TheWineRambler "A German wine label is one of the things life's too short for" - Kingsley Amis



wine tastings

Reports from wine tastings and wine events - those that we have attended and also some of our Wine Rambler tastings.
Posted by Torsten 02 Feb 2011

Unless someone else is doing it for me there is almost never a day in my life when you don't find me in the kitchen throwing around pans, pots and knives. I like to cook, I love to eat well, and whenever there is time I work my way through recipes or London restaurants. That I also love wine with my food cannot have been lost on you as you are reading this on the Wine Rambler. So you may think nothing when I tell you that last week I was invited to a food and wine pairing dinner. But how about it was matching wine with supermarket ready meals?

steak and mushroom piesteak and mushroom pie

First of all I should say that Charlie Bigham, who lured me and a group of food and wine bloggers to a secret location near London Bridge, is not too happy having his food called "ready meals". I will do so nonetheless, because it takes me back to one of the darker secrets in my food life.

Posted by Torsten 28 Jan 2011

A friend of mine gave me ten little bottles / Of some special stuff that he brewed up his-self / So I took it and hid it down in my basement / But my wife found out about it and she told me to get rid of it or else / And since I didn't like the way she said or else / I went down there and proceeded to carry out her instructions [...] Picked up the first bottle, pulled the cork out of it...

ten little bottles...ten little bottles...

It did not quite happen like this. Admittedly, there was a basement. And I went down there. Picked up a bottle. Or two. Actually, there were 74. Also, they were not small. And despite the time it will have taken him to put it all together, I am fairly certain host Robert Giorgione did not brew them up by his-self. Even so, he managed to get Riesling from all over the world to London for a blind tasting that I could not miss. And so I went down there and proceeded...

Posted by Torsten 24 Jan 2011

It is wine tasting season here in London. Events fight for a time slot in the busy schedules of sommeliers, wine writers and other trade folk, and even the humble Wine Rambler had to turn down several invitations. Among the events I decided I had to attend was Bibendum's Burgundy 2009 En Primeur tasting, held 11 January in the impressive rooms of RIBA, the Royal Institute of British Architects.

en primeur Burgundy shines in the Wine Rambler's hand at RIBAen primeur Burgundy shines in the Wine Rambler's hand at RIBA

Burgundy produces some of the world's finest wines, and as they do come at a price a tasting is a fantastic way of learning more about them. Learning about Burgundy is in fact one of our new year's resolutions, so the Bibendum tasting was a great and timely opportunity for me to have a peek into the world of Burgundy.

Posted by Torsten 27 Dec 2010

Every other season I assemble a group of wine loving friends at the Wine Rambler London HQ. The mission is simple: drink some wine and have fun. As that might seem too frivolous in the current times of austerity a little work is also required of my guests - and that is to share their impressions of the wines. For the autumn tasting in November these impressions ranged from 'body shop mandarin lotion' and 'broccoli' to 'tennis balls' and 'cold custard'.

As is the law at Wine Rambler seasonal tastings, all wines have to be tasted blind. This avoids bias and, most importantly, makes it more fun and adventurous. As my wardrobe is mostly stocked with German and some Austrian wines this is what my guests have learned to expect, but I always aim to have at least one surprise in store for them...

Posted by Julian 14 Dec 2010

A few years ago, when the Wine Ramblers were not yet Wine Ramblers, we attended our first ever wine tasting together. An unhealthy mix of curiosity and the promise of a free tipple had brought us to downtown Munich's venerable Bayerischer Hof. At this hotel, members of the VDP (Verband Deutscher Prädikats- und Qualitätsweingüter), an association of some of Germany's most distinguished wineries, were presenting a range of their wines. It was a memorable evening that began with a lot of awkward swooshing and spitting, and ended with a drunken plan of creating a diversion in order to steal a case of Knipser Syrah that, sadly, never came to fruition. But that is a story for some other year.

The tasting is an annual event, we reported on it last year and we will in the future. This year, we decided to cover in more depth the six wineries that most convinced us - and to point out a few wider trends that we think may be worth noting and discussing.

Posted by Torsten 03 Nov 2010

Sweet wine is evil. Just mentioning it can make people's faces go grumpy bulldog on you. Even the faces of those who haven't tried any yet. Wine with residual sugar is often seen as nasty plonk, suitable for a cheap hangover or perhaps as a wine for the ladies, and that is usually not meant as a compliment either. In the UK, it is particularly associated with Germany 'thanks' to brands such as Liebfraumilch.

So I have to deal with a lot of bulldog faces in my mission to interest people in German wine. The most successful approach, I find, is to get them to taste the wines, especially with food, but that is a slow process if you are just one guy with a wardrobe full of Riesling in a nation of millions of wine drinkers.

So imagine my delight when I was recently invited to a lunch workshop designed to explore how off-dry and sweet Rieslings pair with food: Who is afraid of Residual Sugar? was organised by St. Urbans-Hof, one of the premier Mosel estates. What started as a very exciting and tasty experiment turned into a far-reaching discussion on the world of wine, customer perception, national (wine)stereotypes and wine marketing.

Posted by Torsten 27 Aug 2010

No thanks, I am really not that keen on Prosecco. Admittedly, this is an odd sentence to start a post on a Prosecco tasting. However, it describes the attitude I have had towards Prosecco for a long while, and for two reasons. First of all I have a long-standing dislike of sparkling drinks, an antipathy that, at least with regards to sparkling wine, it took several years of drinking Riesling with its high acidity to eventually overcome (have a look at the Wine Rambler's sparkling adventures). Second, I was socialised on alcohol in Munich. This put me off Prosecco because in Munich it is the drink of choice for a certain strata of hoity-toity, would-be posh/jet-set, would-be in-crowd snobs (the German word 'Schickimicki' is so much more precise) who make my toe nails stand up; in addition to that, Prosecco is so popular there that I was often given the cheapest plonk you can imagine because everyone wanted to serve Prosecco, even though they had neither money nor taste. So to sum up, I am definitely not the person you would want to invite to a dinner where only Prosecco is served.

Riccardo ProseccoRiccardo Prosecco

Luckily for me, the people from Azienda Agricola Riccardo were brave enough to do so nonetheless. And with surprising effects.

Posted by Torsten 16 Jul 2010

Among wine jokes, the one where someone says they don't like Chardonnay but love Chablis has to be one of the classics. Overused as it may be, I have actually met someone who during the course of an evening of drinking wine told me about how he had had a marvellous Chablis at a restaurant recently and that the only type of wine he really hated and never ever drank was Chardonnay.

Whatever you may think of this joke, you can argue that it reflects a popular perception of Chardonnay as very oaky, often over-oaked in fact, versus Chablis representing a light, elegant style of Chardonnay that is mostly untouched by oak. As this is a style of wine the Wine Rambler is really interested in, I was more than happy when I was recently invited to taste a flight of Chablis - in fact, the nominees of the 24th annual Chablis Wine contest run by the Burgundy Wine Board.

Posted by Torsten 03 Jun 2010

In 2006, when I was still living in Munich, the World Cup came to Germany. For those of you who know me a little it will not be a surprise to hear that I did not see a single match. In fact, I remember being food shopping when Germany scored a key goal, being just one of two people in the cinema watching 'Hard Candy' when Italy defeated Germany and visiting my co-Rambler for food and wine during the final. This year, however, is different. Yesterday I attended the final of the 2010 World Cup, with the champion Italy playing the host South Africa. The key difference though is that this was the World Cup of Wine, hosted by the lovely people of Bibendum in their North London headquarters, with me being one of the judges.

score cards for the finalscore cards for the final

Posted by Torsten 27 Apr 2010

The seasonal wine tastings hosted by the London branch of the Wine Rambler are now something like an institution. So much so that this time change was needed ('change you can believe in' - after all it is election time here in the UK). My message for the electorate was quite simple: 'no Riesling'. This does not mean that I have suddenly lost my love for this amazing variety, not at all. However, it is good to every so often remind people that there is so much more to German wine than just Riesling. So what did I choose for that mission: a sparkling vintage rosé, a Silvaner, a Chardonnay, a Pinot Noir and a Bordeaux-style blend of red grapes, including Cabernet Sauvignon.

Posted by Julian 20 Apr 2010

RotWeissRot, a Munich wine shop specializing in austrian wine (or Ösiwein, as it is affectionately known here at the Wine Rambler) had organised a tasting of high-end juices to celebrate its seventh anniversary and invited some very well thought-of winemakers to present them in person.

So who was I not to get on my bike, pedal sharpish to the somewhat dowdy part of town where it resides, meet with Wine Rambler friend and wine tasting regular Anke, and grab a glass.

Posted by Torsten 06 Apr 2010

Sometimes, a wine tasting among friends turns into an unexpected wine and food orgy. Of course, this could never happen to a moderate and austere German like me, not even with Denise, the Winesleuth, and Douglas, of Intoxicating Prose fame, coming to visit. Denise had been given a couple of German wines by a trade representative, and I had suggested to top that up with a few more wines to set things into perspective. Nothing heavy, just a light evening with a bit of wine and food fun among friends.

Posted by Torsten 22 Nov 2009

About once per season the London branch of the Wine Rambler assembles a coalition of willing wine drinkers in London. The mission: to drink some god-damn wine. Mostly German wine. This time, however, we had new rules - every wine was tasted blind, its identity only to be revealed after the judges had come to a verdict. Also new was the excessiveness: between the eight of us (two arrived late, one left early) we opened nine bottles, although not every wine was finished. So let's jump right in, shall we?

Posted by Torsten 14 Nov 2009

Wine tastings are like battlefields, it is everyone for themselves - or so I have heard people say. Actually, at least the recent VdP tasting in Munich was more like playing a part in the submarine movie Das Boot. Periscope out, zoom in on the next lovely wine and then you give the order: 'Both planes zero. Stand by battle stations.' 'Bottle one through four are ready.', the reply is almost instantaneous. However, before you can strike your helpless target, sonar picks up that sound again: Swoosh slurp swoosh schrub slurp. A split second of panic, then you go: 'Close bow caps! Dive!' Luckily, the enemy passes above you and disappears again. 'Is it getting louder?' 'It seems constant. Ahead of us.' The awaits your next move. As the Old Man said in Das Boot: 'Now it gets psychological, friends.'

That it was, but also great fun with some amazing wines, this year's VdP wine tasting in Munich. VdP stands for 'Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweingüter', or Association of German Prädikat Wine Estates, a group of highly decorated German estates, 'the world’s oldest association of top-quality wine estates'. Every year in November some VdP members hold a wine tasting in Munich. And the Wine Rambler attends, hungry for prey.

Posted by Torsten 10 Nov 2009

Autumn, wine tasting time – at least for the Wine Rambler. After my visit to the recent London Wine Show, both the London and Munich branches of the Rambler joined forces for the Weinherbst München (wine autumn Munich). A fairly large two day tasting, Weinherbst took place in the old town hall, right in the city centre of Munich. One day of sampling wines from some 70 producers cost 9 € (12 € on the door) - good value if you consider the amount of wine on offer.

Posted by Torsten 28 Oct 2009

It has been quite a while since the Wine Rambler last attended a wine event, and so I jumped at the chance to visit the London Wine Show last Friday with a friend. The Wine Show is not one of these events where you will have to be a wine professional or at least in possession of a special invitation in order to be allowed in. Instead of a professional tasting experience, think of it rather as a show with various events and wines, all aimed more at the general public; for a small price, of course.

Posted by Torsten 17 Aug 2009

Last Friday, the London branch of the Wine Rambler assembled a crack team of wine lovers and socialites from half a dozen countries for a particular mission: take down eight bottles of wine. The team members were selected following the ancient wisdom of Brigadier General Gavin from A Bridge too far: I need a man with very special qualities to lead. He's got to be tough enough to do it and he's got to be experienced enough to do it. Plus one more thing. He's got to be dumb enough to do it... Start getting ready. Gavin knew what he was speaking of, after all he knew the enemy from first hand combat experience; and the enemy was/is German:

Posted by Torsten 31 Jul 2009

Thursday evening we ventured to the Clapham Picturehouse to see a movie about wine. And to drink some, of course. The movie is Bottle Shock and it features the (in)famous 1976 Paris wine tasting during which the French wine elite was defeated by the products of the (then) newcomers from California. To re-enact the Judgement of Paris, the cinema offered eight wines, four each from France and California, and the movie ticket for £22. So off we went! [read the full post...]

Posted by Torsten 30 Jul 2009

I just received this email from the guys at The Winery - go, if you have a chance, as they are both fun and knowledgeable:

Last week’s German Riesling module sold out so quickly we had to schedule a second one for next month.

You are invited to The Winery Wine Course on Tuesday 25th August, in which we will be focusing on the glories of German Riesling.

We will be exploring variations and nuances of different regions such as the Mosel, Rheingau and Nahe.

We will revel in its transparent expression of terroir – the steep slate slopes of the Mosel or the softer inclines of the historic Rheingau.

Posted by Julian 04 Jun 2009

Some short and fairly random notes on wines carried by Mövenpick Weinkeller and offered today in a tasting in their south Munich shop (or rather, temple):

Schubertsche Schlossk. (whatever that stands for...), 07 Herrenberg Riesling Spätlese trocken: Green flavours, tight acidity, somewhat green and bitter.

Schubertsche Schlossk, 08 Riesling Abtsberg Alte Reben trocken: Very spicy smell, fresh green herbs, fairly ripe, fresh. Very good.

Schloss Lieser, 08 Riesling trocken: Typical, slatey smell, but very plush at the same time. Not too refined, but good, fairly priced.

Fritz Haag, 08 Brauneberger Riesling Kabinett trocken: slim, very fresh, great to drink, old school. [read the full post...]