Greek fish stew with Riesling from the Nahe wine region

October 22, 2012

Greek fish stew

I love the recipes from Jamie Oliver. In his book: “Jamie does…”, the Aegean Kakavia, a Greek fish stew, is presented.

These days, as you know, there is some kind of weariness between Greek and German people because of the currency and bailout issues. So a Greek dish with a German wine seemed the right pairing; hinting at some kind of reconciliation or just because fish and Riesling harmonize so well?

I don’t know.

The recipe is dead simple. The beauty is that any fish will do. We had flounder and prawns. Chop some onions, tomatoes, garlic, celery and potatoes and cook it in some vegetable stock, with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. At the end add some fresh parsley and dill, and voilà, here we are.

2010 dry Riesling by Emrich-Schoenleber

I love Riesling and hold the wines made by Emrich-Schoenleber Estate in Monzingen, Nahe in high esteem. They remind me of my childhood and the time I spent with my maternal grandfather in Martinstein, just a couple of kilometres to the West.

This low alcohol (11.5%), bone dry Riesling is a fine specimen of what the Nahe wine region can produce. The wine is fresh and zesty, with intense lemon aromas, well balanced acidity and a long finish. I could have a bottle every day…but since I live in Bangkok, this is hardly possible. The more I treasure this fine Riesling wine.

If you happen to pass by the Nahe, visit the winery of the father and son vintner duo and enjoy a 250-year tradition of grape-growing and wine-making. The cellar door of the Emrich-Schoenleber family is a beautiful place to taste fine wines. You will not regret it.

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Good bye my terrace garden

March 12, 2011

My terrace in Thonglor, Bangkok

Today was the last day on my terrace garden in Thonglor. We are moving from Wednesday onwards into new premises in Ekkamai, just a block further away from our beloved Baan Phansiri which was our home for the first two and a half years here in Bangkok.

“From all that he loves, man must part”, is an old saying, and parting it is again. I have had my own gardens since university days, often together with friends.

Hans-Heinrich Schuessler, my maternal grandfather, introduced me not only to appreciate wine but he also laid the seeds for my gardening passion. When I was just a little boy he took me with him to his many gardens. As station master of the German Railways, my grandfather had various gardens along the railway line in Martinstein, Nahe – a wonderful wine region by the way. I never had to do any work. That was somehow the trick, I suppose. Friends of mine who were made to work as children usually hate gardening or agricultural tasks. In striking contrasts I just love them.

Together with friends at Bonn University I cultivated various gardens in the vicinity of the university town. I planned fruit trees, scrubs and vegetable patches, and left all behind when moving abroad. Every garden partner had his skills, his passion and his magic. And we celebrated many parties deep into the night in our gardens.

Later in Rome I set up a terrace garden overlooking Garbatella, a resettled neighborhood south of the city center. My lemon trees produces beautiful fruit. In Beijing I had a glass corridor on the 11th floor which I greened with various indoor plants. In New Delhi I grew Indian vegetables. Our household staff watched in disbelief when ‘sahib’ got his hands dirty while digging in the back garden. But when they saw the veggies growing strongly, they all asked me for seeds.

The biggest tropical garden I ever had was in Jakarta, in Lebak Bulus, in South Jakarta to be precise. Five rambutan and two mango trees were a constant source of sweet and wonderful tropical fruit. I grew also papaya and star fruit.

Here in Bangkok the terrace was my place to relax and dream. Quasi an illusion, a place to worship nature, but basically to make me forget the noise and pollution of the city around me with its huge construction sites, the skyscrapers, and the constant stream of cars, and endless noise.

Today, I prepared my many pots for the move. I had to cut a few bigger scrubs and transplant some others. Also my many orchids needed some tender care. Since I have to leave for Germany today, I will not be around for the move next week.

I will have a terrace in the new location as well but a covered one (therefore not all my plants will grow), and not one with an open sky. So I had to lay there for a last time and look up into the clouds and the endless sky. Needless to say that I am very sad to leave this place where I felt so much at home.

But as the saying goes: “From all that he loves, man must part”, and so I try to look ahead with beautiful memories which no one can take away from me.

Good bye my terrace garden in Thonglor. Thank you for the pleasure and the good times.


Emrich-Schönleber Riesling Sekt, Nahe. Germany

August 31, 2010

One of the best wineries along the Nahe river is Weingut Emrich-Schönleber in the village of Monzingen. The family vineyards (about 33 acres) produce great wines, mostly Riesling.

In 2010 the Gault Millau Wine Guide gave 10 of the 17 wines of the Emrich-Schönleber Estate 90 or more points. The wine writer Jancis Robinson was extremely impressed by the ‘2009 Halenberg Auslese’. 19.5 of 20 points was her verdict which is truly awesome.

Recently we visited the winery. Coming straight from Frankfurt Airport, we drove along the Nahe wine route, passed Bad Kreuznach, and spontaneously dropped in to pick up some bottles of wine.

In the yard, we bumped into Mr. Emrich-Schönleber senior, who was on his way out. In passing he referred us to his wife who was so kind to introduce us to the wines of the estate. Since it was early in the morning, we did not feel like tasting wine (we just came from breakfast in the small town of Sobernheim). Moreover, after many hours of flight, we had just gotten off the plane.

Our selection was quick but firm. I knew some of the ‘grand cru’ locations of Monzingen. After all, I had spent most of my school holidays in the neighbouring village of Martinstein where my maternal grandfather (Hans-Heinrich Schuessler) had introduced me to the amazing world of Nahe wines at a rather tender age.

We chose a nice cross section of Emrich-Schönleber’s wines including two sparkling ones. Ms. Emrich-Schönleber was so kind to add a small bottle of sweet desert wine as a gift. We were flabbergasted.

The bottle of Riesling Sekt (Sekt is German for ‘sparkling’) below did not last long. Only after a couple of hours, when the bottle was sufficiently cold, we opened it to celebrate the start of our holidays in Trier. What an auspicious start to a summer holiday in Europe?

Emrich-Schönleber Riesling Sekt

The Riesling Sekt is produced using the classical method of bottle fermentation. Everything is done by hand. Due to the acidity of the Riesling fruit, the wine displays a beautiful spectrum of fine acids. Moreover, it is dry and fruity with lots of fizz. The magnificent minerality of the wine is another characteristic.

Emrich-Schönleber Riesling Sekt

Nahe wines, especially the Rieslings, are one of the best kept secrets in Germany. You should visit this internationally little known wine region. It’s just about an hours drive west of Frankfurt Airport. I promise you: you will not regret it.

Address:
Weingut Emrich-Schönleber
Soonwaldstraße 10a
D-55569 Monzingen
Tel.: +49-67 51-27 33
Fax: +49-67 51-48 64
www.emrich-schoenleber.de


German wine regions: the Nahe

September 17, 2009

Nahe2

The Nahe wine region has a great significance for me and my family. It was here that I got first into contact with vine cultivation and wine appreciation at a rather tender age.

Why you might ask? Were you not from Trier, Mosel?
Well, my maternal grandfather, Hans Heinrich Schüssler, a native of Reichenberg, a village near Würzburg, used to live in Martinstein. Being from Franconia, another famous German wine region, he was the only wine drinker in the immediate family (my father preferred beer). He used to be the station master in Martinstein (today 322 inhabitants), a hamlet along the left bank of the Nahe river. The village was founded in the middle ages at a ford crossing the Nahe river. In 1340 it got a castle and even market (city) rights.

My brother and I, we used to spend the long summer holidays (and many other holidays) at my grandparents house in Martinstein. My grandfather used to take us on long walks in the forest and villages nearby. During these walks we always found a country inn where we could refresh ourselves, enjoy a drink or a “Brotzeit” (a typical German snack). He would drink a “Schoppen” (0.25 litre glass) of the local Nahe wine. He loved dry white wines. We would have a lemonade.

He was associated with a “hiking brotherhood” (called “Hunsrückhöhenverein”) whose members would walk in large groups on weekends to various destinations. Usually a country inn was the designated object of the hikers. Here the group converged for a hearty meal and some drinks. Shortly after vintage, “Federweisser” (freshly made but still half-fermented wine) was a popular drink.

But boys being boys, we would sip at his glass from time to time. He being deeply involved in conversation with fellow hikers, did not notice. Neither did we. The sweetness of the fresh wine veiled its dangers. To cut a long story short, we had the experience of a first inebriation of our young lives and could hardly walk strait on our long way home.

After my grandfathers retirement he moved out of the train station into a newly built home right in the middle of vineyards at the outskirts of the village towards the east. Vineyards stretched right to the door. Just a short walk up the hill and endless vineyards lay at your footsteps. Occasionally we would help during vintage time (more play than serious helping). But we would often taste fully ripened grapes and enjoy the fruit. I treasure these wonderful memories of my youth at my grandfathers house in Martinstein.

Map Nahe wine region

The Nahe wine region (photo source: wikipedia)

As you can see from the above map, the Nahe wine region stretches from Martinstein to the West along the river eastward, later north towards the estuary at Bingen where it flows into the Rhine river. The largest city in the region is Bad Kreuznach, a small town of about 45,000 inhabitants.

Nahe1

With about 4,200 ha under vines, the Nahe region is one of the smaller wine growing areas in Germany. It is still larger than, for instance the Yarra Valley in Victoria (with about 3,800 ha, about 2% of Australia’s total). The Nahe region is dominated by white grape varieties (about 74% of the total area under vines). The main variety is Riesling (26%) followed by Mueller-Thurgau (14%) and Dornfelder (13%).

Fifty years ago the variety distribution was very different. Silvaner used to be the most planted variety with about 50% of the total area but has ever since been replaced by the Burgundy varieties (Pinot White, Gris and Noir) as well as by Riesling, Dornfelder, Blauer Portugieser and Müller-Thurgau plantings.

The Nahe is divided into seven collective sites (Grosslagen) and 328 individual sites (Einzellagen). Due to its volcanic origins, the soils of the nahe show a great diversity. The wines reflect this. Only in 1971, the German wine law defined the nahe region. before that time, its wines were sold as “Rhine wines”. However, some of the best Riesling wines of germany originate from the Nahe and today Nahe wine can rival the best from Mosel and Rheingau or any other German wine region.

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The Nahe can be divided into the upper (west) and lower (north-east) Nahe and the region around Bad Kreuznach. In Martinstein and the neighbouring village of Monzingen (first mentioned in 778) the oldest vineyards of the Upper Nahe are to be found. The soils of the Nahe range from sandstone to quartzite and slate. The region shows a temperate climate and some of the southern slopes enjoy a micro climate comparable to the Mediterranean. Elevations range from 100 to 300 meters altitude.

Nahe4

Who are the top producers of the Nahe wine region?

Well, the name Herrmann Doenhoff comes to mind. He is the leading vintner of the Nahe and his wines are ranked among the top Rieslings in Germany. Herrmann Dönnhoff has about 20 ha under vines and produces about 140,000 bottles a year. His winery is located in Oberhausen/Nahe. The 2007 vintage produced outstanding wines; the 2008 Riesling wines did not quite reach that quality level during recent tastings. But his ‘2008 Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle Riesling Gran Cru’ earned 93 Parker points.

Other top producers are Emrich-Schönleber in Monzingen (about 15 ha under vines, yearly production about 110,000 bottles), Schlossgut Diel (17.5 ha and 120,000 bottles) in Rümmelsheim and Schäfer-Fröhlich (14 ha under vines and 75,000 bottles annually) in Bockenau.

Wines and vintners I like very much are Sascha Montigny in Laubenheim and Weingut Edelberg at Gonratherhof 3 in Weiler just on the other side of Martinstein. The former I like because of the high quality of his red wines, especially the 2006 vintage; the latter produces solid country wines which remind me of my youth in Martinstein and the long hikes with my grandfather. The country inn at Gonratherhof was often our destination when the three of us set out from our little house in the vineyards.


Bleak arrival

March 15, 2009

I arrived from Bangkok on a bleak and cold morning in the middle of March. Three degrees Celsius but dry conditions, is what the pilot predicted. Well, what a chilly morning here in Frankfurt. Where was spring, I thought.

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Nahe vineyards in March

I decided against the train, rented a car and drove off to the West. When passing the city of Mainz, I decided to go along the Nahe river, the birthplace of my father. It’s a lovely place. The Nahe is a little know German wine region. I will write a separate blog entry to tell you more about this jewel of a wine region. The Nahe region is very deer to me.

I passed the town of Bad Kreuznach but stopped in Bad Sobernheim. There a strolled through the small town just to move my legs little. It was 7 h in the morning, people were on their way to work. I was greeted by all the people I walked past. That’s the charm of those little German places.

nahe1

Martinstein, river Nahe and vineyards in the back

I spent almost all my childhood holidays in the house of my grandfather in a small hamlet called Martinstein. Here the last vineyards are to be found. Further West are only rocks and forests. I paused and paid a visit to my grandparents grave. When overlooking the surrounding hills vivid memories of my youth danced before my inner eye. I remembered that my grandmother took me to fetch the milk and that I could never get enough from watching the cows and that I had to be taken by force to come home. I also remember rides on horse carts and later the first tractors.

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The city of Kirn

My last stop was in Kirn, a small city and the birthplace of my father. This is a beer drinkers place since the famous Kirner Pils is (or was?) brewed here. I went to Dhauner Strasse to see the house were my father was born and where he grew up. From the castle, the Kyrburg, I took a good look around before heading through the mountains (where I found a lot of snow) to the Trier and the Mosel Valley.