You may well think I have gone barking mad with this week’s choice. Rheinhessen Silvaner? Has she finally lost it? It’s true that I am well aware that the great wide world is not exactly agog for this sort of wine, but I think they should be. It has such integrity, it is so obviously the right grape in the right place, and in this case is clearly vinified in extremely capable hands.
When I told young Philipp Wittmann how impressed I had been by his Silvaner when tasting a range of his delicious dry 2004s (see my full tasting notes on purple pages) he replied, “thank you!! I am very happy to hear this!! The Silvaner grape is still very important for our estate. Fifty years ago nearly the half of the vineyards in Westhofen were planted with Silvaner, therefore we have to keep this grape, although it is not the most popular variety today.” (Silvaner is still Germany’s third most planted white grape – admittedly a very, very long way behind Riesling and Müller-Thurgau, and rarely to be found in exported German wine.)
I had forgotten, when tasting, that Silvaner had been so important to the Rheinhessen in general that there is even a special category of wine called RS, Rheinhessen Silvaner. It was simply the wild appeal of the Wittmann Silvaner trocken ‘S’ 2004 that spoke to me. It seemed distinctly superior to the Riesling trocken ‘S’ 2004 (which is admittedly a little cheaper) and infinitely more interesting than the Weissburgunder trocken ‘S’ 2004 which is far more expensive, chiefly presumably because the Germans are currently besotted by any wine with ‘burgunder’ in its name. Here’s my tasting note with, as usual on purple pages, a score out of 20 and suggested drinking dates:
Wittmann Silvaner trocken ‘S’ 2004 Rheinhessen 18 Drink 2005-08
Seriously racy, nervy, grainily textured nose. This is no second best as far as grape is concerned. Lovely transparency and although the wine is trocken, there’s a lovely little kick of wild, sylvan leafiness on the back palate. Fuller than Riesling but great balance. This would make the most delightful aperitif. Long. Can be drunk already with enormous pleasure.
£15.16 The Wine Barn
Four-fifths of Wittmann’s Silvaner is sold in Germany and most of the rest within Europe, notably Denmark, Holland and Austria. I think it extremely unlikely you will find this wine elsewhere, I’m afraid, although the Wittmanns invite you to email them via www.wittmannweingut.com to enquire about local stockists. F Wildman import Wittmann's wines into the US but I have a strange feeling that Silvaner trocken may not be top of their shopping list.
Do however keep your eye out for other Silvaners or Sylvaners with character such as JosMeyer’s intense Alsace one. Vive les cepages historiques!