Bangkok riots – in no mood for blogging

May 22, 2010

What a week that was! The centre of Bangkok fell victim to senseless rioting, violence and destruction where many people lost their lives. Finally order was restored and curfews imposed in the night. Today is the first day we feel some relieve. It’s over for the time being. It doesn’t feel as heavy as the last few days. Time to relax, time for a drink, no?

Phuket Lager

Phuket Lager is one of my favourite beers here in Thailand. It’s not just the label which is cool. The beer has a lovely hops taste, is no heavy and makes a very refreshing drink on a hot Saturday (or any other day I guess). When next time in Thailand, try it our.

Australia: WFA Vintage Report 2010

May 17, 2010

Two Hills Vineyard Merlot grapes 2010

The new figures are out. Today the Daily Wine News presented the Winemakers Federation of Australia (WFA) vintage report 2010. About 360 wineries participated in the survey, representing about 89% of total production.

The basic findings are well known to grape growers, vintners and wine makers. 2010 was a dreadful year especially for grape growers. The 2010 vintage of about 1.53 million tonnes (did they count my grapes as well?) was lower than 2009 (-12%) and 2008 (-5%).

The decline in white wine grapes was sharper (-14%) than the red ones (-8%), but I sold my white though almost nobody bought my Merlot and the Pinot Noir). My own experiences do not conform to the trend, I guess. Especially regarding my Pinot I must have missed something (+26% increase to 35,ooo tonnes). Or was it the other way round: because of the increased intake I could not sell my Pinot Noir?

Well the real reason is that my buyer walked out on me after a perfectly beautiful fruit which my buyer wanted to have some more days of sun was subsequently hit by rain and with it the destruction rain might bring at this time of the year.

Australia’s Sauvignon Blanc crush increased by 15%. OK, I sold all of mine. SB is still Australia’s third most important white variety after Chardonnay and Semillon.

Good that I ripped out my Cabernet (total production 213,000 tonnes), it further decreased in intake (by 14%) as did Merlot (total tonnage 109,000 tonnes), The big winner seems to be Shiraz which we unfortunately do not produce at Two Hills Vineyard. I love Australian Shiraz wines.

What does the enthusiastic Riesling drinker from the Mosel think of the Australia’s Riesling vintage: incredible, there is a 11% decrease in the crush of Riesling. Can you believe this? My most favoured wine available in much less quantity? I hope the quality shows just the opposite trend.

Wine of the day: The Wanderer, Yarra Valley

May 16, 2010

2008 Pinot Noir The Wanderer, Yarra Valley

My wine tip of the day is the Pinot Noir made by wine maker Andrew Marks of Gembrook Hills in the Yarra Valley. The wine is very light in colour with 13% alcohol and has a lot of cherries on the nose. It has some oak and is made from grapes grown from a single vineyard near Tarrawarra in the Yarra Valley.

I know that you have to be in Australia to get hold of this wine. But never mind, visiting Victoria is a bonus anyway. Have a nice Sunday, wherever you are.

Crazy bridges – how to destroy the Mosel

May 15, 2010

Planned bridge near Uerzig, Mosel

Two days ago the deadline for the petition ended. I confess that I did not make it in time. But I have joined the facebook group called “Stop the new B 50 and save the Mosel vineyards from devastating damage” opposing the building of this bridge.

The planned bridge is massive. It is about 160 meters high and 1.7 km long. It will probably cost about 270 million EURO which is equivalent to about US $ 400 million. On the facebook site above you can find more photos and animations showing you what the bridge will do to the Mosel valley.

The issue made it even into the New York Times which carried an article about it contrasting pro and contra views. Because the cost and benefits of such a massive undertaking are not clear cut. If you asked me to which camp I would belong, well, I asked myself two simple question: 1. would I give up my vineyard land for the venture? and 2. Would I like to look at this bridge from my window when I wake up in the morning?

My recent Australian experience with the North-South pipeline suggests that there is very little hope that such mega projects can be stopped by citizens protest. The Plug the Pipe campaign could not stop the project but it surely raised the political costs to Victorian the labour government. And election time is near.

Topher analyses the political economy of the North-South Pipeline. Unfortunately, there are no elections in my home state of Rheinland-Pfalz this year. So we are less lucky than the Victorians. The only thing which might save us is the empty state coffers.

Restaurant review: Weinhaus Spielberg, Randersacker/Franconia

May 13, 2010


The settlement of Randersacker, Franconia

One of my favourite wine regions in Germany is Franconia. My maternal grandparents came from this part of the country. My grandfather, Hans Heinrich Schuessler, was the man who introduce me to the pleasures and the mystery of grape wine. He was a native of Reichenberg, a small hamlet just south of the city Wuerzburg, the capital of the region. Randersacker is situated at the opposite side (from Reichenberg) of the Main river. We visited the place while touring Germany some time ago.


The inscription on the Bocksbeutel bottle reads: In vino veritas

The market town of Randersacker was first mentioned in a historical record in 779 AC. The historical centre of the town, though small, is quite nice and worth visiting. We were on our way back to Wuerzburg but wanted to have dinner at Weinhaus Spielberg.

Franconia produces outstanding wines, mostly Sylvaner/Silvaner but I like also the Riesling wines. It’s speciality is the Bocksbeutel, a wine bottle in the form of an ellipsoid. This is what we came for when we selected Weinhaus Spielberg as our target.


A coaster of Weinhaus Spielberg

Weinhaus Spielberg is a traditional country inn where solid German food and good local wines are served. We ordered some local specialities, especially typical Franconian dishes. The two pictures below might give you an idea what food I have in mind. We had the house wine with the food, a very refreshing, young and delicious Silvaner.



The service is very efficient, the waiters are friendly and very helpful. At times the Weinhaus is very busy. However, there is no need to fret, you will highly satisfied with what you will get. My credo: visit the place yourself, and see with your own eyes, taste with your own taste buds and have fun in Franconia.

Weinhaus Spielberg
Stefanie Sokoll
Lurzengasse 3
97236 Randersacker

Tel.: +49-931 / 708391
Fax: +49-931 / 709957

Opening hours:
Monday – Sunday: 11 – 24 h
Friday: open from 17.00 h
closed: Thursday

From Shakespeare’s kitchen

May 11, 2010

Today I will share a recipe with you. Francine Segan produced this marvelous cookery book titled: “Shakespeare’s Kitchen – Renaissance Recipes for the Contemporary Cook”. We cooked from this book the most wonderful fish.

Red snapper with Caviar is the dish called.

From the outset I have to admit that our supermarket had only sea-bass on offer and instead of caviar we had to be content with ordinary fish roe. Indeed, Francine remarks that the original recipe was based on roe, not caviar, which was not well understood in Shakespearean times.

– 4 small red snapper or trout with head on
– 1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
– salt and freshly milled black pepper
– 12 dates, minced
– 1/4 cup finely grated fresh ginger (cam from my own production on my terrace garden)
– 8 ounces of caviar or roe
– 8 ounces fresh red currant or barberries
– 1 table spoon sugar
– 2 table spoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

How it’s done:

– Preheat the grill, brush the fish inside and outside with the olive oil, season with salt and pepper, combine the dates with the ginger and gently fold into the caviar/roe, spoon the mixture into the cavity of the fish, grill of about 405 minutes on each side until the flesh is firm
– Place currant, sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan, simmer for about 10 minutes until thickened, puree until smooth
– Place the fish on a plate and serve the sauce in a small dish next to it. Finished. Enjoy.

And this is what the dish may look like:


Beautiful roe

The side dishes came also from the same cooking book. They were sweat onions (six different kinds of onions) and artichokes in vinegar with herbs.

The sweat onions


The wine we had with the food was not Shakespearean. Instead, we had a very simple wine with it, a ‘Frascati superiore’ from Rione. Ever since we lived in Rome about 20 years ago, I love the young white wines from Frascati,especially on hot days, the wines are refreshing and uplifting. It was a good complement to the “heavy” Shakespearean food.

Les Ormes de Cambras – Merlot from France

May 9, 2010

I grabbed the bottle from the supermarket shelve. Just like that. Again, I liked the label. This time a traditional one, with some trees, an alley. Later I learned that they were elm trees. I also liked the price, below 450 Bath (about 11 EURO) which is cheap for Thai conditions. That of course also meant that this wine was a “cheap” one, considered the many import duties and the exorbitantly high Thai alcohol taxes.

‘Les Ormes de Cambras Merlot’, the wine is called (2008 vintage). It’s alcohol content is quite low (12.5%), the colour is a beautiful dark red. Since we produce Merlot ourselves, I am often intrigued to buy other peoples Merlot to see what it is like.

The website of Les Ormes de Cambras told me that the Merlot could be had for 2.30 EURO/bottle in France if you also buy the three other wines produced by this enterprise (a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Sauvignon Blanc and a Cinsault).

2.3 versus 11 EURO for the bottle. I wonder how much the producer of the wine gets from this? What is his profit? 20 cents? 30 cents?

Since the website does not say anything about a vineyard, I assume this is a mass wine of industrial dimensions. But it tasted much nicer than expected. I might consider to get some more bottles.

‘2008 Les Ormes de Cambras Merlot’, Vin de pays d’Oc, France

We always have food with our wine. It was a light dinner, just the celery salad with olives, carrots, peppers and garlic and some self-baked white bread. Delicious, and so healthy.

The Merlot was sufficiently well balanced, not heavy, a fruity almost elegant wine which went well with the salad.

A salad for dinner

The celery salad

By the way, Les Ormes de Cambras is located near the city of Béziers in Languedoc in the South-west of France.