Tag Archives: German wine

TV wine ads: Drink Black Tower, invade a foreign country

This 1982 Black Tower TV commercial reminds us that TV wine ads don’t improve with age

Black Tower is a German wine, best known for its black bottle. In the 1970s and 1980s, when U.S. wine drinkers wanted sweet white wine, Black Tower played off Blue Nun’s success to enjoy a bit of popularity before heading to the back shelves of the liquor store. Where it remains, for $8 a bottle, in case you’re curious.

Which brings us to this bizarre Black Tower TV commercial from 1982. The brand’s marketing types probably thought they had to distance it from Blue Nun’s image, so they made it much more manly. A deep, dark voice reminds us the wine comes “in the towering black bottle” while faux Wagner music plays in the background. Frankly, after watching this, it feels like it’s time to conquer Europe.

The catch, of course, is that Black Tower was about as manly as a baby diaper. It was a sweet, soft wine, and the commercial crams that information in even though it doesn’t quite fit the rest of the ad. Plus, there’s a blond woman eating an apple, because all wine commercials have to have blond women (though I’m not quite sure why the apple).

Like I said, bizarre.

So one more example of the sad state of TV wine ads, whether today or 36 years ago. Is it wonder I worry about the future of the wine business?

Video courtesy of Sean Mc via YouTube

More about TV wine ads:
TV wine ad update: Does this Kim Crawford commercial make sense?
Chill a Cella: Now we know why more Americans don’t drink wine
When Blue Nun ruled the wine world

Expensive wine 104: Dönnhoff Norheimer Kirschheck Riesling Spätlese 2014

Dönnhoff Norheimer KirschheckThe Dönnhoff Norheimer Kirschheck is a not too sweet riesling, a white wine that shows why Germany is once again a world-class region

Real German riesling – the kind with all those indecipherable words on the label, like the Dönnhoff Norheimer Kirschheck Riesling Spätlese – is known for four things. First, as a wine geek favorite; second, for amazing quality; third, as almost unknown to anyone who isn’t a wine geek; and fourth, as not easy to find.

All of which is a shame, since rieslings like the Dönnhoff Norheimer Kirschheck ($38, sample, 8%) are well worth the effort – both to learn about, to find, and to buy:

• Spatlese is one of many German term describing sweetness – it means sweet, but not a dessert wine. In this case, noticeable, but not overpowering.

Donnhoff is the producer, a 200-year-old family operation that is among the best in Germany. The importer works with the renowned Terry Theise, whose taste in German riesling is impeccable.

• Norheimer Kirschheck, in Nahe, is the vineyard. Nahe, in western Germany near the French border, is the appellation and famous for its soils.

What does this mean for the wine? It’s less traditional than many other spatleses, but still firmly within the category. There is a little honeyed sweetness, the amazing petrol aroma with a hint of mint, a slate-like minerality, and the high-quality lemon fruit that holds everything together. The best part is that the wine is still quite young, and will change appreciably as it gets older, becoming richer and more luxurious.

Highly recommended, and just the thing for Thanksgiving. Serve this chilled, but not so cold that you can’t taste all the flavors. And open it 45 minutes or so before serving.

Imported by Skurnik Wines/Terry Theise selection

Mini-reviews 97: More rose wine reviews

rose wine reviewsReviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month. This time, more rose wine reviews for the blog’s 10th rose anniversary

Our 10th annual rose post: Memorial Day and rose 2017

Alta Vista Rose 2016 ($13, sample, 12%): This Argentine dark pink is one of the best malbec roses I’ve ever had, with less cloying fruit and more freshness. Strawberries, raspberry, perhaps? Highly recommended.

Saleya Rose 2016 ($15, sample, 13%): Not quite $15 worth of wine (it’s a little thin, which is common with the 2016 Provence roses) and not as enjoyable as the legendary Bieler Pere et Fils, but a decent example of the Provencal style with some tart red fruit.

Francois de Thienpont Pin des Dunes Rose 2015 ($10, purchased, 12.5%): This French rose, from Bordeaux, is fresh, tart, and delicious, with raspberry fruit and even some earth. It’s highly recommended, but listed here instead of this year’s rose post because of our old pal availability – there might not be much of it in the U.S. this year.

Villa Wolf Rose 2015 ($10, purchased, 12%): German rose made with pinot noir that has a little fizz, just a touch of sugar, nice German-style acidity, and berry fruit. This is sort of what the Toad Hollow rose used to be before Big Wine got hold of it (without the spritz).

Four premiumized wines worth buying

premiumized wine

Wow, the Wine Curmudgeon is right. These wines are worth the extra money.

These four premiumized wines are worth the $17 to $22 that they cost

Premiumization and premiumized wine gets a nasty rap on the blog, and why not? Who wants to pay $15 for wine that’s worth half of that? But the Wine Curmudgeon is nothing if not open minded, which is one of the keys to quality criticism.

Hence, reviews of four wines worth buying that cost between $15 and $20 or so, the so-called sweet spot for premiumization:

Chateau d’Epire Savennieres 2014 ($22, purchased, 13%): I love Savennieres, chenin blanc from France’s Loire Valley, but quality Savennieres isn’t $10 anymore and even the pricey stuff is difficult to find or overpriced. But the d’Epire was everything I hoped it would be – fresh lemon fruit instead of the Sweet Tart style you find in so many less well made wines, plus the traditional steely minerality. Highly recommended, even for $22. It should age a little, too, showing less fruit and more minerality as it gets older.

Donati Family Vineyards Claret 2013 ($20, sample, 13.8%): This California red blend was an astounding value, full of quality red fruit (cherry and strawberry?) and an almost Italian-style freshness. Yes, grilled sausages and red sauce, but also a long dinner with good conversation. I was a little surprised by how much I enjoyed it, and not just for the value; it’s that so many other California wines at this price taste like fruit punch spiked with alcohol.

Domaine de la Chanteleuserie Cuvée Alouettes ($17, purchased, 12%): This red from France’s Loire (made with cabernet franc) is not for everyone, and especially if you prefer a New World, fruit forward style. But if you want to try an impeccably made wine, with berry fruit, a little graphite and spice, and wonderful length, give it a try. Highly recommended, and just the thing for steak frites.

St. Urbans-Hof Alte Reben Riesling 2015 ($18, sample, 10.5%): Quality German riesling, like Savennieres, has been mostly priced out of what most of us are willing to pay for wine. That’s what made the Alte Reben so enjoyable – it’s more or less worth what it costs. Look for a slightly honeyish sweetness with riesling’s telltale petrol aroma and bright lemon acidity. Very tasty, and just the thing as spring arrives.

Porch wine for the long, hot summer

porch wineHas the hot weather made you as cranky as the WC tasting 15 percent chardonnay? Then take a long, cool sip of the porch wine post.

We haven’t hit 100 in Dallas yet, but 99 for the last week or so is close enough. And, from what I hear from my pals in the rest of the country, it’s too damn hot where they are. Which means it’s time for a porch wine post – focusing on lighter wines, red and white, that are lower in alcohol and that offer relief from the heat. The idea with a porch wine is to drink something that won’t make the sweat bead on your forehead.

These four wines are excellent examples of the type, and should give you an idea about what to look for:

Nik. Weis Urban Riesling 2015 ($15, sample, 9%): Well-made German riesling is difficult to find in Dallas, which makes no sense given how warm-weather friendly the wine is. The Weis is made in a more modern style, with fresher apricot fruit instead of dried and brighter acidity, but it’s also layered with the traditional honey notes. Nicely done, and will even age a little.

El Coto Rosado 2015 ($9, purchased, 13.5%): The El Coto is is one of my favorite Spanish roses, and if it’s not quite as well done as the Muga, it’s still delicious and a tremendous value. Look for strawberry fruit, plus a little earthiness and even orange peel from the tempranillo that’s in the blend.

Torresella Prosecco Extra Dry NV ($15, sample, 11.5%): This Italian sparkler reminded me why I love wine. I much prefer cava to Prosecco, so it’s always a pleasure to find a Prosecco worth writing about – not too sweet, firm bubbles, surprisingly balanced, and more apple and pear fruit than most others. Highly recommended.

Drouhin Domaine des Hospices de Belleville Fleurie 2014 ($25, sample, 13%): Top-notch red from the French region of Beaujolais that has nothing in common with most of the plonk made there these days. Firm but not overbearing, with red fruit and soft tannins, and something you can drink on its own or with food. The only drawback is the cost, but given how expensive this quality of French wine has become, it’s not overpriced.

More about porch wine:
Wine terms: Porch wine
Wine when the air conditioning is broken
Wine of the week: Angels & Cowboys rose 2015
Wine of the week: Chateau Bonnet Blanc 2014

Mini-reviews 77: Reinhold Haart, Piccini, Picpoul, Corvina

Reinhold HaartReviews of wines that don ?t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month.

?Reinhold Haart Riesling 2014 ($35, sample, 7%): Gorgeous, honeyed white wine with sweet lemon fruit — and not the fake Sweet Tart kind common these days — that reminds you how wonderful German riesling can be. This is sweet wine the way it should be, made to be a sweet riesling instead of just being made to be sweet.

?Piccini Memoro Rosso 2014 ($12, sample, 14%): Very ordinary Italian red blend of no particular interest, with that ashy middle that often shows up when too much winemaking is going on. The poorly done oak overshadows too soft red fruit.

?Domaine des Cadastres Picpoul 2014 ($10, sample, 13%): Regular visitors know how much the Wine Curmudgeon appreciates picpoul, a cheap French white. Sadly, this isn’t one of them. Old-fashioned, but not in a good way, made with unripe grapes, almost no fruit flavor, and a too sour taste.

? Tenuta Sant’Antonio Corvina 2013 ($10, purchased 13%): One review of this Italian red made with the corvina grape (usually used as for blending) says it has tropical fruit, an interesting way to describe a red wine. Another way is flabby and soft, without any freshness or acidity. Very disappointing given the quality of the producer.

Expensive wine 78: Raumland Marie-Luise Brut 2008

 Raumland Marie-LuiseGerman sparkling wine made in the traditional Champagne style? How much wine geekier does it get? Not much, but the Raumland Marie-Luise is well worth the trouble to find and the price you will pay.

The amazing thing about the Raumland Marie-Luise ($40, sample, 12%) is not that it’s well made, but that it’s such a value, even at $40. I’ve tasted Champagne (before the boycott) at that price and even $20 more that wasn’t as pleasurable to drink — mass market plonk at high-end prices. The Raumland is made with pinot noir, astonishing in itself given the rarity and inconsistency of German pinot, but even more so given the wine’s subtlety and style. This is not an oaky, yeasty sparkling bomb, but a wine with fine, tight bubbles, hints of berry fruit, an almost spice-like aroma, and bone dry.

Highly recommended, though it may be difficult to find. If you can, serve it on its own (chilled, of course) or with seafood and chicken. We had it with a shrimp boil during the infamous wine samples dinner, and the Raumland was gone in minutes. This is also a fine gift for any open-minded sparkling wine drinker.