Bulgaria – a paradise for wine lovers

September 19, 2014

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Vineyards in Trier

For someone like me, a native of Trier or Augusta Treverorum, as the city was called in Roman times, the move to another ancient Roman city, in this case Sofia, Bulgaria is not a big thing. Sofia was called Serdica (or Sardica) then, possibly named after the Celtic tribe Serdi.

Constantin the Great is supposed to have said “Serdica is my Rome”. And here we have the third city in which I lived and which belonged to the Roman empire. But he did not make Serdica the seat of his government. For this he choose Byzantium, later renamed Constantinople. By the way I lived in another Roman city: that was Vicus Bonnensis or Castra Bonnensis, the present day Bonn, my alma mater where I studied agriculture.

If I had lived two thousand years ago, a move from Trier to Sofia would have been a move from one province of a wast empire to another. Latin would have been the lingua franca. I would have had access to all the Roman infrastructure common in those days: a bath house, a circus, an amphitheater and so on.

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Constantine Basilica in Trier

Both my native Augusta Treverorum (the city of Augustus in the land of the Treverer) and my current home Sofia got their name from the native Celtic populations (the Treverer in my case). Both were major cities of the Roman Empire. Trier was located in the Roman province of Belgica, Sofia in the province of Thrace. Both places history is tied to the Roman emperor Constantin the Great.

There are also differences. Augusta Treverorum is famous for its wine cellars and its wine production, vineyards reaching deep into the city. Sofia does not have vineyards in its vicinity. However, the old province of Thrace was famous for its wines, and so is present day Bulgaria.

I admit that there is still a lot of room to improve its produces’ fame but more and more Bulgarian wines are available in wine shops in other parts of Europe, especially Germany and England.
Needless to say I use my spare time here in Sofia to explore the many wines of Bulgaria. My welcome present by my colleagues consisted of a wine guide, Di Vino 2014.

I would like to invite you to come along on this journey and explore the richness of the ancient land of Thrace, and it’s contemporary wines.

Le Voyage

Le Voyage by Katarzyna Estate

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Germany – wine heaven

August 31, 2014

After about two months in Germany, we move on to our new posting in Sofia, Bulgaria. It has been an exciting time. We enjoyed the climate, the greenness, the clean air and foremost: wonderful wines.

Coming from Bangkok, one is used to a 400% luxury tax on wine, which makes the heavenly drop very, very expensive. I used to say: a 5€ bottle of German Riesling wine, a solid but basic version of it, goes for 25-30 € equivalent in Thailand.

This has a devastating effect on my finances if not carefully targeted. Well, you might argue, there is wine produced by Thai vintners in Thailand itself. Are these wines not cheaper? The answer is “no”, because domestically produced wines are also subject to the luxury tax in the kingdom.

Germany, in comparison, is wine heaven. One can consume a wine from one of the primary producers for a pittance. Say 12 – 16 € for a Riesling from one of the top producers from Mosel, Saar, Pfalz and Rheingau.

It was no surprise that I dived into it, like a fish. I tried many different wines, from Germany and many European countries. I found out that there is lots of good quality wine in the market. But, apart from the famous VPD wineries, it is hard to find the really good stuff to drink, meaning a lot of tasting is required.

Concluding I might say that the two months in Germany was not sufficient time to find my favourite “every day wines”. I console myself with the fact that in my next destination, Bulgaria, there are many excellent wines to discover. Bulgaria is a wine region I know almost nothing about, which is a good start.

Stay tuned to my next entry.


Beautiful Reds from the Pfalz at Weinsinnig, Trier

January 13, 2013

The other day (actually it was about a month ago during my last visit in Trier, Mosel), I had some fabulous reds at “Weinsinnig”, my favourite wine bar in Trier.

Both wines come from the Pfalz (Palatinate) wine region in Germany. Markus Schneider Estate is located in Ellerstadt, and Rings Estate in Freinsheim. Both estates are led by young and innovative vintners and wine-makers.

W sinnig Black Prince

2010 Black Print by Schneider

I have written about the wines of Markus Schneider before. ‘Schneider Ursprung’ is a wonderful cuveé (blend) of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Portugieser.

The ‘2010 Black Print’ is a blend of St. Laurent, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Mitos and Cabernet Dorsa (hold your breath). The last two grape varieties are new crossings (hybrids) produced in Germany.

The wine was matured in small oak barrels. It has an almost black colour, as the name suggests. The fruit aromas are very concentrated, some plum and cassis but also blackberry. The tannins are already soft enough and well balanced. This is a yummy wine at a very reasonable price (around 12 Euro/bottle). But you have to be quick to pick up the remaining bottles.

Markus Schneider is not only very innovative as the composition of his blends are concerned but also the labelling of his wines is new and against German traditions. The Wine Guy has done a portrait of the winery which might be of interest to you.

W sinnig Rings

2011 Das kleine Kreuz by Rings Estate

Also the second wine I tasted at Weinsinnig was a red cuveé from the Pfalz. The ‘2011 Das kleine Kreuz’ by Rings Estate is a blend of Merlot, St. Laurent, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

The brothers Andreas and Steffen Rings appeared 2007 on the German wine scene. That was the year that the Gault & Millau wine guide included the winery for the first time. Last year the brothers won the German red wine award.

This wine is just wonderful, awesome, fabulous. The density of the fruit, the well balanced acidity, the soft tannins and the long finish are all very striking. I could not believe it, my vintners soul cried more, more, more.

If we only could have these wines in Bangkok.

Address:
WEINSINNIG
Weinbar & Verkauf
Palaststraße 12
54290 Trier
Tel.: +49-651-979 01 56
info@weinsinnig.com
www.weinsinnig.com

Weingut Markus Schneider
Am Hohen Weg 1
67158 Ellerstadt
Tel.: +49(0)6237 – 7288
Fax: +49(0)6237 – 977230
info@black-print.net

Weingut Rings
Duerkheimer Hohl 21
67251 Freisenheim
Te.: +49-6353-2231
info@weingut-rings.de
http://www.weingut-rings.de
www.black-print.net


Terroir Moselle – A marketing initiative for wine from the Mosel

December 27, 2012

The Mosel

Steep vineyards along the Mosel river

When I visited my home town Trier recently, I came across an article in the local newspaper about the joint marketing efforts of vintners of the Mosel river.

With the help of government (in this case the European Union), producers from three countries – France, Luxembourg and Germany – have united their efforts to promote their produce: wine from the Mosel river.

Terroir Moselle is the name of the undertaking. The project shall benefit about 4,000 vintners across the borders of the three countries. It includes about 229 villages and hamlets along the river Mosel which are involved in grape and wine production.

The project was started in 2010 for a duration of three years. About 20 associations, institutes and other bodies from the three countries had initiated it after preparatory work in 2009.

The total area under vines along the Mosel is about 10,500 ha, 180 ha of which in the Lorraine, France; 1,350 ha in Luxembourg, and the remainder in Germany (Saar 110 ha and Mosel 8,880 ha).

Map Vignobles Moselle

The Moselle

“River, terroir, grape production and wine making” are the unifying features of the project. Producers in the three countries face similar challenges. Many are small family units with insufficient “muscle” to raise awareness for their products: high quality wines from the Mosel river, in highly competitive markets.

Unfortunately, the website does not give an account of the achievements and the impact of the joint undertaking. The newspaper article mentioned ‘joint tasting across borders’ and ‘presentations in international wine shows’ as examples.

The members of “Terroir Moselle” have now to come up with a plan to sustain activities after the end of the funding period (December 2013). The total amount of EU support for the three years is 250,000 EURO.

I wish them well.


Riesling from the Ruwer river: Maximin Grünhaus

September 14, 2012

2011 Maximin Grünhäuser Riesling trocken

One of the nicest dry Mosel Riesling wine I tasted during our summer vacation in Trier was a ‘2011 Maximin Grünhäuser Riesling trocken’ by Schlosskellerei Maximin Grünhaus C. von Schubert in Mertesdorf, Ruwer.

It was at Weinsinnig, one of my favourite wine bars in Trier, that we sampled this wine with its romantic and old fashioned label. The wine has character. Although just from their “ordinary” dry Riesling class, you get value for money (9.90 EURO/0.75 l. bottle).

2011 Maximin Grünhäuser Riesling trocken

It has the zest, the exuberance, the fine balance of acids, the opulent aromas, the structure and long finish one longs for in a Mosel Riesling. Although I had driven past the winery many times before, I had never tasted a wine from this first class producer in the Ruwer valley.

The MUNDUS VINI award for the best dry white wine in Germany 2011 and the “Big Gold Medal” were bestowed on the ‘2009 Maximin Grünhäuser Abtsberg Riesling Qualitätswein old vines’, of the estate. I wonder what this wine would taste like.

But I tell you, I will return, and include some more of their wines when I visit the Mosel next time.

Address:
Dr. Carl von Schubert
Hauptstr. 1
54318 Mertesdorf

Tel.: +49 (651) 5111
Fax : +49 (651) 52122
info@vonschubert.de

Maximin Grünhaus


Restaurant review: Gasthof zur Saffenburg, Mayschoss, Ahr

August 20, 2012

Castle Saffenburg in Mayschoss, Ahr

All good things come to an end. That applied also to our family vacation. From the Ruhr we made our way back to the Mosel region. Since we had some spare time on our hands, we decided that a short visit to the Ahr wine region would just be the right distraction.

The Ahr wine region is one of the smaller wine region in Germany (about 600 ha under vines). Despite its northern location the Ahr wine region is dominated by red wine production (about 80%),and is most famous for its outstanding Pinot Noir wines.

Country Inn zur Saffenburg in Mayschoss, Ahr

Since we were also hungry we dropped in at a counrty inn called Saffenburg in Mayschoss at the banks of the Ahr river.

The courtyard of the inn

Mayschoss, a small settlement with about 1,000 inhabitants, is also home to the oldest wine co-operative in Germany (founded in 1868).

Today the Mayschoss-Altenahr Wine Co-operative as it is called, has about 400 members and covers 140 ha under vines. It’s cellar door is located opposite the country inn.

Gasthof zur Saffenburg

The first thing I did was oder a glass of Pinot Noir made by one of the famous Ahr producers: Jean Stodden.

Jean Stodden Pinot Noir

This is the “ordinary” Pinot Noir produced by Stodden but a good specimen of what the Ahr has to offer in Pinot Noir. Unfortunately, we had no time for a tasting at Jean Stodden. Instead we planned to pay a short visit to the wine co-operative across the street after our meal.

Nuernberger sausages with Kraut

German cuisine has a lot of very tasty dishes to offer. We went for Nuernberger sausages (photo above) and beef stew (photo below).

Beef stew

I love German cake

Irresistable were the cakes on offer, together with a coffee, they concluded our meal. Needless to say that the food was delicious. We sat on the terrace in the yard. The service at the country inn is exceptionally good. Five out of five, I would say. We had a jolly good time on our last day of our excusion in Germany.

The steep vineyards behind the inn on the other side of the Ahr river

I plan to also inform you about our visit to the wine co-operative in Mayschoss. Stay tuned.

The Ahr wine region is a very popular destination for day travellers but also suitable for longer excursions. I highly recommend the “Rotwein-Wanderweg”, the red wine hicking path crisscrossing the region with breathtaking views of the vineyards and the small settlements. Ideal is to explore the valley on a push bike.

Please also visit my blog entries from November 2007 regarding DAGERNOVA, another wine co-operative and vintage time along the Ahr.

Address:
Gasthof zur Saffenburg
Rotweinstrasse 43
53508 Mayschoss
Tel.: + 49 (0) 2643-8392
Handy + 49 (0) 171–9369257
Fax: + 49 (0) 2643-8100
E-Mail: info@gasthof-saffenburg.de
http://www.gasthof-saffenburg.de


Restaurant Review: Capital M, Beijing, China

June 7, 2011

I am reading “Justice for hedgehogs” by Ronald Dworkin at the moment. The book makes the point that one of our cardinal interests, ambitions and responsibilities is to make our lives good lives.

“We must find the value of living – the meaning of life – in living well”, says Dworking. He also states that dignity and self-respect are “indispensable conditions of living well”.

So what does that mean if you are sitting in Beijing, China at a beautiful Sunday morning with time on your hands? Well get up early and go to the National Museum to see the German sponsored exhibition “The enlightenment”, a unique show of a selection of art pieces from that era of our history which mattered so much for the freedom of the individual and rationality.

After that it’s downhill all the way. More of Dworking’s good life is to come. After fine art, one needs fine food and drink.

I suggest you stroll down to the South end of the Tian-an-men Square and have lunch at Capital M, one of my favourite restaurants in Beijing.

Capital M in Beijing, view from the terrace

One has a wonderful view from the restaurant. It is located at the third floor of a newly reconstructed building, a kind of replica so to speak, of an older house. Capital M has a wonderful terrace with a grand view of the square.

I got there much too early; the kitchen was still closed. The kind waiter offered me a table at the window, and I ordered a glass of house white, a Sauvignon Blanc by the South Australian family winery Angoves. Newspapers were brought to me and I indulged in the pleasure of reading in quiet. I was the only customer at that early hour.

Tasteful crockery for morning tea

I was still full from breakfast and unsure if I should lunch at Capital M. Then I though of Dworkin and my responsibility towards the good life in dignity and decided to move to the table the kind waiter had reserved for me. in the meantime the first guests had arrived, casually dressed most of them. In this relaxing atmosphere, I felt at ease.

I read through the menu and decided on a two course meal. My choice of entrée was white asparagus which is just in season in Beijing. What a good choice that was. The asparagus was firm and succulent, it melted in my mouth.

I also had another glass of the house wine, the SB by the Angove Family winery.

Asparagus with a poached egg on top and olive oil

For my main course, a white snapper on a bed of vegetables, I selected a ‘2008 Dry Riesling’ by Dr. Buerklin-Wolf, in Wachenheim, Palatinate in South-West Germany. Riesling is one of my favourite white. Although just one of their starting wines, this Riesling was exactly what I needed, a beautiful accomplishment with my meal.

2008 Dr. Buerklin-Wolf dry Riesling shows an intense colour

The main course was so jummy, I could not believe it. I took it bite by bite, slowly exposing my taste buds to the food. I wanted it to last as long as possible. The veggie selection interspersed with flower petals and a nut mix, was just amazing, awesome stuff.

The main course

Unfortunately, the battery of my camera did not last and gave up her service right in the middle of my meal so that I cannot show you more pictures from the restaurant, the view and the people.

The service at Capital M is exceptional, hard to find in China this kind of concern for the customer. Prices are also decent. I paid for three glasses of wine and a two course meal 42 EURO, which is not bad.

Apart from the Forbidden City and the Great Wall lunch or dinner at Capital M in Beijing is a must if you visit China.

Address:
Capital M Beijing
3/F, No.2 Qianmen Pedestrian Street
(just south of Tian’anmen Square)
Beijing 100051 China
中国北京市前门步行街2号3层
邮编 100051
Tel: +86-10- 6702-2727
Fax: +86-10- 6702-3737