It was New Year's Eve and the Wine Rambler committee had assembled in Munich to drink some god-damn wine. And what could be better to conclude an evening of feasting and drinking with friends than one of the elegant, sweet Mosel Rieslings that Theo Haart turns out year after year? To celebrate the end of 2009 it had to be something special, an 'Auslese' ('selection', one of the highest ratings in the often confusing and not always meaningful German wine classification system). Made by a good winery and stored well these wines can last for decades, so a 2006 Auslese can almost be seen as a young wine when drunk at the end of 2009. Or as darn tasty, at any time.
... in which a sentimental german song will be played, that same song clumsily explained by means of homespun sociology, a funny mishearing of a line from said song (which will not be half as funny in translation) recounted, all of this somehow segued into a review of a wine from greece, which itself will be positioned squarely within the context of the Wine Rambler's utter ignorance of greek wine.
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It is the start of the new year. Time to think about what to do better, what not to do any more and what new things to try. It is time for new year's resolutions! Accordingly, the Wine Rambler committee assembled on New Year's Eve and came up with a list of wine related resolutions. Drinking less, by the way, is not one of them.
As we all know, sticking to new year's resolutions is not easy, so I looked around for good advice on how to succeed. Time for instance offer useful suggestions such as 'Do What the Dalai Lama Would Do', which is explained as follows:
Who could know better than people who call themselves Wine Rambler that sometimes a wine needs to be approached sideways. Especially if we are nervous about a wine because we know little about it and fear that we may have gotten it wrong. So we'll start with a little tune – bear with us – and will, after somewhat aimless rambling, at the end of this post – promise! - get fearlessly tasting.
It starts with a non-translatable german word Schlager. „Kitschy songs in the vein of Barry Manilow or Chris de Burgh“ would probably be the the way to explain it to the anglophone world. Anyway, one of the best known Schlager is about greek wine, so brace yourselves:
Griechischer Wein ist so wie das Blut der Erde.
Read the background story to this wine here (be warned: It's quite a ramble)
A very dark cherry red in the glass, this brought sweet cherry juice, blackberries and a little fruit jam to our noses. The mouthfeel is, again, dominated by marinated cherries, dried fruit, and a chocolate pudding aftertaste.
It's a measure of the quality of the winemaking that this overripeness does not pull it out of balance, but a gentle tannic backbone wraps up the taste in the end.
2009. London is hit by snow twice. Usain Bolt breaks the record in breaking world records. A German chancellor is re-elected and a German goalkeeper decides to go. The Royal Bank of Scotland announces a loss of £24.1 billion. Swine flu strikes; or so. British MPs spend money on moats and birdhouses. And the Wine Rambler drinks some wine. Quite a bit, actually, especially considering that we only launched the website in June 2009 (after having rambled between Munich and London via email for more than two years). And while others may still look back at what happened in sport, politics or the economy, we remember five wines that really impressed us last year. Here they come, the Wine Ramblers' top 5 wines of 2009:
Oregon is bad. Stop it if you can. Here it comes. Here it comes. Now it's after you. Flee to some place new. Run away. Run away. - For the Wine Rambler it was too late. Oregon got me. And if you want to find out how it all happened and what this has to do do with one half of a team of almost-giants, well, then it got you too. Don't be afraid, though, it will all be revealed. And make sense. Sort of. Either way, there will be wine!
Nine days into the new year and we're already sticking our noses into the sparkling wine again. Is that hedonistic cheek on our part or a commendable discipline in making good our new year's resolution number 2? Actually, it's neither, since this is a postscript to our new year's eve.
Lively, but not over-strong bubbles, a smell of ripe apples and quince. Bone dry and almost austere at first taste, but at the same time fairly creamy and intense, with the tiniest hint of oak maybe, and in the end, it's mature quince and apple fruit again, maybe also a hint of tangerine, with very fresh acidity all the way through.
Despite its pale lemon colour, this Riesling shines like gold (just in a light, quite pale lemon coloured way). It comes from the Mosel, from a vineyard near the village of Trittenheim, which is called 'Apotheke' - 'Pharmacy' in English (relating to the old-fashioned word Apothecary, of course). While I do normally not go so far as to recommend a wine as medicine, with this one I almost might - it is just such a refreshing joy to drink it.
The nose with its mineral and herbs makes me think of, well, the steep vineyards of the Mosel; add to that refreshing green apples, peach and half-fermented fruit and then finely dust the aromas with icing sugar. A bouquet that says: 'drink me, drink me now!'
Even if you do not know very much about pairing wine and food you might have heard that wine merchants often recommend Riesling with Asian or other spicy food. Or you might have come across a few wine labels that had similar suggestions. While certain wine labels do praise a wine as compatible with pretty much any food ('This wine goes well with salads, chicken, fish and various meats.'), there is indeed a connection between some spicy food and Riesling, especially sweeter Riesling. I will not exhaust this topic tonight, but I will give an example (with recipe) to illustrate how and why sweet (Riesling) and spicy (food) can go together, based on what may be the most important rule of food and wine pairing: match a wine with the sauce (not with the meat). So here it comes, a semi-sweet Riesling from the Mosel and pasta with a chilli-carrot sauce.
Another venture into Eastern Europe, and into a grape that I like more and more: Cabernet Franc.
Very dark red, a little cloudy (unfiltered, probably), with a purplish edge. Smells of stewed vegetables, beetroot, ripe red peppers, but meaty at the same time. In the mouth, it brings rather hard-edged cassis and tar at first, Cabernet Sauvignon-style, but with more exposure to air, the sweeter and more savoury vegetable flavours take over. While the ripe fruit and oak flavours lean toward the international style, the vegetables give it character and spice.
As you will have gathered from the heading, I am not writing about wine today. Instead I deal with an unpleasant topic that most bloggers struggle with: comment or blog spam and how to fight it. Like most blogs, the Wine Rambler is targeted by a spammers who aim to get as many links to their websites distributed across the Internet so that they can make more money from selling rubbish products. Comment forms on blogs are an easy target as they were designed to make it easy for people to leave comments with links attached to them. To make their dirty work easier, spammers use more or less sophisticated software, the so called spambots (spam robots), to trawl the Internet for any comment or mail form they can find and then bombard it with spam. We get dozens, sometimes hundreds of these visitors per day and eventually decided it was time to do something about it.
Whenever the invitations to those '47 Petrus and '86 Lafite tastings go out, somehow our names seem to get passed over. Shame, but that doesn't stop us from embarking on the adventure that is aged wine from time to time. Today, an 18 year-old german Pinot Noir. This ol' boy comes in a light, cloudy cherry red with brown edges. If you want to know how great decaying leaves, wet earth, manure, marinated cherries and smoked bacon smell when mixed together, I suggest you stick your nose into this.
If you have ever come across the German village of Laumersheim, chances are it was because of a wine. Laumersheim is home to the Kinpser winery, a family owned estate that makes some of the best red wines you can get in Germany (and marvellous white wines too). And it is home to the Kuhn winery that is getting more and more attention, especially after Philipp Kuhn in 1992 - at the tender age of 20 - got involved in the family owned estate. You may be surprised to hear that the winery is not only producing some red wine, in fact about 50% of the wines made there are red. The delivery that brought this Riesling to London also included a Merlot! The story of red wine made by the Kuhns in the Palatinate will have to be told another night as tonight we are drinking the entry level Riesling from the Kuhn winery (entry level, by the way, does not mean mass-produced: harvests are limited to below 75 hl per hectare).
So we were drinking this German Syrah one night and - Wait, a German Syrah, you say? Yes, that is true - a Syrah from Germany, and a bloody marvellous one too.
Imagine a hilly landscape somewhere in Europe. The sun is burning down. The temperature is way above 30° C. Sitting on a porch, you look around an area that was shaped by volcanic activity. While there is no lava any more, you have been told by locals that this small town is the warmest in the country. Your host returns to pour more Pinot Grigio. Southern Italy, you may think? Not at all! Chances are that you are sitting in the town of Ihringen in the South West of Germany, drinking a Pinot Grigio, Grauburgunder I wanted to say, made by the Heger winery. Well, it is still winter while I am writing this, but a few days ago I opened a bottle of a Grauburgunder, as the Pinot Grigio/Gris variety is called in Germany, for two friends here in London - Dr. Heger's Oktav.
For a little while now the Wine Rambler has been interested in wine from Hungary and Eastern Europe and we have been lucky enough to taste a few original and unusual wines from this often overlooked part of the wine world. After sharing our latest adventure, a Hungarian Cabernet Franc, on Twitter, we realised that we were not alone with this interest. Molly Hovorka, for instance contacted us with suggestions on which Hungarian wines and producers to explore further. In particular, she encouraged us to look into the indigenous varieties of Hungary if we wanted to find a few unusual surprises. If you too are curious to explore wines a little out of the ordinary, you may want to read what she has to say on:
Hungary's unique white wines, by Molly Hovorka
Ask most non-Hungarians what they think of Hungarian wine and you will likely be met with one of four reactions:
- A blank stare
- A drunken tale of visiting Eger's 200+ cellar row while backpacking
- A fond memory of tasting a Tokaji Aszu dessert wine
- A grimace at the thought of Hungarian Bull's Blood supermarket plonk