The vintners knife II

July 11, 2007

You might remember that I introduced a while ago to you the brothers Consigli from Scarperia, Italy ( and their knife-making art.

When I browsed trough the many photos I have on my PC the other day, I found two copies of vintners knives from Roman times unearthed in the Mosel River valley.

In the “Bacchus and Sucellus” book of Karl-Josef Gilles (Rhein-Mosel Verlag, Briedel, 1999, pages 61 and 62), two forms of vintners knives of the Roman times are shown.

The first type is for pruning, it is massive with a broad blade and a small pruning chisel on the backside. The second type was for harvesting grapes and looks like a sickle. It is slighter and finer. Also a knife which was slid over a finger was found and used for the same purpose.


The Roman knives for pruning (Brauneberg, Leiwen)


The Roman knives for harvesting (Piesport, Wittlich, Trier)

Most likely from tomorrow onwards I will be pruning vines in my own vineyard in Glenburn, Victoria. I will be back in August. Have a good time and drink some bottles of fine wine, somewhere with someone you like (should not be that difficult).

Postscript: I was made aware by Bob Burgess that the back of the pruning knife consists of a small pruning chisel and not a hammer knob as I have mistakenly believed. Thanks Bob for the correction of this error. Please visit also Bob’s very interesting webpage ( on early edge tools.

Sauvignon Blanc

July 10, 2007

My morning newspaper, the International Herald Tribune, carried the other day an article summarising the tasting of 25 Sauvignon Blanc wines from New Zealand. Sauvignon Blanc is one of my most favourite white wines. The results were interesting. Only about 10 of the 25 wines found the approval of the tasting panel (it was a New York Times event of the dining section). For the judges, the tasting was a disappointment. They were looking for the bold, pungent refreshing SB but found that too many wines were dull, too sweet or simply wishy-washy or as Eric Asimov put it “commercially inoffensive”. My favourite SB from New Zealand, Cloudy Bay came up third (behind “Villa Maria” in number one position), described as “quieter than the top wines” but still “bold, zesty and delicious”. In my bottle shop in Jakarta it retailed for 40 US$ the bottle last week. Gone are the days when I had to pay only 18 US$ for this most delicious white.

Mr. Asimov is of the opinion that many producers have decided to push quantity at the expense of quality and that they are over cropping (too high yields per acre). I learned something else from the article: that in New Zealand wine producers are allowed to add sugar or acid to make up for “green” (not fully ripened) grapes, as we say. In Australia, we are not allowed to engage in this technique or should I say “manipulation”. Next time in the bottle shop it will be much easier for me to walk away from the dear SB from Marlborough and turn to some cool climate Sauvignon Blanc of Australian provenance. I might be enticed to make some Two Hills Sauvignon Blanc again in 2008. Kinloch Wines ( Sauvignon Blanc of 2006 is sold out, as I learn from their website. Guess who provided some of the fruit for this most delicious wine from the Upper Goulburn River (

Like wine: Vintage Chocolate

July 9, 2007

Vintage wine, vintage cars and vintage cigars may be in vogue right now but also other products are coming in a vintage fashion nowadays. When earlier this year my friend Jim Riddel from Minnesota visited Jakarta he brought with him a whole stack of chocolate bars from his favourite producer, Michel Cluizel and his vintage chocolate produced on small farms under controlled conditions. It’s a chocolate for adults with a fantastic unadulterated taste, many of the younger generation, used to industrially produced chocolate, does not yet appeal. Michel Cluizel ( is an artisan chocolate producer since 1948. His mission is to produce the best chocolate by vigorously selecting the best cocoa beans to produce the finest chocolate of exceptional quality. He and his four children work in the family enterprise.

In 1997 he created the single plantation chocolate series -1ers Crue de Plantation – which sounds like the denomination of any fine wine from France. In fact the concept for this product includes to find the best cocoa beans and to establish fair and long term relations with the planters. The chocolates are to be enjoyed and compared like fine wines.

We tasted the two single plantation chocolates below, the Los Ancones from Santo Domingo and the Maralumi from Papua New Guinea. From Michel Cluizel’s website I got the following descriptions of the plantation and the tasting notes:

Los Ancones – Dark Chocolate 67% cocoa

“I discovered this plantation in a splendid environment to the north east of the island of Santo Domingo, at the heart of the Caribbean where the family Rizek has produced, since 1903, exquisite cocoa beans.”

“Lengthily worked, the beans release in this chocolate their aromas of liquorice wood, then red berries and green olives with a lingering flavour of currants and apricots.”

Maralumi – Dark Chocolate 64% cocoa

“The island of Papua – New Guinea, off the coast of Australia, is an unusual origin for cocoa. A superb Maralumi plantation lies close to the East coast producing refined beans that greatly appealed to me.”

“The beans give this mellow chocolate slightly roasted and spicy flavours, fresh notes of green bananas and acidulates flavours of red currants prolonged by charming aromas of Havana tobacco leaves.”


Cocoa, the fatty seeds from the cocoa tree (Carolus Linnaeus), is the base of which chocolate is made. Cocoa trees are very “individual” which means that they are not suitable for large scale plantations but rather small tree gardens tended to by individual farmers. The trees are usually grown together with other useful trees, either for fruit or firewood. The tree is a native to Latin America but Indonesia is one of the major producers (third after Ivory Coast and Ghana) and blending centres for chocolate. Production worldwide has increased steeply in the last couple of years. Leading consumer of chocolate is Belgium, leading processor is The Netherlands. Chocolate tasting is organised similarly to wine tasting. After a beautiful meal I usually drink a strong espresso and relax with a piece of chocolate, if possible from Michel Cluizel.

Obituary to a name: Mosel-Saar-Ruwer

July 5, 2007

Decisions have been made to rename the wine region where I come from. Soon it will not be called any more by the familiar name of Mosel-Saar-Ruwer but only Mosel. The two tributaries, Saar and Ruwer, where some of the best Rieslings of the world are grown, will not feature any more in the name of the wine region. Personally I find this a pity. I love the two tiny wine producing areas with their distinct character. They are the most charming and lovely destinations for wine lovers and other tourists alike.

The Mosel-Saar-Ruwer wine region



Merlot Night

July 2, 2007

Looking at the calendar, we were alarmed that quasi “half of the year is already over”. Time flies, it seems. What have we been doing? How could it go so fast? Consequently, we spontaneously decided to celebrate this event with a wine tasting on the last evening inJune.

Merlot was our choice of the day. Our wine cellar had only two brands left:

● a 2003 Hungerford Hill, Orange Merlot from the Hunter Valley and

● a 2004 Two Hills Merlot from the Upper Goulburn Wine Region.

The Hunter Valley ( is one of the oldest wine regions in Australia. Its flagship wines are Semillion and Shiraz but it has also pockets of cool climate sites. The Upper Goulburn Wine Region ( is a significant cool climate grape growing area in Victoria with quite remarkable diversity of varieties and wine styles.

We had the two wines after dinner with a most delicious cheese, a Brie “au lait entier”, processed according to traditional methods by “Paysan Breton” and fresh baguette.

Both wines come from cool climate regions. Hungerford Hills Merlot belongs to the regional series of the brand ( It is produced in Orange in New South Wales, a rather new location on the Australian wine map (established in 1983). Formerly it was know as the Central Highlands centred on the slopes of Mount Canobolas which is an important fruit producing area (apples, pears, cherries). The first commercially planted vineyards were established in the 1980s. The location of some of the vineyards for this regional wine is above 600 m altitude.

The 2003 vintage is under cork whereas the Orange Merlot 2004 is already under metal capsules. Both are available at duty free bottle shops in Jakarta, retailing for about 23 to 26 US$ per bottle. The internet order form of the winery shows 28 A$ per bottle for the Merlot (22.40 A$ for wine-club members). Whereas the 2003 bottle does not show wine awards stickers, the 2004 shows a gold medal and other distinctions at the 2006 Sydney International Wine Competition. The winemaker is Philip John.

As you probably know, Two Hills Vineyard also produces cool climate wines. The Geographical Indication (GI) for the Upper Goulburn Wine Region was only recently identified (formerly also called Central Victorian High Country) but grapes have been grown there since more then 30 years. The vineyard is a single site on a slight northerly slope. The 2004 vintage is under a DIAM cork closure. The wine is made by Alan Johns, the owner-winemaker cum viticulturist of Yering Farm Wines in the Yarra Valley ( Retail price at the Old England Hotel ( in Heidelberg, Melbourne should be around 15-17 A$/bottle. It can also be obtained at the upcoming Upper Goulburn Wine and Food Expo (Saturday, 11th August, in Alexandra Town Hall).


Tasting notes
Both wines show excellent dark crimson red colours. The nose of the Hungerford Merlot shows complex aromas of wild berry fruit with a slight nose of liquorice and nutty French oak. The wine is a blend from different vineyards in Orange. It is medium bodied, has a soft finish and displays balanced tannins.

All wines at Two Hills Vineyards are hand crafted. The grapes for Two Hills Merlot are coming from a single site, the vines are hand pruned and the grapes are hand harvested. The ‘2004 Two Hills Merlot’ also displays ripe wild berry fruit but not the liquorice and nuts flavours. The wine is very subtle, elegant with great finesse. It is medium bodied, dry, with good acidity, and a long finish. Its tannins are firm and give the wine a fine balance.

Hungerford Hill, Orange Merlot 2003
14% alcohol, matured in 60% new and 40% old French oak for about 15 months

Two Hills Merlot 2004
13.5 % alcohol, matured in 90% old and 10% new French oak for about 18 months