A very curious Scheurebe from the Pfalz

Wine made from the Scheurebe grape variety is rare enough here in Ireland. I myself only tried it for the first time last weekend. It is a cross between Riesling and what was thought to be Grüner Silvaner, one of the varieties used in Liebfraumilch.

Silvaner, worth noting, is quite a bland variety grown in Alsace and Germany. Not unlike Pinot Blanc, this means that it can take on a good expression of its terroir. However, DNA testing in the late 1990s ruled in Riesling and ruled out Silvaner. The viticulturist who developed Scheurebe in 1916, Dr. Georg Scheu, had been using wild vines to cross with Riesling so the other parent could have been anything.

Back to the Scheurebe. I found ‘bland’ to be the last word you would use to describe it. I’m no expert on Scheurebe, perhaps there are many very unexciting examples made from this cross-breed, but this one wasn’t sort of character.

Being from the 2004 vintage, it has had plenty of time to develop and evolve. The fruit was restrained on the nose, with soft and subtle grapefruit, and even hints of cassis, which I believe it quite common in Scheurebe. It was a touch herbaceous and you could tell instantly it was a mature wine with a slight muskiness, which you’ll often get from older whites. On the palate the acidity was tight enough to hold everything together. I found it to be quite opulent and full, with softened, yet concentrated tropical fruit and spice.

Lingenfelder is based in the Pfalz, a region who’s reputation suffered through the likes of Liebfraumilch. Huge volumes of mediocre wines were being machine harvested from the flat Rhine plane. Today a new generation and a few veterans have helped restore a quality reputation. German tourists and city dwellers now flock to the region to experience the relaxed hospitality on the German-French border and try some dry, full-bodied Riesling that is now one of the staples of the country. Gewürztraminer, Pinot Blanc (Weissburgunder), Pinot Gris (Grauburgunder), Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder) are all successfully grown in the Pfalz.

No doubt a wine for the curious wine drinker, the 2004 Lingenfelder Scheurebe is about as far off the commercial mainstream you’ll find at this kind of price. Not everyone will like it. But a lot of people are going to love it.

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