Franconian treasure: Weingut Schmitt’s Kinder

November 14, 2010

2007 Randersackerer Sonnenstuhl by Schmitt’s Kinder

One of the best Franconia wineries is Schmitt’s Kinder in Randersacker, a lovely village of about 3,500 people along the Main river, about 30 minutes from Wuerzburg, the capital city of Lower Franconia.

We have visited Randersacker in 2008 and cultivate fond memories of this (much too short) visit.

The name “Schmitt’s Kinder” (in English Schmitt’s children) goes back to 1910 when the children of the vintner (Schmitt) did not, as is the custom in Lower Franconia, divide the property after the fathers death among the siblings, but instead opted to jointly cultivate the land.

The winery is currently under the management of the 10th generation of vintners: Karl Martin and Renate Marie Schmitt. The total area under vines is bout 14 ha in the locations “Randersackerer Sonnenstuhl”, “Marsberg”, “Teufelskeller”, “Pfülben” and “Ewig Leben”.

Main variety is Silvaner, followed by Riesling, Mueller-Thurgau, Scheurebe, Pinot Blanc, Bacchus, Domina and Pinot Noir.

The ‘2004 Randersackerer Sonnenstuhl Pinot Noir’ won the 2006 Pinot Noir Cup for best Pinot Noir wine of the world!!!! Can you imagine? That’s just great, a German Pinot Noir beating the best of France and Australia.

The back label, very modest and unassuming

Our friends Romy and Friedel Engisch in Wuerzburg offered exactly that wine when we visited last August. I tell you also the 2007 vintage of this Pinot Noir is first class. Amazing what Pinot Noir wines Germany can produce.

If you have the opportunity to get your hands on a bottle of this wine, do so immediately. Total production is quite limited but the price level is very reasonable.

Romy and Friedel Engisch with their guests from Bangkok

Address:
Weingut Schmitt’s Kinder
Am Sonnenstuhl 45
D-97236 Randersacker
Tel.: +49-931 / 70 59-1 97
Fax: +49- 0931 / 70 59-1 98
www.schmitts-kinder.de/

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Wine from Franconia: Weingut Juliusspital, Würzburg

October 12, 2010

During a recent visit to Berlin, I bought also some bottles of fine wine. I treated myself to a ‘grand cru’ or ‘Grosses Gewaechs’ as the Germans call it. The ‘2006 Juliusspital GG dry Silvaner’ was just the stuff which makes my wine lovers heart jump. The winery is one of the best in Franconia and ever since my late grand father took me there as a 16 year old boy I am in love with its wines. Franconian Silvaner is one of my favorites. The wine comes in the ‘Bocksbeutel’ bottle typical for Franconia.

2006 GG Silvaner Juliusspital dry

Nothing is better suited to wine enjoyment than the presence of a wine expert. When Timo Mayer, owner and wine maker of The Mayer Vineyard from the Yarra Valley, Victoria visited us recently in Bangkok, I could not resist to open this treasure of a wine from Franconia.

It has a golden colour, and is quite oily with a beautiful bouquet. The structure is good and it finishes with a tender bitter note due to the fine tannins. In short: a wonderful wine.

The wine is ready for tasting

Address:
Weingut Juliusspital
Klinikstr. 1
97070 Würzburg

Tel.: +49-931393-1400 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              +49-931393-1400      end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              +49-931393-1400      end_of_the_skype_highlighting 
Fax: +49-931393-1414
E-Mail: weingut@juliusspital.de
www.weingut-juliusspital.de


Effervescent Silvaner

August 19, 2010

Great Franconian wines in the bocksbeutel bottle

I just love the wines from the Silvaner grape. Most of Silvaner is grown in Alsace and Franconia, one of my favourite German wine regions. Many of the wines from Franconia come in the famous “Bocksbeutel” bottle.

What I did not know is that some Silvaner producers also make the grape into sparkling wine. One of these essences was served to me during a recent family gathering in Reichenberg near Wuerzburg.

2008 Wertheimer Tauberklinge Silvaner extra dry

The ‘2008 Wertheimer Tauberklinge Silvaner sparkling extra dry’ (12.% alc. vol., 3.6 g. acid/litre and 14.7. g. sugar/litre) was a wonderful effervescent experience.

I think this wine from “Tauberfranken” technically belongs to the Baden wine region and not Franconia. However, nice Silvaner are produced their that’s for sure, and it’s just right at the border of these two outstanding German wine regions.

Effervescent Silvaner

This wine was very refreshing, spritzy with zest and round fruityness, very pleasurable indeed. I will have more of it in the future. Thanks go to my folks in Reichenberg for introducing me to this excellent sparkling wine.


Restaurant review: Weinhaus Spielberg, Randersacker/Franconia

May 13, 2010

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The settlement of Randersacker, Franconia

One of my favourite wine regions in Germany is Franconia. My maternal grandparents came from this part of the country. My grandfather, Hans Heinrich Schuessler, was the man who introduce me to the pleasures and the mystery of grape wine. He was a native of Reichenberg, a small hamlet just south of the city Wuerzburg, the capital of the region. Randersacker is situated at the opposite side (from Reichenberg) of the Main river. We visited the place while touring Germany some time ago.

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The inscription on the Bocksbeutel bottle reads: In vino veritas

The market town of Randersacker was first mentioned in a historical record in 779 AC. The historical centre of the town, though small, is quite nice and worth visiting. We were on our way back to Wuerzburg but wanted to have dinner at Weinhaus Spielberg.

Franconia produces outstanding wines, mostly Sylvaner/Silvaner but I like also the Riesling wines. It’s speciality is the Bocksbeutel, a wine bottle in the form of an ellipsoid. This is what we came for when we selected Weinhaus Spielberg as our target.

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A coaster of Weinhaus Spielberg

Weinhaus Spielberg is a traditional country inn where solid German food and good local wines are served. We ordered some local specialities, especially typical Franconian dishes. The two pictures below might give you an idea what food I have in mind. We had the house wine with the food, a very refreshing, young and delicious Silvaner.

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The service is very efficient, the waiters are friendly and very helpful. At times the Weinhaus is very busy. However, there is no need to fret, you will highly satisfied with what you will get. My credo: visit the place yourself, and see with your own eyes, taste with your own taste buds and have fun in Franconia.

Address:
Weinhaus Spielberg
Stefanie Sokoll
Lurzengasse 3
97236 Randersacker

Tel.: +49-931 / 708391
Fax: +49-931 / 709957
E-Mail: Spielberg-AS@t-online.de
www.weinhaus-zum-spielberg.de

Opening hours:
Monday – Sunday: 11 – 24 h
Friday: open from 17.00 h
closed: Thursday


The best 10 German dry Riesling wines

November 25, 2009

It was a bit disappointing for a native from the Mosel River to read through the list of best dry Riesling wines of Gault Millau’s newly released wine guide 2010.

Among the best German dry Riesling wines of 2007 and 2008 there was not a single one from the Mosel, Saar or Ruwer.

I know that my home region is more famous for its semi-dry and sweet Rieslings but…

The good news it that a wine from the Nahe where my materal grandfather had introduced me to dry wines many decades ago was ranked the second highest.

Moreover, the vintner of the year is also from the Nahe. Tim Fröhlich (35) was awarded this prestigious title. The family estate Schäfer-Fröhlich is one of the best wineries in the Nahe Region and produces outstanding dry and sweet wines.

The winner for best dry Riesling (with 96 points) was a wine from the Pfalz, a ‘Forster Kirchenstück GC’ by Dr. Bürklin-Wolf (70 €). Emrich-Schoenleber received 95 point for a ‘Halenberg Grosses Gewächs’ (29 €). Among the top ten five Riesling wines came from Pfalz, two from Rheingau and Rheinhessen each and one wine from the Nahe.

That the Franconian wines were missing from the list was a further disappointment. Also in Franconia the 2007 and 2008 vintages were outstanding (as is the 2009).

Two other wines received 95 points, a ‘Abtserde Grosses Gewächs by Keller Estate, Rheinhessen and a ‘Forster Pechstein GC’ also by Dr. Bürklin-Wolf, Pfalz (35 €). 94 points were awarded to three wines: a ‘Deidesheimer Hohenmorgen GC’ by Dr. Bürklin-Wolf (35 €), a Rüdesheimer Berg Schlossberg by Georg Breuer, Rheingau (40 €) and a ‘G-Max’, also by Keller Estate, Rheinhessen (I found a price of 160 € from an internet sales website). From some chat on the internet I got the impression that you won’t see a bottle on any shelf. This wine is “rationed” and reserved for special customers. Keller estate was “the producer of the year 2006” of Gault Millau.

Two wines were given 93 points: ‘Kastanienbusch Grosses Gewächs’ by Rebholz Estate, Pfalz (32 €), and ‘Rüdesheimer Berg Rottland Alte Reben Goldkapsel’ by Josef Leitz, Rheingau (65 €). Wine number 10 received 92 points and it was a ‘Birkweiler Kastanienbusch Schiefer’ by Siener Estate, Pfalz (16.50 €). This is the only wine in my price-range.

Needless to say that all the wine gurus of the world have written about these wines and these producers, John Gilman, Jancis Robinson, Eric Assimov to name only a few. Some of the wine reviews you can find on the internet, some of them are linked by the specific estate named above. It seems there is lots of research to be done.

Go wine enthusiast. You can, of course, also buy the wine guide, Gault Millau.


A Sunday at Bloody Hill

September 21, 2009

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Great Yarra Valley views from the Mayer Vineyard (left to the dam)

On a beautiful Sunday in early August, we were in for a surprise visit to the Mayer’s. We bought some “nibblies” (Australian for cold meats, sausages, cheeses, condiments, etc.) and some wine in Healesville and drove up the steep drive to Bloody Hill on top of which their beautiful house (rammed earth) is situated. Alas, they were in and happy to welcome their unannounced intruders.

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The vineyard at the crest of the hill is very neat

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Some of the wines on “offer” (f.l.t.r.: a Silvaner from Franconia, Dr. Buerklin-Wolf, a Riesling from the Pfalz and a Dr. Mayer Pinot Noir from the Yarra Valley)

We came at the right time. A shipment of Riesling wine (about 60 cases) which Timo had made on a visit to Germany last year had just arrived and was ready for tasting. Moreover, as a member of the South Pack, Timo was in the preparation of a wine tasting tour to three Australian cities (Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane). The South Pack is a group of eight innovative young Australian wine-makers who have raised the bar for the selling of premium and super-premium wines in sluggish markets.

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The German Brotzeit

A quick “Brotzeit” was thrown up and the wine tasting could start. We did not drink in any kind of order but rather according to gusto and enthusiasm. First cap of the rank was the German Riesling Timo had made, Dr. Mayer Riesling of which I have no picture which speaks for itself. This was not a time for tasting notes but for joy and nourishment of body and soul, for Australian and Swabian story telling and song.

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Bloody Hill Pinot Noir

Timo is a native of a small hamlet, called “Grossheppach” (about 4,500 inhabitants), today part of the small town called Weinstadt (translated: wine city) in the Rems valley (the Rems is a small river), Wuerttemberg, about 15 km east of Stuttgart. As everything in Germany, Grossheppach has a long history.

Grossheppach

Coat of arms of Grossheppach showing the river Rems and four grapes on a vine

Furthermore, the village has a long tradition of vine cultivation and wine making. Timo comes from a family of small vintners (and farmers).

In 1279 a historical deed is the earliest written testament of the flourishing wine production in Grossheppach. Magister Rudolf, a local doctor, had bequeathed his house in Esslingen and three vineyards in Grossheppach to the Abbey of Bebenhausen which was witnessed by knight ‘Fridericus miles de Heggebach’.

Timo showed as a historical chronicle of Grossheppach with black and white photos which also depicted his family in the 18th and 19th century. Here we are, thousands of kilometres away from the old land and talking grape production, wine traditions and wine styles. To cut a long story short, Timo had made his first ever Riesling wine in Grossheppach and shipped it for sale to Australia.

It was not the time for tasting notes, I guess. We opened one bottle after the next. First the Riesling wines, then Chardonnay and finally Pinot Noir and Shiraz, all Mayer Vineyard wines and Timo Mayer creations.

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Mayer and Dr. Mayer Pinot Noir and a traditional German wine label with the coat of arms of Grossheppach

The Mayer Vineyard is only a small operation (2.5 ha under vines). All wines are hand crafted and from a single vineyard. Timo believes that wine is made in the vineyard, therefore there is minimal interference. The reds are unfined and unfiltered. Timo makes wines with a difference, with great character and individuality. As he says “he wants to bring back the funk”, and funky these drops are. James Halliday, “the wine pope of Australia”, has awarded his highest rating, a 5 stars, to the Mayer Vineyard.

The Dr. Mayer Pinot Noir is one of the newest creations from the masters hands; a great wine, elegant, whole bunch fermented if I am not mistaken. Timo assumed that all of it would be sold during the South Pack promotion tour together with the Riesling. By now there should be nothing left, I guess.

Needless to say that the day extended to the night and ended with a pasta feast for 9 hungry mouths.

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The pasta sauce in the making

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The magician at work, this time in the kitchen and not in the wine cellar

We had a great time. The children played all afternoon. We walked the vineyard and Timo showed me where he shot a deer. Then we went to get some of that venison for us to take home. The “Brotzeit” led to dinner and then it was time to drive home to our own vineyard in Glenburn. Good news is that Timo is planning to make Riesling again in 2009 and maybe the following years.

For sales and enquiries contact:
timomayer@bigpond.com.au

The following wines are for sale:
Bloody Hill Chardonnay
Bloody Hill Pinot Noir
Big Betty Shiraz
Mayer Close Planted Pinot Noir (also as the Dr. Mayer Pinot Noir)


German wine regions: the Nahe

September 17, 2009

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The Nahe wine region has a great significance for me and my family. It was here that I got first into contact with vine cultivation and wine appreciation at a rather tender age.

Why you might ask? Were you not from Trier, Mosel?
Well, my maternal grandfather, Hans Heinrich Schüssler, a native of Reichenberg, a village near Würzburg, used to live in Martinstein. Being from Franconia, another famous German wine region, he was the only wine drinker in the immediate family (my father preferred beer). He used to be the station master in Martinstein (today 322 inhabitants), a hamlet along the left bank of the Nahe river. The village was founded in the middle ages at a ford crossing the Nahe river. In 1340 it got a castle and even market (city) rights.

My brother and I, we used to spend the long summer holidays (and many other holidays) at my grandparents house in Martinstein. My grandfather used to take us on long walks in the forest and villages nearby. During these walks we always found a country inn where we could refresh ourselves, enjoy a drink or a “Brotzeit” (a typical German snack). He would drink a “Schoppen” (0.25 litre glass) of the local Nahe wine. He loved dry white wines. We would have a lemonade.

He was associated with a “hiking brotherhood” (called “Hunsrückhöhenverein”) whose members would walk in large groups on weekends to various destinations. Usually a country inn was the designated object of the hikers. Here the group converged for a hearty meal and some drinks. Shortly after vintage, “Federweisser” (freshly made but still half-fermented wine) was a popular drink.

But boys being boys, we would sip at his glass from time to time. He being deeply involved in conversation with fellow hikers, did not notice. Neither did we. The sweetness of the fresh wine veiled its dangers. To cut a long story short, we had the experience of a first inebriation of our young lives and could hardly walk strait on our long way home.

After my grandfathers retirement he moved out of the train station into a newly built home right in the middle of vineyards at the outskirts of the village towards the east. Vineyards stretched right to the door. Just a short walk up the hill and endless vineyards lay at your footsteps. Occasionally we would help during vintage time (more play than serious helping). But we would often taste fully ripened grapes and enjoy the fruit. I treasure these wonderful memories of my youth at my grandfathers house in Martinstein.

Map Nahe wine region

The Nahe wine region (photo source: wikipedia)

As you can see from the above map, the Nahe wine region stretches from Martinstein to the West along the river eastward, later north towards the estuary at Bingen where it flows into the Rhine river. The largest city in the region is Bad Kreuznach, a small town of about 45,000 inhabitants.

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With about 4,200 ha under vines, the Nahe region is one of the smaller wine growing areas in Germany. It is still larger than, for instance the Yarra Valley in Victoria (with about 3,800 ha, about 2% of Australia’s total). The Nahe region is dominated by white grape varieties (about 74% of the total area under vines). The main variety is Riesling (26%) followed by Mueller-Thurgau (14%) and Dornfelder (13%).

Fifty years ago the variety distribution was very different. Silvaner used to be the most planted variety with about 50% of the total area but has ever since been replaced by the Burgundy varieties (Pinot White, Gris and Noir) as well as by Riesling, Dornfelder, Blauer Portugieser and Müller-Thurgau plantings.

The Nahe is divided into seven collective sites (Grosslagen) and 328 individual sites (Einzellagen). Due to its volcanic origins, the soils of the nahe show a great diversity. The wines reflect this. Only in 1971, the German wine law defined the nahe region. before that time, its wines were sold as “Rhine wines”. However, some of the best Riesling wines of germany originate from the Nahe and today Nahe wine can rival the best from Mosel and Rheingau or any other German wine region.

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The Nahe can be divided into the upper (west) and lower (north-east) Nahe and the region around Bad Kreuznach. In Martinstein and the neighbouring village of Monzingen (first mentioned in 778) the oldest vineyards of the Upper Nahe are to be found. The soils of the Nahe range from sandstone to quartzite and slate. The region shows a temperate climate and some of the southern slopes enjoy a micro climate comparable to the Mediterranean. Elevations range from 100 to 300 meters altitude.

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Who are the top producers of the Nahe wine region?

Well, the name Herrmann Doenhoff comes to mind. He is the leading vintner of the Nahe and his wines are ranked among the top Rieslings in Germany. Herrmann Dönnhoff has about 20 ha under vines and produces about 140,000 bottles a year. His winery is located in Oberhausen/Nahe. The 2007 vintage produced outstanding wines; the 2008 Riesling wines did not quite reach that quality level during recent tastings. But his ‘2008 Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle Riesling Gran Cru’ earned 93 Parker points.

Other top producers are Emrich-Schönleber in Monzingen (about 15 ha under vines, yearly production about 110,000 bottles), Schlossgut Diel (17.5 ha and 120,000 bottles) in Rümmelsheim and Schäfer-Fröhlich (14 ha under vines and 75,000 bottles annually) in Bockenau.

Wines and vintners I like very much are Sascha Montigny in Laubenheim and Weingut Edelberg at Gonratherhof 3 in Weiler just on the other side of Martinstein. The former I like because of the high quality of his red wines, especially the 2006 vintage; the latter produces solid country wines which remind me of my youth in Martinstein and the long hikes with my grandfather. The country inn at Gonratherhof was often our destination when the three of us set out from our little house in the vineyards.