Grapevine Archive for February, 2017
Until recently, German wine had an image problem.
Not for those in the know of course; savvy drinkers have been stashing their cellars full of fragrant riesling and pinot noir for decades, while many of us had been too busy having new world love affairs to notice.
And that’s the problem; to the average supermarket-buying booze-hound, the region continues to conjure images of weissbeer, pilsner and, less deliciously, Blue Nun. Fruity, full-on New Zealand sauvignons and Italian pinot grigios have been filling our baskets while Germany’s gems have been left languishing on the shelves.
One man who knows this all-too-well is Konstantin Guntrum, owner of legendary winemaking dynasty, Louis Guntrum. His family have been growing grapes on the left bank of the Rhein since 1648, before marauding French catholic occupying forces compelled them to flee to the Left side of the Rhein in 1792. It took nearly a century for the Guntrum family to get back to their homeland, buying up vineyards and wineries in Nierstein and Oppenheim where they remain to this day. Today, and 11 winemaking generations on, the dynasty continues to thrive, making award-winning riesling, pinot noirs and sweet wines. The next challenge? Switching today’s discerning young wine-lovers onto the aromatic delights of Germany’s sweeter wines.
Konstantin dropped by The Society to give us a quick lesson in history, food matching and to share his phenomenal German wines.
1. German sweet wine is great for tough-to-match food Cheese and German sweet wines go together like Bogart and Bacall, the nectar-like qualities of Auslese or Kabinett perfectly offsetting sharp, savoury cheeses. Fiery foods also make a great match. As Konstantin says ‘eat something hot and try to wash it down with a fruity red and…well, have fun with that! It’s like putting fuel on the flames’. Sweet wines however counteract spiciness, in turn knocking any over-sweet edges from the wine. Puddings also apply here, so try a ‘riesling Kabinett’ which is made without additional sugar to perfectly balance the sweetness.
2. Grauburgunder is known as pinot grigio in Italy and pinot gris in France. The 2015 vintage of grauburgunder is especially delicious, a combination of baking summer days which add a tropical fragrance and cool nights which lend refreshing acidity to the fruit. This acidity also acts as a natural preserving agent, so the wine will get even better with age.
3. Weissburgunder is better known as pinot blanc and German examples display lively floral flavours. This slightly sweet style fell out of favour in the latter-half of the 1980s following its 1970s heyday but is gaining in popularity again. Modern examples show perfectly balanced sweetness and freshness, so give it a try if you’re looking for a delicious conversation-starter.
4. Chilled German reds such as dornfelder make great summer barbecue wines. With cherry, cranberry and herbal notes, dornfelder is light and fresh but has enough body to take on boldly savoury flavours of bangers, burgers and other British summertime staples.
Having joined The Wine Society’s Tastings and Events Team as a relatively fresh faced 24-year-old just over two years ago, it’s become apparent that, at the majority of tastings that I host across the UK , I am more often than not the youngest person there.
Although certainly not the end of the world, it does raise an important question – and one that’s been bouncing around The Society for the last year or so: where is the next generation of Wine Society members going to come from?
There are a number of projects currently in motion at TWS HQ, from the Digital Team through to the Marketing and Buying Teams. All are trying to make sure we offer something for younger wine-drinkers (and female as well as male!).
Generation Wine is my way of trying to shake up The Society through our 150-event-strong calendar which I help put together with the rest of the Tastings Team.
The idea is simple – we’ll be conducting a series of exciting tastings throughout the year that will appeal to younger members.
First up, we’ll be launching our new Generation Wine Walkaround Tastings. My intention for these events is to provide a complete night out as opposed to our more formal ‘standard’ walkaround tastings, which often focus purely on the wine and giving you the perfect environment to taste, smell, observe and discuss.
They’ll take place at a variety of lively venues (such as our May 4th event at Kachette Shoreditch – already sold out, unfortunately – where wood panelling and regal paintings are replaced by bare-brick railway arches and strip lights), and held a bit later in the evening to allow for a more relaxed, party-like atmosphere.
It’s also important to me to showcase the whole range The Society has to offer; not just our fabulous wines but also craft beers and gins sourced by our two newest (and youngest) buyers, Freddy Bulmer and Sarah Knowles MW. Music will play, beer will flow, ties can be removed and we can see how much fun TWS can be. Just don’t be the ones to miss out!
We’ll also be running exciting dining experiences at our Generation Wine Dinners. These will be heldat less formal, quirkier restaurants, with wilder, more esoteric guest speakers, and even a bit of theatre to accompany the meal (we’ll be serving whole suckling pig at Camino and rocking on with Au Bon Climat’s ‘wild man of wine’ himself, Jim Clendenen at the Tramshed, for example).
As always, a selection of wines will be chosen to accompany the meals, but the focus will be on interest and experimentation. Discussion will be encouraged, curiosity demanded and a brilliant night out promised!
Let us know what you think, and indeed any other ideas you have!
Tastings & Events Team
Whenever I speak to Spain buyer Pierre Mansour about his latest finds, his excitement is obvious. The country really is a hotbed of value right now.
What’s more, the 2015 vintage has been a generous and successful one, resulting in a procession of affordable luxuries reaching our cellars in recent months.
Where to start exploring? David Connor from our Cellar Showroom had little hesitation in recommending this under-£9 garnacha, which has already received plaudits from Decanter Magazine, Tim Atkin MW and, most importantly, many fellow Society members.
I have to say I have real passion for Spanish wines and this grenache – hailing from a small region north of Madrid high in the Gredos mountains – is a great example.
The grapes come from old low-yielding old bush vines grown in the Gredos mountain range near Madrid, and it’s this combination of high altitude and low yields that gives the wine a freshness and vitality that will raise a smile and have you reaching for a second glass. For me it was the perfect antidote to the more esoteric wines we tend to drink over the Christmas period and certainly punches above its weight.
As for what I would drink it with… well, when one of the winemakers was asked the same question at our Spanish tasting last year he simply replied, ‘whatever you like’!
The Cellar Showroom
£8.50 – Bottle
£102 – Case of 12
View Wine Details
Being given the opportunity to take over beer-buying duties for The Society was something that I grabbed with both hands.
In my opinion, the world of beer is every bit as varied as the world of wine, with just as many stories to tell and discoveries to be made. I hope to build a range here that reflects this. Craft beer has skyrocketed over the last few years, providing an exciting platform for so many brilliant small breweries to make their statement to the world.
And as The Wine Society is made up of people who take an interest in what they drink and who care about quality and provenance, it makes perfect sense to shine a light on these delicious artisanal brews.
I’ve started expanding our range to make your Society a place to discover exceptional beers as well as wines, and would like to invite our members to join me on a trip of discovery.
Starting this year, we’ll be stocking some of the most interesting, daring and delicious beers from some of the best breweries in the UK and beyond.
Also new for 2017 is the option of being able to purchase bottles of beer individually, rather than just via a mixed case, so you can stock up on more of what you like best.
A truly good beer is something which you can enjoy in a similar way to a glass of wine. It should have layers of flavour, depth and complexity. And the great news is that exploring the world of beer won’t cost the earth. Since beer may cost £2 or £3 a pop (although some are much more and some less), you have the opportunity to taste a number of different styles for a much smaller outlay than it would cost you to sample an equivalent number of wines. You can really leave your comfort zone and try things you never would have thought you would like. What’s the worst that can happen? A £2.75 miss, against the possibility of discovering a thrilling new favourite with every last drop cherished!
There are no rules with craft beer, no constraints to what people might try to make. It truly is fascinating and exciting to follow. Like buying the wines of Burgundy, sometimes the best way to explore is to find a producer whose beers you like and keep an eye on them for new releases (but unlike Burgundy, if you decide to branch out, then the financial risk is minimal!).
I’m also fascinated to hear about some of your favourite beers too!
Is there is a brewery you’re a particular fan of? A drop which has stuck with you forever? Do leave a comment and let us know.
2017 is sure to be a crafty vintage at The Wine Society…