Posts Filed Under german wine
If I had to sum up the history of Silvaner, the ancient wine grape that probably originated in Transylvania but whose spirit now resides firmly in Germany’s Franken region, in as few words as possible, it would probably look something like this:
The problem is not that Silvaner isn’t any good. In fact, it can be pretty damn tasty, as last week’s Twitter Taste Live event, featuring some of the Silvaner-based wines from Franken producer Castell, clearly showed to those who participated.
The problem is that Silvaner, in the words of Jancis Robinson, “is not a wine for our times.”
This is because Silvaner does not exhibit bombastic flavors and aromas. Instead, it more subtly transmits the terroir in which it’s planted. It can achieve some downright haunting tropical fruit and spice characteristics, but in the wrong hands (and wrong soil) it becomes mindlessly bland. A darling of the first half of the 20th Century, most plantings of Silvaner started giving way to the even more bland and even less characterful Muller-Thurgau.
In a way, Silvaner’s lack of popularity and its decreasing hectares of plantings is a watermark for the wine world’s current fascination (or infatuation, or totally mad and unhealthy obsession) with wines that explode out of the glass immediately and bitch-slap you with fruit and oak. Which is a shame really, because it would suck to lose Silvaner forever. Thank goodness therefore for Franken, where Silvaner is still taken seriously, and where it still produces interesting, refreshing wines that can help make inspired food pairings if you’re up to the challenge.
Once again, I’ve captured most of the twitter chatter from the Twitter Taste Live event (available below). I’ve also added my mini-take on the three Castell selections that we tried during the event. I’d recommend seeking out these somewhat-haunting wines. I fear that, given our current trends towards the bombastic, wines like these may one day end up haunting only our memories… or haunting the fields of Muller-Thurgau that once that they once called home…
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Today, I’m closing the loop and following up on the contest to find the next German Wine Queen, who was officially crowned last week in a final gala event featuring the six finalists culled from Germany’s 13 wine regions. The winner was Sonja Christchurch from the Mosel, who is a recent business graduate and has a day job as a wine journalist (right on!).
It’s interesting to see what the Wine Queen contestants have to go through to get into the finals and then be chosen for the top 3 slots, which includes the following tests:
- A blind tasting
- Describing a wine region (presumably a German one) within 45 seconds (which can’t be easy using long German words that probably take 15 seconds each to pronounce)
- Identify six errors in a film about the Middle Rhine region (this one is my personal fave)
- Stand up to an 80-member jury of wine experts, politicians and journalists
80-member jury? Are you kidding me? Masters of Wine candidates don’t need to do something that difficult, for Pete’s sake…
Anyway, you can check out a (very roughly translated) summary of the event here.
Congrats to the Mosel, and to the new Queen. I may start a petition soon to implement the Wine Queen program in the U.S. In my spare time.
If I have a love affair with any one fine wine grape, it’s got to be Riesling. I’m not a fan of saying that a particular grape is superior to another when it comes to producing fine wine, but we all have our preferences and at the end of the day if you forced me to pick one variety for stocking up wine for a stranded-on-a-desert-island scenario, it’s going to be Riesling for me. There’s just something about the purity, diversity, and transmission of a sense of place (while still retaining a ‘signature’ that clearly defines it) that Riesling delivers like no other wine grape.
So when I found out that TasteLive.com and Wines of Germany had lined up Mosel Riesling producer Raimond Prüm’s wines for a Twitter Taste Live event… well, I was sooooooo there.
Raimond Prüm is the tireless, red-headed force behind all things SA Prüm, which is by any account an historic producer of (very, very good) Mosel Riesling. I had the pleasure of being Raimond the Red’s guest earlier this year when I toured Germany’s wine regions with a group of journalists, stopping last at SA Prüm in the Mosel. The thing I remember most about “Der Specht” (so named due to his red coif) was the way that he pronounced the word “unbelievable” when describing Mosel wines (as in, he constantly referred to the wines of the Mosel as “unbelievable”). Raimond drawls the first syllable, stretching it to a verbal breaking point, then smashes the remaining syllables together quickly and decisively.
“I’m telling you, the wines are uuuunnnnnnnnn… beliveable.”
He said this. A lot.
He’s also a pretty good cook when it comes to his outdoor grill, and generous when it comes to sharing that food and showcasing his wines. Oh, yeah, he’s also one hell of winemaker, and justifiably proud of his wines, which consistently over-deliver with seriously powerful QPR Kung-Fu – many of them are excellent, and several are under $20. It helps that “Der Specht” is presiding over some of the most favorable sites for growing Riesling in the Mosel, where small changes in sun exposure can have a huge impact on the ripeness potential of Riesling and various soil types help to impart differing flavors and minerality to the wines.
It also helps to have a personality eminently suited to a Twitter Taste Live event, and a family winemaking history rivaling the grandest in all of Germany…
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