The SOMM Journal

October/November 2014

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Page 14 of 120

14 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2014 { spit bucket } WHILE RESIDING IN LONDON DURING the "noughties," this following a short stint living and working in the German wine village of Fellbach outside of Stuttgart, I had the pleasure of sitting in on the final tasting of Württemberg wines for the annual Gault&Millau Weinguide. I'd been invited by my friend, Germany's first Master Sommelier, Frank Kämmer, who'd recently assumed responsibility for his native region by the grace of the guide's co-founder, fellow Yank and long-time German resident Joel Payne. The guide was published only once in English; today I still own a copy of this 1997 edition. This summer found me invited to join the pre-tasting of ten wineries done before the finals (comprised only in part of the region's best), wines then which are culled from those and many more to give Kämmer and Payne a general overview; their orientation, overall quality of the recent releases, how did the producer do with the vintage, assessing the overall quality of the vintage, and the chance to agree upon benchmarks to provide a foundation for the final tasting. Long time wine writer and editor-in-chief of G&M's Weinguide, Carsten Henn, sat in with us. As with all tastings of this type we began with a wine to calibrate ourselves; this one was a '13 Gutswein Riesling from Wöhrwag. This heralded producer impressed me most with its entry level Lemberger aka Blaufränkisch aka Kékfrankos, though no matter its name it's considered native by the Swabians though, according to Kämmer, has only been here since the mid-1800s. A handful of others I enjoyed include Drautz-Able's Weissburgunder, a testa - ment to my preference to Germany's Pinot Blanc over its Californian or even Alsace counterparts both for its easy drinkability and, at the higher level, relatively low cost. With its delicate balance and refreshing body, Jürgen Ellwanger's Sauvignon Blanc reminded me of why it is this variety has become so "mode-ish" across the Rhein from its home. Dautel's Zweigelt "S" was an attention-grabber for both Kämmer and me, though Payne thought it less worthy than this creative producer's Lemberger. The tasting concluded with Fellbach's "big dogs": Aldinger and Schnaitmann. Aldinger's Sauvignon Blanc from concrete egg, "Ovum," disappointingly clocked in with less appeal than its normal Sauvignon Blanc, which deservedly was deigned the best of its type that afternoon. Still, it was outclassed by its latest Riesling TBA . . . but that hardly was a surprise. Schnaitmann's range of Rieslings showed a significant improvement from years past, while his reds have been and remain the stars of his portfolio; his Lemberger and Spätburgunder from the Bergmandel Grosse Gewächs showed a deft technical hand, a talent that Schnaitmann has long been known to possess. As we approached the end of the ten wineries' portfolios the pace of our tasting faltered, and the phrase "better wines take longer to taste" sprang to mind. We tossed out comments and points with no sense of reaching consensus or an agreed-upon average, though Frank and Joel com - mented back and forth on specific points pertaining to the minutiae of many wines. Attention, undue in my opinion, was given to the scoring of both winery and the spe- cific wine from the previous G&M edition. And the three of them had consensual thoughts as to what a wine's rating should be, as if they shared an expectation of what constitutes an 86-point Riesling QbA. In minor commemoration of my long association with Württemberg and its wines (more on that in my next Postcard), the next day I shared (and immensely enjoyed) a bottle of Schnaitmann's 2004 Frühburgunder *** over lunch at the Stuttgart home of my friend Helmut Doka. "Early Burgundy" is a cousin of "Late Burgundy" aka Spätburgunder aka Pinot Noir, both of which found a home many years ago in this region not far too from France. This version was very ripe and drinking perfectly with the rich and earthy duck gesiers I brought from France's Gers region (Armagnac-land) served over rice. Having inspired me to turn to the world of wine many years past, this former Stuttgart city councilor once responsible for its self- owned vineyards took great pleasure in this food and wine moment. Wines of Württemberg Helmut Doka at lunch with the author over a bottle of Schnaitmann's excellent 2004 Frühburgunder ***. Gault&Millau Weinguide Editor-in-Chief Carsten Henn; Germany's first Master Sommelier, Frank Kämmer; and the guide's co-founder, Joel Payne. by David Furer

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