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Filtering by Tag: Germany

Standing on Tradition

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Weingut Ökonomierat RebholzPfalz, Germany

I struggle with something in writing these posts: often I want to express how a particular wine or winemaker might go out of his or her way to make wine of integrity, starting in the vineyard and finishing in your glass, but I lack the shorthand to make it quick and clear. The plain truth is that too many wines today are manufactured, manipulated and otherwise put together in a way that is supposed to appeal to a certain market, maximize yields and minimize variation. In other words, made to please the bottom line and nothing else.

Wine of integrity, to me, means uncompromising methods of farming, fermenting and cellaring a wine. The best of the best don't bend their wine to meet expectations, they create a pure expression of climate, soil and culture and let the wines speak for themselves. It takes confidence, understanding and a lot of luck to make wines in this way.

Weingut Rebholz has been doing it for three consecutive generations. Even when the market trends veered in a nearly opposite direction (which was probably most of the time), the Rebholz family has stuck to their time-honored and traditional approach. Basically, get your hands dirty, don't fuss around too much in the cellar, and let the wine evolve. Everything here is done by hand. Nothing is added, nothing is taken away. (Seriously, you'd be shocked at what goes into that bottle of Mark West).

Currently, the estate is run by Hansjörg Rebholz, his wife Brigit and his mother Christine. They're craftspeople, farmers and leaders of what today we might call the 'natural wine' movement. That's probably too flaccid a term, too abstract a way to capture something ultimately simple. But the point is this: they make absolutely stunning wines that stand proudly on tradition.

The spätburgunder (pinot noir) smells really earthy and a touch smokey with little bits of red fruit hiding underneath. But the palate bursts with plump cherry and raspberry flavors, supported by lean but firm tannins, a hint of herbs and a kiss of spice. Resoundingly Old World in style, wearing its shell-limestone heart on its sleeves. ($30)

The pinot blanc is dry and crisp with flourishes of melon. One of the most mineral-driven pinot blancs out there, softened only by its lightly oily texture. Bristling with character. ($20)

Alex Gysler

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Alex Gysler abruptly assumed control of his family's Rheinhessen estate after the untimely death of his father, Gernot. Gernot liked and was known for softer, gentler wines, but his intrepid heir sought to differentiate himself from the start, as the heirs of strong fathers often do. Young Alex was determined to make wines of a nervy, edgy character. The heir envisioned a more pure expression of his land, his father's land, and being a man of his time, he turned to biodynamic agriculture for understanding.

Objectively, the first few years were little more than a curiosity. His most devoted supporters described the wines as "exotic," the way you might comment on a friend's experimental music as "interesting" or the way you smile when a cute stranger makes a particularly flaccid joke. "Ha. That's funny," you might say, knowing something special lay below the surface but not yet knowing how to mine such a precious thing.

Fast forward to the present where we're laughing in earnest about that awkward beginning, about the painful shyness of those first few encounters. Here we are reveling in the pure drinkability of Alex's wines.

This from Gysler's US importer (and kooky wine legend) Terry Theise:

Less recherché than ‘10, less exotic than ‘08, a simple drink-the-living-fuck-out-of-it quality... It goes to the party but is a little diffident, it hardly knows anyone, but when it sees you it bursts into an incandescent grin.

You may not have a lot of experience with the grapes Silvaner (Savagnin x Österreichisch) or Scheurebe (Silvaner x Riesling), but you honestly don't need it to enjoy these sensational, hand-crafted wines. They're simply made and yet almost ghastly in their elusiveness. Just a bit of residual sugars add to the complexity and couch the hard edges of the wines acids, creating one of the most refreshing wines you'll taste all year.

The Wines

Gysler Scheurebe 2011 (1L) — $18 Gysler Silvaner 2011 (1L) — $18

Back to the Land: Half-in, Half-out

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3 Rieslings That Will Change Your Mind About Sweetness

Funny thing about Riesling, for decades wine geeks struggled to delineate the ethereal glories of the German dry style from the cloying sweetness of more popular stateside versions. And now the pendulum has swung. These days, any mention of one of the great off-dry Rieslings—white wines braced by an acidity so piquant that you barely register the soft residual sugars—a person is likely to wrinkle her nose or shake his head, no dice. But I'm here to say: they're missing out.

Whereas trocken (dry) Rieslings tend to be dominated by flavors like wet stone, tart citrus and green apple, halbtrocken (half-dry) wines are fleshier, with notes of stone fruit like peach, pear and apricot. That's a generalization, but one that can help put things in perspective. Don't let the slight sweetness fool you, the examples below are every bit as food-friendly as their drier brothers and sisters. And to be honest, the line between one category and the other can often feel a little arbitrary. The labeling as such has to do with mathematical percentages, whereas the "feel" of a wine has less to do with category than with the balance that it strikes.

Taste for yourself. And try as you can to leave those preconceptions at the door.

J. Leitz "Leitz Out" 2011 ($15)

Region: Rheingau, Germany

Joseph Leitz is no stranger to clever marketing. His signature "Eins, Zwei, Dry" is not only a nice little play on words, it's also a perfect entry point to a classic dry Rhein wine. So no surprise when he came out with a softer, semi-dry companion "Leitz Out." Another killer combo. Peachy with a kiss of lemon; it's just a touch sweet and balanced by a firm minerality.

Koehler-Ruprecht "Steinacker" Halbtrocken 2010 ($18)

Region: Pfalz, Germany

This offering really lives up to its namesake; Steinacker (stoney field) is the name of the vineyard from which this wine is made. The persistent mineral character is bracketed by an upfront pink grapefruit and a lingering, lush peachy ginger finish. The light footprint of residual sugar just softens the intense edges and helps integrate all the fruit aromas with the racy, mouthwatering acidity.

Clemens Busch "Vom Roten Schiefer" 2011 ($25)

Region: Mosel, Germany

Vom Roten Schiefer tells us that this offering comes "from red slate," as opposed to the gray slate that permeates the rest of the estate. The red slate soils lend a little more ripeness to the juice and therefore a more approachable wine at earlier stages of development. Tangerine and peach dominate the nose, while a smokiness and barely perceptible peppery spice underlie the fervent juiciness on the palate. This is a bit of an outlier due to the special makeup of the vineyard, and by outlier I mean special treat.