If the German region of Franken is a grape’s preferred spot, you know you’re dealing with a minor variety, but for those who’ve seen these pages before, reading about such things is nothing new. The bottle Jen and I drank tonight was actually from another German region with a lot more notoriety, Rheinhessen, which is actually best known for its Riesling. And as the title says, this piece of turf is the Silvaner variety’s next best friend, and rocky Rheinhessen makes its somewhat bashful friend Silvaner shine. If the wines from Franken bring out Silvaner’s depth, Rheinhessen makes Silvaner laugh.
Silvaner’s background is an interesting one. Despite it now being an almost exclusively German variety (a bit of it is also grown in western Switzerland under the name Johannisberg), the variety’s origins are almost certainly Austrian, but ironically, there is almost none of it growing there today. DNA research on Silvaner has shown it to be a direct cross between the pan-Central European grape Traminer, and a very obscure Austrian variety called Ostereichisch Weiss. And though I’ve never knowingly come within a dozen and a half miles of a bottle of Ostereichisch Weiss, I’d bet it’s not an “aromatic” (think Moscato if your unclear on the term) grape, because Traminer is, and their baby Silvaner has just a trace of that distinctive perfuminess.
I deviated from my usual regional pairing approach this evening with a trip to the very edges of Europe with a spicy Kurdish soup of red lentils, chick peas, wheat berries and vegetables, and then for the main event, Georgian-style baked eggplants stuffed with yogurt, cheese, vegetables, and lots of mixed fresh herbs.
Keller Rheinhessen Gruner Silvaner Trocken 2011
Slightly greenish, very bright and very pale golden color. Initially shy, the nose evolves nicely into subtle but still well-defined aromas of pear, golden delicious apples, peach pit, yellow flowers, wet stones, fresh cream, pistachios, and pine needles. The palate is quite big and moderately unctuous but still balanced thanks to a well-honed, fresh acidity and a slight spritz that vaults clean and delicate flavors of quince, white currant juice, lime, green fig, kiwi, quinine, and fresh celery into a very warm gooseberry finish.