A blog devoted to exploring wines made from unusual grape varieties and/or grown in unfamiliar regions all over the world. All wines are purchased by me from shops in the Boston metro area or directly from wineries that I have visited. If a reviewed bottle is a free sample, that fact is acknowledged prior to the bottle's review. I do not receive any compensation from any of the wineries, wine shops or companies that I mention on the blog.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Kanzler - Rheinhessen, Germany

I just spent my entire afternoon writing a post about a wine I recently tried, and right at the very end, I discovered that the grape in the wine wasn't what I had originally thought.  It's ultimately OK because the grape turns out to be Kanzler, which is also pretty unusual, but it means that the several hours of work I put into the original post is now kind of useless.

The confusion all started because the name of the wine that I tried was "The Chancellor," which both I and the shop that I bought the wine from thought was a reference to the Chancellor grape, which was going to be the subject of today's post, but will instead have to be relegated to a future post since the angle that I was trying to work was dependent on this particular wine being made from that grape.  See, Chancellor is a red berried grape, while this particular wine is white.  I remember this giving me pause while in the store, but since I've had several other white wines made from red grapes (specifically Cabernet Franc and Tempranillo), I shrugged it off.  The piece I was writing was all about the fact that the two wines that I had from this grape were made in extremely different styles, since the other Chancellor based wine that I had was a fortified, red, port-style wine.  I thought it was really cool that a single variety could be responsible for such different wines and I wrote and thought about it at some length.

As I was approaching the end of the piece, though, another nagging doubt that I had at the store began to surface again.  Today's wine is made in Germany and the Chancellor grape is a hybrid.  It has always been my understanding that the EU does not allow hybrid grapes to be used in the production of quality wines (meaning essentially wines above the level of "table wine" in all its various guises throughout the different countries).  I was never able to find specific legislation on this, but it's because the law isn't written negatively, meaning that it doesn't specifically ban wines made from hybrid grapes, but rather only allows for wines made from vinifera grapes*.  The Oxford Companion to Wine points out that there are a few exceptions for vines like Rondo, Regent, Phoenix and Orion, though, so I wasn't totally sure what the situation was with the Chancellor grape.

I decided to try to see whether the winery's website could clarify the situation, but it didn't look like the winery actually had a website.  Google searches were coming up empty until I finally found this page from what I believe is one of the distributors in the US.  On that page, whoever the author is indicates that they tasted this wine at the estate, where it was called Trivini, or "three grapes."  Since there were apparently other wines available in the US with similar names, the winery was persuaded to rename this one "The Chancellor," after the grape that comprises the bulk of it, Kanzler (the other two grapes are Riesling and Kerner).

So rather than a post about Chancellor, you're getting a post about the Kanzler grape and how I became aware of its existence just a few hours ago.  The grape itself is a German crossing that was bred at one of their research stations in a town called Alzey in 1927.  Its parents, like an awful lot of other German crossings, are Müller Thurgau and Sylvaner.  It was once somewhat popular among growers because of the high must weights that it was able to generate, which is a big deal since must weight determines the quality level of German wines.  The theory is that riper grapes have more sugar and are thus heavier than less ripe grapes, and since the Germans believe that riper grapes equal better wines, the heavier the musts, the higher your quality rating.  The biggest problem Kanzler had, though, was that it was a poor yielder, so while it gave with one hand, it took away with the other, and ultimately fell out of favor with those growers who were looking for a cash crop.  It is grown sparingly only in Germany (as far as I know) and almost exclusively in the Rheinhessen region.

Which brings us to today's wine, the 2009 Schäfer "The Chancellor," which I picked up from my friends at Curtis Liquors for about $11.  In the glass this wine was a medium silvery lemon color with greenish tints.  The nose was moderately aromatic with green apple and pear and a hint of grapey-ness.  On the palate the wine was medium bodied with fairly high acidity.  There were flavors of green apple and apple candy along with some pineapple and lime.  The wine was dry with a touch of something bitter on the finish.  The fruit flavors were bright and tart and overall I found this wine pretty enjoyable.  It had a bit of muscat-like grapey-ness throughout the nose and the palate that I found very appealing.  Fans of aromatic white wines with nice acidity will find a lot to like here.

*"According to regulation (EC) No. 1493/1999, article 19, paragraph 3, the production of quality wine in EU countries is only allowed from varieties which belong to the species Vitis vinifera." (source)

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