The Lion sleeps tonight?

June 30, 2008

Well, he did not sleep but he watched the football final between Spain and Germany from 2 this morning till 3:30.

Congratulations to the Spaniards, they were the better team. What to do with this Monday morning?

I experimented with video clip downloads on my blog. Well, its not always fine wine and delicious food.

It can be dancing too. How about a dance in the backyard?

Please watch first the cartoon character clip, then you’ll know what the “real people” in the second clip attempted to do. Not easy to follow examples, it seems. Enjoy the show.

We were not the only people who were inspired by the song. On You Tube is one of rather under-dressed young women trying to follow the same dancing instructions.

PS: Note – This is only a temporary blog entry.

German Wine Regions: The Saar

June 28, 2008

One of the premium Riesling producing wine regions in Germany is the Saar, which is part of the Mosel region (the English usually call it Moselle, using the French word for the river). In fact the Mosel Wine Region used to be called (until 2007) “Mosel-Saar-Ruwer”, the latter two being small tributaries to the larger Mosel river. Along the three rivers about 13,400 ha are under vines these days, most of the vineyards are to be found on steep slopes, offering breathtaking views.

The village of Wiltingen, home to many famous wine producers along the Saar

Along the river Saar vine cultivation goes back a long long time, roughly 2,000 years only. Until Napoleon conquered this part of the various German lands, most wineries were in possession of the catholic church, monasteries, and other clerical institutions. Napoleon secularized the administration and with it most vineyards and wineries came into private hands.

The area between Serrig and Konz is the main production base of the Saar. Further upriver only small and singular plots are planted with vines. The most renown wine producing villages along the Saar are
Serrig, Saarburg, Irsch, Ockfen, Ayl, Schoden, Wiltingen, Kanzem, and Wawern. Moreover we find vineyards along one of the smaller side valley’s Filzen, Koehnen, Nieder- and Obermennig, Krettnach and Oberemmel.

Ayler Kupp, one of the prime ‘terroirs’ of the Saar

The dominant variety is, of course, Riesling. The total area under vines is about 1,500 ha, mostly on steep slopes with gradients of up to 55 per cent. Other but minor varieties are Pinot Noir, Dornfelder, Pinot Gris, Rivaner, Kerner and Pinot Blanc. The soil consist mainly of blue Devon slate soils. The alcohol content of the wines is usually low (between 8 and 12 %), but the acidity of the wines shows excellent structures and compositions and this is why the wines can be cellared for long periods of time.

Steep vineyards in Ockfen

The vineyards are ready for spring to come

The two photos above were taken in Ockfen, showing vineyards in the location ‘Ockfener Bockstein’, one of the prime ‘terroirs’ in that village.

Springtime and lots of work to do to make the season a success. Lime is distributed by hand in the vineyards, here in Schoden.

There are many prime wine producers along the Saar. The top estate is probably Weingut Egon Mueller (also called the godfather of Saar Riesling) – Scharzhof in Wiltingen. Among the highest rated Riesling wines in Germany (on Egon Mueller has three of the top eight wines.

But there are many other prime producers. I can only mention a few. For instance Weingut Fortsmeister Geltz-Zilliken in Saarburg, or Schloss Saarstein in Serrig. Then there is the rising star, Roman Niewodniczanski and his team at Van Volxem in Wiltingen. His wine maker, Dominik Voelk, is young and ambitious, and by the way is a native of Franconia, a wine region with long traditions in excellence. When I visited the estate in March, he had completely sold out all his wines. I am now waiting for the release of the newest vintage in September (grand cru only). Then there is Weingut Dr. Siemens in Serrig and Weingut Peter Lauer in Ayl.

Also other producers are worth mentioning. Weingut Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt, which operates a wine bar just across the cathedral in Trier (Trierer Dom), possess vineyards in Wiltingen. Four star ratings were awarded to Weingut von Orthegraven in Kanzem and Weingut von Hoevel in Konz-Oberemmel but there are many others who produce excellent Saar wines.

I love the Saar Rieslings with their well balanced, “filigree like” acid compositions. I love them for their explosiveness, zest, intensive aromas; they have structure and balance, are low in alcohol and usually impress with a long finish, lingering on your tongue’s taste buds like ballerinas which you can still see before your inner eye long after they left the stage.

I encourage you to visit the Saar and sample as many wines as you can, it’s worth it, definitely. This time of the year should be perfect, as the pictures below demonstrate. I hope they can entice you to give it a go and lure you to the Saar.

Explore the beauty of my home region, do not forget to visit Trier, its just around the corner.

Vineyards in Schoden

The ‘terroir’/location ‘Herrenberg’ in Schoden

Near Schoden the Saar is most picturesque. The hills, the forests, the river and the small villages offering local food and wines make the Saar a prime destination for tourism.

Restaurants in Germany – Lutter and Wegner im Künstlerhaus, Munich

June 27, 2008

While in Munich I stumbled across another one of the Lutter and Wegner chain restaurants – Lutter and Wegner im Künstlerhaus – and could not resist to have lunch there before departing to Frankfurt (

The outside terrace

Colourful room “Venezia” with great views upon the Lenbachplatz

Bottles arranged like art

Art for the wine aficionados

Lutter and Wegner is not just a restaurant but a symbiosis of bar, lounge, gallery and in the evening live and other music are performed. Moreover, about 350 wines are on offer. I could only sample two of them with my lunch, hope you are more successful. The restaurant was the perfect choice of a enjoyable lunch before leaving this wonderful city and returning to tropical Jakarta. I could not resist the mushroom risotto. It was delicious, a wonderful combination of flavours.

The mushroom risotto

Of course I had to have a wine with my food. My first wine consisted of a ‘2005 Grauer Burgunder, dry’ (Pinot Gris) of Weingut Otto Laubenstein, Baden ( It had a rather yellowish colour which came as a surprise to me, I had expected something more pale, straw colour like. The wine suggestion for the risotto was a ‘2007 Bürklin Wolf – Weissburgunder’ (white Burgundy). I should have tried my meal with this wine too, I guess.

My second glass of wine which I drank instead of having a dessert is considered a rarity in other parts of the world and this is exactly why I ordered it. The ‘2006 Blauer Zweigelt, Weingut Tement’, Südsteiermark (, showed a beautiful deep red colour. It displays flowery aromas, dominated by red berries, and is very smooth indeed and not heavy (12.5% alc.). The wine is aged for only about six months in small oak barrels.

Blauer Zweigelt (created in 1922 in Klosterneuburg by Fritz Zweigelt) is a cross between Blaufraenkisch and St. Laurent. It is the most widely planted red variety in Austria (resistance to frost) but has also gained some presence in Canada: the Niagara Region in Ontario and British Columbia.

Wine prices I found reasonable. The Pinot Gris sold for € 3.5 and the Blauer Zweigelt for € 4 for a 0.2 ltr/glass.

Lutter und Wegner im Künstlerhaus
Lenbachplatz 8
80333 Munich
Te.: +49-895459490

Berlin – Auerbachs Bookshop

June 26, 2008

Auerbachs Bookshop from the outside

A very good friend of mine made me aware of this little marvel of a bookshop. Its owner, Gabriele Seeboden, is a very friendly and helpful person. But the shop does not only offer books, also a rather interesting selection of fine wines is on offer, all from small, family-owned vineyards and wineries. Gabriele’s passion is book and wines, that’s for sure. The clients love her for the excellence of the service; they also love the flair of the bookshop.

Gabriele Seeboden with a customer in front of the wine rack

This year the bookshop celebrates its 125 anniversary. It was opened by Richard Auerbach in 1882. Gabriele Seeboden is the third successor of Mr. Auerbach. It is not easy these days for such small ventures to economically survive. This was one of the reasons to add a product which goes well with books and reading. Wine is the natural choice, I would say. Wine tasting are also organised at the bookshop from time to time. Give it a go and visit when in Berlin. You will not find such combination anywhere else.

Auerbachs Buchhandlung
Albrechtstr. 10
12165 Berlin
(near Rathaus Steglitz underground station)
Te.: +49-30-7913125

Restaurants in Germany – Hotel Prinzregent, Munich-Riem

June 25, 2008

Bavaria is just such a beautiful place. I just cannot get enough of it. Especially at this time of the year travelling around Upper Bavaria is truly enjoyable. Even sub-urban places such as Riem have their charm. I stayed in a small hotel at the outskirts of Munich to attend a conference at the Messe Zentrum (the fair).

The very first evening, I asked the receptionist where one could have a decent bite of food, preferable Bavarian style and I was pointed into the direction of the Hotel Prinzregent (, in fact a country inn style place along the main street in Riem. The ‘guest room’ of the public bar part was fairly busy at a Friday evening.

The Bavarian country inn – Hotel Prinzregent

As it was my first evening back in Germany I could not resist ordering a pork roast Bavarian style with ‘Semmelknoedeln’, a kind of cooked carbohydrates made from leftover bread crumbs. It was so delicious I completely forgot to take pictures for my blog. I drank wheat beer with the meal though the Prinzregent has a nice wine list available. For dessert, which I usually do not have, I had ‘Apfelkuechle’, a kind of apple backed in a doe and seasoned with raisin. After that mighty meal I was exhausted and went to bed early.

The pasta

The very next day I came back to enjoy some more of the delicious food at the Prinzregent. Unfortunately, I did not order the roasted pork again (I should have) but went for a vegetarian pasta dish. It was ok but could not match the pork. The side salad was fresh and tasty.

The salad

This time I tried some of the white wines with my food. First I ordered a Riesling from, of course, the Mosel. A ‘2006 Weingut Schmitges dry Riesling from grey slates’ was my choice. It is a young but very enjoyable wine, typical for the region, elegant, displaying aromas of citrus and green apples, a fruity, minerally kind of wine.

For my second glass I choose a Sylvaner from the native lands of my mother, Franconia (the most northerly part of Bavaria). Horst Sauer is one of the icons of the vintners and winemakers from Franconia. His ‘2006 Eschendorfer Lump’ is just divine. The Germans like to describe a wine as “filigran”, which my dictionary says means “lacy” or “filigree”. I do not know if that makes sense to you. Anyway, the wine shows the typical Franconian character, is complex and fine, well balanced, has a good structure and a lingering finish. The prices for the wines were not on the cheap. The fellow at the next table turfed the idea of having a glass of wine after he saw the prices. Well, I was in a festive mood that day and did not bother.

White sausages Bavarian style, isn’t this beautiful?

My last meal at this wonderful place I enjoyed sitting in the large beer garden under very old chestnut trees reminiscing about the wonderful time I had in Bavaria. It was rather a late breakfast than lunch and therefore I ordered the typical Bavarian “white sausages” which is eaten with sweat mustard. A wheat beer matches that perfectly. Sorry you wine folks.

Hotel Prinzregent an der Messe
Riemer Strasse 350
81829 Munich
Te.: +49-89-94539-0

Eating out in Yea, Victoria

June 24, 2008

When we are on our vineyard in Glenburn, Victoria, we love to visit wineries and vineyards in the vicinity but we also love to tour the small country towns, villages and hamlets in rural Victoria. One of our favourite destinations, and just about 32 km northwards of Two Hills Vineyard is the small town of Yea.

Yea is about 100 km north of Melbourne and has a population of about 1000 souls. In 1837 the first settlers arrived in the district – the Shire of Murrindindi – from New South Wales (under the leadership of the explorers William Hovell and Hamilton Hume) and ever since the area along the Goulburn River was settled as farmland. It was originally known as Muddy Creek settlement and later named after Colonel Lacy Yea, who was killed in the Crimean War. Before white settlement, the Woiwurung people of the Kulin nation occupied the area. Unfortunately, they had to bear the brunt of the effects of British settlement policy and were frequently and forcibly resettled and never obtained titles of their native lands.

Today Yea is a pleasant country town and centre for agriculture, forestry and tourism. Needless to say, quite a few wineries are located in the area, most of them members of the Upper Goulburn Winegrowers Association.

There are quite a few eating places to choose from. Depending on your time and your budget, the whole range of country food is available at your finger tips. We usually frequent three places which I would like to introduce to you today briefly.

1. Marmalades

Marmalades is a cafe, tea house, local produce and wine store cum gallery and offers all kinds of local and international food. It has a very pleasant atmosphere. There is a library and a reading groom.


You can park right in front of the place.

The counter

Below you can see some of our most preferred dishes.

Margit, Charlotte and Lucy around the table

2. Elmers

A little bit further down the main road, near the Foodworks supermarket, you will find Elmers, another cafe cum restaurant. At times you need to book because it is so crowded. As the occasional tourist just try you luck.

Behind the counter at Elmers, people are very busy.

3. The Country Club Hotel

Located about between the two, is the Country Club Hotel. It has, as most Australian pubs or hotels, a public bar and a restaurant. There is usually some kind of life music in the restaurant on the weekends. This is a good place for the evenings to go out and/or meet with friends and family.

I somehow do not have pictures of the inside of the Hotel and of the food served. However, let me assure you that I ate there the best Kangaroo steak I had ever consumed in Australia.

Mind you my first Kangaroo meat I tasted during my university years in Bonn. The ‘mensa’, as it is called in German, the university eating place, a ‘cantina’ so to say, had offered it as a novum to its hungry young men and women some 30 years ago.

Also the other dishes on the menu are worth trying. The Country Club Hotel also offers local wines with their meals. So if you are in the vicinity and you want to try solid, modern and traditional country style food please drop in and give a couple of hours of your time to Yea and its eateries. You will be pleasantly surprised. You will also have the opportunity to sample some of the finest locally produced wines from the Upper Goulburn Wine Region since all three restaurants have a variety of locally produced wines on offer.

Friday again – ‘2003 Shaw and Smith Adelaide Hills Shiraz’

June 21, 2008

I was sick for a couple of days. There is a bad virus going around. I also seem to suffer from insomnia these days and its certainly not the European Soccer Championship which is causing the “insomnia”. My head spins in the night. There is so much preparation to do before we can leave for Bangkok.

But Friday night I felt a bit better and why not celebrate the end of the week with a beautiful glass of Australian red wine. I decided to open a bottle of ‘2003 Saw and Smith Adelaide Hills Shiraz’ ( which retails at the Duty free Show at Jalan Fatmawati (Bumi Ayu) for about US$ 30, not cheap indeed.

Here are my tasting notes:

Deep purple red colour in the glass, the wine has vibrant nose of raspberries, black currant, jam and jelly aromas, it is first peppery-spicy is the mouth, as typical for a Shiraz, than displays an intense, creamy, fat and rich aroma of wood berries, it is well balanced and ends with a long and intense finish. The wine has 14% alcohol.

The grapes for this wine were grown in the warmer parts of the Adelaide Hills near Macclesfield. The wine was aged for 12 months in old and new French oak barriques.

PS: At this point in time the Adelaide Crows are leading the Brisbane Lions in the footy game.

Restaurants in Germany – “Alte Fischerhütte” at Schlachtensee, Berlin

June 17, 2008

During my time in Berlin I had the opportunity to dine at “Alte Fischerhütte” at Schlachtensee in Berlin, a beautiful located restaurant at the shores of a small lake very popular with citizen for all kinds of leisure activities.

The restaurant is under the management of Lutter and Wegner, formerly the oldest wine merchant house in Berlin and today a chain restaurant owned by a corporation (

Lutter and Wegner possesses various restaurants and wine shops around the city of Berlin but also outlets in Munich for example.

The “Alte Fischerhütte” offers many facilities. It is great to sit on mild spring and/or summer evenings on the beautiful outside terrace and enjoy the gorgeous surroundings.

The elegant dining facilities are magnificient, so is the wine list and the food.

Because of the rather formal character of the occasion, I could not take photographs of the food on offer.

We (a group of about 50 persons) were served a set dinner consisting of a three course meal: an entrée – green asparagus soup with scrimps – a main course – veal steak with asparagus, sauce Hollandaise and potatoes – and a dessert – fresh strawberries with vanilla ice cream. The quality of the food was excellent, and the month of May is asparagus season, nothing better on offer than this delicious vegetable.

As an aperitif we had a ‘Lutter and Wegner Riesling sparkling wine, extra dry’. Two wines, a white and a red, were on offer with the meal. The white consisted of a ‘2006 Schloss Vollrads dry Riesling’ from the Rheingau and the red was a ‘2006 Jean Stodden, Pinot Noir’ from the Ahr. Both producers have a long tradition in producing excellent wines, Schloss Vollrads for its Rieslings ( and Jean Stodden for its Pinot Noir ( The wines matched the food extremely well. I loved the crispness of the Riesling, its intensive citrus notes, the well balanced acids and the beautiful finish. The Pinot Noir (13% vol, residual sugar 2.3 g/l) was also an excellent wine with an aroma of cherries and red berries, great structure and a long finish. I stayed with this wines longer than I should have, I guess. What a great selection that was.

The dinner was utterly enjoyable. I was able to take a quick shot of the Riesling in my glass. Isn’t it beautiful, this fresh, light colour promises just the best German Riesling has to offer. I let any other Riesling wine “get warm along the roadside”, as we say, for the German stuff (ok, its exaggerated, I know. I might make an exception for some Alsation and some Austrian Rieslings). It was a splendid evening and I highly recommend a visit to “Alte Fischerhütte”.

Alte Fischerhütte am Schlachtensee
Fischerhüttenstrasse 136
D-14136 Berlin
Te.: +49-30-80498310

Beautiful Bavaria

June 14, 2008

I had the great chance to spend a weekend in Munich, the capital city of the state of Bavaria. The weather was splendid; it was the first weekend of June. Of course I had some to work but fortunately there were a couple of hours which I used to explore the surroundings. I just walked through the city and enjoyed the cheerful atmosphere. Of course I had also food and drinks in mind.

People over people in the English garden in Munich

I ended up in the “English garden”, as it is called, a large park in the heart of the city where everybody seemed to converge on a Sunday afternoon. I asked two nice ladies for the way to the next beer garden (show me the way to the next whiskey bar) and they pointed me to the beer garden at the Chinese pagoda.

The Chinese pagoda beer garden

Unfortunately my small camera could not capture the atmosphere there. There were lots of people as well. Numerous stalls sold all kinds of Bavarian food and drinks, mostly beer in big and super big mugs or beer based mixed drinks. For instance one could order a “Russian” which is a mix of wheat beer with white lemonade, a nice drink to quench your thirst and thats what I did. There were horse carts, people on bicycles, and children on skate boards. There were street musicians along the wayside, larger and smaller groups of tourist and day visitors from all over the world. Here and there one could spot the odd local Bavarian, men dressed in the traditional ‘Lederhosen’ (leather pants) and women were dressed in elaborate ‘Dirndl’ outfits.

Bavarian folk music presented by a brass band in traditional leather pants

Munich is not exactly known as a wine growing region. Helas, there was also a part of the garden where a vintner from Franconia offered his wares, in this case delicious wines from this northerly part of Bavaria. “My heart jumped in my chest”, as we Germans say. here I had the opportunity to be regaled by the very wine of my mothers homeland.

The vintner was Roman Sauer and his family from Nordheim in Franconia. They were very friendly and cheerful. For my next visit to Franconia I should schedule a tasting!

I first tried a Sylvaner (fresh and dry), then I moved on to a Riesling (crisp, citrus and apple aromas) and the last wine I tasted was a red wine (see the picture). Well, and now I face a memory lapse. Moreover, I cannot find my notes. I do not remember what it was. The colour is a deep and beautiful red. It should be a Pinot Noir but it could have been something more “exotic”. Needless to say the wines were all well made and delicious.

I would have tasted the rest of Roman Sauer’s wines on offer but that was just too difficult in the heat. The sun was shining on me and the three large glasses of wine had their own effect. The Bavarian music was entertaining, the beer garden visitors were loud and cheerful, and somehow I made my way back to the small hotel in Munich-Riem.

Below the flyer I collected which depicts Roman Sauer and his family. There was not much opportunity for a chat because the garden was so buy, guests coming and going. Unfortunately, I could not find a webpage of the Sauer Estate and learn more about his vineyard, wine making, etc.

Weingut Roman Sauer
Raiffeisenstrasse 11
D-97334 Nordheim
Tel.: +49-9381-9691

Drowning in wine?

June 14, 2008

In todays Daily Wine news“, I found an article describing the recent changes in the Australian wine industry.

It starts with saying that “between 1997 and 1999 an unprecedented 40,000 hectares of grapevines were thrust into the soil across the nation”. Uff, I am one of those lunatics who put in vines during that time. Only a little, though, 3.5 ha to be precise. Now it (the land, our land) contributes as Two Hills Vineyard to the grape heap and/or wine lake. The increase in area under vines led to a 40% increase in output. Such growth was never seen in the history of the Australian wine industry before.

Two Hills Vineyard with the two hills in the background

Well, but I am actually exaggerating. There is no wine glut any more one could argue. Although it was not easy to find a market for our fruit, the very fact that there was fruit in abundance forced us to add value to the operation, e.i. make wine and sell it in Germany. We have survived so far. Of the last 8 vintages, two were to our full satisfaction, and the trend is positive. There is reason for optimism.

We are mainly growers and sell most of our fruit. The remaining part is turned into wine, mostly our Merlot grapes fall into this category. It allows me breathing space. I do not need to sell as fast as possible but rather on a pace we can stomach.

In the good old days growers had long-term contracts with wineries. Paradise has been lost ever since and the “spot market” is a true hassle. Some wineries are not relay reliable partners and it takes a while to sort out the ‘jewels’ from the ‘chaff’. That is costly for small vineyards. To run after small amounts of money and unpaid bills can be a hazard and it is a hassle. But some wineries treat their growers well. I know it from our friend Steve Sadlier, viticulturist (who tends our small property) and supplier of prime fruit to Yering Station in the Yarra Valley/Victoria.

Good to learn from the Daily Wine News article that the grower-producer relationship is about to change in response to the international market place and the flexibility required there. If that relationship, one of asymmetry in the past, would be more balanced, what a good news. Last vintage we had many cases of wineries retracting from earlier price offers. When they realised that the expected shortage of grapes was not to come and that they got sufficient fruit, they lowered fruit prices.

Another trend the Daily Wine News detected is that big companies shift away from developing their own vineyards. Well in the mid 1990s when the growers had no problem with selling any amount of fruit, wineries wanted to be on the save side and therefore invested in the establishments of their own vineyards. This is not only expensive, it also prevents the wineries from investing in other aspects of their business, for instance cellar technology, etc.. Some large wineries, it is said, rely on about 25-30% of their own vineyards, the bulk of their fruit intake is bought from growers.

Another welcome trend is that the industry is moving away from cheap fruit from warm and irrigated wine regions. That sounds nice to a small vintner from a cool climate region (the Upper Goulburn Wine Region). The rising water costs have hit growers hard and the change of demand does the rest: turn this land to other crops, maybe water saving food crops. The rising worldwide demand for food might be the incentive needed for that tectonic shift.

However, for small vineyards the development of boutique style wines and their own labels is a sine qua non for survival. And survive we will. Cheers