Leone Catani – Two litre bottles of Nero d’Avola from Sicily

October 7, 2012

Leone Catani – Nero d’Avola

Well, how should I say it? I cannot afford for every day drinking the wine on offer in 0.7 bottles any longer. Wine prices in Thailand are just too high.

Instead, we have taken to some cheap stuff. I know, that ‘life is too short to drink cheap wine’. However, some of the cheap stuff is actually quite drinkable.

The above wine is one of them, easily available in any super-market in Bangkok. Value for money, so to say, and in a two litre bottle. I feel like in the good old student days.

It is not worth to try to identify the producer or the location. No, just enjoy a drop of red for “the time in between”, I would like to call it.

Cheers from Bangkok.

Glorious days in the vineyard

April 6, 2012

Visitrs have arrived at Two Hills Vineyard

As the cars indicate, we had visitors at Two Hills Vineyard in Glenburn, Victoria. It was one of these occasions when we wanted to dine and wine with old friends. There is never enough time. We usually take it, as it comes and fortunately, Tony, Helen and Joe dropped by for a meal. My brother-in-law, Michael and his wife Helen completed the group of diners.

The weather was wonderful, warm and dry, a typical summer’s day when farmers all were busy taking care of their hay. In the background of the picture above you can see the hay bales produced by our neighbour Victor.

The table was ready

We were busy since the morning to prepare various dishes. And as is customary in Australia, the senior male in the family is in charge of the grill. Alas, under the watchful eyes of my brother-in-law Michael my barbecue skills have improved over the years.

My “little” barby in the shed

Australian beef

The quality of Australian meat is outstanding. We usually buy it from the butcher in Yea, a lovely little country town about 30 k to the north of Glenburn.

I am always a bit nervous when grilling the meat. I am afraid to ruin these wonderful raw materials. We had pork, lamb and beef, various vegetables and some Italian salad. Needless to say, all delicious stuff.

The diners on “the lawn” under the gum trees

What a glorious day in the vineyard

Having friends over it always a great opportunity to sample all kinds of wine from Australia as well as abroad. With the strength of the Australian dollar, imported wines become more and more affordable. In fact there are more and more imported wines available these days.

The ‘2010 Casano Nero d’Avola’ from Masala, Sicily was one of the many different wines we had with our meal. Casano Vini was founded in 1940. Ever since it is producing quality wines. Remarkable are their ‘TerrAntiqua’ and the ‘Classics selection’. The bottle we had was one of the Casano table wines. The red fruit aromas and the solid structure make this a great wine with red meats.

Casano, Sicilia – Nero d’Avola

But we also sampled a few local wines. From our neighbours in nearby Murrindindi (this is also the name of our shire), we had a ‘2008 Family Reserve Shiraz’ by Murrindindi Vineyards was an excellent choice for the meal.

Murrindindi Vineyards produces the family reserve wines only in outstanding years of high quality fruit. The Shiraz was spicy and full of flavours. In our cool climate Shiraz produces outstanding wines, not every year though, but often enough.

Shiraz Family Reserve – Murrindindi Vineyard

After the meal, we had to move into the shade. We opened the shed doors and sat in the cool of the mud brick building. The sampling of wine did not stop, of course. What a jolly good day that was.

“Those were the days, my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d sing and dance forever and a day
We’d live the life we choose
We’d fight and never lose
Those were the days
Oh, yes, those were the days”.

These song lines from my youth (Mary Hopkin) come to mind.

Come on, sing along with me.

Mediterranean cuisine

April 30, 2011

Skewers of lamb on the “home” grill

Lamb is not necessarily everybody’s favourite. In my native Germany the consumption of lamb is about less than one kilogram per capita. Only in the 18th century lamb and mutton was the main meat consumed in German lands. Sheep meat has a bad reputation because most people do not know how to properly prepare it. That;s at least my understanding of the matter.

Since I marries Margit I have learned my lesson about lamb. It can be a wonderful dish, you just have to cook it in the right way and, I might add, with the right spices.

The finished lamb skewers

A nice salad with onions and some chilies

Also some rice

The coriander and the other “Southern” spices as well as the lamb itself call for a Mediterranean wine. So why not a Nero d’Avola from Sicily?

This red grape variety is the most important one of the island. The grape is used in blends and for the production of fortified wines. The ‘2009 MandraRossa Nero d’ Avola, IGT’ was just the right wine for that meal.

A beautiful colour of the Nero d’Avola

Wines made from the indigenous Nero d’Avola grape is sometimes referred to as the ‘godfather’ of Sicilian wine. The MandraRossa Estate is located near Menfi in the southwest of the Island. When I visited Sicily in 1988 (oh god that’s so long ago), my first and last visit of this splendid place, we did not go that far West.

The front label

The wine shows beautiful flavours of plum, is spicy and richly textured. The MandraRossa is not a blend but a single variety wine. In my view this is a wine for every day consumption. In the “Timo Mayer classification”, it would qualify as an “umpf” wine: a wine with guts. My verdict: get a bottle and enjoy.

The back label

And here comes the year of the mighty tiger

February 13, 2010

It started with fire crackers this morning. They made a hell of a noise in our Soi, as the Thais call the back lanes and side streets. Amazing, I thought, if this goes on, we will be deaf by night.

In the end we decided to go out, do some shopping of groceries and decided spontaneously to go for lunch to the dumpling place called the Royal Kitchen on Thonglor. At the entrance, right on the pavement, large trestle tables were laid out with all kinds of food, some drink and incense, all offerings in honour of the gods. And I had not brought my camera, what a shame. The restaurant was packed. We ordered all kinds of dumplings and the four of us consumed a sumptuous Chinese meal. It felt so great. This is our start into the year of the tiger. We drank of course beer.

But I have a wine suggestion for the tiger year. ‘2007 Nero D’Avola’ by Cusumano. Have you heard of the brothers Cusumano, Alberto and Diego? I had not. The bottle has a glass enclosure (yippieh). The colour is most beautiful.

2007 Nero d’Avola by Cusumano, Sicily

I find their website a bit cumbersome, the wine is not. Sicily’s most important indigenous red variety produces wonderful wines with soft tannins and plum, berry and spicy flavours. They compare to our Shiraz wines for instance the ones from Heathcote, Victoria. I can only highly recommend this wine from Sicily. It matches the power of the tiger.

Gong xi fa cai – Happy New Year

Restaurant review: Chopin, Berlin

June 8, 2009


The Chopin restaurant

Last year I had the chance to dine twice at Chopin restaurant which is located between Wannsee and Griebnitzsee in the South west of Berlin. The cuisine the restaurant specialises in is Silesian food. Today Silesia is a region of Poland smaller parts of which, however, are belonging to the Czech Republic and to Germany.


The entrée “Schlesische Zigarren

We had a fixed menu which was ordered for the occasion. The entrée consisted of “Schlesische „Zigarren“, Silesian cigars (price Euro 3,90), a puff pastry filled with sheep feta and a mustard sauce.


The beef dish “Schlesischer Sauerbraten”

We could choose between two main dishes: a “Schlesischer Sauerbraten”, a marinated pot roast (price Euro 11,90) with red cabbage and apples, peaches and cranberries served with German dumplings, ….


The pike perch (German: Zander)

…and a fish dish, consisting of a pike perch roasted in a sauce of dill and with zucchini (price Euro 13,90). Potatoes and vegetables were also presented.

Since we dined at the restaurant twice within a week, I had the opportunity to taste each of the main dishes.

Needless to say (you can see it from the pictures) the food at Chopin restaurant is delicious; it’s a splendid example of German country cuisine at its best.


Pinot Gris

There were two wines served with the food: a white (Grauer Burgunder/Pinot Gris) from Baden, Germany and a red (Nero d’Avola) from Sicily (which is not on the wine list any more).

I had the white, a ‘2004 Oberbergener Bassgeige, Grauer Burgunder, Kabinett, dry’, from the Kaiserstuhl wine region in Baden.

It’s a massive white wine (13% alc.) not something light for the summer. It has substance and structure which make it an ideal partner for pairing with Silesian food.

The producer of the wine is a “wine-co-operative”. The Gault Millau as well as the Eichelmann Wine Guide award the co-operative “one bunch of grapes” (Gault Millau: reliable) respectively “two stars” (Eichelmann: good producer).

I very much like this cosy family restaurant. If you are in Berlin next time, please do not miss to pay it a visit.

Restaurant Chopin
Wilhelmplatz 4
14109 Berlin, Germany

A most marvelous fish dish

March 4, 2007

I have been away for a while. Let me tell you about a very memorable dinner I had with my friends Joyce and Rainer and a couple of other friends in Bangkok the other day. It started as a kind of late Chinese New Year celebration. We jointly tossed a special Singapore salad with the most astonishing ingredients of which I cannot give you a run down. Eating this dish together brings you luck of course. We had it as a kind of entree.

The main dish, however, is what I would like to introduce to you today:

Baked Sea bass with Basil-Feta Crust

This is a most amazing creation. I always thought that fish and cheese do not go well together. Wrong. They can build a terrific partnership and create an explosion of your senses in your mouth. The recipe goes as follows (4 serves):

Crust ingredients
– 3 garlic gloves
– feta cheese (one block)
– bread crumbs
– basil leaves
– black pepper, salt
– 4 table spoons of best extra virgin olive oil

– 4 pieces of Sea bass fillet, but any other “white” fish will do

How to do it
– Grind peeled garlic cloves and basil leaves together into a coarse consistency, mix the olive
oil into it
– put ground basil mixture into mixing bowl together with bread crumbs and Feta cheese. Mix
well together. Add pepper and two more tablespoons of olive oil.
– was sea bass fillet and sprinkle with pepper and salt. Place on oven-proof dish.
– put basil-feta mixture on fish covering the surface.
– bake for 30 minutes in 180 c oven
– serve with vegetables as desired.

We drank a Sicilian white wine with the fish. I would have loved to have a Two Hills Sauvignon Blanc instead; the wine we had at Rainer and Joyce’s wedding some years ago for instance. Of course also a Sauvignon Blanc from another cool climate wine region would do. But Sauvignon Blanc definately be my preferred choice with this dish.