Author Archives: Stuart

WEINHIER – Die Neue Pfalz heisst auch Schwedhelm von Frank Ebbinghaus

Für viele deutsche Winzer war der Jahrgang 2013 eine der größten Herausforderungen der letzten Jahre. Für einen nicht: Stephan Schwedhelm, Jahrgang 1979, der gemeinsam mit seinem Bruder Georg (links abgebildet) seit ein paar Jahren den elterlichen 17 Hektar-Betrieb in Zell/Pfalz führt, hat ausgerechnet in diesem schwierigen Jahr an der Qualitätsschraube gedreht. Mir waren die Weine bei der Berliner GG-Premiere Anfang September stark aufgefallen. Das Weingut Klosterhof Schwedhelm ist (noch) kein VDP-Mitglied, durfte sich aber als eines der „Pfälzer Spitzentalente“ des VDP in Berlin präsentieren. Beeindruckt hat mich, mit welcher Leichtigkeit und Selbstverständlichkeit hier Weine gelangen, wo manche GG von VDP-Spitzenerzeuger doch noch hart mit sich rangen.

Und wirklich: Ein schwieriges Jahr war es für die Schwedhelms eigentlich nicht. Der Ertrag lag nur minimal unter dem Durchschnitt „normaler“ Jahre. Die Säure ist zwar etwas höher, aber perfekt integriert. Die Weine schmecken richtig reif. Was bedeutet: Mineralische Finesse bei moderaten 12,5% Alk. entsprechen dem Stilwillen der Erzeuger. Pfälzer Barock ist hier unerwünscht.

Von den Eltern hat man einen breiten Rebsortenspiegel geerbt. Ein paar Jahre brauchte es, bis die Brüder herausfanden, welcher Weinberg für welche Rebsorte am besten geeignet ist. Riesling und Burgundersorten rücken ins Zentrum. Denn mag auch das schöne Zellertal ein wenig abseits der Wertschätzung vieler Weinfans liegen, die Schwedhelms sind vom großen Potential ihrer Weinberge sehr überzeugt. „Das Zellertal hat einzigartige Böden,“ erklärt Georg, der für Marketing und die Bücher zuständig ist, während Stephan über Weinberge und Keller herrscht, „Südhänge mit Kalk und Ton, bis 35 Prozent Steigung, schön windig – ein wenig wie im Burgund“.

Und wirklich: Alle Weine, die ich probierte, sind stark durch den Kalkboden geprägt. Er gibt ihnen Eleganz, Finesse und diesen unverwechselbaren Kalkstein-Geschmack, eine ganz feine, fast kreidige Aromatik, in der immer wieder gelbe Früchte, Ingwer und Quitte schmeckbar sind – sehr apart. Und sehr lecker. Die Weine lassen sich prima trinken – keine mineralischen Monster, die ob ihres kompromisslosen Stils nur ehrfürchtig bestaunt werden können.

Richtig gut gefällt mir der 2013 Weißburgunder trocken Karlspfad Erste Lage. Die Trauben stammen aus einer massiven, mit Mergel durchsetzten Kalkterrasse des Zeller Kreuzbergs. 2013 erbrachte diese Parzelle perfekt gereifte und sehr gesunde Trauben. Und so entschloss man sich, diesen Weißburgunder, von dem ein Viertel des Mostes im Tonneau ausgebaut wurde, erstmals als Lagenwein mit höherem Qualitätsanspruch zu vermarkten. Der Wein duftet nach reifen Melonen, Birnen, Quitten und Kalksteinmineralität, ja, er stinkt sogar ein bisschen. Am Gaumen wirkt er kühl, mineralisch, elegant, die hohe Säure (immerhin rund neun Gramm/Liter) ist sehr gut integriert. Zugleich wirkt der Wein sehr reif, gelbe Früchte, etwas Süße kommt durch, am zweiten Tag auch Birne, zerlassene Butter, etwas Vanille, aber alles bleibt auf der frischen mineralischen Seite.

Sehr verschlossen ist der 2013 Zeller Kreuzberg Riesling trocken Erste Lage Wotanfels, der einer Parzelle unter einer acht Meter hohen, bizarren Kalkfelsformation entstammt. Der Wein wirkt sehr schlank (12 % Alk.), gibt nach einigem Glasschwenken etwas süße und leicht rauchige Exotik preis, am zweiten Tag lassen sich rote Früchte erahnen. Sehr interessant, braucht aber noch Flaschenreife.

Spitzenwein ist der 2013 Zeller Schwarzer Herrgott Riesling trocken Große Lage. Er entstammt einem mehr als 60 Hektar großen Weinberg, dessen größter Teil auf rheinhessischem Gebiet liegt. Dort erzeugt das Weingut Battenfeld-Spanier (Hohen-Sülzen/Rheinhessen) das Mölsheimer Zellerweg Am Schwarzen Herrgott Riesling GG – einen trockenen Spitzenriesling von einigem Renommee.

Ich habe beide Weine parallel verkostet. Das ist natürlich unfair, schließlich kostet das berühmte GG dreimal so viel und sein Erzeuger ist viel erfahrener. Doch nur der Vergleich mit einem Spitzengewächs kann die Maßstäbe für das Qualitätsstreben eines jungen Betriebes liefern und zugleich die bereits erreichte Güte der Weine richtig einordnen helfen.

Die GG von Battenfeld-Spanier habe ich in den letzten Jahren ab und zu verkostet, sie haben mich stets beeindruckt, getrunken habe ich sie jedoch bisher nie. Das wird sich ändern. Denn das 2013 Riesling Schwarzer Herrgott GG hat mich schwer begeistert. Ein sehr komplexer, feiner, fast femininer Riesling, der auf einzigartige Weise Aromen von Crème brûlée und Tahiti-Vanille (ohne jede Süße und Schwere) mit Melone, Apfelsine und dann vor allem mit saftigem weißen Pfirsich ohne Kitsch und Schwere verbindet, wozu Mineralität und Säure beitragen – ein verführerischer Schleiertanz, der sich da am Gaumen abspielt.

Und der Schwarze Herrgott von Schwedhelm? Er glänzt – um eine Paradoxie zu bemühen -  im Schatten seines übermächtigen Konkurrenten. An dessen dramatische Sinnlichkeit reicht er nicht heran, doch beweist er genug Klasse, um sich neben dem GG zu behaupten. Mit einer klaren mineralischen Nase, die nach reifem Apfel, Vanille, Kalk und Ingwer duftet, mit viel Zug, großer Säurefrische, reifen Apfelaromen, die am zweiten Tag von herrlich frischem, reifen Weinbergspfirsich abgelöst werden. Der feine Kalkstein ist immer präsent und auch am achten Tag zeigt das letzte Glas kaum Ermüdungserscheinungen. Ein herrlicher Wein, der gerade mal zwölf Euro ab Hof kostet.

Das Weingut Klosterhof Schwedhelm gehört zu den vielen jungen Betrieben in Deutschland, die nach einem Generationswechsel erfolgreich zu neuen Ufern aufbrechen. Die Schwedhelms haben die Umstellung auf ökologische Bewirtschaftung abgeschlossen, aber dogmatisch sind sie nicht, sondern feilen mit wachem Blick an ihrer Weinqualität. Sie wissen, dass sie noch nicht da sind, wo sie hinwollen. Aber sie sind fest entschlossen, ihre Ziele zu erreichen. Von Familientraditionen lassen sie sich nicht fesseln. Gerade haben sie das Elternhaus abgerissen, um eine moderne Vinothek zu errichten (die Mutter nahm’s gelassen). Abbruch auch hier, der ein Aufbruch ist.

 

Posted in @deutsch | Leave a comment

Berlin Riesling Diary: Day 0 – My Suitcase was Lost on the Way to Berlin from Israel, But I’ve still got a “Suitcase” of Dreams of Israel!

I only just got back to Germany after leaving Israel early this morning and am still a bit ragged from two flights and a long express train journey, the whole procedure made greatly more stressful by the fact that Pegasus Airlines lost my suitcase somewhere between Tel Aviv and Cologne. However, I’ve still got a “suitcase” of dreams of Israel with me on my computer. By that I mean a collection images of things and places that surprised so much they stopped me in my tracks, as well as those things I expected to find there like the palm and citrus trees, vineyards and olive groves, the beaches, mountains and between them the ancient ruins. You can look all the latter up on the internet and find many better photographs of them than I took during the last weeks, so there’s no point in showing you many of them (I’m making just a single exception below). I’m also leaving out all the things that I’ve already shown you in the blog postings headed “Israel Riesling Diary ” during the last two weeks. Instead, I decided to concentrate on the surprising Israel, because it normally gets so little attention in the West. Hence the following gallery of images, that I snapped up and when they suddenly grabbed me. Above and below are the sole wine images I have to offer in this category, and the contrast between them strikes me as saying something important about Israeli wine.

As this image, taken in the cellars  of one of Israel’s large Kosher wineries (all of Israel’s large wineries are Kosher) shows, the wine industry is one of many places place where the nation’s twin obsessions with profits and prophets meet.

Often Israel is many things at once that seem contradictory at first glance. I began wondering if – in the non-spatial sense – Israel is actually infinite. However, sometimes it was the simple things, like a plate of bread and salt, which touched me most.

History may not be everywhere in Israel as is sometimes claimed, but you certainly keep bumping into it, and repeated collisions with it drove home how what you see is always like a half-eaten slice of layer cake.

The contemporary reality of Israel is much more difficult to decipher than the past, because it isn’t divided up into neat portions (e.g. Roman, Crusader, Ottoman), and every time you think you’re beginning to make sense of it it knocks you off balance yet again.

Of course, you can’t avoid the military situation if you spend two weeks traveling around the country as I did. One side of this was talking to and hearing about young Israelis who served during the nation’s recent war with Hamas in Gaza, and the other was what I saw myself. Israel’s military strength struck me as being much greater than many of its older people realize, but the psychological price of its wars on its youth is also much  greater than they usually acknowledge.

Profound as they are, Israel’s conflicts tend to be over-emphacized by the international media, because they tend to ignore the peaceful coexistence of Arabs and Jews in many parts of the country. Experiencing that made me wonder if a federal Israel with autonomous Arab provinces might not be the best solution. Of course, this would require the laying down of arms and increased cooperation on the basis of mutual interest.

I hope that in an elliptical way this gallery and my picture captions give an idea of how wonderfully disorientating my experiences of Israel were, because a few images couldn’t do justice to the rich human diversity (Jewish, Arab and other) of the place.

One experience could never be captured in this way, also because photography is forbidden at Yad Vashem, the Memorial Museum to the victims of the Holocaust. The enormity of the historical fact and its continuing reverberations in our world also make that impossible. I felt an enormous sense of loss for the six million Jewish people murdered by a coalition of German Nazis and their brutal cohorts of many other nationalities. (Yad Vashem makes it easier to grasp these basic and terrible facts than any other Holocaust exhibit I’ve seen). I also came away with a much clearer impression of the indifference of the Allies who said some fine words when it suited their purposes, but always had a good reason not to actually do anything about this terrible crime. That makes, “learning from history,” an obligation rather than just a good idea.

 

Posted in Home, STUART PIGOTT RIESLING GLOBAL | Leave a comment

Israel Riesling Diary: Day 13 – “That’s Israel !”

Sometimes when I’m on the road visiting winemakers, tasting their wines and trying to make sense of the world into which those people and products fit I feel like an anthropologist. Every good anthropologist will tell you that in order to try and understand a foreign culture you need not only to be continuously observant and as aware as possible of the fact that other people see the world differently from yourself (and therefore act differently), but that you also need at least one good informant. An informant is a member of that foreign culture you’re studying, but she or he must be able to communicate easily with you. The help of such a person enormously increases the degree to which you can make sense of what you observe and avoid twisting it to fit in with your own way of seeing the world. Donna Gershowitz of Even Yehuda, a short drive north of Tel Aviv, was my Israel informant although she would probably say that all she did was play the tour guide for a few days.

Donna was indeed an excellent tour guide and spent quite a few days introducing me to various parts of Tel Aviv, the centre of contemporary Israel that is sometimes referred to by Israelis as “Sin City” and even “Sodom and Gomorrah”, and a number of important historical sites ranging from the Roman to the Crusader periods. Of course, neither of these sides of the country is sealed off from the other, there was some important history (roughly the half century prior to the foundation of Israel in 1948) in the Tel Aviv area, and those ancient sites were surrounded by contemporary Israel, in the foundation myth of which they play an important role. Even when she wasn’t intending to do so, Donna’s comments told me a great deal about the way this small but complex country and its extremely diverse people tick.

“That’s Israel!” she would say when something surprising (to me) or frustrating (for us) happened, and rather quickly I found myself saying those words alternately in wonder and annoyance. She also put me right on a couple of things that I failed to understand, because this is my first time here and “discovering” a country as vibrant and dynamic as this generates a certain euphoria that blinds you to certain negative things. For example, although I didn’t miss the arrogance of some Israelis (particularly men in the 30-50 age group), I failed to pick up on the cynical side of some Israelis.

Donna, who is a lawyer and emigrated to Israel from New York many years ago, also likes wine and took the role of driver for a bunch of my appointments with the leading Israeli winemakers. She found this experience much more interesting than she expected, and it opened her eyes to just how many-sided the wine industry is, even in Israel with its mere 5,500 hectares / 13,600 acres of vineyards. Although more a red wine drinker, during those days she figured out that there is a type of dry white wine that suits her very well (aromatic but not loud, medium-bodied with crisp acidity). I hope that in a small way I was able to give something back to her in this. How I can properly say thank you for her hospitality during much of my visit is another matter. That will take some thinking out. I’ll begin working on that during the plane and train to Berlin tomorrow, when I also hope to post a final episode of this Israel Riesling Diary.

Posted in Home | Leave a comment

WEINHIER – Jancis Robinsons neue Riesling-Skepsis von Stuart Pigott

In Ontario/Kanada ist Riesling dabei Chardonnay zu überholen und Qualitäts-Weißweintraube Nummer eins zu werden! 

Jancis Robinson ist für mich die beste Weinkritikerin der Welt. Nicht weniger als ich, aber doch viel länger, hat sie unermüdlich die Besonderheiten und Vorzüge des Rieslings angepriesen. Den Glauben an die Erfolgschancen von Rieslings hat sie aber offenbar inzwischen verloren. So zumindest schreibt sie es auf www.JancisRobinson.com . Sie kommt zu folgendem Schluss: „…Mehr und mehr wird mir klar, dass Riesling eine zu ausgeprägte Persönlichkeit hat, um genug Konsumenten, die eine globalen Zugkraft garantieren. Das Problem ist, dass im Gegensatz zu Chardonnay und Pinot Grigio, Riesling einen zu eindringlichen Geschmack hat.“ Und weiter: „Wenn ich die internationalen Verkaufszahlen anschaue, muss ich sagen, dass nur die Weintrinker in Norwegen die Vorzüge des Rieslings wirklich verstehen.“

Mein Kommentar dazu in englischer Sprache hat für ein gewisses Aufsehen in Amerika gesorgt, weshalb wir jetzt eine deutschsprachige Fassung davon bringen.  Die folgenden Zeilen sind keine vollständige Antwort auf die Thesen von Jancis Robinson – das würde viel mehr Platz und eine Menge statistischer Analyse nverlangen. Vielehr will ich zeigen, dass man die gegenwärtige Situation ganz anders sehen kann. Aus meiner Sicht gibt es sehr wohl den PLANET RIESLING. Unter diesem Titel erscheint bald im Tre Torri Verlag die deutschsprachige Fassung meines Buchs BEST WHITE WINE ON EARTH – The Riesling Story.

Hier meine Antwort auf Jancis Robinsons Frage „Riesling – wird er je richtig erfolgreich werden?“

Schon der Titel zeigt, dass sie die Chancen unserer Lieblingsrebsorte sehr skeptisch beurteilt, ein Eindruck, der durch den Text vollständig bestätigt wird. Zufällig habe auch ich in den letzten Wochen viel darüber nachgedacht, warum Riesling in bestimmten Märkten nicht besser läuft. Deshalb kam dieser Anstoß gerade recht, um meine Gedanken dazu mal aufzuschreiben.

Riesling scheint mir sehr vielseitig zu sein – in Bezug auf seine Geschmacksvielfalt, die von federleicht bis tonnenschwer, von knochentrocken bis honigsüß reicht und jede denkbare Kombination dieser Charakteristiken einschließt. Und diese Vielfalt differenziert sich weiter, in Abhängigkeit von den verschiedenen Menschen, die an den verschiedensten Orten der Welt Riesling produzieren oder konsumieren.

Schauen wir auf die Produktionsseite: Die Statistiken über die Anbauflächen erzählen in jeder Weinbauregion und -nation, in der Riesling eine bedeutende Rolle spielt,  ihre ganz eigene Geschichte.

In Australien beispielsweise ist die Rieslinganbaufläche im vergangenen halben Jahrhundert bemerkenswert stabil geblieben, trotz des Wandels bei Image, Marketing, und Stilistik, den die australische Weinindustrie in den letzten Jahrzehnten mit enormen Fluktuationen nach unten wie nach oben vollzogen hat. Dabei blieb „knochentrocken“ die vorherrschende Geschmacksrichtung dieser Rebsorte. Riesling scheint ein so unverrückbarer Bestandteil der australischen Landschaft wie der Uluru (aka Ayers Rock). Kein anders Land auf dem Planeten Wein bestätigt dieses Modell. In keinem anderen Land auf dem Planten Wein liegen die Dinge so klar.

Vollständig anders ist die Situation in Amerika. Dort geriet der Riesling in den 70er und 80er Jahre gegenüber Rebsorten wie Chardonnay oder Merlot, deren Popularitätswerte wie Anbauflächen dramatisch wuchsen, weit ins Hintertreffen. Doch seit der Jahrtausendwende gewann Riesling weitgehend unterhalb des dem öffentlichen Radars wieder kräftig dazu. Dazu bedurfte es dreier Zutaten: ein dramatisch verbessertes winemaking, das Aufkommen vinophiler grass root Interessen (auch außerhalb der coolen West- oder Ostküsten-Metropolen) sowie ein gesunder Schuss Guerilla-Marketing. In dieser Geschichte steckt jedenfalls alles drin über amerikanischen Innovationsgeist.

Gewiss, es gibt globale Trends in Sachen Weinkonsum. Aber wenn exakt dieselben Weine rund um den Globus getrunken werden, dann werden sie doch auf sehr unterschiedliche Weise in unterschiedlichen Kulturen konsumiert. Was auch bedeutet, dass dieselben Weine für diese sehr heterogene Gruppe von Weingenießern sehr unterschiedliches bedeutet.

Deshalb zweifle ich an Jancis Robinsons Schlussfolgerung, nach der die weltweite Riesling-Blase (die es ohnehin nur in einigen Regionen gab) geplatzt sei, weil (wie sie schreibt) Riesling eine zu starke Persönlichkeit habe, um auf genug Konsumenten zu wirken, damit diese Rebsorte eine globale Zugkraft entfalten könne. Zwar stimmt es, dass Riesling zuletzt nicht in jedem Markt gewachsen und mancherorts aufgrund wechselnder Moden und Vorlieben sogar ein bisschen zurückgefallen ist. Aber selbst an solchen Orten ist es nicht schwer,  zumindest Elemente des weltweiten Riesling-Netzwerks zu finden, wie man im Planet. Und genau darum wie um die Weine der besten Weißwein-Rebsorten auf Erden geht es in diesem Blog und in meinem Buch PLANET RIESLING.

 

Globalisierung im Sinne von globalem Handel geht auf die Zeit von vor 450 Jahren zurück (lesen Sie dazu Charles C. Manns Buch: 1493. Uncovering the New World Columbus created. Verlag Knopf , New York 2011). Aber erst die technischen Möglichkeiten des elektronischen Zeitalter haben die Bedeutung des Begriffs „sehr schnell“ dramatisch verändert. Doch selbst im 21. Jahrhundert ist Wein ein schwerfälliges Transportgut. Schon allein deshalb ist es bemerkenswert, dass Wein Teil der Social Media-Popkultur wurde. Noch außergewöhnlicher ist der Umstand, dass Riesling hier besonders erfolgreich ist, obwohl er nicht mal ein Prozent der weltweiten Rebfläche ausmacht. Im Vergleich dazu ist Cabernet Sauvignon kein auffälliges Phänomen im Bereich Social Media. Vielmehr ist es so, dass das Image dieser Weine in rigide hierarchische Strukturen eingesperrt ist, und deshalb im Netz kaum virale Aufregung zu verbreiten vermag. Ich bin sicher, dass die Nicht-Existenz einer globalen Community von Cabernet-Erzeugern (anders als bei Pinot Noir oder Riesling) , die hohen Preise für viele dieser Weine und das elitäre Gehabe um sie diesen Effekt verstärken.

Genau deshalb ist Riesling mit seinen vielfältigen Genussmöglichkeiten und stilistische Interpretationen so hervorragend geeignet, um die verschiedensten Menschen an den unterschiedlichsten Orten miteinander zu verbinden. Die Tatsache, dass seine Preise grundsätzlich moderat sind und sich seine Erzeuger weltweit frei und offen austauschen, verstärkt den Eindruck, dass Riesling ein demokratischer Wein ist.

Nur ältere Konsumenten, für die Riesling süß und langweilig schmeckt, sowie jüngere, statusorientierte Weintrinker, die ihre Prägungen von der älteren Generation beziehen (weil sie sich, wie ich vermute, in ihren Urteilen sicher fühlen will) scheinen komplett unfähig, einen neuen Zugang zu Riesling oder eine positive Interpretation dieser Rebsorte zu finden. Und in diesem Punkt hat Jancis Robinson recht: Sie selbst wie auch andere Weinautoren haben nur einen äußerst geringen Einfluss auf diese tiefsitzenden Vorurteile.

Warum aber klammern sich diese Konsumenten an eine derart altmodische Vorstellung von Riesling? Ich glaube, es liegt daran, dass viele dieser überwiegend männlichen Konsumenten in einer machohaften Art an ihren Überzeugungen festhalten; das heißt, sie trachten danach, den sehr bestimmenden Eindruck zu erwecken, über Wein absolut Bescheid zu wissen. Statt „Wissen“ verbreiten sie aber eine Vorstellung Wein, die aus einer vergangenen Weinwelt (meist die des späten 20. Jahrhunderts) stammt, sehr an damals herrschende Geschmacksnormen angepasst ist, wonach erst Chardonnay und dann die „großen“ Rotweine dominierten. Je mehr Parker-Punkte, desto klarer das Urteil, obwohl sich die Weinmoden und -stile seither in sehr unterschiedliche Richtungen entwickelt haben (z.B. in Richtung Eleganz, mehr geschmacklich trockene Weißweine und weniger tieffarbige Rotweine). In Anlehnung an den kanadischen Medientheoretiker Marshall MacLuhan könnte  man sagen: Die meisten von uns betrachten die Welt am liebsten wohlig durch den Rückspiegel als durch die Frontscheibe.

Fazit: Je mehr sich ein Individuum, eine Gruppe oder eine Kultur für den Geschmack von Wein öffnet (und zulässt, was der spezifische Charakter eines Weins mit einem anstellt), desto größer ist die Neigung zu Riesling. Je mehr Weinkonsumenten aber bestimmt sind von Status-Vorstellungen und einem klar definierten äußeren Erscheinungsbild, desto härter der Kampf, den diese Weine ausfechten müssen, um sich durchzusetzen und in extremen Fällen läuft das auf die Besteigung der Eiger-Nordwand hinaus. So lautet Pigotts Gesetz der Status-Weine.

Vielleicht liegt hier der Grund, dass sich Riesling in Norwegen so gut durchgesetzt hat, wie auch Jancis betont. Es lohnt jedenfalls, einen genaueren Blick auf Norwegen zu werfen. In dem von den Vereinten Nation erstellten Human Development Index 2014 nimmt Norwegen den ersten Platz ein – verglichen mit 5. Platz für Amerika und dem 14. für Großbritannien. Die Economist Intelligence Unit erstellt alle zwei Jahre einen Demokratie-Index, und da belegt Norwegen für das Jahr 2012 ebenfalls Patz eins (Großbritannien ist 16., die USA sind 21.). In dem Ranking der Pressefreiheit, das die Organisation Reporter ohne Grenzen erstellt, rangiert Norwegen auf Platz drei (Großbritannien ist 33., die USA sind 46.). Als ich 2007 Norwegen bereiste, fand ich bestimmt nicht alles dort toll, aber das Klima der Offenheit von so vielen Menschen hat mich sehr beeindruckt. Das ist genau die Luft, die Riesling zum Atmen braucht und in der er aufblüht.

Nur am Rande möchte ich bemerken, dass keiner der weltweit führenden Riesling-Erzeuger je Probleme hat, jedes Jahr ausverkauft zu sein,. Ich muss schon ziemlich hinterher sein, um Weine direkt bei deutschen Winzern wie Helmut Dönnhoff in Oberhausen (Nahe) und Klaus-Peter Keller in Flörsheim-Dalsheim (Rheinhessen) zu kaufen, bei ihrem australischen Kollegen Jeffrey Grosset, Clare Valley oder bei Hermann J. Wiemer, Finger Lakes (Upstate New York).

 

 

Posted in @deutsch | Leave a comment

Israel Riesling Diary: Day 12 – The not so Narrow Road to the Far North

Yesterday I took the not so narrow road to the Far North of Israel, that is to the hill country of Upper Galilee very close to the border with Lebanon, but before I got there I stopped at Yair Teboulle’s Domaine Netofa in Lower Galilee. His vineyards, pictured above, are situated close to Mount Tavor (in the background of the picture) and they are planted with what he calls “hot climate” grape varieties, which mostly means our friends GSM (Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre), GM originating in the Spanish Mediterranean and S coming from the French Mediterranean. The reason for this strategy is the fact that Lower Galilee is significantly warmer than Upper Galilee where most of the best Israeli Cabernet Sauvignons grow.

The rich, yet delicately spicy and velvety Domaine Natofa reds from the 2012 vintage suggest this was a very smart move by Yair (on the left in the picture below) and that vineyard manager Shahar Marmor (on the right) is already expertly cultivating these varieties for high quality in the 12 hectares of vineyards. Certainly, the vineyards looked impeccable and everything Shahar told me fitted what I saw. Considering the youth of the vines (the first were planted in 2006), and that he hasn’t been there since the beginning, this is a major achievement. Why am I going on about vineyard cultivation at such length? Well, wherever you are on Planet Wine there’s no possibility of making great wines without great grapes and to get them you need near-perfect vineyard cultivation, which is usually a great deal of work. More about these wines after my big article about Israeli wines appears in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in a couple of weeks.

This morning I made my way onward and “upward” (i.e. northwards) to Ramot Naftaly winery in the village of the same name. Their red wines are quite powerful, like most Israeli reds, but you can taste the cool mountain air in them too. They have made quite a name for themselves here in Israel with their Barbera and to a lesser degree with their Malbec and Petit Verdot. The Barbera has a natural acidity that I wouldn’t instinctively associate with this warm climate, the Malbec was moderate in alcohol for this variety (which so easily climbs over 15%) yet tasted properly ripe, and the Petit Verdot managed to combine great concentration of black fruits with an uplifting freshness. They’re model examples of modern Upper Galilee reds without any trace of exaggeration (e.g. too much ripeness, alcohol, tannin, oak). The picture below shows the pressing of one of their 2014 red wines, and this does seem to be at least a very good vintage.

In my glass as I write this is the 2012 ‘Shoresh’ red wine cuvée from Tzora in the Judean Hills, and if after reading all of the above you doubt that Israeli red wines can taste dry and subtle, then you need to experience this masterpiece from winemaker Eran Pick. This is no showstopper, much less a blockbuster, but during the last decade Israeli winemakers were often too obsessed with making wines like that to attract attention, gain recognition and to sell their wines for prices that turned a profit. The best winemakers here have now dumped those goals in the trashcan and are seeking a distinctively Israeli kind of beauty like that of the ‘Shoresh’, rather than working a standardized, off-the-peg style     that could just as easily have been achieved in a dozen other places around Planet Wine. Now we are starting to taste Israel!

Posted in Home | 2 Comments

Israel Riesling Diary: Day 11 – The Impossibility of Defining the Genius of Israeli Wine

I feel sure that, in spite of having tasted a slew of Israeli wines and met many Israeli winemakers since I arrived, I’m still a long way from having an overview of what is happening here, but there’s one thing that I’m already sure of, and that’s the impossibility of defining the genius of Israeli wine today with any kind of simple formula or definition. Something remarkable has happened here since the turn of the century, just as it did in Germany, but the (socio-cultural) context is utterly different and, of course, the winemaking conditions are too. The latter make one type of wine – genuinely light white wines – very difficult to produce, but apart from that this there are clearly enormous possibilities here and they are being explored in an ambitious and serious way. The result is an enormous range of interesting and exciting wines, some of which lie well outside what the description “Mediterranean wines” would lead you to expect.

Sure some Israeli red wines are massive, have plenty of alcohol and are seriously tannic, but during tastings I rarely felt that the wines had been overly-extracted. Instead, I encountered the normal range of wine styles and differences that variations in the growing conditions were responsible for (our old friend “terroir”). The truth is that red wines made by Eran Goldwasser at Yatir Winery, to take a prominent example, lie at the massive and tannic end of the scale because of the landscape in which they are grown. The photograph below was taken just a few miles away from the Yatir forest where those vineyards are situated. In this desert environment the summer days are hot, but temperatures plummet at night. Irrigation is essential for wine growing, but must be carefully judged, and great care must be taken that the grapes aren’t picked overripe. Eran Goldwasser has mastered this difficult discipline and his wines have a herbal freshness, and even the most concentrated of them still taste invigorating.

Then there are the elegant, dry reds from Flam winery that are clearly inspired by modern Tuscan red wines. That was particularly apparent in the ‘Classico’ red that had the red cherry aroma I associate with Chianti Classico, although the wine is mostly made from Cabernet Sauvignon (entirely from vineyards in the Judean Hills). Even the top red wine made by Golan Flam, the 2009 ‘Noble’ (mostly from Galilee), is not dominated by black fruit aromas and lacks any trace of inky density, remaining light on its feet. That really is a huge contrast to Yatir, although both wineries are largely using the same grape varieties.

Golan Flam is a thinker, and reminded me an architect or a mathematician. Assaf Paz of Vitkin winery, just a short drive from where I’m staying to the north of Tel Aviv is more like a rock star or a DJ, and it makes complete sense that his wines strike out in many directions that are unconventional for Israel. One of his best wines is the Old Vine Carignan, which is herbal and fruity, warm and mellow, yet weighs in at a moderate (in the Israeli context) alcoholic content of 13.5%. He’s not only obsessed by Mediterranean varieties like this, but also with making crisp and refreshing dry whites that have the maximum aroma intensity. One of those wines is Israel’s best dry Riesling, from the same vineyard as the sweet Sphera Riesling described in my previous posting. 2014 looks to be an excellent vintage for this wine, but also for Assaf’s Columbard dry white, which is packed with exotic aromas of a kind I never experienced in this “inferior” French variety before. The photo of Assaf below shows him in a quiet moment. I wish I could have captured the rock star-DJ Assaf in full flow, but maybe this page wouldn’t have been wide enough to accommodate that expansive personality.

Not every wine from all the winemakers I’ve described in my many postings from Israel has been optimized yet, but they are all on their way in that direction and this incompleteness and that dynamic make the nation and its winemakers irresistible to me. You can be sure that I will continue to follow this subject during the years to come. Israel has bitten me in the best possible way. Of course, this isn’t a nation without problems, and the long term future of this part of the Middle East is endangered by the conflicts between Israel and many of the Arab countries around it (Israel also has some serious internal conflicts). That is something I cannot ignore, but first I’m tasting the wines, talking to the winemakers and absorbing all the impressions of Israel that I can without falling into the trap of making hasty and simplistic judgments of this complex situation.

Posted in Home | 1 Comment

Israel Riesling Diary: Day 10 – Revelation in Tel Aviv

Many apologies for the long radio silence, which was not planned. Unfortunately there were internet problems at my hotels in Jerusalem and on the Dead Sea. Then I got back to this internet paradise in Even Yehuda too late last night to put this posting online. 

During my ten days in Israel there have been many surprises, the great majority of which were positive or at least amusing, and there were also some unexpected Israel Riesling Moments (IRMs). However, none of these came close to the moment of revelation yesterday in the Tel Aviv restaurant Hashulhan at the global Riesling tasting organized by Eldad Levy of Boutique de Champagnes. I always enjoy sharing good and great Riesling with a group of interested wine drinkers, but this was just one aspect of the evening. The 2013 Riesling which winemaker Doron Rav Hon, pictured above, brought with him from his Sphera winery was nothing short of mind-blowing and third Ultimate IRM made my entire trip to Israel worth while.

If you had told me before I tasted this wine that it would be possible to produce a delicately aromatic Riesling with enormous freshness and a Mosel-like balance of juicy sweetness and racy acidity in the Mediterranean climate of Israel I would have told you that this must be completely impossible. However, Doron Rav Hon has succeeded in doing exactly this by finding a really cool site, precise use of irrigation water to encourage aroma formation, and picking early enough to have a ton of natural acidity. This wine, which is the first vintage of Riesling, from his all white wine winery (in Israel!), has notes of floral and dripping leaves, which for me are amongst the most noble Riesling aromas. It is so delicate and filigree in flavor, the balance of sweetness, acidity and those great aromatics so expertly judged that I guessed its alcoholic content to be 10% or below, although it is actually 13%.    I can’t wait to taste his other white wines. A star is born!

 

Posted in Home | Leave a comment

Israel Riesling Diary: Day 5 – The Other Wine Israel

No doubt, I’m not the first to comment upon the way a lot of Israeli wines are now well made, but taste pretty much like a bunch of wines made in the so-called “New World”. The modern Israeli wine industry isn’t as old as those of California, Australia or Chile, never mind South Africa (founded in 1659), and given how recent the reorientation towards the production of dry table wines here, perhaps it’s not surprising that much of the industry adopted models from over the seas and far away instead of from the nearby nations around the Mediterranean that have a broadly similar climate. This is the main reason why the fruit-driven and lush wine styles that dominate in most of the “New World” wine countries also dominated here until recently. It was also easier to focus on the grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay that are well-known to consumers at home and around Planet Wine, rather than to take the more risky path of committing themselves (vines live 30 years plus) to more obscure grape varieties that are possibly better-suited to the Israeli climate. However, that is now changing fast.

There was a pioneer for this, and for much else, who remains at the cutting edge of the process of redefining what Israeli wine can be. He is the larger-than-life Zeev Dunie, the founder of Seahorse winery in Moshav bar Giora up in the Judean Hills, pictured  above. I say all this although Seahorse produces a number of exciting wines that have nothing directly to do with the Mediterranean region, like the ‘James’ dry Chenin Blanc, one of the best wines I’ve tasted made from this grape outside it’s homeland in the Loire/France. I can’t begin to explain how barrel-fermentation and extended lees contact leads to a dry white this fresh, as well as texturally exciting and aromatically complex. No less remarkable is the ‘Lennon’ Zinfandel, which has more vitality than this variety has in California, with which it is most closely associated, but every bit as much spice as a Zin from Sonoma or Paso Robles. Every wine from Seahorse that I’ve tasted here, regardless of its color or type, had as much personality as their maker, even if I wasn’t wowed by every one of them. In fact, I think it’s ridiculous to expect that from any winemaker and if it did happen, then it would make me a bit skeptical.

The photograph of Zeev above shows the former film director in front of his freshly harvested Counois grapes, a “lesser” Southern Rhône variety that he feels may have an important role in adding subtlety to his Grenache and Syrah-based red blends. He’s also exploring the possibilities of Cinsault, another grape that features in many Chateauneuf du Pape reds. Our visit was the first time I’d tasted both of these varieties as grapes, rather than as elements of blended red wines. The Cinsault grapes had surprisingly little flavor, while the Counois were off the other end of the taste-intensity scale and reminded me a bit of certain North American wild grapes I’ve tasted. Somebody has to do this practical research and Zeev Dunie’s non-intervention winery seems to me to be an ideal place. Before this work is done nobody will know if ignoring these grape varieties has meant a significant loss to the Israeli wine industry. It is part of the long, elliptical and exciting process of figuring out what grape varieties works best here, that is what gives the most interesting and distinctive top quality wines, as well as what gives the most pleasing everyday wines. At the moment many of those new wines aren’t well-known, much less mainstream, but they are making waves that will expand on the surface of the global wine pond and, in the long-term, completely change the image of Israeli wines.

 

 

Posted in Home | Leave a comment

Israel Riesling Diary: Day 3 – The Taste of the Future

This blog rarely devotes a great deal of space and praise to red wines based on Cabernet Sauvignon and the other so-called Bordeaux grapes, because many of those wines are already showered with (well-earned or ill-deserved) praise, and some of them are also grossly over-priced due to their prime role as the fetish objects of wine cults and investment commodities. Today at the cellars of the Margalit estate in Binyamina I encountered the best Israeli wines I ever tasted, and they were all made exclusively or primarily from those Bordeaux red grape varieties. Pictured above is the father (Dr. Yair Margalit, right) and son (Asaf Margalit, left) team responsible for these remarkable wines.

What makes them so special? As the Margalits explained to me, the problem in Israel is not to ripen the grapes, rather to avoid getting jammy over-ripe aromas and flavors in the wines, but to end up with beautiful ripe flavors, and in the case of red wines, the right kind of tannins. On the basis of today’s tasting I’d say they have been doing this with great success since 2000, the oldest vintage we tasted. All the Margalit red wines have great harmony and subtlety, never being even slightly rustic, much less loud or overly demonstrative. At one point I asked myself, which do I really prefer, the  2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2012 Petit Verdot or the 2011 Cabernet Franc? Not only did I fail to reach a decision by the end of my visit, the list of those favorites had grown to include the super-elegant 2008 ‘Enigma’ ( a cuvée of those Bordeaux grape varieties). However, by that time I had realized how Margalit Snr. and Jr. have thought through and explored a great many of the possibilities of this wine style. Their answer to the question how wines of this kind should taste is one of the most convincing on Planet Wine, not just in Israel.

The Margalits have opened up new possibilities for Israeli winemakers, not least the possibility not to define themselves solely as Kosher wine producers (I have nothing against Kosher wines), rather to see themselves firstly as makers of excellent Israeli wines. This is something which inspires the new generation of winemakers like Yael Sandler of nearby Binyamina Winery, one of Israel’s largest producers of Kosher wines. 2014 is her first vintage in Israel after getting into wine while working in one of Gordon Ramsey’s restaurants in London, then studying winemaking in Australia, and finally working both in the Australian and in South African wine industries.

Like many of her generation, she is trying to make wines with more freshness and vitality than those of the past, and from the cask samples (some still fermenting) of the 2014s I tasted at Binyamina (where it is her first vintage) I’d say that she is already well down the path to that goal. This will surely help Israeli wines achieve wider international recognition, since it will make them taste less like correctly made “New World” wines and more like wines from an old land with a new and distinctive personality. I can’t wait to taste her 2014s after they are bottled. Watch out Wide Wine World, Israel is coming!

Posted in Home, STUART PIGOTT RIESLING GLOBAL | Leave a comment

Israel Riesling Diary: Day 2 – They Don’t They Make Them Like These Anywhere Else on Planet Wine?

Why don’t winemakers elsewhere make Cabernet Franc Blanc de Noir or blend Gewürztraminer with Sauvignon Blanc like Tulip Winery does?

This is David Bar-Ilan, the winemaker of Tulip winery since the 2012 vintage. He didn’t come up with idea of blending Gewürztraminer with Sauvignon Blanc to make the bone dry ‘White Tulip’ of Tulip Winery with it’s wonderfully vibrant bouquet of grapefruit and discrete tropical fruit notes, but he was the man who perfected it’s seriously refreshing personality (with just 12.5% alcoholic content!) that perfectly fits the Mediterranean climate of Israel. He also didn’t come up with the idea of making a Blanc de Noirs from Cabernet Franc and a dash of Sauvignon Blanc to add crispness to ‘White Franc’ and balance the hint of grape sweetness in this wine from Tulip Winery, but he perfected the style and color (see the photo below) of that wine too.

Actually Tulip Winery, an hour’s drive north of Tel Aviv on the inland side of the northern tip of the Carmel Mountains, is best known for its red wines. Quite rightly so, for they are technically impeccable and full of personality right across the range from the fruit-driven and supple, modestly-priced 2012 ‘Just Merlot’ right up to the imposing and tannic, but still elegant (in spite of 15.5%) 2011 ‘Black Tulip’, a red blend that doesn’t quite fit into any of the established international stylistic categories.

It was a difficult tasting for David, because his right-hand man in the press house kept bringing samples of the 2014 red wine that was being pressed right then for him to follow the progress of the pressing, and he had to make some important decisions about it. Then, just as we reached the last of the red wines in the tasting, a truck loaded with French Columbard grapes (some of the last of this year’s harvest) rolled up. That’s the reality of the sharp end of winemaking!

All of this was quite a contrast to my first Israeli Riesling Moment (IRM) and an astonishing choc-non-choc experience at the Imperial Craft Cocktail lounge in Tel Aviv. Not that I expected any of this when we parked the car, because this bar is in the Imperial Hotel located in an odd part of Downtown Tel Aviv. The electrical system of the building next to the parking lot where we left the car was hanging out all over the facade like so much spilled guts. Across the road was an historic building that was in a depressing state of dusty decay and boarded up as a result. That nullified the effect of the astonishing news that this had just been voted the best cocktail bar in the Middle East and Africa – interesting, but so what? Once I got into the imperial all of this was instantly forgotten.

This photo is one of my many attempts to capture the atmosphere in the Imperial, I think the best, because other images my be slightly sharper (I mean more in focus), but they don’t quite capture the civilized, urban hedonism of this remarkable bar. Not being a cocktail person, and being too thirsty to risk refreshment through a high-alcohol cocktail, I decided to order a glass of white wine before I moved on to one of their complex creations. Then the IRM happened. “Do you want Sancerre or Riesling?” asked the barman and, of course – what else could I do? – I went for the latter. It turned out to be the ‘Dr. L.’ from Dr. Loosen on the Mosel, and it was indeed as titanically refreshing as I had hoped it would be. Then I was in exactly the right mood to move on to the ‘Tobago’ cocktail pictured below.

Although the ‘Tobago’ contains no chocolate at all it had an aroma which reminded me totally of the best Venezuelan bitter chocolate (e.g. Domori Puerto Mar). And I loved the presentation which half-pretended that it was a cup of coffee, and half-pretended that it was some kind of exotic chocolate-based chai. I apologize for the quality of the photo, but the low lighting in the Imperial pushed my new camera (an Olympus Pen EP-5) to the limits of its capability. This comes with the territory if you are a hard-core blogger trying to capture things as they happen in their full unruly and mind-bending “thisness”. If you want to do that seriously, then you need to roll with those punches and hit those curveballs, somehow. But, to be honest, that’s great training for life as a whole.

Posted in Home, STUART PIGOTT RIESLING GLOBAL | Leave a comment