Anura Vineyards, South Africa

April 30, 2009


At the recent South African National Freedom Day celebrations in Bangkok, of course South African wine was offered to the guests. All wines came from Anura Vineyards. I had never heard of this winery. The logo on the bottles carries a frog in the oval picture, therefore I guessed that this might be the meaning of “Anura”, and so it should be as I found out later from the Anura website.

The vineyards cultivates about 120 ha of vines and uses about 800 tonnes of fruit annually for its premium blends. Tymen and jenny Bouma are the owner-operators of the estate. The vineyard is located in Klapmuts, about 50 km North-East of Cape Town.

I had the chance to taste the following wines:

– Anura Pinotage, very nice, round and smooth (Top 10, ABSA Pinotage Award 2008)
– Anura Sauvignon Blanc, takes time to get used to, but after that very unusual white (Best Value 2009, Wine Magazine Best Value Awards)
– Anura Merlot, loads of red and black fruit, a hint of chocolate, medium-bodied (2004 vintage won two gold medals at Veritas Awards 2007)
– Anura Cabernet Sauvignon, a nice medium-bodied Cabsav, earthly and fruity (2004 vintage won silver at Veritas Awards 2007)
– Anura Syrah/Mourvedre, very unusual blend for me, powerful combination, spicy (2005 vintage won bronze at Veritas Awards 2007).

I might have tasted some others but cannot recollect the rest. The evening was just too wonderful with the performance of the three singers called “Three tons of fun”. The Ambassador and his wife danced and so did we. I wish more national days would be celebrated the South African way.

Royal Vanilla – chain restaurant in Bangkok

April 25, 2009



Vanilla (xiang cao) is my favourite flavour in ice cream, my daughters reminded me. Therefore, I should not forget the little restaurant in Ekamai, not far from our neighbourhood in Thonglor, Bangkok. Well, I thought, but what can you expect from a chain restaurant with standardized dishes and tastes? Tearoom and dim sum, I thought, how does that go together? The Chinese characters in ‘pinyin’ read “huang jia xiang cao” which means “royal vanilla”.


The interior of Royal Vanilla looks like a Chinese tea house. The lacquered furniture is not my favourite style, I prefer a simple and more robust wood varnish. The room divider doors were copies but succeeded in creating a private atmosphere. In contrast the wooden door at the entrance seemed to be solid and real. We ordered an assortment of various dishes which, I admit from the outset, were delicious, very delicious.


Without some chilli I cannot live any longer.


Beautiful dim sims.


Spring rolls on a bed of dried seaweed.


Dried tofu (dofu).


The fish (Japanese gindara = silver cod fish) was spectacular.


Also the chicken was very delicious.


The spinach with ham was one of my favourites.


The soup was spicy and very tasteful.


The choice of drink, was a Tsingtao beer, solid traditional German style.


Pouring a glass of beer.

We had a great time at Royal Vanilla in Bangkok. The garden around it is beautiful too. There is also a cake shop and a book store. If you are around somewhere in Ekamai, check it out. It’s worth it. And in case you are a tourist in Bangkok, I highly recommend to explore this neighbourhood (Ekamai and Thonhglor) with its many charming restaurants and eating places.



Upper Goulburn Vintage Celebration 2009 – A Day on High and Long Lunch

April 24, 2009


This coming weekend I would love to be in Mansfield, Victoria. That weekend, our association, the Upper Goulburn Winegrowers Association (UGWA) is going to host its 2009 vintage celebrations. What a treat, I tell you, the best of our wines are going to be on display, what a wonderful tasting out there in the High Country. On Saturday, 25 April (11:30-17:00) a day of wine and food tasting is going to be held, titled: “A Day on High”.


And on Sunday it is followed by the so called “Long lunch” at Orchard Farm Cottage where various chefs present their food combined with Upper Goulburn wines. The menu sounds delicious, though for a conservative European like me, Australian food is often too rich. I explain this in my postscript, no offence.

The following wineries are presenting their wines:
– Buller View
– Buxton Ridge
– Delatite
– Gioielle Estate
– Growlers Gully
– Kinloch Wines
– Mt Samaria
– Murrindindi
– Nillahcootie Estate
– Penbro Estate
– Sedona Estate
– Snobs Creek
– St Winifred’s

Apart from the wines, one can also taste local food produce and buy a whole lot of other things. There is music and a program for children, in short it should be a fun day out there.

At the “Long Lunch” on Sunday, things are more structured. The dishes on offer are appropriately paired with the various wines from the region. I leave out the food so that there is something left for you to be discovered by yourself.

First, there will be canapés served (prepared by Café 41 and the Mansfield Regional Produce Store) with the following wines:

– Buller View Sparkling Merlot
– Buller View “Scarlet” Rosé
– Buxton Ridge “Molly Jean” Sparkling
– Delatite Riesling
– Kinloch “Don” Sparkling
– Murrindindi Shiraz
– St Winifred Pinot Noir

Entrée is by Christian Bergmoser (twice cooked goats cheese soufflé with a lot of other stuff) and paired with:

– ‘2008 Buxton Ridge Sauvignon Blanc’
– ‘2005 Murrindindi Riesling’

The main course is by Dave Livingstone of Crawford Kitchens (roasted quail on another assortment of various items). The wines are:

– ‘2007 Growlers Gully Pinot Noir’
– ‘2008 Kinloch Pinot Meunier’

The dessert is by Michael Nelson from The Deck on High in Mansfield to which a ‘2008 Delatite “Catherine” Gewürztraminer’ will be served. Goodness me that sounds all so nice. We have never participated in the vintage celebration ourselves, but the time will come, I am sure. In the meantime I will further explore Thai and other wines and train my palate. If anyone who reads this is in the vicinity of the High Country, I suggest you better check it out.

Cheers to all the good wines, the producers and presenters and: have fun.

PS: Australians like to not just use one or two main ingredients for a dish but many, many. I give you an example to illustrate that: a typical pizza margherita, with only tomatoes and cheese with some basil leaves, is considered by most Australians a kind of rip-off. There needs to be more on a pizza, at least 3 to 4 toppings and heaps of it (a little mountain on top of the dough). If you read the above menu, you see what I mean.

The North-South Pipeline III: No water!

April 22, 2009


I was not surprised when I read on The Age today that the North-South pipeline would fall short as regards the volume of water it would bring to Melbourne in its first years. The article spoke of “dramatically less water”, in total about 160 billion litres less than originally predicted. Per year this amounts to 10 billion litres instead of the 75 billion carrying capacity. Consequently, the pipeline will not alleviate water shortages in Melbourne.

We the local rural people said that from the beginning. One of the consequences is that water prices for consumers will also rise (between 70- to 80 %). So will the costs per unit of water transported. I was always of the opinion that the projected costs of A $ 600 million could never be met anyway. Wait until the final figures are released, I assume it will be around 1 billion plus. This is what the Melbournians will have to shoulder in addition to the rising water costs. After the devastating bush fires in exactly the same region, the rural areas are unable to contribute to taxes and public finances anyway.

The Victorian Government is still refusing to reveal its exact pipe flow projections for the years 2011 and 2012. Tim Holding, the Water Minister, was hiding from The Age. Well, latest at the next election he has to come out and face the music. That’s the time when we are going to punish the Brumby Government for its arrogance and aloofness. But it’s no pleasure to be right in this case. The damage cannot be undone. We should erect a memorial to Brumby and its people.

Useful link: Plug the pipe

Thai Wine: Gran Monte Syrah

April 21, 2009


Some of my favourite wines from Thailand come from Gran Monte Family Vineyard. The ‘2005 Fiori Unfiltered Syrah’ from Gran Monte is the best I had drunk from this family estate. The wine has 13% vol. alcohol and a very beautiful colour, it is dark, dark ruby-red. It’s a fine example of a wine from the tropics, a beautiful New Latitude Wine.


It was awarded two medals: one Gold-Platinum by the Wine Style Asia Award in 2007 and a Silver Medal by IFHS also in 2007 (International Exhibition of Food and Drink, Bangkok)

The nose is typical Syrah, one can anticipate the spicy, peppery, fruity red liquid. There is a lot of black forest fruit on the palate. The wine has character, is well balanced, elegant, with a long lasting finish. Just so yummy. The best Thai wine for me so far, i would say. 2005 must have been a great year for Gran Monte.

The wine has its price, though, 2100 Thai Bath per bottle, which is about 45 Euro or US$ 59. But it’s worth it, no worries; a wine for a special evening or just a day when you need a good drop. The only sore point for me is the label. I just don’t like this colour stuff. If in Bangkok just go and get a bottle and take some home: Thai wine, smooth like silk.

Where to buy?

Gran Monte Co. LTD
17/8 Soi Sukhumvit 6
Sukhumvit Road, Klongtoey
Bangkok 10110

Saar Riesling: Ayler Kupp

April 19, 2009


Spaghetti alle Vongole

Spaghetti alle Vongole was the right pasta to be enjoyed with one of my “treasure” Riesling wines. From my last trip to Germany I had brought two bottles of Riesling back to Thailand.


One of them was a ‘2007 Ayler Kupp Riesling Kabinett’ (dry), Saar from Bischoefliches Konvikt Trier. Nothing special, you might say, but a very decent Saar Riesling for sure (price: about 10 Euro/bottle). The terroir “Ayler Kupp” is world famous for producing excellent Riesling wines.


The wine is a typical young Saar Riesling. Actually the wine region’s official name is Mosel, but I stick to Saar, Saar being the river where the grapes for this wine are grown in a small hamlet with the name of Ayl.


We poured the wine, which had a light straw colour and is low in alcohol (11%), so that I could take a picture. I love the Saar Rieslings, they are wines to die for. They are well balanced, acidity, sugar and alcohol in a perfect combination. They have character, texture and structure. Aromas of melon, citrus, passion fruit, peach and/or floral notes are to be found.

The match of the food with the wine was perfect. The slight spiciness of the seafood pasta and the basil went very well with the citrus aromas of the young, slightly bubbly Riesling. The wine was very fruity, a citrus bomb, so to say, marvellous. If you have a chance to visit the Saar region, please take your time and taste some of the local wines.

PS: After the extensive lunch, by the way, we had some chocolate, espresso and port of course. I smoked a big Cuban cigar. The tropical heat made us feel mellow; what a joyful day.

The wine drinker: Darwin

April 18, 2009

Alas, evolution is still an on-going process. In the 200th year celebrating the birth of the great Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the publication of “On the Origin of Species“, a new species has emerged:

an improved version of “homo sapiens” has been identified, named “Darwin” and scientific prove about this new species is circulating in the relevant scientific journals and also on the Internet. The photo below shows one of the specimen found recently in an abandoned flat in down-town Bangkok (how did this happen, you might ask, wonder oh wonder, it’s a mystery to me).


The new species

PS: Thank you Martin for providing me with the evidence.

Back in Bangkok

April 13, 2009

Our flight from Jakarta to Bangkok was pleasant. Though we had about six hours delay. We arrived in the evening after 9 pm. From the Internet we knew that there were violent clashes between the armed forces and the red-shirt demonstrators in the centre of town. As long as the airport is not occupied…, we thought, it should be fine for us getting home. And so it was. The streets were deserted and it took no time to reach Thonglor, Soi 17. The family had come back from Krabi island the same day. Reunion, what a joy.


Easter Monday is an official holiday in Germany. Now that the family was together again, we did one of our normal Sunday routines: reading, listening to music, doing some sport and eating together. After about a week on Asian food, I longed for a pasta and a pasta it was to be! (rigatoni ricotta spinaci).


No better wine than a Thai wine, I thought; it would go well with this meal. I chose a bottle of ‘2006 Fiori Unwooded Chenin Blanc’ from Gran Monte Family Vineyard in Asoke Valley. Chenin Blanc is usually not one of my favourite white varieties but I knew that Gran Monte produces a decent one.

The wine has a nice golden colour, not much of a nose though, but typical Chenin Blanc flavours with a well- balanced acidity. The tropical fruit flavours went well with the pasta. This is a nice wine.

The sun was shining, four people were digging in, hungry like construction workers and busy telling stories from the holidays on Krabi and the elections in Indonesia.

Restaurant review: Seribu Rasa, Jakarta

April 12, 2009


We had a business lunch at a restaurant which was non-existing during my time in Jakarta. It’s right in the centre of town, and its name is “Seribu Rasa” which translates as “a thousand flavours”. The place was officially openend only on January 5, 2009.

We arrived early for lunch and the restaurant was only sparsely occupied. That, however, should change fast. The place was packed when we were having our meal.


The main entrance

Coming from the street, the place look rather odd, because the entry leads down to a parking in the basement. To the left is a little footpath which leads to the gates shown on the picture above. There is a lot of glass but also a lot of wood, pillars, window shutters, window frames as well as wooden furniture. I loved the garden, the fountains and the small walkways linking the different parts of the buildings.


The wall consist of white washed bricks. The mirror above gives it a more spacious feeling. I also loved the various colourful lamps and the lamp structures.


Unfortunately, I have only one picture of the food. The business atmosphere was not conducive to the taking of photos somehow.

Moreover, I messed up and only one of the photos I took is somehow presentable. It shows the “Kankung” ( a kind of water spinach) with seafood dish and the beef, both were very delicious. Furthermore, we had steamed fish, a dish of crabs, some chicken, squid and some lobster. The other remarkable vegetable was the Batak stype singkong leaf stew.


The “kangkung” and the beef dishs

The good news is that there are great photos of the various fusion cuisine dishes on a blog called “Daily What Not”. Please go there and admire the excellent shots.

Regarding the drinks I could not detect wine on the menu. My Indonesian friends all ordered Semilir Brastagi, a local strawberry variety from Sumatra which is served as an iced strawberry punch with pieces of fruit.

I will definitely come back another time to explore further the menu and the many Indonesian delicacies. If you are in the centre of Jakarta near the Grand Hyatt Hotel and the Deutsche Bank building you should just go around the corner and dive into the peaceful atmosphere of Seribu Rasa, an oasis in the city jungle.

Seribu Rasa
Jl Haji Agus Salim 128
Menteng, Central Jakarta
Tel.: +62-21-3928892

Freedom triumphs

April 11, 2009

That I love Indonesia is an open secret. It’s people are creative and extremely friendly. I love Indonesia for its multiculturalism, its tolerance and its pluralism. Despite a revamped conservative movement, freedom of expression is something deer to many, and these people do not let themselves been deterred as the following video clip shows: