Wiltingen Saar – the best of Riesling wines in Germany

March 31, 2008

The little village of Wiltingen, Saar , about 9 km southwest of Trier, is one of the most famous “terroirs” for Saar Wine. It has about 1400 inhabitants and is the heart of Riesling production. The area under vines is 160 ha only and rather small one might say but these vineyards produce excellent wines.

The location (terroir) ‘Scharzhofberg’, for instance, produces outstanding Rieslings which are world renown and regularly win international awards as best wines.

Wiltingen is home to many famous wineries. I cannot name them all. There is for instance the “Riesling pope” Egon Müller who has his family business there, so has Roman Niewodniczanski’s winery Van Volxem, and many others.

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Wiltingen at the Saar river in March, photo taken from the Schoden side

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Wiltingen is a jewel also for tourism

It was a rainy day when we visited Wiltingen. However, we wanted to pay a visit to Van Volxem and maybe purchase a couple of bottles of the finest Saar Riesling. Well, we met the winemaker, a very friendly young man from Franconia, as I could identify from his accent, and he invited us in, mentioning in passing that if we came to buy wines, we would have to come again, because they sold out completely. Nonetheless, he made us sit down, served us a very good cup of coffee and told us the story of the Van Volxem wines.

Spring is a busy time in the vineyards. We were told that Van Volxem has about 30 ha under vines and that they are in the process of planting another 6 ha in prime locations, usually on very steep slopes along the Saar river.

Also Ms. Niewodniczanski showed up and took her time fro a friendly chat; she urged us to come again later in the year when they new vintage would be released. She promised she would show us around, not only to the cellars but also the vineyards could be part of our visiting program. We left our addresses and promised to come again. Who could resist such friendliness, a treatment so warm, only expected to be extended to family members.

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Van Volxem, entry to the cellar door

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In the historic tasting room

Postscript: A couple of days later, I sat in the Weinhaus, one of my favorite wine bars in Trier, and witnessed the sale and hand over of two 6-bottle boxes of Van Volxem Riesling wines to customers.

Well, I thought, I cannot complain since I still have some bottles in my “cellar” in Jakarta, and the next vintage will certainly make a wonderful buy.

Address
Weingut Van Volxem
Roman Niewodniczanski
Dehnstrasse 2
54459 Wiltingen, Saar
Ph.: +49-6501-16510
e-mail: vanvolxem@t-online.de

The estate is member of the VDP (Verband deutscher Praedikats- und Qualitaetsweingueter), the association of German prime wine estates (www.vdp.de). Today the Association has 200 members and covers about 3% of the German viticultural area.


The Gourmet Garage, Jakarta II

March 30, 2008

Again we went to have lunch at the Gourmet Garage and had a wonderful meal there. I drank a beer with my Australian Burger.

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It was a light ale (Golden Ale), a beer produced on Bali, called Storm Beer . The description on the label reminded me of wine tasting notes. The Storm Brewing Company (www.stormbrewing.net)
produces traditional ales according to century-old recipes and claims on their website that they use only 100% natural ingredients, pure water, of course, and absolutely no additives or preservatives which is a challenge in the tropics where beer can easily “overheat” somewhere in the delivery process. But it was a very nice drink, indeed.

The food came as always from the three Gourmet Garage menus. For my taste there was too much mayonnaise in the food (not in my burger, though), but the children loved it.

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Japanese beef

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Cesar Salad


Gourmet cheese: Australia at the top

March 29, 2008

At the 27th Biennial World Championship Cheese Contest in Wisconsin, USA an Australian parmesan cheese has won the top honors. Mil Lel Superior Parmesan is the lucky winner. Their cheese scored 98.5 out of 100 points and beat entries from USA. New Zealand and Europe for the best tasting parmesan cheese of the world. One would have expected an Italian cheese to win these honers.

There is a strong controversy about parmesan cheese. A European court rules recently that only cheese produced near the Italian town of Parma can legally bear this name.

Mil Lel cheese is produced in the town of Simpson in southern Victoria by the Dairy Farmers co-operative. The members of the co-operative are, of course, very proud of this achievement.

Results World Cheese Championship
Category 19 Parmesan

1. Simpson Grana Team Australian Co-Operative Foods Lidcombe, NSW 1825, Australia Best of Class Mil Lel Superior Parmesan

2.Aaron Quick Sartori Food Corporation Antigo, WI USA Second Award Sarvecchio parmesan

3. Josh Krause BelGioioso Cheese, Inc. Denmark, WI USA Third Award Parmesan

Also in category 34 – Camembert & Other Surface (Mold) Ripened Cheeses – Australian products were the best, and again it came from Victoria.

1. Burnie Team National Foods, Ltd. Mulgrave, Victoria 3180, Australia Best of Class Tasmanian Heritage Traditional Camembert

2. Burnie Team National Foods, Ltd. Mulgrave, Victoria 3180, Australia Second Award TH Signature camembert

3. Roland Weidenholzer Berglandmilch / Schardinger A-4066 Pasching, Austria Third Award Schardinger Rahm-Camembert

I could not find any German cheese among the award winners. Most categories were dominated by USA cheeses but there were also winners from the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Switzerland, Sweden, Italy, Canada, Portugal, Denmark, Austria, Spain and France.

The overall winner, however, was a cheese from Europe. World Champion was

Le Gruyere Switzerland
Made by Michael Spycher
Kaeserei Fritzenhaus
Wasen, Switzerland
Champion Round Score: 98.82

The First Runner-Up came from Italy.

Gorgonzola
Made by CERPL Cheesemakers
CERPL for DCI Cheese Co.
Bologna, Italy
Champion Round Score: 98.56

The Second Runner-Up came again from Switzerland.

Emmentaler
Made by Bernhard Naf
Kaeserei Guntershausen
Guntershausen, Switzerland
Champion Round Score: 98.42

Check out the results on the following website:

www.wischeesemakersassn.org

Happy tasting of your own cheese.


Wine Bars in Jakarta: Cork and Screw Wine Concept

March 24, 2008

It’s an unfortunate name, I agree, but the place is one of the most hip, the most vibrant and the most desirable place for a wine aficionado in Jakarta. It is a very relaxed place at the same time. Cork and Screw Wine Concept is a joint project of Vin + (one of the main wine shops in Jakarta, www.vinplus.biz) and other partners.

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We had the opportunity to visit it for the first time during their one-year-anniversary celebrations which were held recently. We liked the food and the wines and last Saturday was the perfect day to come back and visit again.

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One orders the food (provided by the KOI restaurant chain) and selects the wine from the many boxes where it is on offer at retail prices.

We had ordered dishes “around” beef tenderloin fillets and I selected a ‘2005 Clos de los Siete’, Mendoza, Argentina by Michel Rolland. This wine has 14.5% alcohol and is a blend of different varieties (on the back of the label it said, 45% Malbec, 35% Merlot, 10% Cabernet and Shiraz each) by Michel Rolland. His wines from Argentina have already earned a reputation and the 2005 we sampled was awarded 90/91 points by some wine tasters.

Michel Rolland (born 24 December 1947) is the foremost wine consultant from Bordeaux with more than a hundred clients all over the world. He owns several vineyard and winery properties in France (Bordeaux, Saint-Emilion, Fronsac), South Africa, Spain and Argentina.

The Clos de los Siete is a collaborative project of seven French wine producers under the leadership of Michel Rolland. They have collectively about 850 ha of which about half is currently under vines. Malbec is the dominant variety planted.

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The label shows a star with seven points representing the seven partners in the venture.

The price was 364,000 Indonesian Rupiah which corresponds to about 25.7 € (about 41 US$). When I researched it on the internet the next day, I found that it is sold in the UK for about 12 £ and in other places in Europe for 13 €. The taxes in Indonesia are high, so I did not mind the retail price at Cork and Screw.

According to information from the net, the grapes are handpicked and sorted twice, both before and after destemming. The grapes are cold soaked in steel tanks and fermented for five to seven days at 26 to 28 degrees. After malolactic fermentation, about one third of the wine is matured in vats and the rest in new French oak barrels. The grape mix for the 2005 vintage is sometimes also given as 40% Malbec, and 20% each for Cabernet, Merlot and Shiraz. May that how it be.

I know that generally Malbec does not possess a strong finish; it is rather short at the end. I hoped that in this blend that would be less of an issue but it was not. I still liked the wine but should have chosen something with a stronger, and longer finish.

The wine is elegant, dry, full bodied with a moderate amount of tannins and generally well balanced. It displays aromas of plum, blueberry, chocolate and violet notes. However, its finish is anything but long. So nothing lingers around on the palate, which is a pity. Maybe a less of Malbec grapes in the blend would improve this deficiency.

The evening at Cork and Screw was a delight. I can only highly recommend the place to all the Jakartan wine and food lovers. See you there, hopefully soon.

Address:
Cork and Screw Wine Concept
Wisma Kodel, Ground Floor,
Jl. H.R.Rasuna Said Kav.B-4,
Jakarta 12920
Ph.: (021) 5290 2030.
Open: 12.00 – 24.00 WIB (Sunday-Thursday) and 12.00 – 02.00 WIB (Friday-Saturday).


Easter Sunday Lunch

March 23, 2008

Easter calls for some special celebrations. Because we were at home, the four of us for the first time since a long time, we needed something yummy.

We had a red snapper left in the fridge and decided to prepare it in the style of Guadeloupe and Martinique. The recipe we got from Mark Bittman, “Fish – The complete guide to buying and cooking”, Hungry Minds Co, New York 1994, and it goes as follows:

– 4 firm-fleshed steaks from a large red snapper, scaled, gutted (head on or off as you like it best)
– 2 cups of water
– 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
– salt
– 1/4 cup olive oil
– 1 cup chopped shallots, scallions (both green and white parts)
– 1 tablespoon minced garlic
– 1 hot pepper, deveined, seeds and chopped
– 1 1/2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes,
– 1 bay leave
– 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
– 1/2 table spoon minced fresh thyme
– freshly ground black pepper
– lime wedges

You marinate the fish in the water, lime juice and 1 table spoon of salt (make sure the fish is completely covered) for about 30 minutes (drain, refrigerate if the weather is too warm, as it is here in tropical Jakarta).

Heat the oil and cook the shallots, about two thirds of the garlic and the chopped red pepper until soft, then add the tomatoes and herbs, season with salt and pepper and cook for about 5 minutes. Drain the fish and add the above together with some of the marinade, add some more garlic and simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes. Spoon the marinade over the fish and serve with rice and the lemon wedges.

Voilá, that’s what it may look like.

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Court Boullion, red snapper

Needless to say, the red snapper was delicious. We had rice and some steamed vegetables with it. Since we ran out of white wine (how terrible in a vintner’s family), we opened instead a bottle of Pinot Noir. It came from South Baden (Kaiserstuhl), a ‘2005 Ihringer Winklerberg Spätburgunder’, dry wine, 13.5 % alcohol, produced by the Ihringer Winegrowers Co-operative (www.winzergenossenschaft-ihringen.de).

It was a typical Pinot Noir as far as the colour was concerned. It was fresh, fruity and showed well balanced tannins and acids. The aromas were dominated by forest berries. But despite this it complemented the hot chili taste of the red snapper very well.

The bottle was given to me by Birgit Lamm, the director of our International Academy for Leadership in Gummersbach, Germany after I facilitated a training recently. It did not last long. But wine in the tropics needs to be consumed rather earlier than later. Thanks again for this nice gift. I’ll come back for more soon.

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2005 Ihringer Winklerberg Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir)

After the meal we had espresso and cognac together with some thin chocolates. I smoked a Juan Clemente cigar (made in Santiago, Dominican Republic) which was excellent. I had acquired them during my recent trip to my hometown Trier, Germany, from Wolsdorff Tobacco where I usually stock up on cigars.


Habel Wine Culture

March 20, 2008

The other day in Berlin a shower drove me into the next available shelter and fortunately it was a wine bar: ‘Habel Weinkultur’, where I always wanted to visit (www.wein-habel.de).

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The place is huge with various rooms and bars. It is also a place with tradition. Habel attempts to revive the old tradition of Prussia’s wine tasting. Originally it was located at Unter den Linden 30 were it was opened in 1779!

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The elegant dining and tasting rooms of Habel Weinkultur

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I was the only customer at 15:00 h in the afternoon but I was lucky again, they served customers.

The wine list was beautiful, however, a single person can only drink wine ‘glass wise’ and not by the bottle. I have to come again, I thought, with a friend to sample some of these wines. The food menu looked also very inviting. A good place to visit in Berlin.

I settled for a Riesling of course, this time I choose a Riesling from the Rheingau, one of the best German wine regions, a ‘2005 Riesling Schloss Vollrads’ (4.70 €/0.2 ltr.), a dry wine with a lush bouquet of apples (not a citrus bomb), fruity, well balanced acids, fresh with a nice finish.

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When I studied the wine list I found that it contained many wines from Germany, France, Italy, Austria, Spain, Chile, Argentina and South Africa but only one single wine from Australia (a Penfolds BIN 2 Shiraz Mourvédre).

Of course with a wine from Penfolds you cannot go wrong but apart from the corporates there are zillions of excellent wines from small wineries and vineyards which would deserve to be sampled by the German wine lovers.

Address:
Habel Weinkultur
Luisenstrasse 19
10117 Berlin
Ph.: +49-30-28098484


German Vineyards in March

March 18, 2008

March is a great time of the year in the Northern hemisphere. Nature is ready to go, buds are almost bursting, waiting for the right temperature, the hours of sunshine which make the difference, warm the soil and the plants. As every year another miracle is in the making.

The vineyards are neatly pruned and ready to go shortly before the new growing season begins. The following pictures from the Saar Wine Region might give you an idea.

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The colour scheme is still dominated by greys and dark winter colours but here and there we can see greenish spots, and soon spring will have driven winter away.

The slopes are steep and every vine has its own post. This one is very well tended, not a single stem or blade of grass can be detected.

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The pruning is of a special kind too. In Australia we hardly see this kind of binding the canes.

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It is not easy to spread organic manure in the vineyards at these steep slopes.

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A metal sledge is used to bring the manure to the vines.

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Apart from the well tended vineyards (as above in Ockfen, Saar) we also find here and there a neglected one or one in a rather ‘chaotic stage’ but they are the exception rather than the rule.

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The neglected vine garden