Whether you call it Silvaner or Sylvaner it is the same thing, but most probably the wine in question comes from different regions. The wine I was given from the distributors of Gefen Hashalom wines is a Silvaner, while the wines named Sylvaner most often come from the Alsace region of France, but also now from a growing number of regions from around the world.
According to Wikipedia:
Sylvaner is an ancient variety that has long been grown in Central Europe, in Transylvania. DNA fingerprinting has revealed it to be a cross between Traminer and the “hunnic” variety Österreichisch-Weiß (meaning “Austrian White”). As a result, it is now thought to have originated in Austrian Empire (Transylvania).
It is thought that the grape came to Germany after the Thirty Years War as there is a record of Sylvaner from Austria being planted at County of Castell in Franconia on 5 April 1659. So Germany celebrated the 350th anniversary of Silvaner in 2009. Its name has been taken to be associated with either Latin silva (meaning woods) or saevum (meaning wild), and before modern ampelography it was sometimes assumed that this variety had a close relationship with wild vines. Before DNA typing, some assumed an origin in Transylvania based on its name.
The most interesting part about this grape is that it was planted like wild fire throughout Germany after the second world war. It was the most grown grape throughout Germany and it reminds me of many of the top grapes of California, Israel, and other regions around the world that were not noble in nature – they over run the region and outlive their welcome. The next thing that happens is that they are either eradicated totally, much akin to the Carignan in Israel, or Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and Carignan in California. Or the fruit is managed in a way that makes them less fruitful, more expressive, and more enjoyable overall to be made into wine.
Silvaner is another example of this story, a grape that was over planted after the war and has dwindled down from the 30% of vines in Germany to just under 6% today. It shines best in the region where our wine hails from, Franconia (Frankenland), where the chalky Muschelkalk terroir helps to produce some of the highest rated Silvaner in the country.
The second fascinating part of this story is the bottle the wine comes in, the Bocksbeutel. Which is a type of wine bottle with the form of a flattened ellipsoid.
But like all stories that tug at the heart and imagination, there are cons. The main con to this story is that this grape is well plain and neutral. It has great acid, that is not the issue, but what it truly lacks is a sense of life and expression. The best way to make this grape special is to grow it in the region whose terroir is chalk and rock/stone. Those underpinnings come through in the wine, but it still lacks the huge pull that we all love.
It is that love hates aspect of this wine that will make it a very interesting wine to taste blind. Sure, the shape of the bottle would give it away, so maybe pour it into another normal bottle and pour that blind and see what reactions you get. The wine is super earthy, mineral bound and does in many ways mimic Sauvignon Blanc. It was the closest varietal that we could compare the wine to in terms of its notes, but what it lacked was the rich complexity we all love from wines today.
In the end, I think this is another wine from the guys at Gefen Hashalom that may well be interesting in a few months. Give it time. Also, this wine really felt like it was in a funk, almost in a dumb period that finally came out of its shell – three days after opening, which of course is not an option for most people. For now, I would say, that it may have been shopping shock or basic bottle shock and that it has hopefully settled down now and should be more accessible when it becomes available soon.
Now you will ask me, where can I buy this wine to try it? Good question. I got mine early, and it will hopefully be selling in and around you soon.
My many thanks to Kevin and hopefully you will taste this wine soon and tell me your opinion on it:
2016 Hans Wirsching Silvaner, Gefen Hashalom – Score: B+ to A-
The nose is solid, really toasty but controlled, with great citrus, with really lovely floral notes, showing lovely green notes, and lovely slate. The mouth starts off a bit slow, it needs time to open up, give it time. The mouth on this wine starts off really sharp, with lovely acid, mineral, saline, and dry fig, with intense dried and focused grapefruit, that gives way to slate and lovely mineral. Sadly, the finish does open up with time, but it is a bit hollow.
With time most of the flaws fall off. Now when I say with time, I am talking three days! After the three days, all of those flaws were gone. The acid was back all the way through the mouth and through to the finish. The nose turned into a Viognier styled wine – with luscious peach, apricot, and lovely floral notes, jasmine, and nice slate. The mouth is round for sure, that did not change, but the acid coming through was impressive, with good notes of tea, grapefruit, lovely mineral, rock/wet slate, and spice.
Sadly, when I tasted through the horizontal of the Rieslings last week, I had yet to receive the new 2015 Nik Weis Riesling. This Riesling is not the same as the 2014 Nik Weis Riesling. The 2014 Riesling was a SAARFEILSER, which comes from a St. Urbans-Hof vineyard at the Mosel tributary Saar. This vineyard is one of the closest vineyards to the river itself. The SAARFEILSER vineyard has a southern exposure, that allows for the sunlight to reflect off the water, which makes it one of the warmer vineyards in Nik Weis’s portfolio. Last year’s Saarfeilser
Last year’s Saarfeilser wine was made pretty dry, and considerably drier than this year’s Wiltinger style wine. The Wiltinger wines are made sweeter, and more fruit forward, though they have a lower alcohol content. Why? Well, the higher the ABV (alcohol content) the lower the residual sugar. This wine comes in at 9.5% ABV, while last year’s Saarfeilser came in at 12% ABV.
Once again, the world of kosher German wines is very small indeed. Also, I have only had these two, and from what all my friends who know German Rieslings, these wines are what we are meant to hold all other wines to, not the other way around. Sadly, my palate desires drier wines, and as such, the 2015 vintage is not a wine I go gaga for.
As I noted in the notes, this wine is still a year away from being ready, if you must enjoy it now, open it two or three hours before drinking time. Also, I would not drink this wine at cellar temp, I would go more with room temperature, as the colder it gets, the more muted is its nose. Truly, if there is one con to this wine, it is its muted and stifled nose. The mouth is well balanced and truly clean. The wine I compare it to, the 2015 Hagafen Riesling with 2% residual sugar, is far more tropical than this wine which is clean and old-style in nature. Still, The Hagafen is richer and more acidic to handle its rich sweetness. The Wiltinger is acidic, no question (once you allow the wine to air out, otherwise from opening it tasted flat), but while it has racy acid, I would crave a drop more.
I bought my bottles from Gary at Taste Co – email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org or call at (212) 461-1708.
The 2015 vintage is meant to be one of the best in a long time in Mosel and Saar areas (Saar is a sub-region of Mosel). I am thinking of putting a few of these aside along with the 2015 Hagafen 2% and watch them age alongside each other.
My wine note follows below:
2015 St. Urbans-Hof Nik Weis Selection Riesling, Wiltinger, Gefen Hashalom – Score: A- (QPR)
WARNING! This wine needs time, LOTS of it, please do NOT jump to any conclusion about this wine before you have had it open for at least 6 hours and not overly chilled either., the cold mutes the already non-redolent nose.
When you first open this wine, this wine is a complete letdown, but as stated let this puppy open! Still, to a dry wine freak like me, it is a letdown from the 2014 vintage. So, where is it actually? It is sweet, no way around that, but it is very balanced and well integrated. The 2015 Hagafen 2% Riesling is also sweet, but the acid is more in your face and balanced, but it is also far more tropical, while this wine is not tropical in any way.
What is shocking is that this wine has a 9.5% ABV! While the wine has lots of RS, its profile shows clean and lean, which makes for an interesting wine, just not sure how interesting it will really be long term. Right now, I would prefer the Hagafen, but this wine has lots of potential, and its lean markings can make for a fun wine a few years from now.
The nose on this wine is dry, it is in NO way tropical like the Hagafen and other sweet Rieslings, which is very different than its mouth, the aromas are not redolent, like the 2014 vintage, it shows yellow apple, stone fruit, with flint, honeysuckle flowers, and other floral notes. The mouth takes time to open, but with time it does come around, it shows like a wine with 2% RS or more, showing nice integrated acidity, with crazy honeyed fruit, impressive citrus blossom, with sweet-tart lemon, almost like a limoncello, with peach, apricot, nice mineral, slate, with a viscous mouthfeel from the abundant residual sugar, but a wine that is clean, and really focused.
Now, will this wine appeal to many? I think so. The wine freaks who crave the dry 2014 vintage, will like that better. The people who like sweeter wines will find this wine well balanced and all-around a very enjoyable wine to taste and drink, with a plethora of food combinations, from fish, cheese, Asian and spicy dishes, and roasted fowl or fish. Nice!
It was time to taste all the Rieslings that I had been gathering up for some time. The problem was that I had no time to do it, given all the events I was traveling to, along with some personal needs as well. So, I finally found a day that would work, a week ago Thursday night and we gathered to taste them all.
So let me start with why Riesling and what is Riesling? First, this grape has many names, White Riesling, Riesling, Johannisberg Riesling, and others are real names of the Noble grape, while Emerald Riesling or Welsch Riesling – not so much!
Riesling is old, like ancient, it is documented to exist in Mosel dating back to the early 1400s! It is one of the Noble Six grapes that define wine history, but that is all marketing hooey IMHO. In terms of kosher wines, this variety did not really become special until recently, with Hagafen and Carmel doing wonderful jobs with the grape.
Riesling wines can be made in so many ways. The most common are sweet wines, like the impressive Hagafen Rieslings, that Ernie Weir makes every year, or the less impressive Giersberger Riesling, or the even less impressive Gilgal Riesling. These wines all have some amount of RS (Residual Sugar), whether they are called off-dry, semi-sweet, or sweet, they all need a very important component to make them work – ACID! They desperately need acid to balance the sweet notes. Hagafen is the only off-dry Riesling I have ever liked, that I remember anyway.
It is sad, but while Jews do not seem to enjoy white wines, they do drink sweeter wines, and if there was a bit more acid to balance it out, I think they would show better. That said, I brought this subject up to many a winemaker, and the response was all the same. People like it simpler to drink, so spiking the wine with acid would not sell as well, IE, customers like sweet alcoholic water. Acid tends to discourage gulping or whatever to these people do. Truly sad.
I am finding that Riesling is quickly becoming my favorite white wines. The dry wines from Hagafen, Nik, and Carmel bring a smile to my face. They are rich, layered, oily and balanced, with good acid that makes them enjoyable during almost any part of the meal. That is what makes acid work so well. Food dishes, wine, even dessert, all need some amount of acid to balance out the palate.
There are many other white wines out there for sure, look at my list of whites from 2015. Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Riesling are all noble grapes, and they are all lovely when done correctly. Still, Riesling has something going for it, that none of the other white varietals have, funk!
When the wine is done correctly, and then aged for even a year, the wine starts to display notes of petrol and oil. Some may find that offensive, but to me, it is yet another aspect of how I love mineral based wines. The great thing is that these wines come from all around the world! You can find kosher Riesling from California, France, Germany, and Israel!
This wine is incredible, really in almost every way that I can describe it. It is a beautiful old world Riesling, its acid is intense, its mineral and saline come at you in waves, and forget about the impressive fruit structure. Yes, the wine is German, and yes I still enjoyed it. I would be the first to admit that I buy nothing German in my home, no German cars, or even shavers. The only German thing I have in my home, I am ashamed to admit was a sink, but that is a story for another day.
But here I am talking about wine, a food item that does not really make me think German as much as it does make me think how wonderful it is. Please do not get me wrong, German anything to a Jew is going to be a touchy subject, I get that, but I wanted to set the stage here first, that I am a Jew that is very much behind the no forgetting camp.
With all that said, yes I bought the wine, a case actually. The wine is incredible, and well worth buying more. That said, it is the first one to come to the USA, and if you try to search for it on Google, you will find NADA! Nothing at all. The closest thing you will find is GG’s wine notes on the wine. That is it!
Why? Well, because it is German, and Jews do not commonly buy German items, and also because the marketing behind it is really not very good! That said, of my friends that I told about this wine, none of them have told me they do not want to buy it. I did ask importers about the wine, and they told me, no thanks – we will stay away from Germany for now. The funny thing is that they are happy to import Alsace wines, a wine region that is separated from Germany by a river. Strasbourg, a major Jewish city, and the capital of Alsace, is a bus ride away from Germany. Still, Germany is Germany to importers, and with that, I will close this subject down.
Now, to the subject of where can I get this wine – well I bought my case from Gary at Taste Wine Company. His number is 212-461-1708. Please give him a call and get wine from him. He is a great guy and he is on the right side of my blog, “Favorite Wine Sites”, because he a friend and also a great person to buy wine from!
In the end, this wine is a true joy and if it is still available I would recommend buying it if it does not offend your Jewishness.
The wine note follows below:
2014 Nik Weis Selection Gefen Hashalom – Score: A- (QPR)
What a wine! This is the first kosher “dry” German Riesling from Mosel that I know about and it is a major hit. This is old world, with a great sweet body. The nose on this wine is insane, showing intense orange blossom, absolutely insane flint and smoke, followed by peach, honeysuckle, lovely green apple, and honeyed notes, with a bit of time the incredible petrol comes through beautifully. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is in your face from the get-go, with impressive floral notes, wrapped in an incredibly oily texture, followed by orange, nectarines, impressive mineral, saline galore, sweet notes, with guava, kumquat, mad ripe and racy grapefruit, and pineapple. The finish is long and really well balanced with ripping acid, great flint and sweet spices on the long and lingering finish. BRAVO!!! Drink now till 2023. I really want to watch this age.