Reichsrat von Buhl: ‘2007 Forster Ungeheuer Grand Cru dry Riesling’

August 31, 2009

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Embossed on the bottle the sign for ‘Grosses Gewaechs’

I had not had a Grand Cru (or as the Germans say: Grosses Gewaechs) wine for a while. Fortunately, I had participated in a wine quiz of the German wine magazine “Weinwelt” some time ago and won a bottle of Riesling. Not any Riesling, it turned out, but a ‘2007 GG Forster Ungeheuer dry Riesling’ produced by Reichrat von Buhl, Pfalz.

I was completely taken aback when my mother handed me the packet. I could not believe my luck: first time participate, first time win a price. I carried my treasure back to Bangkok and stored it carefully for a special occasion.

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The freshly opened bottle

The occasion came faster than expected. Although the cellaring potential of this wine is 12 to 18 years (!), it only lasted a couple of months in my care. Sunday family lunch was just the right time and place for a treat.

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A beautiful straw colour in the glass

This is a beautiful wine, powerful, complex and dense, with citrus and mineral characters. It did not overpower the food, though it could just stand on its own, enjoyed just as a glass of wine. The peccorino Sardo on the fish was the right match for the dry Riesling (12.6%).

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Flounder with Peccorino Sardo

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The salad

Needless to say, one bottle was not enough. That’s why I recommend if you have the opportunity stock up on this noble drop, buy a crate, a dozen or whatever, in any case more than one bottle. The whole Sunday the taste lingered on my palate and could not be deleted from my mind.

Reichsrat von Buhl has a long tradition of excellence, family-owned since more than 150 years, it was leased in 1989 to an operating company owned by two Japanese businessmen. I found this fact quite remarkable, I must say. Another remarkable fact is that it was also owned for some time by the family of the grandfather of the current German Economics Minister, Dr. Karl-Theodor Freiher zu Guttenberg.

The commitment to excellence, however, has remained the same or is even stronger than ever, I guess.

Address:
ReichsratvonBuhl
Source: from the website www.reichsrat-von-buhl.de/english/kontakt.htm


Restaurant review: Libertine, Melbourne

August 30, 2009

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The town

When on vacation on the farm (Two Hills Vineyard), we hardly visit the big town, i.e. Melbourne, just about an hour and a half south of Glenburn. This time the girls needed new passports and therefore also new visa, and Margit also needed to get one. Therefore we had to collect the items but planned to combine it with meeting old friends over a pleasurable lunch in town. The Thai consulate people are the friendliest on earth and were very helpful. We were in a joyous mood. The girls took zillions of pictures from the car: when country folks visit town!

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After our business was completed we made our way to North Melbourne. Libertine, the French restaurant, where I had indulged in wonderful French cuisine earlier this year, was our object of desire. It is easy to find. Just drive along Victoria Street until you reach the house number 500. If you get to Errol Street you have just passed it. Find a parking and walk.

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The diners (Helen, Tony, Lucy, Charlotte, me, Margit and Joe)

We arrived ahead of time and took a stroll through the neighbourhood with its many restaurants and small local shops. Margit insisted on buying some cigars for me. Good ones are hard to find in the country side.

Our friends – Tony, Helen and Joe – had already assembled when we finally made it to Libertine. What a great reunion over an excellent meal and some good wine awaited us here.

I like the Libertine menu since it allows you to combine your preferences. It was a bit hard for the girls, though. We usually have Italian and Asian food at home, and therefore most of the dishes on offer were rather very unusual; “raffine” as the French might say, more elaborate might describe it as well.

Libertine had joined the recent campaign for the promotion of Victorian agricultural product: “Put Victoria on your table”. All the ingredients for the various dishes cam from the state of Victoria. As a person believing in free trade and global markets, this type of promotion is not my favourite one.

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I find that Libertine’s two- and three course-meals are moderately priced. If you dine out in the Yarra Valley, for instance, you have to fork out much more for a comparable meal than here in the middle of town.

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The great surprise was that there was no French wine coming with the meal (all ingredients Victorian of course so how could there be French wine?). Instead, the wines came from the Yarra Valley. We were delighted to see two Yering Farm Wines, the ‘2008 Run Rabbit Run Sauvignon Blanc’ and the ‘2004 Foxtrot Cabernet’ made by Alan Johns, who coincidentally also makes our Two Hills wines. Both wines were a good choice for this kind of cuisine. The SB was fruity and crisp, the Cabernet round and well balanced.

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Some of us had the Port Arlington mussels…

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…followed by the “Marmite Dieppoise” with Port Phillip Bay scallops.

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Others choose the beef which came from Gippsland (apologies for the bad photo above).

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Joe went a la carte and ordered the hare. Libertine is famous for the quality of its game.

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The girls ordered a la carte as well and went for assorted fish.

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For the ones of us who did not have to drive, the Yering Farm Wines, were like a dessert. But we had some sweets afterwards just that I did not take any photos. The time was running faster than usual (that’s how it is with good friends and good food). We enjoyed the atmosphere, the warm hospitality and the friendly staff at Libertine as long as we could but finally had to part company and say good bye to our friends.

Until we meet again, maybe at Libertine (very likely indeed). In a rather joyous mood we returned to the vineyard in Glenburn.

The casual visitor to Melbourne, however, should not waste time searching for a good place to eat excellent food. Just go to Libertine, and you’ll be right mate.

Address:
Libertine‎
500 Victoria St, North Melbourne VIC 3051, Australia‎ – (03) 9329 5228‎
Rated 4.1 out of 5.0 16 reviews


A new tractor for Two Hills Vineyard

August 26, 2009

During our family vacation, we were also looking for a new tractor. Our old FIAT tractor had broken down some time ago. We were searching the internet for a while for a used tractor but we were either too late or the right machine did not come up.

Therefore, we looked for new equipment. First we had our eyes on a Kubota from Japan but then fellow vintners suggested to have a look at a Korean brand: Daedong. I had never heard of Daedong before. At Rees Miller Estate we had the opportunity to inspect a one-year old 55 hp Daedong cabin tractor with a frontloader.

We asked for a couple of quotation, and to cut a long story short, decided to go with the Korean Daedong. The photos below show the vineyard tractor with 55 hp plus frontloader.

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Until it is beeing delivered, we have to sort out the finances but I am confident that we will get our Daedong tractor so that I can work with it during our next visit.


Vineyard profile: Rocky Passes Estate, Upper Goulburn, Victoria

August 25, 2009

During our last week together in Glenburn, we decided to go on an outing and visit a boutique winery near Yea: Rocky Passes Estate, a micro vineyard and also a member of our Upper Goulburn Winegrowers Association. Rocky Passes estate is owned and operated by Vitto Oles and Candi Westney. Candi had left a message on my blog inviting us over to get to know them and their wines.

We went the long way passing through Yea and Trawool, then through some bushland searching for Highlands Road. It was a very beautiful drive through the Victorian countryside. On the hills one sees those rock boulders as in the photo below.

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Rocky terrain

The only vineyard in the area is on the right hand side: Rocky Passes Estate, about 15 minutes east from Seymour. A sheep shed stands in the middle of the vineyard.

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Rocky Passes Vineyard

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Vineyard near the house

The house and the cellar door are very pretty. Vitto is not only a talented vigneron and winemaker but also a carpenter by profession. He has applied his skills to the winery as well. I just loved the tasting room which is quite cosy.

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The house and the picnic area

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Charlotte and Lucy with the emblem of the estate: the eagle

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The tasting room

Rocky Passes Estate is a boutique winery in the artisan tradition, inspired by the simplicity of the Argentinian cantinas. It produces biodynamically grown fruit. Yields are kept low to achieve outstanding wine qualities.

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Margit tasting the Rocky Passes wines

Rocky Passes Estate produces exclusively Syrah grapes (1.6 ha) and wines. Vitto had recently planted some Viognier (0.4 ha) which will extend the product range. We tasted all of the released wines. Excellent drops, I can confirm it.

James Halliday awarded to the ‘2005 Rocky Passes Syrah’ 94 Parker points and ranked the estate as a top winery (five stars). This is a great achievement. Nothing to add. The verdict is clear: these are top of the rank wines. Also the other vintages show their character as fine cool climate wines of Central Victoria. We bought a mixed dozen bottles and took one of the 2005 vintage back to Bangkok.

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Vitto, the artisan, and Margit in the winery

Vitto also introduced us to the wines in the making, some blends of Cabernet and Shiraz, and straight Cabernets. The vineyard is an extreme cool site and prone to late frosts in some years. Everything is hand made, from pruning to harvesting as well as the work in the small winery.

Established in 2000 total production is only about 800 cases. The wines are very reasonably priced. The 2005 Syrah with the 94 points cost only A$ 25 at the cellar door. The winery is worth a visit. Vitto and Candy are excellent hosts and extremely kind, full or energy and enthusiasm. Vitto has lots of interesting stories to tell. Give them a ring before going there.

We drove back along Highlands Road directly to Yea. Also this drive is worth it. What a lovely outing this was on a fine winters day in rural Victoria. Don’t miss it.

Address:
Vitto Oles & Candi Westney
Rocky Passes Estate
1590 Highlands Rd
Whiteheads Creek
Vic 3660
Australia
+61 3 5796 9366


Blogging from a blogger’s desert

August 24, 2009

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The conference banner outside the BICC

Another week without a blog entry from me. There is a simple explanation for it. I attended an international conference in Beijing, China, which was a great success also for the host, the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science (CAAS).

But whereas blogging from rural Australia was just an infrastructural challenge, this time the great firewall of China prevented me from communicating and reaching my blogging platform: wordpress.com.

It prevented me also from accessing my facebook and twitter accounts and various other sites of interest, for instance the Open Wine Consortium (which uses a NING platform format). Needless to say that youtube was also down.

I am not a political blogger, just a wine and food enthusiast, and by training an agricultural economist which was the main reason why I attended the 27th International Conference of the Association of Agricultural Economists (16-22 August 2009) titled: “The new landscape of global agriculture”.

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Experts on the dais

To say it from the outset, the conference was a full success. It was just great. I cannot but praise our Chinese host and the organizing committee as well as the Chinese agricultural organizations involved in its preparation and conduct.

The highest level of the Chinese government gave full support to the event and thereby to a field in public policy which had been largely neglected by the global financial institutions and many national governments alike during the last two decades. Vice premier Hui Lianyu, a native of Jilin province and a Chinese Muslim (Hui nationality), officially opened the event.

The great firewall of China, however, prevented me from publicly heaping praise on the Chinese government and the organizers, because I could not access the internet. Well, to be precise I could access some sites of the internet. We also had wlan-wifi connections during the duration of the event but the censorship exercised by the Chinese government did not allow for life reporting. A shame, good things could not enter the bloggosshere. There is a cost to such kind of censorship policy. China misses a chance to improve its public image.

Moreover, I wonder how many of the world’s top creative people would bother coming to a place where they are cut off from the world, their creative batteries, their inspiration and their audience for so long and from where the results of creative processes could not immediately find their way into the world wide web. This is another part of the costs incurred by the censorship policy.

We all know that the control of the internet by governments is a rat’s race. The whiz-kids, digital natives and techno freaks of this world, the Davids, to speak in biblical terms, are magically drawn to places like China in order to show and test their skills in beating Goliath: the Communist government. And therefore it is no surprise that there is ample support out there for trapped bloggers and others to circumvent the censors and jump over the great firewall of China by using proxy servers, and software designed to avert control. Alas, we are not alone in this tech-world of the 21st century.

Congratulations again to our Chinese partners for hosting such an important international event. May your government realize that it has more to gain than to fear from co-operation, sharing and the reciprocity through the inter connectivity of the world community and finally give up the censorship of the internet.

And then there is the saying of Mahatma Gandhi:

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always triumphed. There have been tyrants and autocrats, and for a time they seem to be invincible but in the end they always fail.”

It’s better to change when there is time for it. The communist party of China has shown wisdom in the past when it came to points of no return, for instance when they tolerated that farmers dissolved communes on their own accord and without prior sanctioning of the party. Let us hope they can draw on this wisdom also when considering the censorship policy.


Wine shopping in Healesville, Yarra Valley

August 16, 2009

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For a long time I wanted to write about my wine shopping experience in Healesville, a charming tourist town in the Yarra Valley, about an hour’s drive from Melbourne. One can find a jewel of a wine store in this rural retreat, called Barrique. I took the photo above Christmas last year.

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This is the old shop front

When visiting Healesville again in July 2009, I was shocked to not see the above signpost in the old place. I was afraid that the global financial crises and the bush fires might have let to the closure of this little wine shop. Alas, it had only moved a block further along the main street into the city centre. I was so happy when I found it again.

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The “new” Barrique, a block further up the main street

I could not resist the temptation. Previously, I had bought German wines from this shop. I dashed in to see what was on offer. The wines are beautifully displayed. There was so much out there. I could not stop browsing through the shelves.

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The inside of Barrique

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So many bottles

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Wines from all over the world

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The “German box” with selected Riesling wines from various German wine regions

The box above announces some of the best German Riesling producers from Mosel, and Nahe. I just love Riesling wines. In the end I picked up four bottles, one from the Pfalz, three from the Mosel. I will not tell you what they were today. More about the tastings of these wines later. Stay tuned to the Man from Mosel River.
Cheers


The South Pack: Young Australian winemakers on a mission

August 15, 2009

The wine glut in Australia makes wine marketing a true challenge. Many vignerons and wineries have to knock on endless doors of wine outlets, restaurants and retail shops. You get sick of it. Among others, that’s one of the reaosns why eight young independent winemakers from Victoria have created “their own thing”. They call themselves “The South Pack”.

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Three years ago they started their own roadshow to Melbourne and Sydney. Instead of going out and selling wine, they decided that people should come to them. They look for a suitable location, a restaurant, a hotel or any other suitable facility and invite the top trades and restaurant people to come for a tasting: meet the maker and his wines. Usually it’s accompanyied by food and music and great fun.

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The eight young winemakers (actually they are nine people) knew each other through the wine business and are friends and mates. This year the roadshow will be conducted for the third time. Last year, also Brisbane was included. Attendence is by invitation only but numbers at the shows have multiplied every year. This year will be no different. There is a great interest to meet the originators, the magicans, the winemakers and have them talk about their products: hand carfted artisan fine wines of ourstanding qualities. These wines are not like the industrial liquids, technically well made wines but a bit ordinary, normal, faceless.

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Meet the unusual. I only know one of the eight personally, Timo Mayer, a longtime friend. Timo is the winemaker of Gembrook Hills in the Yarra Valley and has his own vineyard and label. He made our award winning ‘2002 Two Hills Sauvignon Blanc’. He told me all about South Pack. I was exited to learn about this initiative and its immediate success.

Even if you have not been invited, just pick up some of their wines. Most of them you can buy online. Here is where to find and contact them:

Luke Lambert: mainly Syrah from St. Andrews, Yarra Valley and Nebbiolo from Heathcote.
www.lukelambertwines.com.au

James Lance – Punch: The winery in the Yarra Valley was severely affected by the bushfires, produces Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon
www.punched.com.au

Gary Mills – Jamsheed (named after a famous Persian king): Shiraz and Gewuerztraminer
www.jamsheed.com.au

Timo Mayer: Bloddy Hill he calls his vineyard on the top of a windy peak overlooking the Yarra Valley, most of his 2.5 ha are under Pinot Noir, some Chardonnay and some Shiraz
www.timomayer.com.au

Mac Forbes: wines come from the Yarra Valley (lots of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay) but also the Strathboogie Ranges (Riesling). The so called “alternative wines” are made from fruit from other wine regions in Victoria. Here you’ll find varieties such as Barbera, Gruener Veltliner, and Blaufraenkisch
www.macforbes.com.au

Adam Foster -Syrahmi: another winery from Heathcote with beautiful Shiraz wines
I could only find references ot his wines but not a proper website.

William Downie: solely Pinot Noir wines are made by William, the fruit comes from the yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula and Gippsland
www.williamdownie.com.au

Barney Flanders and David Chapman – Allies: Allies is a collaboration between Barney and David. They produce a variety of wines (one label is called “Garagiste”, implying garage wines of made of excellent fruit; there must be a lot of French influence!?). Their Pinot and Chardonnay wines come from the Mornington Peninsula, the Shiraz comes from Heathcote (no surprise).
www.allies.com.au