Trier: “You’re so beautiful”

November 29, 2007

With some imagination (and abstractions and maybe omissions) James Blunts song could be easily interpreted as a hymn to a town. Of course I then think of my hometown Trier.

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St. Peter Fountain

I enjoyed the time I could spend in its confines during my two month stay in Germany tremendously and I tried to be there as often as possible. “Augusta Treverorum”, a more than 2,000 year old jewel of the wine cities in Europe, is increasingly attractive to me, the older I get. The main market square (Hauptmarkt) is what I would like to introduce to you today. Its a splendid location. Some call it one of Germany’s most beautiful town squares. It is located at the centre of the city only a few blocks south from the Porta Nigra on Simeonstrasse, the pedestrian shopping street. The city received the market rights in 958 AD from Archbishop Heinrich I and a market cross on a granite pedestal from Roman times was erected to this effect. In about 3 m height an inscription says “Henricus archiepiscopus Treverensis me erexit”, which loosely translates as something like ‘Archbishop Heinrich erected me’.

Another jewel on the square is the St Peter Market Fountain. It was created in the 1595 and shows St. Peter with the key of the city on top and it incorporates statues that symbolize justice, fortitude, temperance, and prudence. The surrounding houses date from different architectural periods among them renaissance, baroque, classicism and late historicism. The old main police station and the former Domhotel are built in a neo-renaissance style. The gate to the market church St. Gangolf shows baroque features.
Another architectural marvel is the old citizens house, called ‘Steipe’ dating back to 1430 and the ‘Red House’.

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Main market square (Hauptmarkt) with market cross and ‘Steipe’ building and droves of tourists

Frequently, I visit the many wine bars and country inns. But I also take long strolls to look around town. My curiosity is endless. Moreover, I also admit to following to a certain extent the traits of my childhood and youth. Then all kinds of things come to mind, sounds, smells, faces, moves, music, short encounters, and many more. Human memory is such a fickle thing but stimulated in the right way it sometimes yields interesting results.

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Replica of the buildings of the ‘Steipe’/’Red House’ ensemble in Trier

Hope to see you soon in Trier.

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Sucellus – Wine aperitif from Kinheim, Mosel

November 28, 2007

When doing my research on the internet for my entry on Sucellus and Nantosuelta, I came across a webpage which advertised a very different kind of ‘Sucellus’. On www.sucellus.de Dr. Willi Rieth from Kinheim, Mosel produces a ‘Mosel Sherry’ called Sucellus. Dr. Rieth is by profession a food analyst. In his spare time he is hobby vintner. Because the name ‘sherry’ is protected by law, the drink has to be called a wine aperitif. Kinheim is the location where a statue of Sucellus dating back to the 3rd century AD was found in 1976 during land consolidation works. Dr. Rieth decided to call his wine aperitif Sucellus after the Celtic god of vintners and coopers.

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Dr. Willi Rieth and a statue of ‘Sucellus’, the Celtic god of vintners and coopers, in Kinheim, Mosel

Some claim that sherry production is one of the most complex of all winemaking methods. In the South of Spain where Sherry originates from three main grape varieties are used ofr Sherry production: Palomino, Pedro Jimenex and Moscatel. Along the Mosel, its of course Riesling grapes on which the ‘wine aperitif’ is based. The mature Riesling grapes are hand-harvested and carefully pressed. The must is fermented in large oak barrels (barrique). After the wine is made and the conditions are right, a specific yeast, called the flor, forms on top of the wine and mellows the flavour. After that the wine is fortified usually with clear wine alcohol which preserves and protects the sherry against microbiological influences. The aging and blending of Sherry is quite a complex procedure where various systems are employed (for instance the Solera system).

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The wine aperitif ‘Sucellus’ from Kinheim

The above bottle has travelled the world and made more than 800,000 km in the air (about 18 times around the aquator) which brought an entry into the Guinness Book of Records. Even Indonesia was on the list of the countries, where the bottle touched down some 10 years ago.

PS: Both photos were made available by Dr. Rieth


Wine Bars in Jakarta – Connoisseur in Citos

November 26, 2007

Given the traffic chaos in the capital city of Indonesia, it is important to have a ‘watering hole’ somewhere nearby. Today I would like to invite you to the Connoisseur, a small wine bar in a shopping centre in South Jakarta near to my home in Lebak Bulus.

I have lived for more than nine years in Jakarta. Many of my friends assume that Indonesia is a Muslim country and that alcohol must be hard to get. Well, the majority of Indonesian people (about 85% of the population of about 220 million people) are Muslim but in fact Indonesia is a secular state as most other states in the region. Despite the terrorist attacks in Bali and other locations, the Indonesian archipelago is a very peaceful, pluralistic and tolerant place. Wine lovers have the freedom to pursue their hobby and sample fine wines. Various wine societies and circles exist with not only expats as members but with a heavy local contingent.

In 2007, however, it’s been more difficult to get hold of fine wine than in previous years. Rumour has it that there was a problem with the import licenses and that therefore only the duty free outlets have stocks left whereas other wine sellers have run out of the liquid.

However that may be only about 10 minutes from our home is a shopping mall for the lower middle-class called ‘Citos’. This is a place bubbling with people. There are many small shops and many more little restaurants, most of them of the fast food type. On the ground floor is a small wine bar, named ‘Connoisseur’. Though the place could benefit from a renovation (some of the chairs show cigarette holes and other stains), it’s quite cosy and has a very relaxed atmosphere. The range of wines on offer is amazing. Many of the bottles on display do look a bit ‘worn’ tough with some dust accumulated and some of the labels torn. Prices seem to be reasonable. Nibbles and finger food can be ordered from the neighbouring shops and food courts.

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The Connoisseur with wine racks

We went for some ‘save’ Australian red, a ‘2002 Wynns Coonawarra Estate Shiraz’ (www.wynns.com.au). The estate is located in the famous “terra rossa” strip which produces intensely concentrated flavours. The 2002 vintage was cooler than other years therefore the wines are elegant and show good structure. They are barrel aged (old and new oak) for about 11 months. The bottle looked a bit ‘battered’. Because of the tropical climate conditions in Jakarta one is never sure how wine was handled (sometimes one can find ‘cooked’ wine when containers or bottles spend too much time in the sun and the moist heat). The bottle was reasonably priced for Jakarta conditions (about 320,000 INR which is about 26 EURO). For comparison I tried to find some current Australian prices but I only found the 2003 vintage Shiraz on the internet for about 60 A$.

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The wine was deep red. It showed a nose of black peppers and dark berry fruit flavours. It has a good mid palate weight and a strong finish. Margit and I enjoyed a relaxed Friday evening with a good drop of Australian wine. Come and visit us, we’ll take you there.


Nantosuelta! – Who’s that?

November 21, 2007

You might have seen my blog entry about the Celtic god of the vintners, Sucellus. Guess what? He’s got a ‘wife’ or should I better say, a companion? A consort seems to be the right word.

I do not know how gods treat their wifes/consorts and how it all works out but according to Gaulish religion, Nantosuelta is the goddess of nature, earth, fire and fertility.

She is usually depicted with holding a pole with a model of a house to indicate a domestic function (sometimes a bee hive). Also in Lusitanian mythology she is the goddess of nature.

Her symbol is the raven which links her to the dead and the underworld. Often she is depicted holding a ‘cornucopia’, a hollow, horn shaped wicker basket (also called ‘horn of plenty’ or ‘horn of Amalthea’) and a symbol of food and abundance. The ‘cornucopia’ is often associated with the harvest season and, suprise surprise, with Thanksgiving.

A couple of reliefs and statues have been found near Metz/France and in Alsace. They usually show her with Sucellus. Whereas there are many images of Sucellus found on the internet, there are only very few available for Natosuelta.

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Nantosuelta and Sucellus (source: wikipedia)

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Nantosuelta and Sucellus (Source: http://www.cetnet.org.uk)

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Nantosuelta and Sucellus (Source: http://www.crdp-strasbourg.fr)

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This is the ‘modern’ Nantosuelta in bronze.

Source: “Nantosuelta”, bronze H 40 cm by Claudine Leroy-Weil (born 1950 at Neuilly-sur-Seine), at http://www.galeriedessablons.com


Wine and vineyards in Trier-Olewig

November 19, 2007

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The wine village of Olewig near the city centre of Trier

Olewig is one of four villages within the city boundaries of Trier were vines are grown till today (the others are St. Matthias-Feyen, Krüenz and Pallien) since Roman times. Vines, wine production and wine trade were basic features of city life, its culture and its economy. Many famous poets eulegized the beauty of the town (among them Goethe of course). In the drinking song of Carmina Burana of the 13th century one verse praises the city of Trier and its comforts, the dedication of its citizens to “the vines and the wines” and the culture of enjoying the fruits of the vintners labour.

One of my many walks around the town brought me to Olewig, a village nestled between two steep hills in the South-East of the town. Early in the morning I sat out from the banks of the Mosel river, from my parental home in “Britannia” (Britannien), as our neighbourhood is called. Its the area where the old city harbour had been, roughly between the two cranes to unload barges moored on the river.

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The view of the city from Petrisberg (left: Roman Basilica, Cathedral, and in the background the red sandstone cliffs)

I climbed the gentle slopes of the Petrisberg and turned South where the wine appreciation path (Weinlehrpfad) starts. This walk leads the wine interested rambler along ruins of Roman tombs through vine gardens and vineyards to the village of Olewig. I did not enter the village but instead walked in a long circle through the vineyards and returned to the Petrisberg where one has a wonderful view of the old city. It was vintage time and crews of grape pickers were busy harvesting.

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The start of the path/walk: Between Sucellus (left) and Bacchus (right), the Celtic and Roman gods of wine respectively

The poster says that the wine appreciation path is about 1500 m long. It leads through the open fields of the Trier wine district and ends in Olewig. Along the way large posters are displayed educating and informing the wanderer of the various historical, cultural and technical aspects related to the vineyards and the production of grapes. One of the signs gives the total area under vines as 373 ha. The number of full-time vintners is about 100 family farms. Main grapes grown are Riesling (86 %), Rivaner (8 %), Pinot Blanc (4 %) and Pinot Noir (2 %).

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The map of the Olewig “Terroir”

The main locations of Trier-Olewig are

– St. Maximiner Kreuzberg
– Deutschherrenberg
– Deutschherrenköpfchen
– Burgberg
– Jesuitenwingert
– Thiergarten unterm Kreuz
– Thiergarten Felsenkoepfchen
– Benediktinerberg
– Kurfürstenhofberg
– St. Martiner Hofberg

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The slopes are steep, only caterpillar tractors are able to scale them (in the background Olewig)


DAGERNOVA: wine co-operative at the Ahr

November 18, 2007

I have already written about my visits to the Ahr wine region. Vine cultivation has a long tradition in the Ahr valley going back to about 770 AD.

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The above sign reads as follows: “Happy humans and good wine should always be united together”. I found it on the wall of the cellar door of the DAGERNOVA Wine Co-operative in Dernau, Ahr valley. DAGERNOVA is the latin name of Dernau, a quaint little village in the Ahr valley and the seat of the co-operative.

One of the interesting phenomena in the German wine economy is the ‘wine co-operative’, usually the association of grape and wine producers to jointly make and sell their wines or some of their produce.

Co-operatives are very common in German agriculture and have a long and winding history as an institution. Today some of the most powerful and efficient wine producers in the wine sector are of this type. The economic advantages of co-operatives are obvious: the larger scale of purchases of inputs and the sale of produce allows a much better bargaining position in the market. One of the few downsides might be that top individual producers might find higher prices for their top wines outside the co-operative umbrella but cannot dispose of their minor qualities without it. This conflict of interest might severely damage the prospects of co-operatives’ business success.

Therefore true support and a certain discipline on the part of the members of the co-operative is necessary to make it successful. Competing strategic goals are to be avoided, instead synergies need to be developed. Professional wine making and marketing are a precondition for the making of high quality wines, wines which can also enter into the premium and high price segments of the market.

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The cellar door of DAGERNOVA in Dernau

An excellent example for this segment of the German wine industry is ‘DAGERNOVA Wine Manufactory’, a co-operative of the Ahr vintners. On its webpage the co-operatives (www.ahrwinzer-eg.de and www.dagernova.de) motto is cited. It reads “tradition without dust”; and in fact the co-operative has a long tradition but is modern in nature. Its was founded in 1970 when two of the local vinters associations merged and created this new entity. In the years following many more vintners and their associations joined. From 1993 onwards the co-operative was operating under “Ahr Winzer eG” which translates into ‘Ahr Vintners registered co-operative’. Today the members of the co-operative cultivate about 170 ha of vineyards. Needless to say that the co-operative won many awards and medals for its wines. In 2006 for instance the German magazine ‘Weinwelt’ (wine world) awarded DAGERNOVA ‘the best Riesling producer of the Ahr’ title. Gault Millau awarded ‘one bunch’ (eine Traube).

When we visited the co-operatives cellar door it was buzzing with customers. Every sunny autumn weekend is seen by many in the surrounding towns of the Rhineland and the Ruhr as an excellent opportunity to take a long Sunday walk along the Ahr river and to visit wineries and cellar doors. Although Ahr wines are more pricy than wines from many other regions, the Ahr has successfully succeeded by justifying this by rigorous emphasis on quality.

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The Ahr valley is German red wine territory. Here a bottle of Regent, a “new” red variety.

Needless to say we tasted quite a few bottles of excellent red wines of the base (up to 7 €/bottle) and primium segements (up to 9.5 €/bottle). What they call ‘cult wines’ starts at 11.85 €/bottle. I acquired a “2006 Pinot Noir Spätlese” which I gave to my friend Ulrich Hillejan and where I anxiously await the “tasting results”.

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Joyce, Ulla, Claudia and Rainer, DAGERNOVA cellat door


German wine regions: Franconia- a visit to Würzburg

November 16, 2007

Together with my mother and my brother Wolfgang, we visited the hometown of my maternal grandfather for a family reunion. The small village of Reichenberg, near the city of Würzburg was our destination. My mothers father, Hans Heinrich Schüssler, was the one who introduced me to wine and wine drinking. When I was about 16 years old he took me to the Juliusspital (one of the three big wineries in the city and winner of this years ‘Riesling of the World’ Challenge in Canberra) in Würzburg where I had my first ‘official’ glas of Franconian wine.

Würzburg is another ancient city where the Catholic church and its archbishops reigned. Needless to say that vineyards and wine production are an old and beloved feature of the local culture and the economy influencing its specific social habits and customs. The castle of Würzburg is one of the main features. On its slopes vines are grown as well.

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The castle in Würzburg, with the historic bridge and the vineyards on the castle slopes

Franconia is the name of the wine region. It currently has about 6,000 ha under vines. The proportion of red varieties is low (19 %). Main varieties are white grape varieties such as Müller-Thurgau (32 %), Silvaner (21 %) and Bacchus (12 %). But, as along the Mosel river, red varieties are on the increase. ‘Franken’ (Franconia) produces some excellent Pinot Noir wines as well. Nowhere in Germany does Silvaner produce such stunning wines as in Franconia.

The shape of the local wine bottles ‘Franconian style’ is very special too. It’s called “Bocksbeutel” in German and usually reserved for higher quality Franconian wines.

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The “Bocksbeutel” bottle, trademark of Franconia

The above bottle from “Staatlicher Hofkeller”, the second of the three big wineries in Würzburg (the third one is “Bürgerspital”), was the first I drank with a glas enclosure in my life. It was a “2005 Hammelburg Trautlestal, Silvaner Kabinett, dry” which displayed all the characteristics of an excellent Franconian Silvaner wine. For newcomers to Franconian wine I can highly recommend this drop.

The next day after the family reunion, we visited Würzburg and had lunch at ‘Juliusspital’ (www.juliusspital.de). ‘Juliusspital’ does not only own vineyards, a winery, a historic cellar door and restaurants but also a hospital, a retirement home, an academy, a conference centre and other facilities. “Spital” also means ‘hospital’.

Juliusspital Foundation was founded in 1576 by the prince bishop Julius Echter of Mespelbrunn (a wonderful little castle in the Spessart, a beautiful region full of forests nearby). Today Juliusspital is a modern service company providing mainly health care and related services to the public but traditionally is also involved in agriculture, forestry and wine making. the Juliusspital Wine Estate is as old as the hospice.

The Franconian wine region covered in the 16th century more than 40,000 ha of vineyards and was the largest coherent wine-growing area in Europe. The decline of Franconian viticulture started with the ‘thirty Years” War which destroyed most of the vineyards in Upper and Central Franconia. After a short revival in the 18th century a second decline reduced the region to about 10,000 ha and the thrid decline was accompanied by peronospera and phyloxera outbreaks at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. After World War II only about 2,300 ha under vines remained. Today, about 7,000 vintners cultivate the 6,000 ha under vines which produce roughly 50 million bottles and an annual turnover of about 200 million EUROs.

The soils in Franconia consist either of soils based on red sandstone, shell limestone and what the Germans call ‘Keuper’ (clay rocks), all emerging during different geological epochs some going back more than 200 million years.

Today Juliusspital Wine Estate cultivates about 168 ha of vineyards and produces more than 85,000 cases of wine. The composition of its vine varieties is about 35 % Silvaner, 22 % Riesling, 20 % Müller-Thurgau and 5 % Pinot Noir. the rest (18 %) includes Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Baccus, Scheurebe, Traminer, Muskateller, and Rieslaner (a regional variety). the average yield is given with 60 hl/ha. the top locations (terroir) are ‘Würzbuger Stein’, ‘Iphoefer Julius-Echter-Berg’, ‘Randersackerer Pfülben’ and ‘Eschendorfer Lump’.

At the recently held 2007 Canberra International Riesling Challenge, the Juliusspital Wine Estate won the overall award for best Riesling of the World with its “2006 Julius-Echter-Berger Beerenauslese”. By the way, the webpage of Juliusspital shows this wine with a price tag of 47.60 EURO only.

According to the October-November issue of ‘Weinwelt’ (World of wine), a German wine magazine, the top producers in Franconia are:

♦♦♦♦ (four stars)
– Fürstlich Castellisches Domaenenamt, Castell
– Rudolf Fürst, Bürgstadt
– Horst Sauer, Eschendorf

Horst Sauer also participated in the 2007 Canberra International Riesling Challenge and won a gold medal in the ‘current vintage 2006 sweet category’ for his “2006 Eschendorfer Lump Riesling TBA” and a bronze medal for “2006 Eschendorfer Lump Riesling dry”.

♦♦♦ (three stars)
– Juliusspital, Würzburg
– Fürst Löwenstein, Kreuzwertheim
– Hans Wirsching, Iphofen
– Brennfleck, Sulzfeld (significantly improved in 2006 and newly listed with three stars)
– Hofmann, Röttingen (as above)

♦♦ (two stars)
– Walter Erhard, Volkach (improved in 2006 and newly listed as two stars)
– Rudolf Max, Retzstadt (as above)
– Max Müller I, Volkach (as above)
– Trockene Schmitts, Randersacker (as above)
– Graf Schoenborn, Volkach (as above)

♦ (one star for discoveries of the year)
– Burrlein, Mainstockheim
– Felshof. Sommershausen
– Gebr. Geiger Jun., Thüngersheim
– Max Merkert, Eibelstadt
– Reiss, Würzburg
– Markus Schneider, Volkach

Unfortunately, I have only one bottle of Bocksbeutel left in my wine fridge. Empty bottles I have in abundance (for instance “2002 Würzburger Stein, Silvaner, Kabinett, dry” of Staatlicher Hofkeller which won a gold medal, “2003 Baccus, dry” of Schloss Castell and “2003 Würzburger Stein Sivaner, dry” of Juliusspital). The bottle to be enjoyed soon is a “2005 Kitzinger Hofrat, Silvaner, dry” of Bernhard Völker. What a pity that Franconian wines are not available in my local duty free shop in Jakarta.

The red wine “pope” of Franconia is Paul Fürst (Winery Rudolp Fürst in Bürgstadt. He won “German vintner of the year” award in 2003 and “best vintner of Franconia” in 2004. His webpage is very interesting too (www.weingut-rudolf-fuerst.de).
At the wine webpage www.finewinepress.com you will find an interesting interview with Paul Fürst in English. His “2003 Spätburgunder” (Pinot Noir) is a well acclaimed and award winning wine. I will introduce you to the winery at another time.

While in Würzburg we lunched at Juliusspital Restaurant which is what Germans call “gut bürgerliche Küche”, which I freely translate as “good quality, local food” (robust and harty in nature but also with delicate and fragrant elements). We drank from the open wine list (we had to drive home). My brother had a “2006 Juliusspital Schwarzriesling (Pinot meunier), dry” and I drank a “2006 Würzburger Abtsleite, Silvaner, Kabinett, dry”, both solid wines. It was unfortunate that we could not participate in any tasting since we had to get home the same day.

The design of the restaurant, by the way, is typical for historic German country inns. When I visited the restrooms I found to my great suprise wonderful cartoons on tiles. I had to take pictures, one of which you see below.

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The texts freely translates as “Guess darling whom I am holding in my arm”.

Unfortunately, I do not have good photos of the family reunion. Needless to say that the three of us were overwhelmed by the hospitaly extende to us. Tables were bending under the food and wine on offer. We were talking and talking. It was so exciting that I forgot to take “intelligent” pictures with the result that I have some good ones of some of the participants but not of others. This is the reason why I will not show any of them because it would be unfair vis-a-vis the people whom I did not catch in a good enough pose. Since I have planned to take my wife and children there when we visit Germany next year, I promise to be more careful and present you with some good shots in the future.

The address of the restaurant cum wine bar is

Weinstuben Juliusspital
Familie Frank & Edith Kulinna
Juliuspromenade 19
97070 Würzburg
Tel.: 0931-54080
http://www.juliusspital.de