Dr. Loosen, I presume

May 11, 2008

Last night we went to dinner with our dear old friends Liz and Walter. After nibblies (as we say in Australia) at their home we proceeded to Cork and Screw, the very hip and extremely trendy restaurant in Jakarta.

The food was excellent as always. We had an Australian Shiraz with the meals and moved on to dessert. Three of us had crème brûlé; Liz had some kind of chocolate dessert. There were only three wines to choose from, two “half bottles” and a Riesling Spätlese and can you imagine from where? The Mosel!.

And what was it? I could not believe my eyes, a ‘2006 Dr. Loosen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese’ for only about 33 €. We needed to have this wine. What a bargain. Usually one cannot get any Mosel wine here in Jakarta. I could have kissed the people from Cork and Screw and Vin +, the wine shop associated to the restaurant.

The empty bottle ‘2006 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese’, Dr. Loosen, Bernkastel, Mosel

I must admit that though I come from the Mosel, I have never had a bottle of Dr. Loosen’s wine (www.drloosen.com). He is such a famous vintner, sitting on all kinds of wine juries, all over the world. It had to come to that. I tasted his wine in Jakarta, a couple of thousand miles from home. The major German Riesling portal (www.riesling.de) lists him as the top vintner of their top 10 wineries.

“Wehlener Sonnenuhr” is one of the prime terroirs (about 65 ha) on the Mosel, all on steep slopes. A sundial is to be found right among the vines and that gave the location its name.

Wehlener Sonnenuhr (source: www.drloosen.com)

The wine has only 8% alcohol and was the perfect match with our dessert. Of course we drank it too young, but we had no choice, waiting was just not feasible. The wine displays and expressive nose, shows apple, lemon, almonds and nuts. The acids were well balanced and the full sweetness gives it a round and lingering finish. We all loved the wine.

When the waiter wanted to clear the table I told him my story: that I was from Trier, Mosel , not far away from where this wine came from and that I wanted to take the empty bottle home. “Tidak apa apa”, the kind man said, meaning “no worries” in Australian, and he gave me a Cork and Screw bag to carry the bottle.

How wonderful. If you happen to be in Jakarta one of these days, have a meal there; it’s certainly worth it: great place, great service, great food, great wines.

Sunday Lunch the Mosel Way

January 22, 2007

The weekend came and went like a storm, exhausted I am sitting on my desk at Monday lunchtime and contemplate about the good times gone by. As always, we had great food on Sunday. My wife Margit prepared a “Wehlener Specksalat”, which translates into English as “Wehlener potato salad”. With it we had a wonderful fresh water trout. The wine we enjoyed with the food was a Riesling of course, a 2003 Kaseler Riesling from the Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt Estate.

The settlement of Wehlen/Mosel is part of the district of Bernkastel-Kues, a small but famous town in the Mosel valley, about 50 km downriver from Trier. Wehlen has one of the best vineyard sites among the Middle Mosel producing outstanding Riesling wines. The world renowned site is called “Wehlener Sonnenuhr” (Wehlener sundial). The vines are cultivated on steep slopes (50%) on an altitude between 110 and 190 meters above sea level. The soils are very stony and are classified as Devonian slate soils. The wines produced are elegant and deep, full-bodied and fruity.

Wehlen goes back to Roman times when Celts established this village. The settlement has a tradition of more than 1100 years of vineyard cultivation and wine production. In a historical document of 874 the Arch Bishop of Trier requires the vintners of Wehlen to deliver 10% of their produce to the local church. Only the vineyards allocated to local monks were excluded from this tax. Unfortunately, the website of Wehlen is only in German but you might still visit and enjoy the impressive pictures (www.wehlen.de).

Back to the food. The “Cookbook of the Mosel” (Author Gisela Allkemper, published by Wolfgang Hoelker) was given to my wife many years ago as a Christmas present by my mother. And ever since, Margit has referred to it and experimented with its recipes. Wehlener Specksalat has become our favourite potato salad. Here is how you prepare it:

Wehlener Specksalat

Ingredients: 1 kg of potatos, 2 table spoons of oil, 5 ts of vinager, 2 onions, salt, pepper, a pinch of sugar, 75-100 grams of smoked streaked bacon

Peel the potatoes and cook them, still warm, cut them into cubes and mix them with the dressing; cut the beacon also into cubes, fry it in a pan and add it with the fat to the salad; keep the salad warm, mix it from time to time. Serve it with backed or fried fish, and/or sausages or other fried meats.

We drank one of my last bottles of ‘2003 Kaseler Riesling’, Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt – The Riesling Estate (www.kesselstatt.com). Kasel is a small village at the Ruwer River, some 10km from Trier on the right hand side. When we were at high school my brother Wolfgang used to earn some pocket money by working for family vineyards during harvesting season. That’s hard work because the slopes are steep, the weather often wet and unfriendly. He reported about the great hospitality of the vintners and the fun he had with the co-workers of the labour crews employed for picking during vintage time. I never got to it and regret this now at the tender age of 52. Another lost opportunity.

Wine Pub and Garden of Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt in Trier

The Wine Bar and Garden of Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt in Trier

Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt maintains a beautiful website (www.kesselstatt.com) in three languages; German, English and Chinese. The latter made me very happy. Having lived in China and Chinese speaking cultures for more than eight years, it is always a pleasure to see Chinese characters. I guess that many of the Chinese tourists visiting Trier, the birth place of Karl Marx, also belong to the customers of the estate. Let us hope that many visitors from the Far East become lovers of wine from the Mosel river and its many vineyards, wineries and wine estates. Kesselstatt, by the way, owns also a vineyard in Wehlen (according to the website 0.3 ha) in the location “Sonnenuhr”.

“Neumagener Wineship” replica in front of the Kesselstatt wine bar

The “Neumagener Wineship”, replica in front of the Kesselstatt Wine Bar.

Similar to the “village-system” of Burgundy, Kesselstatt produces regional wines. The fruit for this Riesling is sourced from around Kasel. Kesselstatt itself owns two holdings there (top locations Nies’chen 4.4. ha on a 60% slope and Kehrnagel 1.8 ha on the valleys finest sites). Some of the vineyards belonged to the St Irminen monastery. By the way, I grew up at Irminenfreihof 5 in Trier (the neighbourhood was locally also knows as Brittany), next to the monastery located in the middle of the city of Trier.

The Wine: 2003 Kaseler Riesling dry
This full-bodied fine Riesling shows all the characteristics of the typical Mosel Rieslings. It’s very minerally (because of the slate soil) and fruity, depicting pineapple, peach, apple and lemongrass characteristics. It’s is also well balanced, dry with a lingering finish. The alcohol level is rather high for a Mosel Riesling (12.5%). But 2003 was a most astonishing year. Throughout the year temperatures were higher then normal; the year was also much drier. Because of these favourable conditions growth was exuberant. When temperatures hit the 40° Celsius in August sunburns were widespread. The grapes ripened quickly and picking started much earlier along the Mosel river and its tributaries then in most years. The fruit picked was usually healthy and showed aromas which were not depicted in other years. Unfortunately, I have only another two or three bottles left of this treasure. I will reserve it for special occasions with more Wehlener potato salad and fresh trout.