2016 Weingut Schmitt’s Kinder, Silvaner Trocken, Randersackerer Sonnenstuhl VDP Erste Lage, Franken Germany.
The 2016 dry Silvaner from Schmitt’s Kinder (like Schmitt’s Children or Kids) is lovely and complex white with bright acid intensity, but also with great extract and textural quality highlighting the Premier Cru terroir of Randersackerer Sonnenstuhl Vineyard site above the Main. While long considered a regal grape in Germany, Silvaner (Sylvaner) or Gruner Silvaner as it is officially known, but its history is still kind of a mystery as is its up and down place in the heart of Germany’s producers and wine drinkers and it is thought to have migrated from eastern Europe, maybe Transylvania, hence the name and is first recorded in Germany as far back as 1659. I have been a fan of this grape for decades and have followed it mainly in the form of Alsace’s Domaine Weinbach, but in recent years I have enjoyed the Franken and Rheingau versions greatly, like those of Rudolph May and Weingut Leitz’s Alte Reben from vines near Rudesheim. Famed Master of Wine and wine critic Jancis Robinson believes Silvaner is one of Germany’s few white wine grapes that seems obviously most at home producing dry rather than fruitier styles of wine, and so could be said to be particularly in tune with current tastes among wine drinkers in Germany, to which I tend to agree, lucky too as these Franken bottles are terrible for export shippers!
Weingut Schmitt’s Kinder is a nine generation family estate in the state of Franconia, on the Main River, in Germany that was originally established back in 1712 and grows a selection of traditional varietals including Pinot Noir, Mueller-Thurgau, Riesling, Scheurebe and Rieslaner, plus rarities Bacchus and Kerner, which are very popular in Franconia, as well as its signature grape Silvaner, which is native to western Germany, though grown in Alsace, where since 2006 it can be a Grand Cru, Alto Adige in the Dolomites as well as in the new world including California, in fact Silvaner has been in California longer than Zinfandel, first planted in the state in 1850 at the Scribe Farm in Sonoma by the Dresel family. Way too often Silvaner gets overlooked and is misunderstood, it is a noble varietal and while exceptional in some cases in Alsace, notably at Domaine Weinbach, it may actually grow best and make for much greater wine in Franken. This region, in Southern Germany, is a much under valued region, that turns out some amazing dry premier cru and grand cru, Erste Lage and Grosses Gewachs wines mostly made from Silvaner, though there is both Riesling and Pinot Noir as well, and Schmitt’s Kinder is one of most interesting producers. Franken wines usually are bottled and sold in a uniquely shaped bottle, called a Bocksbeutel, a vessel that is not without controversy as it is terrible for wine stores to rack, but is ultra traditional in the region and has somehow survived in the modern world with it’s round, flat body and a short neck for over 250 years.
This version, the Randersackerer Sonnenstuhl “Sun Chair” Trocken VDP Erste Lage comes from steep hillside vineyard that are farmed to organic practices and everything is done by hand to ensure quality and perfect ripening of the grapes with Weingut Schmitt’s Kinder employing Inox (stainless steel, temperature controlled tanks) and classic large cask for fermentation and aging, though in recent years they have added a few French barriques to the mix. Franken is heavily influenced by its combination of soils with mostly weathered sandstone and fossilized limestone which adds to the density and depth found in the wines, along with fresh acidity and mineral tones and this adds to Sonnenstuhl’s southern exposure, ripening the grapes to richness, but with complexity and focus, as delivered in this 2016 dry Silvaner. Imported to the US by Rudi Wiest, Weingut Schmitt’s Kinder are not easy to find, but very much worth the effort to find and drink, this Silvaner goes great with smoked trout and easily pairs with artichoke and asparagus, which is not always easy.
($26 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive