Reflections of a wine lover – report #55

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The Breh-tan-oh-MY-sees, or just simply Brett, were there; barnyard, saddle leather and horse sweat. The red fruit and the scorched earth
sent me directly to a Mourvèdre dominated wine – a Bandol maybe? But the taste confused. Especially the, for Nebbiolo, prototypical tannin structure got me wondering where on wine earth I should land this one! Bandol or Barolo?

The sweetness came after a while and together with that a warm taste. A touch of oxidation in a positive way made me write down larger oak casks and there you have it; my guess – a 2003 Barbaresco! Sitting there and feeling quite proud my brother couldn’t fool me he presented the bottle, the 2002 Chateau Musar from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon…


Back to square one – this is exactly why some times tasting wine blind is so educating, fun and totally free from label drinking. Even if I have tasted several vintages of Musar I didn’t find anything that resembled or made me associate with the Lebanese wine.

Besides the learning feature it gives you a most humble view of the wine world in general and that a wine’s origin shouldn’t be a reason for rejecting it . The proof is in the glass – not on the label!

This week’s report lets the Musar bottle show the direction – curiosity and new tasting experiences! Thank you for reading newsletter no. # 55 – the first one written in English.

 

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It’s sadly more than ten years since I visited the Franken region in Germany. This has however not kept me away from the wines of Franconia, au contraire, I am very fond of the great Silvaner wines emerging from the region, not to mention the just as spectacular Spätburgunder wines.

I remember standing there in the summer of 1998, with a glass of Rudolf Fürst’s Burgstadter Centgrafenberg wondering why no one told me before that Pinot Noir from Germany could be this great! As a soon-to-be-examined student from the university I didn’t have the funds to pick up a case of the great Spätburgunder but somehow i found a way to buy two bottles (read between the lines; me eating noodles for a month!). They were 45 Deutsche Mark a bottle then, equivalent of EUR 25, and the price partially explained why no one had told me about German Pinot, none amongst my wine friends and the wine literature i read knew it existed!

A decade later I still, from time to time, buy a Fürst bottle. But the fact that I as a poor student had to dig deep in my wallet hasn’t changed; today Rudolf Fürst and his Burgstadter Centgrafenberg and the prestige wine Hunsrück is recognised all over the world as top notch Pinot’s – and the prices are of course correlating landing the wines around EUR 75-100 a bottle. So, nothing has changed actually – I am still the poor student….

However, Franconia is so much more than Silvaner and Spätburgunder. Of course you will find the Riesling as well but i am still to be convinced about its greatness here. Not to be forgotten are the Muskateller, Rieslaner, Gewurztraminer and the latter I served with a breaded flatfish and “Danish remoulade” last week.


The renowned producer of Bürgerspital zum Heiligen Geist has fashioned a most aromatic and minerally 2008 Gewurztraminer from the site of Würzburger Stein – the vineyard that for decades was synonymous with Franconian wine and also explains the term “steinwein”.

Now, this is what Gewurztraminer is all about! Yes it is floral and perfumed in its aroma but also shows freshness, restrained tropical notes and a mineral touch I can’t remember having experienced before in a Gewurztraminer wine!

There’s a slight sweetness to it in the taste but the vibrant acidity and the mineral reminding me of the flint in Pouilly-Fumé, adds structure, freshness and gives the wine a complexity not always found in these floral wines.

Great with the fish and just as delicate for sipping. More impressive; it kept just as good the following day. At EUR 14 it can only be described a bargain! (91 points)

 

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I like the bocksbeutel and its shape – there’s something naive and almost innocent to it. But then I am reminded, when I stand there with a couple of bocksbeutel’s, wondering how on earth these shall be fitted in to the wine refrigerator?


If you do not have a cellar and are referred to a more limited storage then the bottle is everything but naive and innocent; it is stupid, irritating and impossible to store.

God, I hate bocksbeutel and regions that needs to be unique and then destroy all possibilities of storing wine risk free!

 

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When exploring German Pinot Noir I came across Martin Wassmer in Baden. Classic wines with plenty of Burgundy feeling. But I couldn’t help wondering, when the cork was pulled, how a wine producers reasons when he puts address and phone number on the cork?


I mean, how many gets the urge to call the producer after pulling the cork? Or saves it as a business card? But hey; maybe in the future Martin Wassmer will be considered an avantgarde thinker when we look back?

 

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Let’s stick with Martin Wassmer and his 2007 Spätburgunder from Baden Markgräflerland. Not an expensive one but on my quest for good quality Pinot it’s impossible to neglect Baden and 2007. Wassmer’s Spätburgunder really shows that the vintage was great and after just a short decanting time the wine reveals nice intensity on the nose with mashed strawberries, compost, a touch of saddle leather, some toasted oak and a lovely floral note. Just a note of stems in the bouquet which actually balances the hot impression.


In the mouth it shows mature red berries, especially strawberries and cherries, compost, mouthwatering fruitiness and good acidity. Decent length and just when I was about to shout super value it finishes off with just a little bit too bitter taste. Sad, this could have been awesome for the 11 Euros spent, Although the bitterness disappears a bit with food it is still there; day two the bitter feeling in the finish is the same but the bouquet has grown! A wine for smelling purposes mainly – and that is not bad at all! (85 points)

 

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Sometimes it is better just to trust one’s own taste. A good example of that, in my case, was the Weingut Wöhrwag 2007 Untertürkheimer Herzogenberg Pinot Noir from Württemberg. When found retailing at around EUR 25 and having read a review giving the wine a 96 points rating, I most surely got suspicious. Nope, this is not possible – especially not for a German Pinot. These grades are a monopoly thingie for Fritz Becker and his majestic Tafelwein Rhein.


Anyway, what happens? Of course I buy a bottle. Who hasn’t falled for the points trick before? So, after my brother has tricked me with the Musar 2002 vintage it’s my turn and the Wöhrwag is my choice. Pulled and first feeling is just a giant question mark? Is this an oak sample or a Pinot? The wine ooses of coconut, coca-cola, vanilla and fire place – the oak is almost burnt and I can’t help thinking there must have been a mix here; these barrels were intended for Islay!

Leaving the bottle and crossing fingers some hours of aeration will do the job another bottle is picked up. We sample the Wöhrwag again later on to find the oak a bit reduced. For an oak freak it is now most likely a great smell. The taste is hinting it might be a Pinot Noir behind all the mascara – thanks to the acidity, but otherwise there are none grape typicity. Retasted the second day and nope, no improvement. If it wasn’t for the acidity and colour i would have written down Syrah in a blind tasting.

For those of you that follows my blogs knows I mostly concentrate on positive tasting notes. I simply prefer writing about great finds, that’s it. But when a wine fails that miserably and there is no defect at all in the bottle or cork, i must express my disappointment. Oak is nice – but only to smell, not chew. (No rating)

Sensmorale: trust your own palate and express tons of suspiciousness when a wine gets too many points and price doesn’t correlate!

 

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Although today hyped as one of the most interesting new actors on the Burgundy scene, Olivier Bernstein started his wine career 2002, in Tautavel, Rousillon where he created Mas de la Devèze.

My first contact with Olivier Bernstein’s wines was also a Burgundy and not his Rousillon project. A beautiful and world classy Pinot, 2007 Mazis-Chambertin, got me interested in Olivier’s potential and the more humanely priced wines of the southern parts of France. A few weeks ago I had the 2007 La Devèze, a wine based on 50% Grenache and equal parts of Syrah and Carignan. Old vines, used barrels, schist and limestone soil and sticking with local grapes are the road to success.


A young wine not showing much the first pour. The wine is therefore left for some breathing and an hour later it shows dark plums and cherries, a peppery note, some coffe and vanilla from the oak and a most refreshing hint of lavender. With time a hint of violets adds complexity. But the most fascinating feature in the aroma is the scorched earth that is both expressing the warm growing site but at the same time gives away a sense of cold rocks! Fascinating bouquet styled in a modern way.

Doesn’t show as much in the taste as on the nose. A bit stubborn at the moment although day two it shows more than oak and minerals. Plum skin, lavender, scorched earth, massive fruitiness and fine integrated tannins. Balancing on the verge of overripe but manages to stay on the right side. Long taste but lacking a bit of complexity if drunk today. However, the components are in place and the balance is impeccable. Give this baby a year or two and I believe it will be there! (91 points)

 

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A desire to understand and naturally to see the vineyard that once was the Grand Cru of Madeira, Faja dos Padres, will take us 250 meters down alongside the cliff side! For centuries the vineyard was only accessed through the sea but now days a lift, not for the nervous one’s, takes you down from the top. Unfortunately the Faja dos Padres today is a multi-agricultural land but before it was the Malmsey of the island.


But thanks to he current owners some noble grape varieties are being replanted and cultivated, and a small wine cellar is being build up. Amongst the vines cultivated there’s some of the maybe greatest of them all, Terrantez, and having spoken with the owners which invited me to see the place, I now can’t wait to see this mythic site and truly unique micro climate. Madeira – soon we’ll come!

 

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