3 Mar 2012

Border hopping (Baden, Germany – Day One)

You forget how close Alsace is to the border considering how different it is, but it dawned on me five minutes after leaving my accommodation in Strasbourg I was back in Germany. Situated on the eastern bank of the Rhine is the state of Baden-Wurtemberg, but Baden and Wurtemberg are legislated as different wine regions. Baden alone is the third largest wine region in Germany covering 16,000 hectares, but compared to Rheinhessen and the Pfalz it is not really known outside of Germany. The region has similarities to its neighbour over the French border, but is generally considered the red wine region of Germany. Much like Alsace cooperatives are very common, and 85% of the production is made by them. Also similar to Alsace, burgundian varieties are very popular, the most important being spatburgunder (pinot noir), grauburgunder (pinot gris) and weissburgunder (pinot blanc). The region is separated into nine districts from north to south, with the best known being Kaiser Stuhl. This name may be familiar with Australian wine consumers, but associate it with very cheap cask wine from the last century, no longer in existence (as far as I know).

Kaiser Stuhl vineyards
Freiherr von Gleichenstein in the Kaiser Stuhl village of Oberrotweil is a winery with about 400 years of history, as back in 1634 the landholdings of the former Benedictine monastery of St. Blasien were purchased by the ancestors of the family. The vineyard holdings sit at around 30 hectares, with an additional 10 hectares of vineyards providing the balance of fruit required to produce the wine each year. The current owner since 2003 is 11th generation Johannes von Gleichenstein, who would like to take the vineyard holdings to 50 hectares. The winery is not a member of the VDP in spite of their quality, as the region determined that any member should have less than 15% Muller Thurgau, which is often seen as a second-class variety. At the time Johannes’ father had approximately 30% Muller-Thurgau and was thus refused membership. In spite of the fact that the focus of the business has been shifted to higher quality wines and there is less than the mandated 15%, Johannes is not seeking out membership as he doesn’t really need it. He has received great praise for his wines in the last ten years, and has no difficulties in selling his wines. In fact he has been investing in the business very shrewdly, and the new winemaking facility will also include a tasting room which will take advantage of floor to ceiling windows looking out onto the vineyards.

Freiherr von Gleichenstein home
The Muller-Thurgau wines are very classy but also very clean and fresh. The 2010 trocken has a delicate pear and Asian spice nose with a pleasant and refreshing finish on the palate. The Feinherb 2009 has riper and richer fruit characters, but tremendous balance and savoury qualities. I’m not sure how they can call their rose as such because it has no colour, and I’ve never tried a non-sparkling blanc de noirs before either. These wines are a little unusual to say the least. There is a nice sharpness to the youthful Weisburgunder Kabinett Trocken 2011 and a spritzy clean and dry palate, good ripeness and a slight malolactic edge. The Grauburgunder Spatlese Trocken 2010 is very concentrated and vibrant with good intensity and integrity, with a slight savoury bitterness on the edge of the palate. The Baron Louis (named after one of his sons) is the premium white of the range, and is a Spatlese Trocken Grauburgunder. The 2010 which is 100% barrel fermented, has a distinct orange and lemon pith aroma, and a candied peel flavour on the palate. The basic Spatburgunder 2010 is aromatic but not obvious, with everything in balance and nothing to displease. The Eichberg Spatburgunder 2010 has a softer and more voluptuous structure, with broader and silkier tannins, but lacks structure and interest. The Premium Spatburgunder 2008 has a smoky meaty and volatile hoisin nose, with opulence and tightness at the same time. The Baron Phillip (Johannes’ other son) is a 100% new barrique matured spatburgunder, and the 2007 was wonderful in spite of some strange aromatics.

Taking some samples out of barrel
 Click here to see more photos from Day One in Baden, Germany

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