Bulgaria – a paradise for wine lovers

September 19, 2014


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.


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


Wine tasting at Oechsle, Trier

October 29, 2013

The following wine tasting was a remarkable event which we utterly enjoyed. I do not include tasting notes here; we were not in the mood to write all that stuff down. We wanted to enjoy each others company and get on with the exploration of the wines.


The Oechsle wine house in Trier


The tasting facilities


Wine stored in the tasting room

The wine tasting costs about 15 EURO/Person and includes six wines. So what were the wines we had included in the tasting, you might ask?

They were as follows:

– 2011 Chardonnay by Sektgut Laurentius
– 2011 Elbling Classic Margarethenhof by Juergen Weber
– 2011 Riesling Spaetlese (old vines) by the Bremm winey
– 2011 Ayler Riesling by Peter Lauer
– 2011 Chardonnay by von Nell Estate in Kasel
– 2011 Kasler Kehrnagel (off dry) by Recihsgraf von Kesselstatt

and two red wines
– Rotweikoenigin (red wine queen) by Longen-Schloeder
– 2011 Pinot Noir by Chateau Edmond de la Fontain

You will have noticed that this in more than six wines. In fact the sommelier was so encouraged by our enthusiasm that he served us some selected drops.


Elbling, my new passion


Riesling from the Mosel


Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt, semi dry Riesling


The Mosel produces also excellent Pinot Noir wines




The jolly wine tasters: The Weber and Adam families

Elbling temptation – Open day at the Fuerst Winery in Metzdorf

September 30, 2013


The Fuerst Winery in Metzdorf

My day job does not leave me much times these days. However, as promised, I wanted to share with you some of my wine experience during the last summer vacation in Europe. Today I want to inform you about our visit of the “Hoffest”, a kind of open day with all kinds of program for the guests including food and wine of the Fuerst winery in Metzdorf, a small village on the banks of the Sauer river.


Elbling, one of the oldest vine varieties

The Fuerst family is know for their excellent Elbling wines. Elbling, a white grape, is one of the oldest grape varieties in Europe. It’s origins are not entirely clear. Some claim that the Romans brought the grape to Gallia and Germania, others say that is was an indigenous variety cultivated by Celtic communities long before the Romans arrived.

However that may be. It is very high in acidity, and therefore suitable for the production of sparkling. The total area under Elbling grapes has decreased over the years. Less than 600 ha are planted to Elbling grapes these days, most of it along the Mosel river. Luxembourg has about 120 ha of Elbling vineyards.

The wine is spritzy and fruity, in short a straight forward affair, a pleasant and down to earth experience. It should be drunk young.

It was a splendid day when the six of us visited on a Sunday morning. Unfortunately we had missed the breakfast and morning walk in the vineyards, which was offered as an culinary and educational experience for the guests.

Because everybody was in the vineyards, the seats and tables in the winery were rather empty when we arrived which left us with lost of choice. Just about 30 minutes later the place should fill up very quickly and we were lucky to have a comfortable place.

We were hungry. The photos below show the different dishes we ordered. Apart from various cold platters, even a simple sausage with fries could be ordered. The barbecue and grilled meat were the favourites with many guests.






I was eager to taste the Elbling wines. They should not disappoint me. There is nothing more refreshing on a hot summers day, I must say. The relatively low alcohol of the wine also helps.

Before we left I searched for the vintner; and the young wine-maker sold me a few bottles. I was amazed. Here you get value for your money. Please check out the price list of the Fuerst winery. You will find many pleasing offers.


The man from the Mosel with daughter Lucy

Concluding I will say that Elbling is an underrated grape variety but makes very pleasing wines. If you visit the Mosel river and its tributaries, please plan for an excursion along the Elbling wine route and visit some of the lesser known hamlets and villages and taste the wines of small family owned vineyards and wineries.

Back from paradise

August 13, 2013


The Mosel river near Trittenheim

In the picture above you will see the wine village of Leiwen (left). Further around the bend of the river (to the right) is the wine village of Trittenheim. This is basically the view of the Mosel you will get when you drive though the Hunsrueck mountains.


Trittenheim, Mosel

And this was also our first view of the Mosel when we arrived in Germany for our summer vacation this year. We were mesmerized. What a splendid view, what a splendid landscape, what a splendid river, how good to be home.

From the outset let me tell you we had a great time (only about 3 weeks), and despite our at best erratic planning and our lousy preparation, we were able to line up some unique, memorable and exquisite encounters with the wine and food world.

I intend to write in more detail about most of these encounters. But let me not be too optimistic as regards the time available for blogging.

So what were the highlights of our visit?

Well, we had the best pork-knuckle ever (!) after a two hour march through the forests near the Ammersee on our way to the monastery of Andechs, a famous location for catholic pilgrims. Bavaria is a fantastic place to visit especially if the weather gods are smiling on you, and smile they did. We had warm, at times even hot, weather during the whole time of our holidays.

Along the Mosel we visited three wineries – two along the Ruwer, one on the Sauer, both tributaries of the Mosel – and had one wine tasting in Trier city at Oechsle. Wonderful, exquisite, I can only rave about the many fresh and zesty wines we had the opportunity to sample.

The wineries we visited were:

Fuerst Winery, Metzdorf, Sauer
Karthaeuserhof Estate, Eitelsbach, Ruwer
Maximin Gruenhaus C. von Schubert Winery-Estate, Mertesdorf, Ruwer

Another highlight was the visit of one of the best restaurants in the Alsace region of France. For a family lunch we went to the Auberge du Cheval Blanc in Lembach, Alsace near Wissembourg in the Vosges mountains.

Needless to say we spent many afternoon and evenings in wine bars and beer gardens, among them the wine bar Kesselstatt and the wine bar “Weinsinnig”, two of my favourite places to relax and enjoy a good glass of wine in Trier.

More soon. Stay tuned.

PS: I made some gorgeous pictures.

New website: It’s Riesling in Bangkok

April 19, 2013

Its Riesling web

It’s Riesling – cover website

As a lover of Riesling wines, I am always on the lookout for new initiatves promoting my favourite white wine grape. The other day I came across the facebook page of It’s Riesling.

I assume they are working from Thailand but I am not entirely sure about this. However, many of the pictures they posted on facebook show scenes and people from Bangkok. Also the telephone number seems to be a local one.

The motto of It’s Riesling is: “Wine is our passion; Riesling is our life”. I sincerely hope that this is true. Then I will have access to top German Riesling wines which would be fantastic.

They have some interesting wines on offer. I will keep you informed about my progress.

Shopping for wine in Beijing – Cheers near People’s University

April 17, 2013


Cheers at Renmin University

The other day, when I took a stroll from the Friendship Hotel in Beijing where I stayed during my recent visit, I came also across the Cheers wine shop at Renmin University (People’s University). I knew this shop from earlier visits, and was curious to know what it had on offer.


I was surprised to find even a few wines from Germany: Two off-dry Riesling wines from my native Mosel and a Pinot Noir from the Pfalz.


2011 Peter & Peter Pinot Noir by Zimmermann-Graeff & Müller

I had never before heard about the “Peter & Peter” brand but could not resist to buy and later try this wine. I did not regret it. After my return from a business dinner with lovely Chinese food but without table wine, I opened the Pinot Noir and enjoyed it as a night cap.


Zimmermann-Graeff & Müller is a wine company in Zell, Mosel with about 300 employees and vineyards and wineries in the Mosel and Pfalz wine regions.

Jancis Robinson awarded this wine a 15 out of 20 points. The sales price varies. I found websites where you could order it for 8 to 10 EURO/bottle; in Canada it is available for about 19-20 C$.

Before taxes one can have it in Thailand for 356 Bath. But remember that the luxury tax in Thailand is considerable (400%).

For me it was great to enjoy this fine specimen of German wine so far away from my native land.

Two Men from Mosel River tasting New Latitude wines in Bangkok

March 18, 2013


Gran Monte Syrah grapes in Khao Yai

Recently a good old friend from high school times, Thomas Weber from Trier and his wife Birgit, visited Thailand for a holiday. Since Thomas is a kind of a wine geek, someone who has written two books about wine, and who knows every vintner along the Mosel river, I intended to introduce him to a selection of New Latitude wines.


The two wineries I had in mind where GranMonte Family Winery and PB Valley Wines, both located in the Asoke Valley in Khao Yai, Thailand. Unfortunately, Thomas did not have sufficient time to go and visit the vineyards in person. Therefore I decided to bring the vineyards to him.

We did two tastings, one shortly after his arrival in Bangkok, the second one the evening before his departure. The first wine tasting took place in our home. I had selected three wines (one white and two reds), all from GranMonte Family Winery.

We started with the ‘2012 Viognier’, according to some critics the best white wine Gran Monte has ever made. Thomas was amazed that such an outstanding wine could be produced here in Thailand (I provided him with a farewell gift, guess what it was?).

We followed up with two Gran Monte Syrah wines, the ‘2010 Hermitage Syrah’ and the ‘2009 Orient Syrah’. This was the first time that Thomas had ever tasted wines grown in the tropics, or, as they are also, called ‘new latitude wines’.

He was amazed by the high standard and the outstanding quality of the wines. All of them fully satisfied his expert palate pampered by vintage after vintage of excellent wines from the Mosel. The Thai wines from Gran Monte can positively compare with any wines from Europe, that was the verdict after the first round of tastings.

The second wine tasting was conducted over a dinner (forgive me that I skip the food here) at the Great Hornbill Bistro in Soi 39 Sukhumvit in Bangkok. This place is the Bangkok cellar door of PB Valley Khaoyai Winery.

Again we tasted three wines, one white and two reds. We started with the ‘2012 Pirom Khao Yai Reserve Chenin Blanc’, an excellent vintage and very enjoyable wine. We liked it so much that we consumed quite a few bottles with our entrees. Only for the main course we switched to red.


The Cabernet-Dornfelder blend is being decanted

First we had a bottle of ‘2011 Pirom Khao Yai Tempranillo’. The wine had a beautiful aroma but the somehow ‘green (gemuesig) taste’ disappointed a little. The more we were looking forward to the ‘2010 Cabernet Dornfelder cuvée’. It had time to breathe after the decanting. This wine, an unusual blend, did not disappoint. It displayed its character, was full of flavor, had structure and an excellent finish.

The surprise of the evening was, that Mr. Gaksch had reserved for us a bottle of the lovely PB Valley Lychee Schnaps so that we could harmoniously end our Thai wine tasting.

The overall verdict is that Thailand produces outstanding wines and that more needs to be done to bring this good message to the world of wine.


The happy tasting party

I strongly advised Thomas to come back again, and instead of spending time at Thai beaches, go and visit Thai wineries and enjoy the pleasure their excellent wines provide the casual and the “un-casual” drinker.
Spread the gospel.