Daniel Mattern founded his winery in Rheinhessen only in 2011. Of course, this means that he cannot draw on the centuries-old tradition of some of his competitors, but at the same time he is much freer in what he does. Among other things, he has specialized in Sauvignon Blanc, which is available in all possible forms in the portfolio. The portfolio ranges, of course, from the classic estate wine to single-vineyard wines, but he is also not afraid of amphorae, orange from Siegerrebe or hops in the mash. Hops in the mash? That’s right. The Sauvignon Blanc is harvested, pressed and fermented normally and then aroma hops are added to the mash for a certain time before it is bottled unfiltered. Hop and Grape it is called. Since I’m already a big fan of hop flavored cider and have never tried this with sparkling made from grapes, I’m really excited. When you think about the flavors of Sauvignon Blanc and a typical IPA and how they intersect, though, it all kind of makes sense in my head. To that end, we’ll try a bottle of 2018 Sauvignon Blanc Fumé from the middle of the more traditional collection.
We start with the wine. It smells neatly of passion fruit right after opening, as is typical of the grape variety. The wood influence seems rather indirect in the first moments. You notice that there is more depth and structure behind the fruit, more spice, but we do not have wood or smoke in the nose at first. I really like the fruit. Not squeaky or cheesy and with something herbal behind it. Of course, that comes through on the tongue as well. The acidity is super fresh, there’s citrus and a little bit of bitterness at the very back.
Then a couple of hours later the smoky note becomes more prominent. The spice and smoke from the wood barrel are now on equal footing with the exotic fruit, and there is more structure in the mouth as well, and the wine seems more viscous on the tongue. It’s exciting that it happens this way. Often comes first the smoke and the wood and then with more air the fruit. This remains so a day later and is still a lot of fun.
But we are more excited about the Hop and Grape than the wine. And yes, there’s unmistakable Sauvignon Blanc in the nose, but there’s also unmistakable IPA in the nose and it works surprisingly well. I was worried at first that it would be too much, but it’s not. On the tongue comes passion fruit, lychee, canned mango and some bitterness from the hops. It’s fresh and super easy-drinking. And it’s the bitterness that contributes a lot to how well the combination works. There’s not much more to say really, because of course we don’t have a complexity monster in the glass. But what does matter is that the bottle is empty almost immediately after removing the crown cork. I can imagine that this combination can also work really well as a food companion. For me, a real discovery.