To be or not to be – a wine blogger !

September 30, 2008

I am a wine blogger since almost two years and I have seen and visited many blogs on wine and food, wine tastings, viticulture and wine-making. Some of these blogs I frequent often, others, only from time to time. It is always informative and I learned many things about the wine industry and how people think and feel about wine.

The romantics view of wine blogging: A glass of White Porto from Quinta do Castelinho in the Douro wine region, Portugal

Last night was another one of those nights when I could not sleep and so I started to surf the internet’s wine websites and blogs. I was reminded what a terrific world is out there. Goodness me, how interesting this is. I could not stop looking around. Amazing what I found. The wine and food bloggers come in many types, colours, shapes, characters, personalities, professions, etc.

Some are


and others are


some are

expert connoisseurs

others are

wild enthusiasts

some are

profit oriented businesses and wine journalists

others, however, are

enthusiastic hobby writers

some are

cellar door and wine distributors

others are

private individuals and consumers

some of them are

sophisticated, polished urbane wine freaks

others are

rural folks (like me), vintners and wine makers

some write

all alone (like me)


work in teams and thereby share the burden to produce content and attempt to avoid boredom.

Some do it for money, most do it to have fun. It goes without saying that some, while doing it for money, have fun as well.

The reality of the modern blogger.

Let me share with you some of my findings and conclusions.

First, I felt pretty small and amateurish, technically as well as subject matter wise. There are so many knowledgeable people out there, amazing.

My own blog which I tend with loving care since January 2007 is a rather simple affair. Out there in cyberspace there are sites with podcasts, with videos, with music, with slide shows, presentations, breathtaking links and so on. Exciting stuff.

I have only stories and some pictures.

Second, the world of wine bloggers is pretty dynamic. Moreover, they seems to lead interesting lives.

Third, wine bloggers network quite a bit. Last year I followed the German wine bloggers workshop at an important wine expo (I forgot which one).

At the end of August the European Wine Blogger Conference ( was held in Spain (in Logrono!).

The American blogger community will follow suit in October in Sonoma County in California ( The participants list is very impressive. What a large community there is.

German wine bloggers conduct regularly the so called “wine rally”, American wine bloggers have a format called “Wine Blogging Wednesday”. Both formats are used to share interesting stories about a given wine theme and publish them in a co-ordinated way. The Americans have even established a website for the purpose (

As with music and films wine bloggers are rated in “top” …. something. For instance the top 100 and other lists of top bloggers, either rated by links and/or traffic or after voting by users.

I found such a list from June this year. And can you imagine the top 100 is lead by a German wine blogger (Dr. Achim Becker of Wineterminator). The second blogger gets almost only a third of the top one’s votes. Wine Library TV (Gary Vaynerchuk) ranks only in 5th position. No. 6 is another German (Mario Scheuermann and his Planet Bordeaux) who ranks in 10th position with another blog (drink tank).

I suggest you explore this cyberworld yourself. And do not forget to visit wineries and vineyards from time to time. the real stuff.

From North to South

September 28, 2008

Pinot Noir grapes at the Ahr.

It’s vintage time in my native Germany. Reports I am reading about the harvest conditions seem to indicate that everything is going well. Also my German wine blogger colleagues seem to be content.

Down under in Victoria, we have springtime. Spring is usually Victoria’s wettest season. However, weather reports indicate that this September will be one with the lowest precipitation in history of Victoria.

Melbourne recorded only 16 mm of rain in September, the lowest since recording began in 1855. The long-term average is about 59 mm. Also average day temperature was well above the long-term average (19 instaed of 17 degrees celsius) which make September 2008 the warmest September since 2001. The same trend could be observed regarding night temperatures.

Reservoirs around the state are at a record low as well. That’s no good news for vintners and grape growers.

I wonder how full our two dams at Two Hills Vineyard are. So far we had always had sufficient water to bridge the 4-6 weeks of high summer. Last year we had hoped that the draught would be finally broken. That seems not to be the case.

But as always, we hope for a good harvest.

Lake Eildon low on water (only 23% of capacity, 09/2008)

The Pearl of the Orient

September 27, 2008

No, I am not writing about wine this time. But you might ask ‘What is the pearl of the orient’ if not a wine? Well, read this.

“Intramuros” (freely translated as ‘within the walls’) is the title of the walk through old Manila City which I joined last Sunday. It should turn out to be the most amazing city tour I ever participated in in my life.

Carlos Celdran, the man who guided us through old Manila (, is the most interesting tour guide I have met. Before writing this I visited his blog and recommend you to logging on to it. There are many reviews about the Intramuros walk as well. So google the man it will reward you with more information than I can give. Walk this way please.

About 60 people had showed up at the entrance of Fort Santiago to learn more about the history of “The pearl of the Orient” as Manila was called. The normal number is around 25 to 30 people. The showing of that Sunday was just overwhelming. Half of the eager tourists wanting to learn about the history of Manila were Filipinos or better Filipinas, because most of them were female.

Carlos arrived in a black Spanish hat, had a microphone around his neck and a folder in his hands. He invited all the Filipinos to help him with the tour and subsequently involved them in all kinds of questions and answer games.

But starting we did with a joint singing of the Philippine national anthem followed by an explanation of the meaning of various words in the local language (Tagalog). “Nila” from Ma-nila for instance standing for a kind of flowering mangrove which was to be found in the area.

Above you see the entry with the wooden relief of Fort Santiago. The Spanish had taken the city from their Muslim rulers by force which is shown somehow on the relief (I forgot who the slayer is). At that time the city was made entirely of bamboo because no other building material was available.

I cannot repeat here all what was explained to us. Anyway the history of Manila can be read about on the internet and in books. But while following Carlos on our walk, we learned about history, religion, culture, people, the Spanish and the Americans and others who left their traces in this place. We got a glimpse of Jose Rizal, the national hero of the Philippines, generals and politicians crucial for Manila and the Philippines. Walk this way please.

But if you are around, join the tour of Carlos. That’s better than reading and you might have a chance to remember much more because of the vivid, energetic and illustrative style of Carlos. He uses songs, photos, mimic, some acting, all in all great showmanship. And its educational as well; entertaining too I should add.

Here is the group in front of the museum next to St. Augustin church, the only one remaining of the original seven churches in the perimeter of Intramuros. The main entrance of the church is guarded by four Chinese lions. We lit candles in the church which entitled us (novices to churches in the Philippines) to three wishes. Walk this way please.

The painting in the museum depicted the landing of the Spanish among other scenes from colonial times.

In the crypt, we learned about the Japanese occupation, the slaughtering of Manila citizens and the bombing by the Americans that finally destroyed the historic centre.

Carlos is among others promoting the better maintenance, preservation and even the reconstruction of Intramuros as it is part of the core of Philippine civilization.

Carlos in his outfit.

The end of the three hour tour consisted of an explanation of Filipino cuisine. It inspired me so much that I should buy a Philippine cooking book a couple of days later. At the end of the “show”, and I mean the very entertaining city walk, Carlos made us all taste “halo-halo” (meaning mix-mix), the traditional iced dessert Filipinos are so fond of. He finally recommended a traditional restaurant to us and sold us some of his maps.

The good-byes were warm, we all left mesmerized. I guess nobody was dissatisfied and nobody minded the price (850 Pesos, half-price for students). I must conclude that Carlos changed my perception of Manila and the Philippines quite a bit. I have less prejudices now and I am very appreciative of the island nation. I will visit again and I might go on to another walk with Carlos Celdran.
Walk this way please.

How to contact:
The Blog and Tour Schedule of Carlos Celdran.
A man who is trying to change the way you look at Manila – one step at a time.
Telephone: (02)4844945
Text/Cell:(0920)9092021 or

Restaurants in Jakarta – Anatolia

September 24, 2008

It was our last Saturday night in Jakarta. Everything must come to an end. After 10 years, leaving was not an easy thing. A quiet “last supper” with our friends Liz and Walter was our preferred choice. They invited us to Anatolia, a Turkish restaurant in South Jakarta.

Beautiful tiles depicting among others “grapes”.

I am a lover of Turkish food and so it came as no surprise that we just loved the various dishes which were put in front of us. Good food, good company, good conversations, fun and good wine, that should become the recipe of the evening. And look at some of the food!

Various starter platters.

Unfortunately, I forgot most of the names of the different dishes. The atmosphere in the restaurant was lively. We were entertained by a dancer and modern music from the Middle East.

What did we drink? As so often before, I was given the task of selecting the wine. I could have chosen some Australian reds but could not resist to order something new, something I had never heard of: a Turkish wine. Have you ever heard about Yakut (not not the thin Japanese milk-yoghurt drink, which is written with an l before the t)?

‘Yakut Kavaklidere’ was written on the bottle. Fortunately the back label was in Turkish. I just could not resist ordering the bottle and some more were to follow. The wine was dark red in colour. We were all surprised by its round taste, an intense fruit flavour, a bit of plum and cherries. But it was unlike other wines. I could not identify the grape variety. We all agreed that the wine matched the food very well. Existing prejudices about Turkish wines were quickly transformed into admiration. Despite the fact that this wine was simple (and not expensive) and not at all sophisticated, we just loved it. Thanks Liz and Walter for the wonderful evening.

Are you living in Jakarta and having no plans for Friday night as yet? The choice is clear. Have a meal at Anatolia.


Wine all over the place – a glimpse at Berlin wine shops

September 19, 2008

The wine industry receives confusing signals these days. In Germany and the EU the ban of advertisement for alcohol and alcoholic drinks is in the making. In some media the devastating effects of such regulations are already being discussed. There were also voices in favour of a ban supporting the current regulatory trend which attempts to further restrict our basic human freedoms and violating our rights.

After the bad news, the good one: In recent news the advent of wine distribution through Amazon was hinted at. The start of wine marketing through such a potent internet channel could not be a more distant twin of the current ascetic (fun and joy hating) trend described above, first hitting smokers and now (maybe) the wine lovers. However, history suggests that human freedoms can be curtailed for a short while only. Ultimately we will break free from such patronizing behaviour of the state, because we are all voters and tax payers and as we say in German, ‘where there is a will, there is a way’ (Wo ein Wille ist, da ist ein Weg).

I bring you good news from Berlin. The other day I strolled through the streets near Nollendorf Platz, and discovered to my great surprise a rather large number of wine shops in a rather small area. I randomly took pictures which I present to you below.

Most of the wine shops are specialised, usually carrying wines from one or more regions or a selection of countries. Above a Rioja specialist, below a shop selling mainly French wines.

Some shops try to offer a wider selection, despite being “small”.

Others, as above in Goltz street, offer broad choices.

I even found an Australian wine shop with remarkable decoration.

Others offer Italian wines combined with other shopping and relaxation capabilities.

‘European and overseas wines’, is what the writing says; wow that’s amobitious.

But there are not only very specialised wine shops to be found but also very specialised restaurants. I do not refer to the Habibi Falafel, the Iranian, the Italian, the Turkish, Indian and Spanish restaurants. I found two eating places which were quite special. Many years ago I have dined in a Tibetan restaurant once in Kathmandu. Never before I have seen a Massai restaurant, even when I travelled through Tanzania and Kenia, there were no such eatery in sight. Berlin got it all.

What would you eat in a Buddha House? Answer: Tibetan, Napali and Thai cuisine. Bon appetit.

My tip: visit Berlin, it is such a fabulous place to explore and to discover.

The Gourmet Garage, Jakarta III – Jolly Farewell

September 15, 2008

It was another farewell but one of those were time seems to have stopped. We enjoyed the moment, the pleasure of being together for a memorable meal and we did not think much about parting or not living in the same city again. Any future starts in the present moment, and we were sure we would have lots of it. We were not doubting that we would meet again, as friends do.

Well, were did we go? And who is “we” in the first place? To answer the first question, we met at the Gourmet Garage in Kemang, Jakarta, a very fashionable place. It was also easy to reach for all of us.

The inside of the Gourmet Garage in Jakarta with various shops on the ground floor and the restaurants upstairs.

The answer to the second question is, there were the five of us: Flo (Florian) and Nelly, Jasmin, Margit and me.

Margit, Florian, Nelly and Jasmin

The three had invited us to spend our last Friday night in Jakarta among friends. They talked us into ordering the four-course Japanese meal. Depending on the day, the chef changes the composition of the dishes of the four courses. Surprise, surprise but since we like adventures, we were eager to wait for things to come. Flo and Nelly ordered other dishes from the Japanese menu. There are two more menus to choose from at Gourmet Garage, a Western menu and an Indonesian menu.

Flo started with an oyster.

The starters for the four-course menu were beautifully decorated.

So were other dishes from the menu.

This soup was just delicious.

The miso soup came with the four-course meal.

This was part of Nelly’s dish.

And Flo had a similarly decorated meat dish.

This is one of the desserts we had.

In short, the food was delicious. According to some expat Japanese, Gourmet Garage offers the best Japanese food in town.

You might like to know what wine we drank. Nothing special, I can tell you. Well, we opted for a simple, red wine from Australia. With ‘Penfolds Rawson’s Retreat Shiraz-Cabernet’ you cannot go wrong if you need a wine for every day which is easy to understand and to drink. Gourmet Garage prices these wines very reasonably. The choice was a compromise, of course, but I did not fancy the whites from the wine list. A Mosel or Saar Riesling would have been my preferred choice.

But we had a great time and that was what mattered most. Farewell gifts changed hands (I do not reveal what they were) and at about midnight we parted company as on many other occasions before. See you guys in Bangkok, or on our farm in Glenburn. As you know, you are always welcome; ‘sampai jumpah’ as we say in Indonesia.

I am crazy for vineyard pictures….

September 14, 2008

I love to look at vineyard pictures and do not grow tired of looking at them. I do not know where this comes from. It has certainly also to do with our own vineyard, for sure. When I am in Glenburn I walk my vineyard every day, from left to right, from right to left, from top to bottom and the other way, in the evenings and mornings, even late at night (actually I have to admit that after a rather joyful night, I drove around the vineyard in my old Mazda car, listening to loud music, windows wide open).

Two Hills Vineyard in Glenburn, Victoria, picture taken from the east by Nelly A. Kemur-Witt, December 2007

In the picture above you can see my treasure: Two Hills Vineyard in Glenburn, Victoria. First comes Merlot, then Pinot Noir, then Sauvignon Blanc, and to the left you can see the posts for the Chardonnay block, all in all 4 ha under vines.

Two Pinot Noir rows (photo by Nelly A. Kemur-Witt)

Pinot Noir fruit (photo by Nelly A. Kemur-Witt)

On some of the wine and vintner blogs and web pages which I regularly visit, there are stunning pictures of vines, vineyards, grapes, and nature in general. I would like to introduce to you a small selection of only three blogs you should visit and browse through their photo collections (and of course also their stories).

I start with the blog of Iris and her Weingut Lisson in southern France. The Winery (Weingut) has also a web page ( in three languages including English, but I usually visit Iris’s personal blog where she tells interesting stories (in words and pictures). The language is German. She also bloggs in French. I love the slide shows and the photo albums.

The second blog is from Germany posted by the owners of the Weingut Steffens-Kess in Reil, Mosel. Also in this case there is a proper website for the winery (, and a blog called “Bildergeschichten aus dem Weingut Steffens-Kess” (in English: Stories in pictures from the Steffens-Kess Estate). Again, great pictures around vineyards and vines are to be found.

The third blog with great photos comes from California, USA. It is the Tablas Creek Vineyard blog. The blog won the American Wine Blog Awards in the winery category in 2008. Since Tablas Creek specialises in Rhone varieties you can find wonderful photos of Mourvedre, Roussanne and Grenache among others.

All three blogs have more than nice vineyard photos. They are delightful to read and contain heaps of useful information about the wine industry, the ecology and the every-day-life of people who’s hearts are buried deep in their respective vineyards and wineries.

If you got nothing to do right now, click a bit around and discover exciting new worlds.

Vinho Verde – Portuguese delight

September 11, 2008

Vinho Verde wines are unique among the blended white wines of Portugal (and the world) attempting to harmonize delicate aromas and flavours. The name, Vinho Verde, is somehow misleading. Vinho Verde wines are not made of “unripe” grapes as some people say, but are rather “young” wines in contrast to “aged” wines. There are red and white Vinho Verde wines available. The red ones are often a challenge to our culturally determined palates. During my recent trip to Porto, Portugal I had ample opportunity to taste and explore the wines of Northern Portugal. Among them the famous Vinho Verde wines of the Minho wine region.

It is not easy to find a “pure”, varietal wine in the Minho wine region of Portugal. Traditionally Vinho Verde is a blend consisting of several grape varieties ( such as Alvarinho, Arinto, Azal, Avesso, Trajadura and Loureiro.

However, with a bit of luck I found some bottles in the café next to the cathedral in Amarante, a small town at the (Rio) Tamega river, about 50 km east of Porto. The wines came from Quinta da Lixa (, a well known producer located in the village of Vila da Lixa about 20 minutes northwest of Amarante.

From left to right: 2007 Quinta da Lixa Loureiro, Alvarinho and Trajadura

The tasting notes for the three wines you can find on the websites which I mentioned above. Average production for the three varieties at Quinta da Lixa is bout 7 tons per hectare. The wines are low in alcohol (10 to 11.5%) and show an acidity of about 6.5 g/l.

The Trajadura grape has, in contrast to Alvarinho and Loureiro, a rather plush character and is less acidic than the other two varieties. It is often used to soften the blended Vinho Verde wines.

The Loureiro grape provides the fragrant character of the blended Vinho Verde wines. The single varietal wine of Quinta da Lixa which I tasted was slightly “sparkling” and very aromatic (more aromatic than the other two single varietal wines of Quinta da Lixa). All three wines showed citrus, lime and green apple aromas. They were very fresh and clean, served at the right temperature they are wonderful summer wines. Earlier vintages of Quinta da Lixa Loureiro and Trajadura received 89 and 90 points by some tasters. I loved them as single varietals as well as in the blended incarnation.

Wine tasting at Van Volxem Estate in Wiltingen, Saar

September 8, 2008

In April this year, my friend Heinz and I, we had visited the Van Volxem Winery ( in Wiltingen, Saar for the first time. Unfortunately, all wines were sold out then. Dominik Völk, the wine maker, served us a delicious coffee instead and we were invited to visit again in the month of July when part of the new vintage would be released.

Steep slopes for maximum exposure to the sun at the Saar

And that’s what we did. This time I brought my whole family (mother, wife, children). Our appointment was at 14 h in the afternoon on a rainy summers day. Ms. Niewodniczanski, the wife of the owner Roman Niewodniczanski, served us six newly released wines, all of which were excellent representatives of the Saar region. Van Volxem calls these wines ‘classic dry wines’, though residual sugar in Van Volxem Riesling wines may go up to 9 g./l.. For Franconian vintners, for instance, 7.5 g./l. is the agreed maximum. Van Volxem, however, believes that the higher residual sugar content contributes to the overall harmony of its wines. The only exception to the dry wines we tasted was a semi-dry ‘2007 Rotschiefer Riesling Kabinett’.

Contemplating about Riesling wines with Ms. Niewodniczanski

Five of the six were Riesling wines, one was a Pinot Blanc. The following list shows the six wines:

– ‘2007 Weissburgunder’ (Pinot Blanc), 9.90 Euro/0.75 l
– ‘2007 Schiefer Riesling’ (“slate” Riesling), 8.60 Euro/0.75 l
– ‘2007 Saar Riesling’, 9.80 Euro/0.75 l
– ‘2007 Wiltinger Braunefels Riesling’ (a single location/vineyard wine), 12.50 Euro/0.75 l
– ‘2007 Alte Reben Riesling’ (from old vines), 13.80 Euro/0.75 l
– ‘2007 Rotschiefer Riesling Kabinett (red slate), semi-dry, 9.90 Euro/0.75 l

We liked all of them but some more than others. Heinz bought some bottles of Saar Riesling and the semi-dry Rotschieder Riesling Kabinett. Apart from Saar Riesling I bought some bottles of ‘Alte Reben’ (old vines).

The Van Volxem tasting room is a wonderful place, with old wooden furniture and beautiful old maps on the walls.

The estate will release the Grand Cru wines later this summer. We were to early to taste them.

Farewell, but we will come back (my daughters Lucy and Charlotte with the vintner’s wife).

If you are interested in German Riesling, you have to visit the Saar region. Wiltingen is a must, so is Van Volxem Estate. Have fun tasting the best German Riesling has to offer.

Van Volxem Estate
Dehenstr. 2
54459 Wiltingen, Saar
Te.: +49-6501-16510

What is “rustic”?

September 6, 2008

In yesterdays International Herald Tribune, I stumbled across an article by Eric Asimov on a Côtes du Rhône wine tasting. In this context the author contemplated the use of the word “rustic” and its meaning in describing wine styles. Eric rightly pointed out that “rustic” means different things to different people which in the end leads to quite a degree of confusion.

Does “rustic” mean “rough” and “simple” as some users imply thereby giving the term a negative connotation? Or is it meant positively in admiration for wines that show true character of a regional nature, wines that cannot come from elsewhere but this one place, made under the specific conditions pertinent to the location. Whatever the intended meaning, one might better understand the complexity of the term if contrasting it with the opposite meaning.

For “rough” and “simple” one could think of “elegant” or “refined” and “complex”, “sophisticated” maybe “urbane”. And for “regional character” the opposite might be “national”, “placeless”, “cosmopolitan”, “pan-something”. Some of my vintner-winemaker friends use another term to describe the opposite of “regional character” wines. They call it “industrial” wines often faultless products, technically well made but lacking in “character”. In this case a “hand made” wine is contrasted with a “technical” product.

Another aspect of an “industrial” wine is the consistency of the taste. One knows what to expect, its predictable. In contrast we have the small single vineyard with the variability of season where you “drink” the terroir, the site and its climate of that particular year. Whereas the former wines are for the “layperson” and the “conservative” who does not want to make a “mistake” in the choice of the wine, the latter are for the “connoisseur” and the adventurer.

We as small and/or boutique vintners want of course to make “faultless” wines but at the same time our main selling point possibly lies in our “fault lines”, our uniqueness, our authenticity, our character, our variability, our unpredictability. The “roughness” and “simplicity” of our artisan efforts in producing great wines of character becomes the backbone of our art of wine-making and as long as there are enough adventurers out there, our life and work will be interesting and rewarding.

Whatever it is, the wine I had, was just delicious (July 2008 in Madrid)