From Transylvania Twist to Castell Franken Wine (Tasting German Silvaner)

Vinted on October 13, 2009 binned in german wine, twitter taste live

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:

Short shrift.

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…

  • 08 Castell Silvaner Trocken (Franken): Fresh & clean as your Auntie’s kitchen counter. Maybe too clean. Go for lighter foods with this guy. #
  • 06 Castell Kugelspiel Silvaner (Franken): Someone spiced up a banana & stuck it in the flower garden! And it’s pretty darn tasty! #
  • 08 Castell Trautberg Silvaner / Traminer (Franken): Starts w/ an acid scream, rests on some lychee nuts, then heads of on the mineral trail. #

<a href=”;task=viewaltcast&amp;altcast_code=326bda371b” mce_href=”;task=viewaltcast&amp;altcast_code=326bda371b”>Taste Live – Wines of Germany: Castell Silvaner</a>







  • @suburbanwino

    Good to see it's getting some love. I'd bet my right bocksbeutel that this is one of those "forgotten" grapes- like Carmenere or, to a lesser extent, Malbec- that could perhaps thrive elsewhere. I wonder if there's a little-known but up-and-coming wine region that could take Silvaner and make it something really special…just haven't found that country yet, despite efforts.

  • Francesco

    Silvaner definitely delivers in the fresh and clean category. Ive had some silvaners from northern Italy and they were just ok. They tended to be too high in alcohol, for my palate(13.5). I would imagine that the Franken versions are a bit lighter and more elegant. I look for aromatic intensity in a wine, this to me is different than bombastic and sometimes the two get confused. Intensity to to me is more refined and elegant compared to the sloppy and disorganized character of "bombasticness."

  • 1WineDude

    Yes! Silvaner luv, baby!

  • Dylan

    I don't like this concept of "a wine for our times." The time doesn't matter as much as the person and their attitude. There's always room enough for a different style, it's just a question of how large that room is.

    • 1WineDude

      I wish the market was driven by people like you.

  • vinogirl

    I like Silvaner, not just because it is one of only a few varietals that grow successfully in England.

    • 1WineDude

      This has me wondering, do the Brits make sparklers out of Silvaner?

  • vinogirl

    I believe Chapel Down use up to 35% Sylvaner in one of their sparkling wines.

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