is gaining attention for and I strongly recommend giving them a go should you find yourself in the region.
Straw yellow with a faint off-green colour. Very discreet.
Alongside vegetative notes and those of a traditional handful of fresh Badische soil, this wine had a refreshing citrus aroma made up of lime and pink grapefruit. Mellow-honey was also to detect with a defining pepper nose.
Strong character, low(ish) acidity although all of the sweet notes of lime is delivered in the citrus. Faint sense of something like apricots with an almost eucalyptus slide down the throat. Fragrant and sweet red berries (cranberries, raspberries) are also on the tip of the tongue but take a while to come through and don't really influence the general taste of the wine. High residual sugar level, creamy caramel and honey but a fine dry wine. Almost nutty character on the finish with a modest amount of tannin.
Good Kabinett Pinot Blanc/Bianco, possibility for storage (but not too long) Harmonius companionship between acid and sugar to create a well-balanced dry white. Perfect for the summer and would fit very well to roast chicken, marinated turkey steaks (on the BBQ) and even the slightly more powerful whitefish of the ocean (haddock, halibut and bass).
8.4/10 points (around 7€ a bottle, contact the winery to order - here)
-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