FohBoh – The Wine Community and the future of blogging

March 10, 2013

FohBoh web small

The FohBoh Wine Community website

It’s about four years ago that I joined the Open Wine Consortium which was later renamed the FohBoh Wine Community. Membership is about 5,951 when I checked today, so only a few short of six thousand people and/or companies.

The group provides a global platform for food and wine professionals and attempts to help them in their business. It’s a kind of network of people passionate about wine and the wine industry. I am a member but not a very active one. I update my page only very seldom.

As a (mostly enthusiastic) hobby blogger I have to manage my own time even more carefully. My day job requires me to be on twitter and facebook, direct the production of content for our company websites, video clips, write short stories, and coach our team to do PR work on social media. This leaves little time for my own existence as a food and wine blogger. Moreover, having spent so much time in front of a device, I just cannot help it in the evenings and prefer to have ‘time without gadgets’.

I constantly contemplate about stopping my own blog, The Man from Mosel River, despite the fact that when people identify me as “The Man from the Mosel”, I am thrilled and motivated to soldier on. Fact is that I would maybe be better off with a facebook page to which my twitter account “Man from Mosel River” could be synchronised.

I could become quicker, provide shorter inputs, but especially more pictures and video clips. My android hand phone would be the device where most of the input would go through, so no need for a laptop or anything bulky.

Nowadays professional wine bloggers have teams of writers, freelancers etc. to fill their wine blogs. Just think of Jancis Robinson, Dr. Vino or James Halliday. And as time goes by, I am getting slack regarding a regular up-date of my blog. Consequently my numbers are going down as well. I also might have to ‘re-vamp’ my Man from Mosel River, make it more funky and have moving pictures.

Headlines in newspapers and magazines muse and contemplate about the power of food and bloggers. At the same time it is so easy to leave feedback and comments on sites such as trip advisor. Why bother with a fully fledged blog?

Hmmm, I might do something else. But the cracks in my armour are getting slightly bigger. I have to think. As always bear with me.

What would you suggest, by the way?

PS: What I like is my archive which has become quite big over the years and allows me to trace sunken memories and paths of my past.

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Thai cooking

October 4, 2012

I am in the North of Thailand right now. To be pricise, Chiang Mai, the former capital city of the Lanna Thai kingdom. I will use my spare time after work to explore the local cuisine.

What you see above is my Thai cooking certificate which was given to me after the successful completion of a Thai cooking class in Hua Hin last year. I guess I forgot what I have learned; my inate nature is not the one of the cook. I am more of a gourmet; the one who enjoys the eating rather than the preparation of food.


German wine tradition: the wine queen and wine princess

October 2, 2012

German wine tradition

I do not think that Australia has already embarked on this path, but Germany certainly has a long tradition of wine queens and wine princesses (since about the 1930s).

The German wine queen is the elected representative of German wine for the duration of one year. The candidates are the 13 regionally elected wine queens from the officially recognized 13 wine regions.

It is tradition that the new wine queen will be crowned in Neustadt, Pfalz. The 64th German wine queen is Julia Bertram from the Ahr win region. She was inaugurated on September 29.

The German wine princesses (allowed are up to three) are the deputies of the German wine queen. Usually the runner-up in the election is appointed wine princess. Currently there are two, Anna Hochdörffer, Pfalz, and Natalie Henninger, Baden.

The electoral college consists of about 70 members. I could neither find out how the selection committee is composed nor how these jury members are selected, though. From the 13 regional wine queens, normally six are nominated as finalists for the contest. The jury elects one as queen and two as her princesses. Of the 64 queens, 11 came from my native Mosel.

The candidates do not need to come from a winery or vineyard but need solid knowledge about German wine and the wine industry, oenology and wine-making. The wine queen and the princesses are representing the wine industry for a year at all major wine festival, fairs, exhibitions, wine tastings, including international events. They need to be eloquent and good ambassadors for the German wine industry.


Climate change and the vineyard

February 26, 2010

Two Hills Vineyard

Most of my libertarian friends are avid and passionate non-believers in global warning and climate change. They fiercely contest the validity of many research results. This sometimes reminds me of religious zealotry. However, one has to say that their opponents do not hesitate to falsify data and blackmail the public emotionally and otherwise. But many libertarians live in a constant state of denial when it comes to climate change. Well, so be it. I do not know where to stand in this debate but I would categorize myself as an “unremitting sceptic” in this regard.

Having said that, the changing climate pattern over the last two decades in my own vineyard and observations from vineyards around me cannot be ignored. Recently, Prof. Edward ‘Snow’ Barlow, professor of horticulture and viticulture and head of the School of Land and Environment (Agriculture and Food Systems) at the University of Melbourne and a practising viticulturist (he has a 24 ha vineyard in the Strathbogie Ranges) has published his new research findings about climate change and its effects on Victorian viticulture. An article in The Age by Jeni Port (10 January 2010) alerted me to this research.

One of the main trends in Victoria seems to be that vintage time moved forward considerably since 1982. In one location at the Mornington Peninsula it has come forward by 40 days in 40 years for Pinot Noir and 32 days for Chardonnay. At other locations, for instance at Tahbilk, one of Victoria’s oldest winery, picking days have fast tracked by 20 days.

Since we established our own vineyard (Two Hills Vineyard) in Glenburn in 1996-97 we had a high degree of variations in our growing seasons. But 10-12 growing seasons is not long if you want to see patterns. After all, we are the only vineyard in the location and comparative data are few and far between.

Our grapes

The Cabernet which we pulled out in 2001 might under these changing conditions been able to ripen the fruit after all. Should we have left it in? These and many more questions beg an answer. What will an earlier harvest mean for us? Will our early ripening varieties produce better yields or a higher quality of fruit? In contrast to other production locations we have sufficient water to irrigate if necessary, but is our fruit quality really higher than before?

If the “commercial life” of a vineyard is about 25 years, we are at about half-time. If Prof. Barlow’s predictions of vintage time for Victoria in 2030 and 2050 are realistic, we might be just in the position to make it, so to say. The selection of grape varieties for replanting in about 2025 could be based on a much broader scientific knowledge.

Prof. Barlow thinks that Australian vintners and winemakers are at the forefront of climate change, “the canary in the coal mine”, as he puts it.

Life is full of adventure, especially in the rural hinterland of Melbourne.

The article in The Age closes with the remark, that Prof. Barlow “rarely meets a climate sceptic in the wine industry”. From my conversations with libertarians I cannot confirm this, but libertarians are mostly found in urban centres and hardly in the field.


The wine drinker: Darwin

April 18, 2009

Alas, evolution is still an on-going process. In the 200th year celebrating the birth of the great Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the publication of “On the Origin of Species“, a new species has emerged:

an improved version of “homo sapiens” has been identified, named “Darwin” and scientific prove about this new species is circulating in the relevant scientific journals and also on the Internet. The photo below shows one of the specimen found recently in an abandoned flat in down-town Bangkok (how did this happen, you might ask, wonder oh wonder, it’s a mystery to me).

darwin

The new species

PS: Thank you Martin for providing me with the evidence.


Industry outlook: The Australian wine sector in 2009

January 18, 2009

grapes

Too many of those

It does not look good for us grape and wine producers here “down under” at the beginning of 2009. Analysts and wine industry experts, among others, are predicting another surplus for the 2009 vintage. The global financial crisis (and not the drought) is the “hammer” going to hit many artisan as well as industrial wine producers. Otherwise the bigger producers would not worry so much in public. Everybody expects the demand for fine wine to be sluggish at best in 2009 and the years to come.

Australia has about 170,000 ha under vines. The total volume of the coming vintage is expected to be around 1.85 million tonnes, about 400 to 500 thousand too much, according to some analysts. Experts at the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation believe that the sector has to shrink by 10, maybe 20 % in order to survive.

Grape growers will be hit particularly hard. Prices for fruit might be as low as 150 to 200 A$ per tonne. This is less than half of cost. The 600 A$/t we received for grapes last year are looking big by these new standards. For many grape growers the making of their own wines and the development of brands and markets are out of reach, and would anyway only be a temporary relief.

The “big producers”, accounting for about 73% of total production in Australia, are most likely to survive. In fact, they have recently made public statements calling for small producers to get out of production and out the way, thereby making room for the survival of the biggest (not the fittest). For instance wineries below an investment of 5 million A$ should close.

Findings from an accounting firm suggest that “most wineries with a sales volume below 10 million A$ (which is about 90% of all producers) are loosing money”. Implying that small producers are not competitive but inefficient and wasteful. Other suggestions call for the forced merger of wineries with less than 5 million A$ turnover per year. Average vineyard size, currently about 20 ha in Australia, should be more like 80 ha.

Well, small, boutique and artisan vineyards and wine producers have been around for a long long time at least in Europe and North America. Australia has a rather strong concentration in the sector where 4 to 5 big players are in fact calling the shots. Nowhere else in the world do such large wine companies exist.

However, why should we boutique vintners and small wineries loose out this time? Of course not everybody is going to stay in the business, but imagine who should keep the dream up? We not only sell wine, but visions and dreams about the land and the people, about how these people grow grapes and turn them into fine wine.

Just think of a wine factory and industrial production! How can it appeal to people looking for something else than the industrial age has to offer. Technically correct wine is one thing, a vintner on his vineyard is another.

We, the “small” vintners, add value to the lives of all the wine drinkers, the people driving through blooming landscapes planted with small vineyards and vines. The dreams are about freedom and independence, about love and nature, in short, the good life.

Fortunately, the development of modern technology is on our side too. Just read Chris Anderson’s book “The Long Tail” and how the many “fame less” products bought over the internet make more money than the few famous brands. Of course selling wine bottles over the internet is not the same as selling music etc. files but the major advantages of the “Long Tail Economy” (democratisation of production, distribution and marketing, the reduction of storage cost and the cost of information) can still be grasped.

thv-in-the-evening

Two Hills vineyard in the evening light

We at Two Hills Vineyard are still optimistic. We have a long-term strategy and are not fuzzed by quarterly profit and loss accounts and share market valuations. We have no debt and Margit and I are in good health. Millions of new wine consumers in India, China, Russia and elsewhere will eventually make their demands known. We only need a tichy tiny share of this to let us fly high.
Cheers, “auf Ihre Gesundheit” as we say in German (to your health)


Country Inns in Germany – Klostermühle, Ockfen, Saar

May 5, 2008

When I am visiting my hometown Trier I always try to arrange an outing to the Saar, my most favourite tributary of the Mosel (the other one I love very much, is the river Ruwer).

One day in March my mother, my friend Heinz and I, we went for lunch in the countryside. It was March. Spring was waiting in the wings, but could not get through as yet. However, it was a beautiful day. We choose the Klostermühle in Ockfen, Saar, as our destination, a winery cum hotel and restaurant (www.bockstein.de).

Winery-Hotel-Restaurat Klostermühle in Ockfen, Saar

Pork tenderloin with Spaetzle, a German type of noodle dumplings

The food was delicious, typical country inn style, rustique, big portions, in short: value for money type of food. I had one of their Rieslings with my food. Ockfener Bockstein is the name of the most famous location (terroir) in this neck of the wood. It was a very typical Saar Riesling, low in alcohol but zippy and fruity, with complex acids, a good structure and a long and intense finish.

After lunch we drove though the vineyards of Ockfen. On our way to Schoden where Heinz together with some friends is renting a hunting ground, we passed by the “Bockstein” which you can see in the picture below (where the tree line on the hill in the background is ending).

Ockfener Bockstein, one of the most famous “terroirs” of the Saar

The Saar is a very picturesque wine region and tourist destination in southwestern Germany and certainly worth a visit. Do it regularly as I do. The Riesling wines are among the best of Germany.

Address
Weingut – Hotel – Restaurant Klostermühle
Fam. Minn
54441 Ockfen, Saar
+49-6581-9293-0