The days are just packed!

February 25, 2015

THV 2015 A

The title of this post is from a Calvin&Hobbs cartoon book which was given to me by my friend Thomas Langenohl many many years ago. The cover shows Calvin and Hobbs lying on a branch of a tree and sleepily observing their surroundings, otherwise doing nothing.

This is how it feels right now. We have had three weeks on the farm in Glenburn, Victoria doing (almost) nothing.  We,  that is my wife Margit and our twin daughters Lucy and Charlotte, and of course me. It is about one year that our family is separated into two subunits: the girls going to university in Melbourne and we, the parents living in Sofia, Bulgaria, worlds apart, after moving for 19 years together in Asia from country to country. As for many close-knit families, we all suffer a little. A little much, I would add. The better for us now, we are hanging out together and just talking, listening, cooking, eating, singing, joking, laughing and pottering around the farm together, enjoying each other’s company, knowing how little time is left for such things in the current state of affairs.

THV 2015 B

We have all left home at one point or another, my wife Margit at 17 to get an education, me at 19 leaving for military service.  International gypsy life seems to have had a super-uniting effect on the four of us. Shared history and memory are very specific in that case, not inclusive and difficult to explain.

All good things are coming to an end. Soon we will part company for another year.

Life on the farm was and always will be bliss. And the days are just packed.

The freedom to grow grapes

May 4, 2011

Two Hills Vineyard – Sauvignon Blanc Block

For us Australians in Victoria it is somehow unthinkable that we would consider to ask government for permission to plant a vineyard or to plant vines. My native Germany, however, is very different in this regard.

Recently I found a news story about a village in Saxonia, named Grosspoensa, which had planted about 1,000 vines near a re-naturalised open coal mine, now flooded and used as a lake.

In 2006 the village government had requested the planting rights for 26 ha from the higher level government. But because the village is not located inside the classified Saxonian wine region therefore this request was denied and planting rights were not granted.

Two Hills Chardonnay

Nonetheless the village planted 0.3 ha with vines disregarding the higher governments rejection in 2008. The plan was to rent out the small vineyard parcels to hobby vintners. Now the vines had to be removed again. The state ministry of environment and agriculture ordered the removal. Also a fine was imposed (3,700 EURO). The village tried to negotiate and a second fine of 4,800 EURO followed.

The villagers were outraged that they had to pay twice and to pull out their young vines. The European Wine Market Regulation, however, specifies what punishment illegally planted vineyards entail for the planters.

Well, European bureaucrats seem to manage the wine industry along the lines of an old fashinoned Leninist central planning scheme. Why do they not trust the market and the people exchanging goods through voluntary transactions?

Pip’s Paddock Chardonnay

Spring in Trier, Mosel

April 11, 2011

Church of St. Paul’s seen from my home in Trier at Irminenfreihof

When I visited Trier at the end of March, I was very lucky because the weather just turned a little more to spring. The pcitures below of the spring flowers are wittness of the beauty spring carries with it.

Flowers of the hazel bushes

Flowers of the willow tree

Forsythia bush in yellow flowers

Cherry blossoms

Vineyards at Petrisberg. In the background you see the Roman amphitheatre and the Constantin basilica with its red roof

Vineyards of Thailand Part 1: Holiday Park

January 10, 2010

This blog entry if the first of three looking at various vineyards in Thailand. During the Christmas vacation, we went on a winery tour, visiting three Thai vineyards; Holiday Park, Gran Monte and PB Valley, except Holiday Park, all in the Khao Yai area.

Holiday Park, about two hours north of Bangkok, is a complex undertaking, more a holiday home cum entertainment facility than a vineyard cum winery. However, they do produce grapes, as it seems mostly table grapes for direct consumption. When we arrived in the place, vineyard workers were busy “cleaning” the grapes, which was thinning individual bunches of smaller berries so that the remaining ones could grow bigger. The table grapes we saw were very healthy.

Vineyard workers thinning bunches under the trellis system

Table grapes at Holiday Park

Small tractors were converted into small “locomotives” with wagons so that visitors can be driven around the property including a holiday housing park, a lake, an activity centre, the vineyards and a play ground.

The locomotive

The undertaking is obviously targeting domestic tourists and visitors. The staff at the tasting counter did not speak English. But nonetheless there were wines and juices to be tasted. It was my first ever experience with small plastic cups for a tasting.

Plastic cups for wine tasting at Holiday Park

I assume the wine made is just a by-product of the table grape business. The grapes which cannot be used as table grapes and/or are left over are made into wine. The price of the bottle was THB 250 (about 5 EURO or A$ 7.50). We did not buy any wine.

Holiday Park red

If you have small children, Holiday Park is still worth visiting. I suggest you go there early in the morning when it is not too hot. From there on you drive to Khai Yai to visit other wineries or the national park.

I could not find any address for Holiday Park on the internet in English. Sorry folks.

Thailand: New Latitude Wines – GranMonte Vineyard

March 27, 2009

As you probably know, I am busying myself with finding drinkable Thai wines. My first ventures into the world of Thai wines did not yield promising results. Alas, after some more tastings I was successful.


Main building, Gran Monte family Vineyard

We visited GranMonte Family Vineyard, a family winery in the Asoke Valley in Khao Yai, about a two hours drive north of Bangkok. This nascent wine business is owned by the family of Vissoth Lohitnavy. His daughter Nikki is the first-ever female oenologist of Thailand. She was recently awarded a Bachelor degree with honours by the University of Adelaide in South Australia.

The GranMonte Family vineyard is a state of the art boutique producer of fine wines. The return of Nikki marks a new chapter in the development of the family business. A new winery has been built and new equipment was bought including stainless steel tanks from Germany.


During the last couple of years Thailand has become a grape and wine producing country. High taxes on imported wines make sure that the international competition does not destroy the domestic wine industry. However, various awards won by Thai wines at international wine shows are proof that the wine in this tropical land has made good progress.


The general wisdom was that wine grapes could only be successfully produced between the 30th and 50th latitudes north and south. However, in recent years countries in the tropics and the sub-tropics such as Indonesia (Hatten Wines on Bali Island), Brasil, India and Thailand have shown that this is not true.

New latitude wines, a term coined by local wine writer Frank Norel, is the catchword. Much has been written about “New Latitude Wines” and wine production and I will come back to this topic at a later stage in more detail. The climate allows for two, or even three harvests but some producers forfeit the second (and/or third) vintage altogether and go for low yields.


As regards the varieties it seems that Chenin Blanc and Colombard of the white, and Syrah/Shiraz of the red varieties grow well at least at GranMonte family vineyard. The total area under vines is about 40 acres, 25 of which are planted with red and 10 with white grapes.


State of the art trellis systems, spacing and row management


Mr. Vissoth, the owner, explaining the vineyards to his visitors


Modern stainless steel cellar equipment


Freshly fermented grape juice


The tasting room of Gran Monte


Another view of the Gran Monte tasting room


The vineyard owner, Mr. Visooth Lohitnavy, in the tasting room


The “normal” product range


The award winners

I recommend to buy the award winners. They are the best wines. I particularly like the unfiltered Syrah, a great drop, smooth in the mouth, with plenty of fruit and a wonderful explosive finish.

So if you should visit Thailand in the near future, please plan a trip tpo Khao Yai and GranMonte Vineyard. The family of Mr. Vissoth is very enthusiastic and will make you feel very welcome. Below you’ll find the address and a map.

Granmonte Co,Ltd.

17 / 8 Soi Sukhumvit 6, Sukhumvit Road,
Klongtoey, Bangkok 10110

Tel : 0-2653-1522 Fax : 02-653-1977
Mb. : 08-9169-7766

Address at Khao Yai

Granmonte Vineyard & Wines
52 Moo 9 Phayayen, Pakchong,
Nakornrachasima, Thailand
Tel : 036-227-334-5


And the poet says…..

October 28, 2008

Recently, my friend Jim Riddell gave me copy of a collection of poems by Khalil Gibran (1883-1931) in a Chinese-English version. To my shame I must admit that I had never before heard about the poet Khalil Gibran.

Khalil Gibran (Source of the photo:

From the internet (wikipedia) I learned that he is the third best-selling poet in history after William Shakespeare and Laozi. Khalil Gibran was born in present day Lebanon. He was a Lebanese-American artist, poet, and writer who had migrated to the USA in 1895. This is where he also died (in New York City) at the tender age of 48 only.

I selected the following excerpts from a poem on eating and drinking for you:

“And in the autumn,
when you gather the grapes of your vineyards for the wine press,
say in your heart.
I too am a vineyard,
and my fruit shall be gathered for the wine press,
and like new wine I shall be kept in eternal vessels.

And in winter,
when you draw the wine,
let there be in your heart a song for each cup;
and let there be in the song a remembrance for the autumn days,
and for the vineyard,
and for the wine press.”

A good day to all of you.

I am crazy for vineyard pictures….

September 14, 2008

I love to look at vineyard pictures and do not grow tired of looking at them. I do not know where this comes from. It has certainly also to do with our own vineyard, for sure. When I am in Glenburn I walk my vineyard every day, from left to right, from right to left, from top to bottom and the other way, in the evenings and mornings, even late at night (actually I have to admit that after a rather joyful night, I drove around the vineyard in my old Mazda car, listening to loud music, windows wide open).

Two Hills Vineyard in Glenburn, Victoria, picture taken from the east by Nelly A. Kemur-Witt, December 2007

In the picture above you can see my treasure: Two Hills Vineyard in Glenburn, Victoria. First comes Merlot, then Pinot Noir, then Sauvignon Blanc, and to the left you can see the posts for the Chardonnay block, all in all 4 ha under vines.

Two Pinot Noir rows (photo by Nelly A. Kemur-Witt)

Pinot Noir fruit (photo by Nelly A. Kemur-Witt)

On some of the wine and vintner blogs and web pages which I regularly visit, there are stunning pictures of vines, vineyards, grapes, and nature in general. I would like to introduce to you a small selection of only three blogs you should visit and browse through their photo collections (and of course also their stories).

I start with the blog of Iris and her Weingut Lisson in southern France. The Winery (Weingut) has also a web page ( in three languages including English, but I usually visit Iris’s personal blog where she tells interesting stories (in words and pictures). The language is German. She also bloggs in French. I love the slide shows and the photo albums.

The second blog is from Germany posted by the owners of the Weingut Steffens-Kess in Reil, Mosel. Also in this case there is a proper website for the winery (, and a blog called “Bildergeschichten aus dem Weingut Steffens-Kess” (in English: Stories in pictures from the Steffens-Kess Estate). Again, great pictures around vineyards and vines are to be found.

The third blog with great photos comes from California, USA. It is the Tablas Creek Vineyard blog. The blog won the American Wine Blog Awards in the winery category in 2008. Since Tablas Creek specialises in Rhone varieties you can find wonderful photos of Mourvedre, Roussanne and Grenache among others.

All three blogs have more than nice vineyard photos. They are delightful to read and contain heaps of useful information about the wine industry, the ecology and the every-day-life of people who’s hearts are buried deep in their respective vineyards and wineries.

If you got nothing to do right now, click a bit around and discover exciting new worlds.

Elephants and vines

August 22, 2008

On a recent flight from Bangkok to Jakarta, I flicked through the airline magazine and found an interesting article about Thai wines. Yes, also the Thais grow grapes these days.

At Baan Khork Chang you can find the HuaHin vineyard (, near the seaside resort of Hua Hin.

As a unique feature they offer elephant rides in the vineyard. Who can beat this? The estate, though called a “boutique” vineyard, is not quite small but covering 400 acres (what would they call our 4 ha vineyard if 400 acres warrants the label “boutique”).

The article says that the vineyard was planted on the site of a former elephant corral. Another feature difficult to beat.

A photo collage from the magazine of Thai Airlines (see above) gives a glimpse of the adventure waiting for the casual visitor. Why the guy on the elephant’s back is holding a hoe is not clear but he must be up to something. When we finally live in Bangkok, I will check this vineyard out and sample some of its wines.

According to the website, Hua Hin grows Tempranillo, Brunello/Sangiaovese, Shiraz, Black Muscat, Chenin Blanc, and Colombard. The wines must be quite good because the Hua Hin Vineyard has been awarded four international wine medals. I will definitely see what this is all about.

Who of you has tasted the wines as yet?

Bye bye Europe – welcome home in Jakarta

August 15, 2008

It was the last time that we should return to our home in Jakarta after a summer holiday in Europe. We are moving countries. After ten years in beautiful Indonesia we are packing up all our belongings. A new beginning awaits us in Bangkok/Thailand.

You can imagine that the emotions of our various family members are on a roller coaster, it ranges from one extreme to the other, varies between the sadness of leaving everything behind to the euphoria of a new beginning in another place.

The hectic of the preparations related to administrative and organizational matters pertaining to the move will not allow me to share with you all the exciting things I experienced in German and Portuguese wineries. I will try to slip in here and there some short notes and some of the many pictures we took on the way. More might come somehow someday.

Please bear with me.

The Mosel valley and its vineyards near Schweich with the “wine villages” of Riol (left) and Longuich, photo taken from the freeway opposite Mehring in August 2008

Drowning in wine?

June 14, 2008

In todays Daily Wine news“, I found an article describing the recent changes in the Australian wine industry.

It starts with saying that “between 1997 and 1999 an unprecedented 40,000 hectares of grapevines were thrust into the soil across the nation”. Uff, I am one of those lunatics who put in vines during that time. Only a little, though, 3.5 ha to be precise. Now it (the land, our land) contributes as Two Hills Vineyard to the grape heap and/or wine lake. The increase in area under vines led to a 40% increase in output. Such growth was never seen in the history of the Australian wine industry before.

Two Hills Vineyard with the two hills in the background

Well, but I am actually exaggerating. There is no wine glut any more one could argue. Although it was not easy to find a market for our fruit, the very fact that there was fruit in abundance forced us to add value to the operation, e.i. make wine and sell it in Germany. We have survived so far. Of the last 8 vintages, two were to our full satisfaction, and the trend is positive. There is reason for optimism.

We are mainly growers and sell most of our fruit. The remaining part is turned into wine, mostly our Merlot grapes fall into this category. It allows me breathing space. I do not need to sell as fast as possible but rather on a pace we can stomach.

In the good old days growers had long-term contracts with wineries. Paradise has been lost ever since and the “spot market” is a true hassle. Some wineries are not relay reliable partners and it takes a while to sort out the ‘jewels’ from the ‘chaff’. That is costly for small vineyards. To run after small amounts of money and unpaid bills can be a hazard and it is a hassle. But some wineries treat their growers well. I know it from our friend Steve Sadlier, viticulturist (who tends our small property) and supplier of prime fruit to Yering Station in the Yarra Valley/Victoria.

Good to learn from the Daily Wine News article that the grower-producer relationship is about to change in response to the international market place and the flexibility required there. If that relationship, one of asymmetry in the past, would be more balanced, what a good news. Last vintage we had many cases of wineries retracting from earlier price offers. When they realised that the expected shortage of grapes was not to come and that they got sufficient fruit, they lowered fruit prices.

Another trend the Daily Wine News detected is that big companies shift away from developing their own vineyards. Well in the mid 1990s when the growers had no problem with selling any amount of fruit, wineries wanted to be on the save side and therefore invested in the establishments of their own vineyards. This is not only expensive, it also prevents the wineries from investing in other aspects of their business, for instance cellar technology, etc.. Some large wineries, it is said, rely on about 25-30% of their own vineyards, the bulk of their fruit intake is bought from growers.

Another welcome trend is that the industry is moving away from cheap fruit from warm and irrigated wine regions. That sounds nice to a small vintner from a cool climate region (the Upper Goulburn Wine Region). The rising water costs have hit growers hard and the change of demand does the rest: turn this land to other crops, maybe water saving food crops. The rising worldwide demand for food might be the incentive needed for that tectonic shift.

However, for small vineyards the development of boutique style wines and their own labels is a sine qua non for survival. And survive we will. Cheers