London

Impressions from RAW 2013 - the wine fair for "natural" wine

Autumn is upon us. Had I missed this fact before, cycling through cold, autumnal rain and over streets covered in brown leaves tonight would have driven home that message clearly. For some this is a sign to bring out the heavy red wines, but to me right now this is a reminder that summer is over and I still haven't written about my visit to RAW 2013. It has been a very busy summer during which I was abroad a lot, and all sorts of other circumstances conspired against me finding the time to do much wine writing.

Now my visit to RAW in May feels too far removed to make a detailed report seem useful or appropriate, but I still wanted to share impressions from a few hours of tasting through "natural" wines.

Wine Rambler dinner at Trinity restaurant

It was always about food. I am not saying you cannot, should not have wine without food (quite the opposite), but without my love for food there would be no Wine Rambler. The crucial moment was a Friday afternoon, years ago, when I decided to open a random bottle of Mosel Riesling with some mildly spicy Asian food because I had heard the two go together - resulting in my first moment of true wine excitement and the decision to track down the wine and learn more about it. Wine and food have been with me since and put me on the slippery slope to wine blogging. Considering that it is surprising that it has taken me so long to organise the first Wine Rambler dinner...

a window into Trinity's kitchen

...but when it finally happened I made up for the delay by organising it in style, with the help of the fabulous team of Trinity Restaurant in Clapham - and five German wines.

It's Only Natural: Impressions from the Real Wine Fair 2013

Natural wine is "in", no doubt. It fits the Zeitgeist of minimal intervention, non-industrial, organic, "honest" produce that is increasingly sought after by consumers. And yet there is also confusion. When I announced I was going to a natural wine fair I received lots of blank stares and the odd question of "you mean organic and stuff?" or "as opposed to unnatural wine?". That confusion partly comes from the fact that there is no generally accepted, legally binding definition so any wine can be marketed as "natural"; personally I also find some proponents of the movement a little overzealous. On the other hand I value sustainable winemaking and seek out artisan wines for individuality and character.

focus on natural wine
focus on natural wine
In short, I am both tempted and confused by natural wine, so last month's Real Wine Fair was a timely chance to explore the field and question my attitude. Or, to get into the musical theme of this post, "It's only natural / That I should want to / Be there with you."

Scandinavian Food and German Wines - an evening of Food and Wine Pairing Heaven

There are several philosophies about kids growing up to into mature adults, but the successful ones tend to include the Muppet Show. And as our readers naturally are mature adults I can take it for granted that you will know the Swedish Chef. As do I, of course. Apart from where I don't: in the dubbed German Muppets version I grew up with he is actually Danish. Confused as we may be in that regard, us Germans have loved Scandinavian food way before the success of Noma. And Scandinavians, it turns out, love to pair their food with German wine.

Scandinavian delights with Signe and Hannah

Scandinavia is a very important export market for German wine and earlier this month I received a tasty demonstration of how well our friend Riesling in particular pairs with northern cuisine.

torsten Monday, 18/02/2013
Pairing Wine and Music? "Tasting Notes" radio programme launch at Laithwaites Wine

Music does not taste. Wine does. Rather obvious, but not nearly as simple as you may think. What we perceive as the taste of wine is actually our brain combining all sorts of information and the tongue only plays a relatively small part in this. What we see, know or hear, everything has an influence on how we taste. And as music and wine are often enjoyed together Classic FM and Laithwaites Wine argue it may be worth thinking about how to match them.

tasting with music

To make this point they hosted a wine and music tasting in London last week and the Wine Rambler went to investigate.

torsten Monday, 19/11/2012
An introduction to English wine (Wine Rambler at the 2012 WSET English Wine Class)

2012 is the year of Britishness. We had the long weekend of celebrating the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. We have the success of the London 2012 Olympics. And a public sphere proclaiming a rebirth of Britishness. British wine drinkers apparently felt the same: the Jubilee weekend meant record sales for British wine. All is good then, expect for the fact that I will now face a very stern talking to from about every representative of the wine industry in this country for calling their product British. It may be English, it may be Welsh, in the future it even may be Scottish - but don't you dare call it British.

the colours of English wine

This distinction is so important to the industry - and for good reason, as we will discover later - that the first ever English wine consumer class held at the WSET started with explaining it. More importantly perhaps it was a great introduction to English wine, and a necessary one as the quality of English wine will still come as a surprise to many a seasoned wine drinker, foreign or British.

torsten Friday, 24/08/2012

Searching for the Soul of Riesling. Reflections on Mosel magic and the wines of St. Urbans-Hof

Wine is nothing without people. It is people who make wine. It is the company of the right people that makes for a great evening with wine. And it is people's stories that make for engaging wine writing. Recently I had the pleasure of meeting a man who not only makes excellent wine but who also talks about it in such an engaging way that there is only my writing to blame if you don't walk away from this article at least a little inspired.

I certainly left inspired after my encounter with Nik Weiss, the owner of the St. Urbans-Hof estate in the Mosel wine region of Germany. It made me think about the magic that happens when you fall in love with a piece of land and the produce you bring forth from it. It is a magic that over thousands of years has transformed the land but it also transforms the people who work it. This is a story about how the Mosel transformed a man and how he in turn set out to transform his part of the Mosel - and about a little magic that happened when I spent an evening with him and his Riesling.

London Wine Merchants: Going Natural at Green & Blue Wines: Bar and Shop in East Dulwich

You don't go to South East London. At least that is what my friend Sarah thinks, and yesterday she told me so when the question of where to live in London came up. After having lived in the South West, North and West Sarah now contemplates the East - but the South East just seems too far away, like another world. This is a common view in the murky blend of London post codes and identities. It is opposed by a smaller group of those who have lost their hearts to SE London, and they tell me of vibrant local communities with quirky shops, excellent and authentic food offerings and a satisfying restaurant scene. The other day I followed an invitation to explore this world at the East Dulwich wine shop and bar Green & Blue Wines.

midnight approaching at Green & Blue Wines

It is no coincidence that I used the words "authentic" and "local", as Green & Blue champion wines from smaller producers, especially organic and natural wines.

Beyond Liebfraumilch: Exploring the Diversity of German Wine at the "Germany Unplugged" 2012 tasting

We got drunk on that stuff as students because we didn't know any better and had no money. That is not what I would say, at least not in public, but it summarises how many British acquaintances refer to German wine - in particular the dreaded Liebfraumilch. German wine is associated with sweet, and sweet with bad. The British wine trade tend to love Riesling, dry or sweet, and some also appreciate German Pinot Noir. This is usually where the knowledge ends though. There are even "wine experts" who say Germany should not move away from the sweeter style of Riesling - whereas the reality is that the German wine industry has become so diverse it has long gone beyond that. German dry wines are now so varied as would confuse even the most sober foreign beholder.

Last week the German Wine Agencies, a new distributor of German wines in the British market, invited members of the trade to be confused (and to leave everything else but sober, one would hope) by German wines.

Wine over the roofs of London - Laithwaites Winter Press Tasting, September 2011

London, wine metropolis. You may not think of it in those terms, but I have learned to appreciate the dynamic wine scene and the exciting range of wine events and venues here. You can explore wine in cellars built into Thames or railway bridges, at fantastic food markets, in world class restaurants, you can drink it on bridges spanning the river, at the Tower of London, in post-modern temples of glass, and you can engage with wine merchants with centuries of history, with entrepreneurs with new approaches or with a vibrant scene of wine writers and communicators. It is an exciting place and I love every minute of being here - especially when a unique place and wine meet.

London through a wine glass

I would like to invite you to share one of those moments with me.