Connoisseurs delight: a wine tasting in Berlin of a special kind

January 15, 2009

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While in Berlin an old friend of mine, Gerhard Schlaudraff, had invited me spontaneously to join and celebrate his birthday in his new home near Warschauer Platz. Since Gerhard is not only a wine lover but a real wine expert, the feast promised to be something special. And indeed, it turned out to be a wine tasting of a special kind.

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I was about an hour late and many wines had been already swallowed up by gay drinkers. I came just in time for the two reds, the ‘1995 Corton Grand Cru Domaine Bonneau du Martray and the ‘1996 Grand Vin Château Beychevelle Saint-Julien’.

We all agreed that the two wines should have been drunk some time ago, they had, unfortunately, already passed their prime. That’s why we moved on swiftly without loosing too much time.

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The ‘2003 Kuenstler Reichestal Spaetburgunder’ from the Rheingau was a ripper of a wine. It can hold itself against the best Pinot Noirs from Burgundy. The wine was well balanced despite the “horror” announcement of 15% alcohol on the label. So forget about France and Burgundy and explore this wonderful drop from the Rheingau. More and more Germany is showing itself as a Pinot Noir producer of high distinction. My tip: get a bottle of this wine now and enjoy it, preferably over a good meal, with family and friends.

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After that we moved on to sweet wines for dessert. We started with a ‘1999 Deidesheimer Grainhübel Riesling Auslese’ from Weingut Dr. Deinhard, Pfalz. This wine was “heaven on a stick”, a dessert Riesling which you want to try. Our eyes rolled in their sockets with delight and our taste buds were exposed to an opulence and richness from which mere human palates are often excluded.

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The last wine came from my adopted home, Victoria, Australia. It was a Muscat from Rutherglen, a wine region about three hours north from our own place in Glenburn.

The ‘Chambers Rosewood Vineyards Grand Muscat’ was the highlight of the evening. Chambers produces outstanding Muscat wines of superior quality. The average age of its Grand cuveés is about 70 years.

The Chicago Wine Company gives the wine 98 out of a 100 and has given up to describe the wine, because tasting notes would read the same year after year.

For me this wine was the perfect ending to an utterly enjoyable wine and birthday celebration. From here on only spirits with a much higher alcohol content could be taken. I left the diners to it when I made my way home on the subway.


Book review – The Vintner’s Luck

May 28, 2008

The other day I was going through our little library at home and came across a book which I loved reading a couple of years ago. Elisabeth Knox’s “The Vintners Luck” published in 1998.

The novel is set around a vintner, his family life and his vineyard. Imagine Burgundy in 1808, the bulk of the Napoleonic years still to come when a young vintner meets for the first time an angel in his father’s vineyard.

The angel accompanies Sobran Jodeau, the Burgundian vintner, all his life until he dies in 1863. Every vintage has a special name. For instance in 1808 Sobran meets the angel for the first time and the vinatge is called “vin bourru”, meaning “new wine” and the year before he passes away (1862) is called “vin de dieux”, wine of gods or sweet botrytised wine, whereas the last year is titled “vinifie” which is “made into wine”. And thats the end of a long, exiting, complicated, at time treacherous, but overall joyful life full of various vintages, some with disastrous consequences, others producing the best Burgundian wine ever.

I will not tell you more, you need to find out yourself. What I like in this book that all comes to an end, as in real life but at the same time everything is like in a dream and the border of reality and dreamland is sometimes overlapping with exhilarating results.

The cover of “The Vintener’s Luck” by Elisabeth Knox


Red Wine Obsession in China

April 25, 2008

Recently when I was on a stop over in Singapore, I bought some portwine at one of the DSF duty free shops in the airport. The woman behind the counter was very friendly and we chatted along. I asked her which wines were her best sellers. She answered that they were grand cru wines from Bordeaux up 1000 S$ per bottle and that they were a much sought after commodity by tourist from Mainland China.

So it came as no surprise when I read the recent news about a sale of 27 bottles of French red wine by an anonymous Beijing based billionaire for the record price of about US$ 500.000 by the London based Antique Wine Company. The wines were various vintages of reds from Romanee Conti in Burgundy. According to the Antique Wine Company it was not bought for investment but to be drank. This sale is lauded for it’s indication that wine tastes in China are becoming more complex. The time of simply buying Bordeaux wines seems to be over. The broadening of wine education and appreciation is a good thing also for Australian wine producers. The recent large sale of Shiraz wines by Hanging Rock Winery is a good example for that.

A wine bar in a hotel in Beijing

During a recent trip to China I learned that red wine can be drank in new, “innovative” ways some might call it. Next time you are in China order “Red wine set menue” and you will be served with a good bottle of red Bordeaux wine, a large glass with ice and two cans of Sprite. You mix it together and you are right.

Many wine drinkers heart may sink at the prospects of being invited by a Chinese friend to this type of “blending” red wine. If the cheap mass wines are being mercerized by this technique that might be a good thing. For boutique wine producers like myself it is a rather shocking prospect that my elegant Two Hills Merlot could be treated that way.

“Gan bei” (cheers) as the Chinese say.