CellarHand 20th Anniversary

A sizeable portion of Melbourne’s wine trade gathered at Zinc at Federation Square yesterday to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of legendary importer CellarHand. The team has been busy with events over the last week… but to see two decades of hard work and great wine gathered in one room was quite moving. They head to Sydney today to do it all over again.

Of course there were a handful of brilliant German and Austrian producers on hand to pour their wines. Ingrid Groiss (Weinviertel, Austria) poured some of my favourites, including the 2016 Auf der Henne Riesling and the 2016 Sauberg Tradition Grüner Veltliner. Both wines were a display of seamless and artful balance and I couldn’t possibly choose a favourite.

As always, I was particularly taken with the Koehler-Ruprecht wines and I was happy to see Dominik Sona on hand to explain Bernd Philippi’s unique winemaking philosophy. These are amongst the most distinctive (and best) Riesling wines on the planet. After a day of tasting I had to take a glass of the 2016 Kallstadter Saumagen Auslese trocken… nothing else would do. The 2017 Kallstadter Saumagen Kabinett trocken was pure and elegant and the 2009 Auslese trocken ‘R’ utterly sublime, powerful, evocative, mineral laden and so well balanced.

Congratulations to Patrick and Virginia on 20 years of operations, and thanks for all the Riesling.

Wine Experience – Brisbane

When trying to introduce a wider (and often skeptical) audience to the Riesling grape, occasionally it pays to look at the affordable rather than the best.

On a short trip to Brisbane, I surprised a good old friend by visiting him at work at Wine Experience, a small and thoroughly independent wine store in the beautiful suburb of Rosalie. The team here stocks a fine selection of domestic and international wines and even imports some of their own high quality wine.

Ironically, on my previous visit, I had sampled from the selection of Italian wines and not the German. It’s in every category, though, that the team here shows their knowledge and tasting experience and one can find brilliant wine to satisfy any budget… you’ll even find high quality Bordeaux for an exceptionally fair price.

As I wasn’t shopping at the higher end today I ended up taking a more modest bottle, of one of the many Cleanskin* options, curious to see what sort of quality it offered. The team at Wine Experience works with very reputable winemakers around the country to offer a broad range of very affordable and good quality wines under their own label.

The wine in question was their 2018 Clare Valley Riesling ($13.99). The Clare Valley, in South Australia, should need no introduction to Riesling lovers, and this wine offers both typical varietal and regional character as well as terrific value. It’s floral, pure and bright. The palate offers generous fruit weight and a fine, cool acid line.

Wine Experience also has a strong online presence and delivers Australia wide.

*In Australia the Cleanskin originated as a way to sell bulk wine cheaply, by the dozen and in bottles without labels. The Cleanskin now represents an important sector in the wine market here and the wines can (but not always) offer good value for money.

An old book for the mantlepiece

fullsizeoutput_32dMaps, books, bottle openers and sometimes rather absurd artefacts often form the core of the wine lovers shrine, whether it be an entire library or a single mantlepiece. The slow and steady accumulation of these items, the travel involved, and the bottles opened are all part of the joy of the drink.

In its day, Frank Schoonmaker’s book The Wines of Germany (first published in 1956) was unmatched in English literature as a source of information on the subject, so I was pleased to find a copy of Peter Sichel’s revised edition (1980, I believe) in a second-hand bookshop in Melbourne.

Having never read the original print, and revisions made by Schoonmaker himself (in 1966 and 1969), it is impossible for me to know just where Sichel has made his contributions, but it’s clear he went to great lengths to seamlessly incorporate his writing alongside Schoonmaker’s charming style.

The introduction to the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer begins as follows:

“As far as their wines, as well as their waters, are concerned, the Mosel and its little tributaries, the Saar and Ruwer, make up a single basin or Gebiet. It is true that a person (and not necessarily an expert) who tastes them comparatively can usually detect in the wines of the Saar a finesse and elegance together with a fresh apple acidity which is their special charm, and which the Mosel as a whole do not possess. Similarly, the Ruwers are fresh, with a little more spice and fruit and a little fuller than the Saars. The Mosels have a substance which is both broader and softer than that of the tributaries; yet all three share a taste altogether different from wines made anywhere else.”

Frank Schoonmaker, an American, was one of the great wine merchants and travel communicators of his time. He wrote both with authority and humility.

A warm welcome to 2019

I’m a few days late but I’d like to wish everyone a very happy new year… I hope many a good bottle was opened over the Christmas period. I personally enjoyed a very special 2007 Koehler-Ruprecht Kallstadter Saumagen Auslese trocken ‘RR’ with a pair of very close friends on Christmas Day. My parents had also brought over (from Germany) a 2015 Weingut Philipp Assmannshaüser Höllenberg Spätburgunder No. 1 that was a delight, and special for obvious reasons.

On a side note, I have just booked flights from Melbourne to Frankfurt for the end of May this year and can’t wait to dive back into the Mosel (not literally, of course). My plans are still in their infancy but I’m looking forward to a productive and educational trip.

Until next time…

 

 

1868 Saar und Mosel Weinbau-Karte

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Something I’d been missing for a while was a wall-mountable map of the Mosel, or in other words, something outside of a book. I’ve had plenty of other regions covered (I gave away a lovely and very detailed map of Alsace to a friend earlier this year and I’d like to replace it)… but the Mosel? No such thing in my collection.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I had ordered a facsimile of the 1868 map of the Mosel and Saar by Franz Josef Cotten, and I happily took delivery last week.

As the accompanying notes explain, the map was based on assessments made by Prussian tax authorities between 1816 and 1832. The 1868 Saar und Mosel Weinbau-Karte divides the land under vine at the time of publication into three tiers based on revenue, with the those of greatest value highlighted in dark red. Many present day sites are immediately recognisable, including some of enduring renown. It is fascinating to be able to look back 150 years into the history of the Mosel, Saar and Ruwer.

Preceded by the 1867 classification of the Rheingau by Friedrich Wilhelm Dünkelberg, the 1868 Saar and Mosel map is amongst the first of it’s kind. Of course, there are some notable similarities between the 1868 first edition of Clotten’s map and today’s modern VDP.Klassification.

Keeping the future in sight.

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I’m currently in the early stages of planning a ‘small’ pilgrimage from Winningen to Serrig in the middle of next year. My last visit was all too brief and this time around I intend to conduct a more thorough study of the Mosel and its two charming tributaries.

Additionally, I’ve just ordered a copy of  Franz Josef Clotten’s 1868 viticultural map of the Saar and Mosel from the Trier City Archives (thanks to Lars Carlberg for his help with this). Expect some gratuitous celebration and Instagram work to coincide with its arrival. Apologies in advance.

g.U. for Uhlen

I’m picturing a very satisfied Reinhard Löwenstein. It’s taken years of persistence and hard work to gain PDO (g.U. – or geschüzte Ursprungbezeichnung, in German) status for the three brilliant Winninger Uhlen subsites.

In October of this year, each of the three sites (from northwest to southeast; Rothlay, Laubach and Blaufüsser Lay) became protected appellations under EU law.

The Winninger Uhlen, located in the lower Mosel and just outside the city of Koblenz, is known for its complex dry Rieslings. Heymann-Löwenstein is the only estate producing wines from this site that are presently available in the Australian market. This this a well exposed and warm site with a particularly inimitable style about it and Löwenstein’s efforts have done much to elevate its reputation. 

The wines of Heymann-Löwenstein are both unique and compelling and I’m happy that his vision has earned deserved recognition.