Mosel wine in the EVA Air lounge in Taipei

November 22, 2012

The other day, while I was waiting for my flight home to Bangkok, I discovered to my great amazement in the business class airline lounge of EVA Air, that a wine from my native Mosel was on offer.

What a pleasant surprise, I thought, when I spotted the label in the wine cooler. It was a ‘2011 Bockstein Kabinett Grand Cru’ by St. Urbans-Hof in Leiwen, Mosel. The wine village of Leiwen is only a couple of kilometers away from my home town Trier.

I have visited the winery and love their crisp-dry Rieslings. For the first time I had the opportunity to taste one of their off-dry wines. The terroir, “Bockstein” in Ockfen, a small village at the Saar river, a tributary to the Mosel, is also a place very dear to me.

From the raised hides in the hunting territory of Schoden (another village at the banks of the Saar river) one could have a glimpse of the “Bockstein”, a rock formation towering over the Saar valley. It’s vineyards are very steep and the Riesling grapes grown are famous for their high quality.

Off-dry whites are not my favourites, but of course this wine showed it’s outstanding quality. It was full and lush, smooth as silk in the mouth, with intensive and mellow Riesling aromas. It had also a long finish, and I loved the balance of sugar and acidity.

Moreover, I found my beloved Mosel (Saar) here, thousands of miles away in a place of Asia where I least expected it.

Mosella – home of the best Riesling wines in the world

February 5, 2012

The Mosel valley with the hamlets Riol and Longuich

Maybe because it is Sunday, maybe because that lends itself to some introspection, maybe because I am abstaining from consuming wine for a couple of days, maybe because I have not been to my beloved Mosel for such a long time, maybe…who knows.

Anyway, on this beautiful tropical Sunday in Bangkok and while my Thai vintner friends in Khao Yai, about two-three hours north-east of Bangkok, are busy harvesting their grapes, I am exploring the writings of Decimus Magnus Ausonius (310-393 AD), a Gallic-Roman government official, educator of princes and poet who lived for some years in my home-town Trier.

The Mosel, photo taken from Nittel, the Luxembourg side to the left

Have you heard about Ausonius? No? Well, let me tell you that he was born in Buldigana, which it called Bordeaux today, and where he also died. He had studied rhetoric in Toulouse.

In 365 Valentinian I, emperor of the West-Roman empire, called Ausonius to Trier (yes, my home-town which was the capital of the West-Roman empire for a while) or Augusta Treverorum, as it was called in those days, to educate his eldest son, Gratian, the heir-apparent.

The wine village of Alken, Mosel river and castle

In 371 Ausonius published his impressions (early travel writing) from a trip in 368 which brought him from Mogontiacum (Mainz) through Bingium (Bingen) and Noviomagnus (Neumagen) to Augusta Treverorum (Trier). This work is know as “Mosella” and consists of 483 hexameters describing the land and its people along the road which now carries the name of the poet: Via Ausonius.

The “Mosella” is the only known poem from antiquity describing a single German river: the Mosel. In his poem Ausonius praised the beauty of the river, the lands surrounding it, the fertility of its soils and the industriousness of its people.

The poem has inspired endless other poets, writers and bards until the present times. I like for instance the CD “Mosella” with songs praising the Mosel region by the folk music group “Woltaehr”.

The Mosel river, photo taken from the train near Puenderich

So far so good, you might say, but what about the wine, the famous Riesling you adore so much?

Unfortunately, I did not drink that many Riesling wines from my native Mosel in 2011. I do not know how it happened. I must have explored other wines more often than usual.

However, the ones I tasted where really special and of the highest quality. I fondly remember my visits to Leiwen where I visited Grans-Fassian and St. Urbans Hof in November 2010.

Both wineries produce beautiful Riesling and other wines of the finest quality. Both belong to the association of the top German wine producers (Called VDP). Both win regularly awards. Usually the top wines are in the range of 88 to 96 Parker points, just so that you have a general idea.

Most of the wines I brought with me then, were consumed in 2011, either here in Bangkok or at my mum’s home in Trier. I admit they were the 2009 and 2010 vintages only.

I have written about the two wineries which you can find in earlier blog entries (Grans-Fassian, St. Urbans Hof).

Feel free to explore Riesling wines from the Mosel. It’s worth it.

Grand Cru from the Mosel: 2009 Dhron Hofberg Riesling GG by Grans-Fassian

January 30, 2011

Beautiful fish

Pomfret, or Bawal Putih, as we call it in Indonesia, is a wonderful fish; in fact it is one of my favourites. I also love “fish-Sundays” which always lends itself to a beautiful white wine. Mind you, I also drink red wine with fish, but if I have some Riesling in my fridge….


With the chilli-garlic-ginger sauce, the pomfret was just wonderful.

From the outset, I was clear about the wine. Well, actually our wine fridge is quite empty. But from my last trip to Germany in November last year, I brought with me two bottles of precious liquid: Riesling wines from my beloved Mosel river.

You might guess it, yes. I opened a bottle of ‘2009 Dhron Hofberg GG Riesling’ by Grans-Fassian Estate in Leiwen, Mosel. This grand cru (or Grosses Gewaechs as the German call it) is just wonderful.

2009 Dhroner Hofberg Riesling GG by Grans-Fassian Estate

Wine tastings last year by Weinwelt, a German wine magazine, awarded it with 95 Parker points. The wine is luscious and complex, with beautiful peach and citrus aromas. It has the minerality of the Mosel Riesling. The fine acids and the balance of the wine are just mind blowing.

Wine prices in Bangkok are astronomical. For a 5 EURO wine in Germany one has to fork out about 20-30 EURO here. You can have the Dhron Hofberg Riesling for a price below 20 EURO from the cellar door. The trip is worth it. Leiwen is a treasure trove for wine lovers and Riesling geeks.

I wrote about the Grans-Fassian Estate in an earlier blog entry. The winery is also member in the prestigious VDP (the Association of German Quality Wine Estates).

Cheers and “zum Wohl”

Weingut Grans-Fassian
Römerstraße 28
54340 Leiwen, Mosel
Tel.: +49-6507-3170
Fax: +49-6507-8167
Openng hours: Mon. to Fri.
8.00-12.00 und 13.30-16.30 h

Flammkuchen everywhere

August 14, 2010


Everywhere we went in Germany (except Bavaria) during our holidays, “Flammkuchen” was on the menu. Flammkuchen is the German name for an Alsacian dish called ‘flammekueche’ or ‘tarte flambée’ in French. The dish is in fact of ‘alemannic’ origin. The Alamanni , an alliance of different Germanic tribes settled in what is today south-west Germany, eastern France and northern Switzerland (the area south of lake Bodensee); composed today roughly of the regions of Alsace, Baden and the Palatinate.

The thin, bread-like dough comes often in a round shape and is, in its traditional form, covered with crème fraîche, onions, and lardons. However, there are many variations of this old recipe. Similar to pizza all kinds of toppings have found their way onto Flammkuchen. I found different styles as far north as Muenster.

In my home town Trier at the river Mosel, we had the delicious dish from time to time and just loved it. Usually I had a Bitburger Beer with it, preferably in a mug. But the local wines make also a good drink, for instance an Elbling or a local Riesling wine are perfect for the enjoyment of a Flammkuchen. Try it.

Flammkuchen and a Bitburger Beer

The other Mosel: The wines of Luxembourg

September 2, 2009


Luxembourg vineyards along the Mosel seen from the German side in Wellen

Having grown up in Trier, Mosel the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is no stranger. As a teenager we used to drive to Luxembourg City to enjoy its night-life visiting the famous discotheque “Blow up” and thereby expose ourselves in a kind of pan-European experience, populating the dance floor amid dancers from Belgium, Holland, France, Germany and Luxembourg.


Mosel river with Nittel in the foreground (German side) and Machtum (Luxembourg side)

The above photo shows the Mosel valley, in the foreground the wine village of Nittel on the German side, and in the background the Luxembourg village of Machtum/Miechtem along the “Route du Vin”, the road which leads the visitor through the picturesque vineyards and wine villages of Luxembourg. I took these photos during my last visit to Trier at the end of June when I cruised along the river visiting both Grevenmacher and Nittel.

One of the best kept secrets as regards European wines are the fine wines of Luxembourg. Total production is about 12.4 million litres of which more than half is exported (mostly to Belgium and Germany). The total area under vines is about 1300 ha only which is about a third of the Yarra Valley. Luxembourg is a kind of artisan wine producer, where the winery sector is dominated by small family-enterprises, whereas large, corporate-wine industrialists shine through their almost complete absence. Of the odd 430 grape producers only about 60 have their own wineries. Most vignerons are members of a wine co-operatives at the village level.

Luxembourg is mainly a producer of dry, varietal white and sparkling wines (about 15% of total production). This is a stark contrast to the German side of the Mosel which has a strong tradition in semi-dry and sweet wine production.

Of the 15 approved wine varieties, Müller-Thurgau (Rivaner) accounts for about 29% of the area under vines followed by the Burgundy varietals (together almost 40%). Auxerrois (14%), Pinot Blanc (12%) and Pinot Gris (13%). Riesling covers only about 13% of the area in Luxembourg whereas it is the dominant grape variety on the German side of the Mosel. Luxembourg also has about 10% of the area under Elbling, the oldest wine variety in middle Europe, characterized by its high acidity which makes it ideal for the production of sparkling wines. Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer are other white varieties grown. Pinot Noir (about 7% of the area) is the most common red variety of Luxembourg.


Parent house of Bernard Massard in Grevenmacher

On of the largest producers of still wines and crémants (bubbly/sparkling for my Australian readers) is Bernard Massard. Bernard Massard is also well known in Trier where the company has a large office and wine cellars in the middle of the town centre (Jakobstrasse), but Bernard Massard owns and operates vineyards also along the Loire river in France. The parent house of the company is located in Grevenmacher. More than 30,000 visitors come to see the extensive wine cellars


Bernard Massard owns two vineyards along the Mosel: Domaine ‘Thill’ in Schengen (12 ha under vines) and Domaine ‘Clos des Rochers’ in Grevenmacher and Wormeldange (18 ha) with a combined production of about 120,000 bottles (or 10,000 cases) per year. Through the sparkling production in Trier about 3 million bottles of crémants and other sparling wines are sold. The French vineyards (Caves Monmousseau at Montrichard and La Petite Cave at Ronchamp) along the Loire river produce mainly crémants (Crémants de Loire and Touraine sparkling wines) and a variety of local wines.


Domaine ‘Clos des Rochers’ in Grevenmacher


Vineyards near Mertert/Wasserbillig

The bulk of Luxembourg’s family vineyards and wineries is much smaller than Bernard Massard. Because of the long tradition of viticulture in the villages and hamlets along the Mosel, many vintners come from families who have a strong family tradition in grape growing and wine making. Many families are related through intermarriage and therefore many wineries have combined family names most of which you will have never heard of.

Representing these strong traditions I would like to mention only three smaller wineries. I apologise to all the others; I know many of you deserve a full portrait.

Caves René Bentz, Wellenstein (5.2 ha)
The vineyards are located in Wellenstein, Remich, Wintringen and Bech-Kleinmacher. Main variety is Müller- Thurgau, however the most important varieties are Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Auxerrois. The Riesling wines of the Gottesgôf selection are worth trying, and so is the 2007 Pinot Gris Côteau Wellenstein.

Domaine Viticole Charles Decker, Remerschen (4 ha)
Charles Decker has a clear vision of his wines. He is one of the few who cultivates Muscat Ottonel grapes and experiments with German new varietals such as Siegerrebe, an aromatic grape. He specialises in sweet wines. Try his Muscat Ottonel wines but also the Chardonnay and the Pinot Gris are commendable.

Caves Kayl-Noesen Nic et fils, Remerschen (6 ha)
This is a very young undertaking, with the winery established only about 5 years ago. Before that the family produced grapes and sold the fruit to other wineries. The young vintner who studied oenology in Germany, manages the estate with his father. The classic varieties of Luxembourg are the wines you should try. Their Auxerrois, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris are ideal wines consumed with fine cuisine.


The mouth of the Sauer river at Wasserbilligerbrück meeting the Mosel

It is worth visiting Luxembourg and its vineyards and wineries. Stop at any nice café or wine bar and try the local Elbling or go for the more elaborate cool climate Auxerrois, Pinot and Riesling wines.

Information about Luxembourg and its wines:

I found the following book very useful (in German): “Weine und Crémants aus Luxemburg”, Einkaufsführer 2009, Meininger Verlag (, Neustadt, Weinstrasse.

A very informative article about Luxembourg can be found on

But also the Wikipedia write-up gives the newcomer a very good overview.

The fourth source of useful information comes from

Wine shopping in Healesville, Yarra Valley

August 16, 2009


For a long time I wanted to write about my wine shopping experience in Healesville, a charming tourist town in the Yarra Valley, about an hour’s drive from Melbourne. One can find a jewel of a wine store in this rural retreat, called Barrique. I took the photo above Christmas last year.


This is the old shop front

When visiting Healesville again in July 2009, I was shocked to not see the above signpost in the old place. I was afraid that the global financial crises and the bush fires might have let to the closure of this little wine shop. Alas, it had only moved a block further along the main street into the city centre. I was so happy when I found it again.


The “new” Barrique, a block further up the main street

I could not resist the temptation. Previously, I had bought German wines from this shop. I dashed in to see what was on offer. The wines are beautifully displayed. There was so much out there. I could not stop browsing through the shelves.


The inside of Barrique


So many bottles


Wines from all over the world


The “German box” with selected Riesling wines from various German wine regions

The box above announces some of the best German Riesling producers from Mosel, and Nahe. I just love Riesling wines. In the end I picked up four bottles, one from the Pfalz, three from the Mosel. I will not tell you what they were today. More about the tastings of these wines later. Stay tuned to the Man from Mosel River.

Saar Riesling: Ayler Kupp

April 19, 2009


Spaghetti alle Vongole

Spaghetti alle Vongole was the right pasta to be enjoyed with one of my “treasure” Riesling wines. From my last trip to Germany I had brought two bottles of Riesling back to Thailand.


One of them was a ‘2007 Ayler Kupp Riesling Kabinett’ (dry), Saar from Bischoefliches Konvikt Trier. Nothing special, you might say, but a very decent Saar Riesling for sure (price: about 10 Euro/bottle). The terroir “Ayler Kupp” is world famous for producing excellent Riesling wines.


The wine is a typical young Saar Riesling. Actually the wine region’s official name is Mosel, but I stick to Saar, Saar being the river where the grapes for this wine are grown in a small hamlet with the name of Ayl.


We poured the wine, which had a light straw colour and is low in alcohol (11%), so that I could take a picture. I love the Saar Rieslings, they are wines to die for. They are well balanced, acidity, sugar and alcohol in a perfect combination. They have character, texture and structure. Aromas of melon, citrus, passion fruit, peach and/or floral notes are to be found.

The match of the food with the wine was perfect. The slight spiciness of the seafood pasta and the basil went very well with the citrus aromas of the young, slightly bubbly Riesling. The wine was very fruity, a citrus bomb, so to say, marvellous. If you have a chance to visit the Saar region, please take your time and taste some of the local wines.

PS: After the extensive lunch, by the way, we had some chocolate, espresso and port of course. I smoked a big Cuban cigar. The tropical heat made us feel mellow; what a joyful day.

Karl Marx and Chinese Grape Wine

November 28, 2008

To state it from the outset, Karl Marx never ever tasted Chinese grape wine in his lifetime. However, Karl Marx, the most famous son of my home town Trier, used to own for some time some of the better vineyards properties along the Ruwer river, a tributary of my beloved Mosel river.

The Marx family vineyard was found in the location “Viertelsberg” a medium quality terroir near the castle ‘Gruenhaus’. In 1857 the family sold its vineyards in Mertesdorf. Karl not only invested in vineyards and the wine industry but he also loved to drink Mosel wine. I frankly do not understand how Marx could survive those many years in London where good Mosel wines were certainly hard to come by in the latter half of the 19th century.

Marx would have enjoyed the samples of “College Wine” produced by the Chinese Agricultural University (CAU) oenology department. The wine is produced for purely non-commercial reasons. The bottles were presented to me by an old friend. We enjoyed it over a meal which marked our reunion. The wine went very well with the Chinese food on offer. Later at home in Bangkok we would have it with an Italian pasta. But in this case I felt that some depth and ‘strength’ was lacking.


The grapes for this wine come from Changli in Hebei province and were supplied to the oenology department by the well known Huaxia Winery. When I lived in Beijing in the early 1990s, it was marketed as Great Wall wine.


Swirling in the glass – what a beautiful ruby-red colour

The wine displays the typical varietal character of a Cabernet Sauvignon but is medium to lights bodied. At 12% alcohol it’s a bit “thin”/”light” for my taste. In comparison, it went well with Chinese but not Italian food.


A somehow classic design

PS: Despite the fact that the CAU is a modern university, at the entrance to its eastern campus, one of the few statues of Mao Zedong graces the gate. When I lived in Beijing in the early 1990s, my friend David McGrath (al marhum), chased the remaining Mao statues still standing in the capital city. He took photos of all of them. If I remember correctly David identified 8 statues. Around ‘Xue Yuan’ road where I stayed, I found 4 of these 8 in no time. All were to be found at the entrances of universities or other academic institutions.


The four Mao statues

F.l.t.r. and up to down: Research Institute of Petroleum Exploration and Development, China University of Geosciences, University of Science and technology, China Agricultural University.

The next big thing: German Pinot Noir

October 10, 2007


Pinot Noir grape

It seems that I’ve been drinking the right stuff: “Blauer Spätburgunder” as the Germans call it, Pinot Noir is all the vogue in “the German lands”. Traditionally, Germany has always been considered a white wine producer. The recent rediscovery of Riesling and the boom in worldwide Riesling demand supports this view.

Now it seems domestic attention has shifted to the colour red. In particular the Pinot Noir wines show a tremendous rise in quality and consumer demand. Wine experts in Germany praise the progress made and estimate that an increase in demand for German Pinot Noir is going to follow the Riesling boom.

But red varieties are no strangers to Germany, as I have pointed out in one of my recent blog entries (“Old friends, wine from the Mosel and other culinary delights”, 16. September 2007). Where would German red wines be if politicians had not meddled in the vintners’ affairs in the 18th century, as elector Clemens Wenzeslaus of Saxonia did along the Mosel?


Vintage time for Pinot Noir 2007

My recent explorations of German wines made from the Pinot Noir grape can only confirm the wine writers’ opinions, though they mainly point to the wine regions of Ahr, Baden, Rheingau and Rheinhessen and seem to forget the next big thing, Pinot Noir from the Mosel.

I argue that the quality of Mosel Pinot Noir wines is as good as wines from the other regions and you will get a good drop at much less expense. The Ahr, pioneering Pinot Noir grapes for many decades, has always been considered a high-price red wine region. However, you do not have to spend €12 to 20 per bottle.

My favourite Mosel Pinot Noir wine producer, the winery of Alfons Sebastiani in Mehring offers a beautiful Pinot Noir for €5,40 the 0.75 litres bottle.

Another great Pinot Noir producer on the Mosel is Weingut Markus Molitor in Wehlen. I tasted his 2004 Molitor Spätburgunder at the Weinhaus in Trier (opposite the Karl Marx Haus in Brückenstrasse 7); it is very drinkable.

Less affordable are the Molitor 2004 Pinot Noir wines from the locations Graacher Himmelreich and Brauneberger Klostergarten (€35 to 49 /075 l bottle). These prices are an indicator for the general trend; Mosel Pinot Noir wines seem to be becoming the new cult wines. Wine producers and consumers will benefit from it.

As for the average wine drinker like myself, I do not worry about high prices as long as there are plenty of new wines to find, explore, and taste. My recommendation is to try some German Pinot Noir wines.

Karl Marx and Mosel wine

September 26, 2007

When I visited my hometown Trier recently, I also went to the place where Karl Marx, the most famous of our citizens, was born in 1818 (the Karl Marx Haus). What I did not know about him was his relationship to wine and the Mosel wine industry. From a leaflet collected at the tourist paraphernalia shop I learned that the parents of Karl Marx were vineyard owners along the Ruwer in Mertesdorf where they owned several parcels. It was quite common for bourgeois families of the times to acquire vineyards either for their own wine consumption and/or for investment and old age security reasons. The Marx family vineyard was found in the location “Viertelsberg” a medium quality terroir near the castle ‘Gruenhaus’. Today, the ‘Weingut Erben von Beulwitz’ produces a 2002 Spaetburgunder (Pinot Noir) wine with a Karl Marx label to commemorate this famous “son” of Trier. The wine is not exactly from the old Marx family vineyard but derived from vineyards nearby. Some time ago I had tasted this wine with some delicious venison (big horn sheep) which my mother had prepared for me.


The label with Karl Marx

Marx himself was fond of drinking wine and appreciated the value of it. More interesting is the fact that among others the misery of the Mosel wine producers inspired Marx to study and research economic issues in general. In various newspapers Marx reported about the problems of the Mosel vintners. He criticized the Prussian government for its lack of support which in the end brought him into conflict with the authorities in the 1840ies which in the end led to his exile first in Paris, later in Brussels and finally in London.

After Napoleon lost the war and with it the once occupied lands west of the Rhine river, these territories were given to the Kingdom of Prussia after the peace congress of Vienna in 1815 and administered as the Prussian Province of the Lower Rhine. This marked the beginning of a golden age for Mosel wine producers since they benefited from tax-free export of their wines to Prussia. Unfortunately, the phenomenon was short lived when, with the introduction of the German Customs Union (Zollverein) in 1834, vintners from the southern German states were in the position to successfully displace their competitors from the Mosel. This in turn brought wine prices down. An unfavourable Prussian tax policy coupled with bad harvests led to the pauperization of many vintners at the Mosel. Marx was appalled by their suffering, criticized the government, violated press censorship requirement and in the end had to leave into exile.

In 1857 the Marx family sold its vineyards in Mertesdorf. But due to the efforts of the Weiss family (the owners of the Weingut Erben von Beulwitz,, we can enjoy today a Pinot Noir depicting the face of Karl Marx on the label. These bottles can also be bought at the aforementioned shop (7.5 €/0.75 l bottle).


Ruwer vineyards near Mertesdorf in spring

PS: I personally think that it is a pity that the wide adoption of his ideas in Eastern Europe, Vietnam and China for instance brought so much misery to mankind. Less emphasis on the collective and more on individual freedom would have gone a fair bit. Marx should have stayed with drinking and enjoying wine and give up writing in the first place, one is tempted to argue.

In a letter to the father-in-law of his daughter he mentioned that “a man who does not love wine will never achieve anything good for mankind”. Unfortunately, wine drinking is not a guaranty for such deeds as his own life showed.