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.