Wild pig from Schoden, Saar

January 31, 2009


The village of Schoden (left) at the Saar River

The Saar is one of my favourite tributaries of the Mosel river. I love its wines, the landscape, the villages and the people. In early December I was roaming the region again, and visited Schoden, a small village near Wiltingen, where my friend Heinz and his mates have rented a hunting territory for many years.


Herrenberg, one of the best terroirs in Schoden, left the Saar river

There is also a vineyard and boutique winery called Herrenberg which is owned and operated by Claudia and Manfred Loch. The vineyard above belongs to them. Their wines are hand crafted and award winning.


The vines are ready for pruning, single vines where two canes are tied down


A young wild boar killed in early December offering good quality game

The forest along the Saar are inhabited by various wild animals. Particularly numerous and very difficult to hunt down are wild pigs. Wild pigs inflict huge damages to fields, orchards, paddocks and from time to time even on vineyards. But if a young pig has been successfully killed, the meat makes a wonderful lunch or dinner or both.


Liver and kidneys of the wild pig above

Here is a wild pig goulash recipe:
-500 to 800 gr. of wild pig meat
-some bacon
-some oil
-tomato paste
-150 ml red wine
-350 ml of extract from boiling game
-sour cream
-laurel, tyme and juniper berries
-salt and pepper.

If you want to enjoy it with mushrooms, you could add a selection of various wild forest mushrooms, preferably “funghi porcini” (Steinpilze in German). I just love them; they are great with wild pig.

The cooking process is like any other goulash. Add the sour cream at the end so that the goulash is not too watery.

My tip: buy the wild pig meat from the hunter if you can and make sure the animal was “not too old” (buy meat from year-old animals). This is easy if you live in Germany.

As the pairing with wine is concerned, I suggest a good red (14% alcohol), preferably a Malbec from Argentina or a Tempranilo from Spain or a Barolo from Italy. A GMT from Australia, maybe from McLaren Vale, would also do. Of course you could also have a Saar Riesling with it. From Schoden I recommend a Riesling from the Loch family of Herrenberg.

Jean-Paul’s Vineyard, Yea

January 30, 2009

Recently I had the opportunity to taste wines from Jean-Paul’s Vineyard in Yea, Victoria, a boutique vineyard owned and operated by Will de Castella. The de Castella philosophy is, “it’s all about the fruit”. The vineyard is organic/biodynamic certified. Will produces hand crafted, award winning wines of excellent quality. Jean-Paul’s Vineyard also recently joined our association, the Upper Goulburn Winegrowers Association.


‘2006 Jean-Paul’s Vineyard Shiraz’

I bought a bottle of ‘2006 Jean-Paul’s Shiraz’ and a bottle of ‘2004 Jean-Paul’s Bold Colonial Red’ from the Yea super market. Recently the ‘2005 vintage Shiraz’ was awarded 94 and the ‘2005 Bold Colonial Red’ 88 points by James Halliday. I guess that the different vintages might not have been significant as regards the quality of the wine. Who can taste a one or two point difference anyway.

Both wines were consumed together with friends over hearty Australian country meals. To say it from the outset, I loved both wines; they were delicious. Since I am more of a Shiraz than a CabSav drinker, I personally prefer the Shiraz.

If you are in the vicinity of Yea, grab some bottles of these wines, it’s a bargain. I also recommend to visit the Jean-Paul’s Vineyard website and order from there directly.


‘2004 Jean-Paul’s Vineyard Bold Colonial Red’

By the way: Will de Castella’s great grandfather was Hubert de Castella, the pioneer of the wine industry in the Yarra Valley establishing vineyards such as St Hubert’s near Yarra Glen.

Will and his wife Heather live since 1988 near Yea and produce small quantities of fruit from which distinct wines are made which won accolades for their outstanding quality.

Jean-Paul’s Vineyard
Post: RMB 6173
Phone: 03 57972235
Email: william@jeanpaulsvineyard.com.au

Impressions from Two Hills Road, Glenburn

January 28, 2009


Road sign at the turn-off from the Melba Highway

This week a blistering heat wave is going through Victoria, the worst in the last 100 years. Temperatures will be as high as 40 to 42 degrees Celsius. The grapes are at risk to shrivel and loose bunch weight, and many of the vines will suffer, but hopefully we will not loose the fruit.


Vineyard with the two hills in the background

Just two weeks ago, the grass in some paddocks was still green and we experienced one of the coldest Christmas in the last five years.


The Chardonnay block needs slashing but the vines look good.


The one year old Chardonnay vines look very healthy


Beautiful hay

Our neighbour Hilary at the end of Two Hills Road had the best hay ever and harvested 600 bales.

The native plants around the house flowered beyond belief.




And the people were merry and in a celebratory mood.


Tables are set for food and drink


Lucy, Michael, Helen, Charlotte and Margit

Hope you join us one day. Cheers

Auld Lang Syne – Die Toten Hosen

January 27, 2009

I found on the internet a very different version of the Robert Burns song “Auld Lang Syne”. It is from a German rock band called: “Die Toten Hosen” which translates into English as: “the dead trousers”.

Enjoy. Cheers

PS: Any type of wine can be paired with this song. Even non-wine alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks might do.

The Poet’s Birthday – Burn’s Supper in Bangkok

January 26, 2009


Robert Burns, the portrait at the entrance of the hall

About 100 diners, mostly Scots and their friends, had gathered in the Amari Watergate Hotel in Bangkok to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns, Scotlands national bard and its most famous poet. Every year thousands of Scots people worldwide celebrate the life of this great man. This year’s 250th celebration was of course very special.

That was also true in Thailand. The Bangkok St. Andrew’s Society and its chieftain, John McTaggert, had invited to an evening of celebration, and a celebration it was. Our friend Rab Thomas had gathered a group of friends and we were the lucky ones to join in.


“250 years in ice”

The members of the Bangkok St. Andrew’s Society had ample opportunity to show their talents. At past Burn’s Suppers in Jakarta, a Robert Burns impersonator was invited. Though his presentation of the poems and hymns was very professional, it somehow deterred the members of the local society to take the recitations on to themselves.


Mike Brooks did the piping

There is obviously no shortage of talent in Bangkok. The Selkirk Grace was spoken by Willie Christie. When the haggis was presented and stirred, Mike Brooks spoke the address to the haggis. Duncan Niven gave ‘the Immortal Memory’, John McTaggert the ‘toast to the Lassies’, and Louise Blackwood ‘the Lassies Response’. All the speeches were presented in a very witty, pithy, funny, sardonic and enthusiastic way. It was such a pleasure to listen to them.

Also the haggis with tatties and neeps was very good. I enjoyed again the wonderful Scottish cheeses. The wine came from Australia and was quite decent. It belonged to the, what I call, “industrial wine” category. There is no harm in drinking it, just the brand name never sticks.


After dinner we went all outside to bid farewell to the British Ambassador, made a circle, held hands and sang together “Auld Lang Syne” („old long since“). I recognized the song immediately, because its German version (“Nehmt Abschied Brueder”/ farewell brothers) is very well known in my native lands.

I vividly remember when as a boy I first heard the song from our kitchen window. A group of pilgrims had gathered in front of our house in a circle and sang “farewell brothers”, before boarding their buses to take them home.

When we held hands in Bangkok and sang Burn’s song, the magic also worked on us. It is a powerful song, even in German, though the German text is quite different from the English or the Scottish version. What I did not know is that the song was written by Robert Burns. In life learning never ends.

When Robert Burns died at the tender age of 37 in 1796 he left behind 13 children from 5 women. That’s quite an achievement. Obviously Burns loved women and ‘love’ was one of his favourite themes. This is why I present to you Eddie Reader and her version of “My love is like a red red rose”.

Cheers to Robert Burns. See you next year at the Burn’s Supper.

Pink Moscato

January 24, 2009


What has become a real fashion in recent years in Australia is drinking Pink Moscato. I admit from the outset that this is not my wine. However, in the summer heat of an Australian Christmas, Pink Moscato is a well sought after, low alcohol (6-7%), refreshing and for some addictive drink.

In the Yarra Valley, Giant Steps Vignerons and Innocent Bystander Winemakers may have been the first to respond to this fashion trend with a vengeance. It’s ‘2008 Innocent Bystander Pink Moscato’ (12 A$ for a 375 ml bottle!) is made in the Moscato style of northern Italy. The grapes (Gordo Muscat and Muscatel/Black Muscat) come from Swan Hill and Glenrowan wine regions respectively. The pink colour is also different from other such wines. Some describe it as “nipple pink” others as “rose pink”.

We had a different Pink Muscato wine and drank a bottle of Evans and Tate ‘2008 Classic Pink Moscato’ from the Margaret River in Western Australia. The brand belongs to the McWilliams wine empire, one of the biggest family-owned wine businesses in Australia.

The grape base of this wine is completely different from the Innocent Bystander’s. Its a mixture of 49% Sauvignon Blanc, 30% Shiraz, 15% Canada Muscat and 6% Chardonnay. The wine has 6.5% alcohol and displays a very fruity character (tropical fruits such as guava, pineapple and passion fruit). The colour of the Evans and Tate Moscato is more like a rose.


I personally prefer a “real” wine, even in the summer heat and would rather go for a true cool climate region produced Sauvignon Blanc, alternatively a Pinot Blanc or Pinot Gris would be my preferred choices.

Riesling from the Upper Goulburn

January 23, 2009


‘2005 Don’t Tell Dad Riesling’, Murrindindi Vineyards, Upper Goulburn Wine Region

Being a Man from the Mosel I love Mosel Riesling wines and find it hard at times to appreciate other styles of Rieslings. Australia produces out standing Riesling wines. Most of them are of the Alsatian style, they are thick bodied and coat the palate. Moreover, petrol is the dominant nose when you sniff it. Although finding petroleum notes is a common occurrence in aged Riesling wines, it is usually not to be found in young wines coming from the Mosel. And this might be why, though appreciative of those Rieslings from Alsace and Australia, I usually prefer a Mosel Riesling. Here I like the young freshness, the balance between acidity and minerality, the zest, and the exuberance.

But in my meandering search for new experiences, I always give Australian Rieslings a go, often reluctant I admit. The best Australian Rieslings come from Eden Valley and Clare Valley in South Australia.

In his 2009 edition of ‘The Australian Wine’, Jeremy Oliver, a famous Australian wine writer, ranks a Riesling from Victoria, the ‘2007 Seppelt Drumborg’ from Henty (98 points) as the best for the year. Henty, a little known wine region outside Australia, is located in South Western Victoria near the border to South Australia, between Hamilton and Portland. Henty has about 25 vineyards including 12 wineries. The nine Rieslings which follow in the rankings of Jeremy Oliver all come from Eden (4) and Clare (5).

The more I was pleased when James Halliday recently ranked a Riesling from our own wine region, the Upper Goulburn Wine Region, quite highly and gave 87 points to the ‘2006 Barwite Upper Goulburn Riesling’.

While browsing the shelves of the supermarket in Yea , I bought the above bottle of the ‘2005 Don’t Tell Dad Riesling’ from Murrindindi Vineyards, also a member of our wine growers association. Wines from Murrindindi Vineyards have won accolades of praise by wine critics and judges. To cite James Halliday again, he awarded the ‘2006 Murrindindi Don’t Tell Dad Shiraz’ 89 points, the ‘2006 Murrindindi Chardonnay’ 88 and the ‘2005 Murrindindi Family Reserve Cabernet’ 88. The 2005 Riesling even got 89 points.

I brought the above bottle to a dinner with my friends Hillary (from the end of our street), Beth and Richard and was amazed. The petroleum note was not as dominant as with some Rieslings, the wine has elegance and length which I liked. The ‘2005 Don’t Tell Dad Riesling’ retails for about 15 A$ and is a bargain. Check it out. I will drink it again when back in Glenburn.

PS: The Top 10 Australian Riesling wines according to Jeremy Oliver 2009:

1. 2007 Seppelt Drumborg, Henty, 98
2. 2007 Mountadam, Eden Valley, 96
3. 2003 Peter Lehman Reserve, Eden Valley, 96
4. 2005 Leasingham Classic Clare, Clare Valley, 96
5. 2002 Pewsey Vale Vineyard, Eden Valley, 96
6. 2007 Grosset Polish Hill, Clare Valley, 96
7. Kilikanoon Mort’s Reserve, Clare Valley, 95
8. 2005 Taylors St. Andrews, Clare Valley, 95
9. 2007 Grosset Springvale, Clare Valley, 95
10. 2008 Leo Buring Leonay DW L17, High Eden, 95

Restaurant Review: Libertine in Melbourne

January 22, 2009


During the four weeks in Glenburn, Victoria I made it to the big city (= Melbourne) only once. My friend Tony Arthur had organised a lunch with Joe and Helen and myself at “Libertine”, a French restaurant in North Melbourne.

When Tony mentioned the name of the place we were supposed to meet in town over the phone, I was already enthralled. For a liberal like me, “libertine” augured well, promising freedom of French provenance.


The restaurant is tucked away between various other entrances and not easily glimpsed. I came in my pick-up truck from the countryside and had to circle the place.

The dining area downstairs is rather small but I understand they have more facilities upstairs. When I arrived at 12:30 sharp, my friends had already assembled. Most tables were still empty but that would change very quickly. The place was packed just a little later.

Tony, Helen and Joe had been travelling together in France. As a native of Trier, Mosel, just a few kilometres from France I am not exactly a stranger to French culture and cuisine and consider myself a “francophile”.

We started with aperitifs. I was introduced to a Floc de Gascogne. Based on a XVI century local recipe, this is a fortified sweet wine, a blend so to say, between fresh grape juice (2/3) and Armagnac (1/3). It is kept for about 10 months in the cellar. The aromas it displays are almond, jasmine, roses and honey. The alcohol content of the drink varies between 16 and 18%.

Also the second aperitif, a Pommeau de Normandie was a “mistelle”, in this case a mixture of apple juice with Calvados. It’s usually aged in oak barrels for about 30 months and contains 17% alcohol. The drink displays aromas of vanilla, caramel and butterscotch flavours.


The Pommeau de Normandie


The Floc de Gascogne

The next two photos introduce the diners. A happy lot they were. We had not met for more than a year. It was easy to lure me down to town from my farm upcountry in the Upper Goulburn to meet up and dwell on the happenings of the past months.


Tony and Joe


Helen and me


My steak

We all ordered the set menue were you have a couple of choices. I opted for the fresh onion soup, followed by a steak. The dessert I choose was a “tarte de pomme”, all very delicious. The service was relaxed but very attentive; the food of an excellent quality and taste for a very reasonable price.

We were also advised on the wines. We went with the house wine, all from bottles, a Roundstone Cabernet Merlot from the Yarra Valley. Helen had a Lis Neris Bianco from Italy. The blokes followed up with a glass of Tempranillo but by that time we were beyond producers and other wine information. I just did not record any of it any more because we were deep in philosophical conversation about love, life and the universe.


The dessert

We had a coffee at the end, bid each other farewell and scattered in all direction with the sincere promise to repeat this as soon as possible but latest at our next visit in Australia.

The Libertine is a great restaurant. If you visit Melbourne you should schedule a meal either lunch or dinner with your friends in this atmospheric little place.

500 Victoria Stret
North Melbourne 3051
Melbourne, Victoria

Sunday slow food: a roast

January 19, 2009

After spending Friday night and the whole of Saturday at the basketball court watching Lucy and Charlotte playing their first inter-school tournament in Bangkok (their team, the British Patana School came second), and a lot of fast plays and fast food, we were in for “slow food” on Sunday.

A traditional Sunday roast of sirloin beef, Yorkshire pudding, green vegetables and some roast potatoes was just the right stuff to make everybody happy.


Potatoes and the roast


The yummy Yorkshire pudding


Assorted green vegetables “vignole”


The red: a bottle of ‘2004 Two Hills Merlot’


Charlotte, the young and successful cook (with hat) and her sister Lucy

The Yorkshire pudding was prepared by my daughter Charlotte. She succeeded with this delicate undertaking; the pudding was delicious. Actually, it was the first Yorkshire pudding I ever tasted in my life.

Needless to say that the wine matched the food perfectly. I just love our own Merlot, especially the 2004 vintage. It’s such an elegant wine, with balanced acids and lots of red fruit character. Fortunately, we discovered some more bottles when inventorying our stocks in January.

Industry outlook: The Australian wine sector in 2009

January 18, 2009


Too many of those

It does not look good for us grape and wine producers here “down under” at the beginning of 2009. Analysts and wine industry experts, among others, are predicting another surplus for the 2009 vintage. The global financial crisis (and not the drought) is the “hammer” going to hit many artisan as well as industrial wine producers. Otherwise the bigger producers would not worry so much in public. Everybody expects the demand for fine wine to be sluggish at best in 2009 and the years to come.

Australia has about 170,000 ha under vines. The total volume of the coming vintage is expected to be around 1.85 million tonnes, about 400 to 500 thousand too much, according to some analysts. Experts at the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation believe that the sector has to shrink by 10, maybe 20 % in order to survive.

Grape growers will be hit particularly hard. Prices for fruit might be as low as 150 to 200 A$ per tonne. This is less than half of cost. The 600 A$/t we received for grapes last year are looking big by these new standards. For many grape growers the making of their own wines and the development of brands and markets are out of reach, and would anyway only be a temporary relief.

The “big producers”, accounting for about 73% of total production in Australia, are most likely to survive. In fact, they have recently made public statements calling for small producers to get out of production and out the way, thereby making room for the survival of the biggest (not the fittest). For instance wineries below an investment of 5 million A$ should close.

Findings from an accounting firm suggest that “most wineries with a sales volume below 10 million A$ (which is about 90% of all producers) are loosing money”. Implying that small producers are not competitive but inefficient and wasteful. Other suggestions call for the forced merger of wineries with less than 5 million A$ turnover per year. Average vineyard size, currently about 20 ha in Australia, should be more like 80 ha.

Well, small, boutique and artisan vineyards and wine producers have been around for a long long time at least in Europe and North America. Australia has a rather strong concentration in the sector where 4 to 5 big players are in fact calling the shots. Nowhere else in the world do such large wine companies exist.

However, why should we boutique vintners and small wineries loose out this time? Of course not everybody is going to stay in the business, but imagine who should keep the dream up? We not only sell wine, but visions and dreams about the land and the people, about how these people grow grapes and turn them into fine wine.

Just think of a wine factory and industrial production! How can it appeal to people looking for something else than the industrial age has to offer. Technically correct wine is one thing, a vintner on his vineyard is another.

We, the “small” vintners, add value to the lives of all the wine drinkers, the people driving through blooming landscapes planted with small vineyards and vines. The dreams are about freedom and independence, about love and nature, in short, the good life.

Fortunately, the development of modern technology is on our side too. Just read Chris Anderson’s book “The Long Tail” and how the many “fame less” products bought over the internet make more money than the few famous brands. Of course selling wine bottles over the internet is not the same as selling music etc. files but the major advantages of the “Long Tail Economy” (democratisation of production, distribution and marketing, the reduction of storage cost and the cost of information) can still be grasped.


Two Hills vineyard in the evening light

We at Two Hills Vineyard are still optimistic. We have a long-term strategy and are not fuzzed by quarterly profit and loss accounts and share market valuations. We have no debt and Margit and I are in good health. Millions of new wine consumers in India, China, Russia and elsewhere will eventually make their demands known. We only need a tichy tiny share of this to let us fly high.
Cheers, “auf Ihre Gesundheit” as we say in German (to your health)