White wine from Bulgaria

November 30, 2014

Rumor has it that Bulgaria’s red wines are much better than it’s whites. That might be true. However, this does not mean that Bulgaria does not produce good white wines.

In my search for excellence, I have come across a number of very good white wines, three of which I will present to you today.

The first wine is a 2013 Sauvignon Blanc & Semillon by Terra Tangra. The wine is under a glass enclosure which signals to me: this wine was worth to be enclosed by the most expensive stopper.

Terra Tangra is located in the South Sakar mountains, a hot region. According to the DiVino Guide from 2014, the estate has about 400 ha under vines.

If the grapes for this blend come indeed from a rather warm wine region, the more I am amazed by this wine.

It has all the quality traits inherent in such a blend. The acidity of the Sauvignon Blanc is mitigated by the Semillon. It reminds me of similar blends from the Hunter Valley in New South Wales, Australia.

This is one of my favourite wines, very good with seafood but also just on its own, a great wine.

Terra Tangra

2013 Sauvignon Blanc & Semillon by Terra Tangra

The second wine I want to present to you is another Sauvignon Blanc & Semillon blend, this time by Midalidare Estate located in Eastern Thrace, another wine region famous for its red wines.

The region has very fertile soils, and is famous for its orchards and vegetable production. Eastern Thrace has a long history of wine making.

In recent years also the white wines from the region have improved in quality. Midalidare Estate has about 160 ha under vines.

I don’t know what to make of the “single vineyard” (Mogilovo vineyard) indication on the bottle. However, I like the zesty taste and the exuberance of the wine.

Midalidare

Sauvignon Blanc & Semillon, Mogilovo Single Vineyard by Midalidare

The third wine is something quite different. I would not have thought that I find a wine made from Traminer grapes so appealing.

This one is the big exception. The DiVino wine guide awards him 88 Parker points! It is clean and crisp, a wonderful sensation on the palate.

The top of the Traminer bottle is covered in “white wax”, again a sign for me that the producer thought the wine good enough for an expensive enclosure.

Angelus Estate is also located in Eastern Thrace. Their first vintage was in 2009. The flagship wine is a 92 point red, called “Stallion”.

Alexander Kanev, the wine maker impressed the wine fraternity with the outstanding quality of his wines. Also this winery is not small by German standards. It has about 110 ha under vines.

Traminer

Traminer by Angelus Estate

Stay tuned to more news from Bulagaria. I hope to visit some of the wineries (maybe in spring) and show you photos of their environment and the vineyards.


上朋 – my favourite Japanese restaurant in Taoyuan, Taiwan

October 31, 2014

T1

Shang Peng is the name of my favourite Japanese restaurant in Taoyuan, Taiwan

When I teach at the International Center for Land Policy Studies and Training (ICLPST) in Taoyuan, I try to have at least one meal in this restaurant.

T2

Japanese “nibblies”

Usually, I go with my friend Jim Riddell. Last time we had another fabulous meal. This time we did not drink beer but ordered a bottle of sake.
The charming waitress brought us a bottle of Black&Gold by the Gekkeikan Sake Company, a producer from Kyoto who is producing sake since 1637 in Fushimi.

T3

It came in a nice decorative bottle which Jim took home after the meal. We drank it cold not warm.
But boy I tell you this Sake was as smooth as silk, pure and balanced, in short an elegant wine.

T4

What a good choice this was. from here it was downhill all the way.

Below you will find photos of the various dishes we enjoyed with the Sake.

T5

Assorted raw fish

T6

To cleanse the palate

T7

Jim’s raw fish dish

T8

T9

T10

Jim’s soup

T11

Eel with rice

T12

The twisted fish

T13

Ingredients for the soup

T14

Ingredients for the soup

T15

The soup in parchment. It is amazing that the paper does not burn.

T16

Fruit at the end

What a wonderful evening this was. After paying I forgot my credit card at the counter.
The restaurant rang Jim a little later and informed him about this.
And the next day I picked it up at lunch time.

If in Taoyuan you should seek out this place and enjoy a Japanese meal. it’s definitely worth it.


Bulgaria – a paradise for wine lovers

September 19, 2014

???????????????????????????????

Vineyards in Trier

For someone like me, a native of Trier or Augusta Treverorum, as the city was called in Roman times, the move to another ancient Roman city, in this case Sofia, Bulgaria is not a big thing. Sofia was called Serdica (or Sardica) then, possibly named after the Celtic tribe Serdi.

Constantin the Great is supposed to have said “Serdica is my Rome”. And here we have the third city in which I lived and which belonged to the Roman empire. But he did not make Serdica the seat of his government. For this he choose Byzantium, later renamed Constantinople. By the way I lived in another Roman city: that was Vicus Bonnensis or Castra Bonnensis, the present day Bonn, my alma mater where I studied agriculture.

If I had lived two thousand years ago, a move from Trier to Sofia would have been a move from one province of a wast empire to another. Latin would have been the lingua franca. I would have had access to all the Roman infrastructure common in those days: a bath house, a circus, an amphitheater and so on.

???????????????????????????????

Constantine Basilica in Trier

Both my native Augusta Treverorum (the city of Augustus in the land of the Treverer) and my current home Sofia got their name from the native Celtic populations (the Treverer in my case). Both were major cities of the Roman Empire. Trier was located in the Roman province of Belgica, Sofia in the province of Thrace. Both places history is tied to the Roman emperor Constantin the Great.

There are also differences. Augusta Treverorum is famous for its wine cellars and its wine production, vineyards reaching deep into the city. Sofia does not have vineyards in its vicinity. However, the old province of Thrace was famous for its wines, and so is present day Bulgaria.

I admit that there is still a lot of room to improve its produces’ fame but more and more Bulgarian wines are available in wine shops in other parts of Europe, especially Germany and England.
Needless to say I use my spare time here in Sofia to explore the many wines of Bulgaria. My welcome present by my colleagues consisted of a wine guide, Di Vino 2014.

I would like to invite you to come along on this journey and explore the richness of the ancient land of Thrace, and it’s contemporary wines.

Le Voyage

Le Voyage by Katarzyna Estate


Germany – wine heaven

August 31, 2014

After about two months in Germany, we move on to our new posting in Sofia, Bulgaria. It has been an exciting time. We enjoyed the climate, the greenness, the clean air and foremost: wonderful wines.

Coming from Bangkok, one is used to a 400% luxury tax on wine, which makes the heavenly drop very, very expensive. I used to say: a 5€ bottle of German Riesling wine, a solid but basic version of it, goes for 25-30 € equivalent in Thailand.

This has a devastating effect on my finances if not carefully targeted. Well, you might argue, there is wine produced by Thai vintners in Thailand itself. Are these wines not cheaper? The answer is “no”, because domestically produced wines are also subject to the luxury tax in the kingdom.

Germany, in comparison, is wine heaven. One can consume a wine from one of the primary producers for a pittance. Say 12 – 16 € for a Riesling from one of the top producers from Mosel, Saar, Pfalz and Rheingau.

It was no surprise that I dived into it, like a fish. I tried many different wines, from Germany and many European countries. I found out that there is lots of good quality wine in the market. But, apart from the famous VPD wineries, it is hard to find the really good stuff to drink, meaning a lot of tasting is required.

Concluding I might say that the two months in Germany was not sufficient time to find my favourite “every day wines”. I console myself with the fact that in my next destination, Bulgaria, there are many excellent wines to discover. Bulgaria is a wine region I know almost nothing about, which is a good start.

Stay tuned to my next entry.


1982 Riesling from the Saar river

June 30, 2014

20140620_181730

One of the most memorable wine experiences in the last few weeks was when I opened and tasted the above bottle.


Good bye Thailand – land of new latitude wines

May 30, 2014

???????????????????????????????

Thailand

My time in Thailand is coming to an end. After almost six years in Krungthep, the city of angels, we will move back to Europe.

Well, “back” is maybe the wrong word. The last 24 years I have spend in various Asian countries working for the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom supporting our partners in their quest for liberty, property and prosperity.

Before coming to Thailand we lived in Jakarta, Indonesia for about 10 years, and it was in Indonesia that I came into contact with the first wine grown in the tropics. It was Hatten wines produced on Bali island. These wines are also known as “new latitude wines” but I learned this much later.

To my great surprise (and because of my general ignorance) I was in the position to discover the secrets of tropical wines in Thailand.

I do not remember when exactly I tasted my first glass of wine grown and produced in Thailand, but I had the great fortune to meet some of the key drivers of the Thai wine industry over the last six years.

In these years I learned to appreciate Thai wines. I also learned about some of the challenges in growing wine grapes and making wine under tropical conditions.

The Thai wine industry is small but its proponents are determined to produce excellence and they are passionate about their wines. And rightly so. Thai wines have shined in international wine tastings and competitions and earned almost every possible award.

I have written about my experiences with Thai wines, wineries, and the people who make them. I will not hide that I have favourites.

My favourite family winery is Gran Monte Family Estate, the only true owner-operator family enterprise (about 17 ha under vines). The founder, Visooth Lohitnavy, his wife Sakuna and their daugther Nikki are all involved in the family business.

Over the years the wines produced by Nikki Lohitnavy have become better and better. It is hard to say what my favourites are, all are good, actually very good. Since 2008 Nikki has won with her wines more than 100 medals and international wine awards, an amazing performance.

???????????????????????????????

Gran Monte vineyard in Khao Yai

I love the Viognier but also the two Chenin Blanc wines. One of my favourites is the new Verdelho which is coming into the market soon. Also a sprakling wine is produced.

All the reds are exquisite. I like the Syrahs and the Cabernet Syrah blends. Of the two rose wines I prefer the dryer version made from Grenache.

If you should come to Thailand a visit of Gran Monte vineyard in Khao Yai region is a must. Gran Monte has also a very comfortable guesthouse (try the traditional Thai breakfast) and an excellent restaurant called “Vincotto”.

My favourite corporate wine producer is PB Valley Wines, also located in the Khao Yai region. The 80 ha vineyard is owned by the Bhirombhakdi family (owners of the Singha brewery). The chief wine-maker is Prayut Piangbunta.

???????????????????????????????

Wine presentation at the Great Hornbill bistro, Bangkok

The Great Hornbill Bistro in Bangkok serves as a cellar door. I have tasted their new vintage recently and can tell you that the new wines are very promising. Also at PB Valley, the wines are getting better and better.

Try the Pirom Reserve series of their Chenin Blanc and Shiraz wines. PB Valley also produces a Tempranillo, the 2010 vintage of which won a silver medal from the AWC in Vienna. I also like their Lychee schnaps, very fruity and worth the high price.

At an international wine symposium in Chaing Mai, I had the chance to meet the above vintners and wine-makers, amd some more of the about handful producers active in Thailand.

I will miss Thai wines. And I am glad to have had the chance to learn so much about the wine industry in Thailand. The generosity of the Thai wine people knows no bounds.

Thank you Khun Vissoth, Sakuna and Nikki but also Khun Prayut and Khun Heribert for your outstanding hospitality and generosity. I wish you all possible success in your quest for excellence. The Thai wine industry is on the world wine map. I am convinced that you will grow further also as a role model for producers in neighbouring countries.

Cheers


Mandala Winery, Yarra Valley, Victoria

April 30, 2014

Through a beautiful bartering arrangement I came into the possession of a bottle of ‘2010 Mandala Prophet’, a single vineyard Pinot Noir by the Mandala Winery from the Yarra Valley.

Mandala has two vineyards, one in Dixon’s Creek where the seat of the winery is located, the other in Yarra Junction, a vineyard at higher elevation where on 10 acres a Burgundy clone of the variety is grown.

Mandala Prophet

2010 Mandala Prophet Pinot Noir

Years ago I have visited the winery and eaten in the estate’s restaurant but have not visited recently. Mandala is owned by the Mulder family. The wine-maker is Charles Smedley; the viticulturist is Julian Parrott.

When I was given the bottle and red the name on the label, I was intrigued. Calling a Pinot Noir wine, “the prophet”, is quite something. Having lived in Indonesia for 10 years I have other associations when I hear the word ‘prophet’ than a grape wine.

We enjoyed this wine the very same day the bottle was given to me. A dinner with beautiful red meat was the right occasion to open a Pinot Noir. The wine did not disappoint.

In fact it turned out to be one of the most delicious Pinot Noir wines I drank during my three week on the farm in Glenburn.

The Prophet is not made every year; only in exceptional years is this single site wine produced (so far 2006, 2008, 2010). James Halliday, the Australian wine authority awarded it 94 Parker Points. I loved the plum and raspberry aromas of this well balanced and complex wine.

When you buy this wine here in Bangkok, you will have to pay about 1,500 Bath per bottle. You should try it; it is definitely worth that money.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 113 other followers