E. Guigal Estate, Côtes du Rhône, France

May 31, 2012

At a recent dinner function I had the opportunity to taste some wines by Etienne Guigal, the famous wine producer from Côtes du Rhône, founded in 1946 and today managed by the third generation. Marcel and his son Philippe are producing excellent wines.

In 1995 the estate acquired the famous Château d’Ampuis, which has become the headquarters of the Guigal Estate. The Guigal family owns vineyards in Condrieu (about 150 ha) and the Côte-Rôtie (230 ha). So this is not a small family business. In Condrieu the jewel of ths estate is “La Dorianne”, a Viognier. In the Côte-Rôtie area the Guigal Estate has several jewels, for instance “La Mouline”, “La Turque” and “La Landonne” among others.

2009 Côtes-du-Rhône White

The ‘2009 Côtes-du-Rhône White’ is a bled of 55% Viognier, 20% Roussanne, 10% Clairette, 10% Marsanne, 5% Bourboulenc with aromas of white peach and apricots. It was full and round, almost a bit fat.

To say it from the outset, I liked the red much better than the white. It might have to do with the food it was paired (I did not like the food) but somehow I did not find a way to this wine.

2009 Côtes-du-Rhône Red

The red was a different story. I would have served it a bit cooler but I just loved it. The ‘2009 Côtes-du-Rhône Red’ is a blend made from 45% Syrah, 52% Grenache, 3% Mourvèdre.

The intense aromas of red berries, the smoothness of the tannins and the long finish, are something I treasured in this wine. Again it did not match the food (chicken), but it reminded me of similar blends from Southern Australia which I like very much.

This is an elegant wine and I highly recommend it. It is an excellent specimen of a red blend the Côtes du Rhône has to offer.


The little French thing with Spanish wine

May 29, 2012

9.69 EURO worth of food and wine

When I arrived yesterday morning here in Brussels I found myself caught out. It was a public holiday (Pentecost Monday) and everything seemed to be closed.

It was a beautiful sunny and warm day and I walked around a bit and explored the area around the hotel. Lots of tourist were doing the same thing. Fortunately, I found an open Carrefour express so that I could buy some groceries.

I was reminded of my glorious day as a student, and in reminiscing about the past, I bought some cheese, bread and red wine. Today, I know of course that red wine is not necessarily the best accompaniment with cheese. But I bought it nonetheless.

Normally, I always pack my Swiss army wife but this time I had left it behind in Bangkok. I knew this while browsing through the supermarket shelf with all the many wine bottles.

And that was the main reason why I settled for the bottle of Tempranillo: it had a screw cap, whereas most other bottles had a cork enclosure. I only paid 5.99 EURO for it which is cheap considering wine prices in Thailand.

2010 Tempranillo – REALCE by Union Campesina Iniestense

By sheer coincidence, I had found a treasure. This wine comes from the relatively new and unknown wine region of Manchuela which is located in the larger La Mancha wine region.

So it’s a Don Quixote wine, one could say.

One of the Spanish indigenous grape varieties grown in Manchuela is Bobal, a red grape, which comes originally from Valencia and is the third most planted variety in Spain (after Airén and Tempranillo).

If you want to learn more about the wines from Manchuela have a look at the video clip by Simon Woods.

Manchuela got its appellation status only in 2000. Of course vintners have grown grapes there since Roman times.

I was very happy.

It has intense red berry aromas, beautifully structured tannins, great resilience and character just like the old Don Quixote. I sipped along after I had finished my frugal peasant meal.

When I saw that the wine was made by a wine cooperative, the Union Campesina Intestense, I thought I have to find out more. Today the vintners cooperative has more than 1200 members and about 7,000 ha under vines. So this is a big undertaking.

The Tempranillo I had bought is one of their simpler wines. The reserva wines they produce cost more than 30.- EURO. Most of their wines are around 10 EURO/bottle.


Grand Khaan in Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia

May 25, 2012

Grand Khaan front with the terrace

My favourite watering whole in Ulaan Baatar is the Grand Khaan Irish Pub. I love the place where half of the city seems to congregate. The end of May has chilly nights (still with minus temperatures) but glorious days with up to 25-28 Celsius.

It was exactly such a day, almost summer for the Mongolians. Many men were already in short sleeves and the women in summer dresses. I love to watch the stylish young Mongols dressed up for a Friday night out.

The days are already long, and the work to put up the structure for the summer tent in the parking lot in front of the pub was in full swing when I got there.

Busy at work

I was by myself and was seated at a small table inside. I felt a bit chilly, I admit. Coming from the tropics does not help. Many customers sat outside. I could not bring myself to that.

My beef burger

I was craving for a burger and a Chinggis beer which I ordered after a short glance at the menu. Boy I was hungry. The burger was big and solid with Mongolian beef. The side salad is more decoration, but the fries are good.

Ghinggis beer

I cannot bring myself to have a glass of wine with a burger. The Chinggis beer was just right to quench my thirst.

A pub is not a place for fine wines. However, I decided to ordered a glass of red as dessert so to say. There were quite a few wines on the menu. I settled for a French Syrah.

I will not reveal what it was. I choose one of the priciest ones though. It was what we call in Australia an “umpf” wine, big and heavy with lots of alcohol. I guess that’s what pub goers expect from a red.

I had a great time watching the coming and going of the people. Friday night is a busy time. I “cleared my brain”, the pub acted as a cleansing ale so to speak after a busy and eventful week here in Ulaan Baatar. It was my last evening and I am sad to leave. I just love Mongolia and its people.

I highly recommend to visit the place. It’s great fun.


Wine bottle enclosures – yellow tail bubbly

May 22, 2012

It was quite a surprise when I openen the bottle of yellow tail sparkling the other day. When I peeled off the metal foil I discovered a whole new enclosure. Where I had expected metal, there was only plastic. Moreover, the plastic top could be used to close the bottle after pouring the wine. Great, I thought, and kept the bottle top for future use.

This sparkling wine by yellow tail is very fresh and fruity, a bit sweet as well, I would say. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the cold and bubbly liquid.

A few days later, I even bought some more of it. Cheers to you


Summer lunch with Vinho Verde in Bangkok

May 21, 2012

Casal Mendes Vinho Verde

At the end of the dry season in tropical Bangkok temperatures reach above the 40 Celsius. Fortunately, the humidity is rather low at this time of the year, at least before the casual tropical rain shower goes down. These showeres become more and more frequent over the next weeks until the transition to the rainy season is completed.

Therefore, light lunches are the go. Nobody wants rich and filling food but instead prefers salads, grilled vegetables and maybe something fresh from the water.

Regarding the wine selection low alcohol Riesling wines are my preferred choice. But another wine which is ideally suited to the conditions are whites from Portugal, especially Vinho Verde. Fortunately for us in Bangkok some Casal Mendes Vinho Verde is available.

We had such a lunch last Staurday, with grilled green asparagus, an insalata caprese, and some grilled scampi. The olive oil we are using is of first quality. Needless to say the disheses were just delicious.

Green asparagus

Mozzarella with organic tomatoes

Grilled scampi

What a meal


Restaurant review: Weintor, Palatinate, Germany

May 12, 2012

My parents in front of the German “Weintor”

My parents came to see me when I was in Karlsruhe for a business meeting a couple of weeks ago. They took me for a drive around the southern Pfalz region, which is a major wine producing area in Germany.

It was a beautiful day in spring with mild temperatures and fast moving clouds. After a short rain, the sun came out for a while.

We ended up at a small village called Schweigen-Rechtenbach to have a look at the German “Weintor”, literally translated as the “German wine gate”.

It was built in 1936 and marks the starts of the German wine route which ends in about 85 km further north in a village called Bockenheim.

The terrace

We planned to have lunch in the restaurant at the “Weintor”. The large terrace was very inviting but it was still too cold to sit outside.

The foyer

The stone building looks very traditional from the outside. However, the foyer of the restaurant has a kind of post-modern funky look, “retro” one could also call it.

The entrance to the restaurant

The inside of the restaurant

We sat near the fire place. The staff was very friendly, and convinced us to get started with a sparkling Pinot Meunier, or in German “Schwarzriesling”.

Sparkling Schwarzriesling – Pinot Meunier

This was followed by “greetings from the cook”: a delicious pate, which was just the right starter. It wetted our appetite.

Courtesy of the cook

I could not resist and ordered the house Riesling, a dry wine from the Pfalz region.

Dry Riesling from the Pfalz

My main dish was a trout with almonds, with potatoes and salad. Just wonderfully delicious. It was the right hearty meal which made me forget my jet-lag. I had arrived the very same morning from Bangkok and needed some stimulation to stay awake. That’s why I could not resist the ice cream either.

Trout with almonds

Dessert

Espresso

We had a jolly good time. The food was delicious, the staff extremely friendly, the spring outside inspiring and the company just great. I could not imagine a better welcome to Germany.

On our way out, I noticed the table with the informations about wine events and other local festivities. It was a pity that I could not stay a couple of days longer. The wine route through the Pfalz/Palatinate has so much to offer.

Address:
Deutsches Weintor Restaurant
Weinstraße 4
D-76889 Schweigen-Rechtenbach
T +49 (0) 6342 – 922 788 8
F +49 (0) 6342 – 922 788 9
www.weintor.de/restaurant.html


Wissembourg, jewel of northern Alsace

May 10, 2012

Half-timbered houses in Wissembourg opposite the cathedral of St Pierre and Paul

One of the loveliest little towns in northern Alsace is Wissembourg. During my recent visit to the Palatinate (Pfalz), the German wine region just north of Alsace, we did a side trip to see this picturesque place.

We had come after lunch just to have a little walk around town. It was a pleasant spring day with mild temperatures and some sunshine although heavy rain clowds graced the sky.

Wissembourg has about 8,000 inhabitents and was the location of various battles fought in the French revolutionary wars in 1793 between French and Austrian, Prussian, Bavarian, Hessian and other German forces. After the second battle of Wissembourg, France was able to take over the whole of Alsace. In 1870 the tables were turned. This time the Prussian forces won and made their way to Paris.

I remember that during my student days at Bonn University I once attended a play by a theatre group from Alsace. The play depicted the history of the region and how it moved from being indpendent to becoming a part of France and Germany, but that the people remained the same.

The following pictures will give you a rough idea about Wissembourg, but I suggest you go and see for yourself, stay a couple of days to also indulge in the food and wines of Alsace.

Another well preserved half-timbered house

About twenty years ago when I came to Wissembourg for the first time with my wife Margit, we almost bought a half-timbered house. We were so enchanted by these houses, that we almost could not resist to invest in such a house. They were not expensive at the time, 80-90.000 Deutschmark only. Since my brother lived and worked jsut a little north of France in southern Palatinate, we thought he and his family could live in the house. But it did not work out and we discarded the idea.

The stream crossing the town is called the “Lauter”

I would have loved to enter this restaurant but we just came from lunch

Medieval music was presented by these two bards

“Winstub” is what the sign says in the local dialect. It means wine bar

The wine bar wedged between two houses

Spring invites everybody to buy fresh flowers

Various types of bread and cake were on offer

Wine for sale

Of course wine was everywhere. I did not buy any since I had to travel and drag my suitcae around. And wine is, unfortunately, very heavy.

But I will come back to Wissembourg, that’s for sure. Maybe next July when I spend some time in my home town Trier. Not far from Wissembourg is my favourite restaurant, “Auberge du Cheval Blanc” in Lembach in the Vosges mountains.

Spring blossoms all over the place