Monday, November 30, 2009

Emerging wine country: China's wine boom since 2000

Picture: The Great Wall --- China

Source: Greg Mankiw's Blog, November 23, 2009

This is an interesting chart which shows the shares of various regions in world GDP.

Within the past 40 years, the shares of the three main regions --- EU, USA and Asia/Oceania --- have converged to around 27 percent, with the US going steady, the EU falling by roughly 10 percentage points and the Asia/Oceania region increasing by this amount. If you do a trend projection, than you end up, say in 40 years, with something like on the left-hand axe, with the only difference that the top line at above 35% is Asia/Oceania and the line in the middle at 15% is Europe. There is a dramatic shift in purchasing power going on and will continue to go on, with implications for the wine market.

This article will focus on one of the main drivers behind the rise of the Asia/Oceania region, China, and in particular --- this being a wine blog --- wine production and wine consumption in China. The Chart with the shares in world GDP is a useful reference for that.

Amazing things have been going on in China, both in terms of wine consumption and wine production, which, in a globalizing world will have major repercussions on wine production and consumption in other countries. Just take the recent wine auction in Hong Kong with very high volumes and high prices for the top French wines. Everyone in the world will have to pay now these Chinese prices.

Production of Wine in China

China has a long tradition of producing all kinds of wine, but produced practically no vinifera wine before the economic reforms of the early 1980s. Since then, hundreds of wineries have sprung up. Initially, the wine was exported abroad because the domestic demand was weak. But since 2000, when the economic boom finally reached the consumer, things are changing rapidly. At the same time, imported French wine has become very popular in China.

China now ranks 7th in terms of world production, ahead of Germany, South Africa and Chile and almost at par with Australia and Argentina, and it is likely to overtake Australia soon. To reach the level of the 4th placed --- the US --- it will need to double its production.

Looking ahead, experts are very optimistic. Britain's wine merchant, Berry Bros.&Rudd has come to the conclusion that China is set to become a leading wine-producing country. It estimated that China's current 400 wineries would increase more than tenfold in the next 50 years, with perhaps a quarter of them producing fine-quality wine. It also predicted that China would be the world's leading producer by 2058, overtaking France, Italy, Spain and the US. In addition, China has "all the essential ingredients to make fine wine to rival the best of Bordeaux" including "the right soil, low labor costs and soaring domestic demand," the report said.

Consumption of Wine in China

China already ranks behind Germany on fifth place in terms of wine consumption. Given current trends, China will soon overtake Germany.

There are two market segments that are of expected to grow particularly fast. First, the lower end mass wine market. Growth in demand in this market segment --- the easy drinking, low quality cheap wine --- is expected to be high. In this context, China is negotiating with Morocco to set up a bottling plant in China for Moroccan wine. Morocco is exporting in bulk to Europe but is now looking for China to export.

The other market segment, where China will be increasingly present is the top wines. Since 2000, expensive red wines, in particular from France, have become very popular in China among the rich and the famous. Red wine, in particular French red wine, has become a symbol of the elite and the rich. Reflecting that, in 2007 the Chinese wine importer St.Pierre became the most important buyer of Chateau Latour wines. Another wine that has become exceptionally popular in China is Lafite Rothschild. Against this background, Lafite Rothschild is in the process of setting up a winery in China to produce grand cru wines there. Within a decade or so, China’s rich have gone from mixing red wine with cola to checking Parker points when ordering a wine and being ready to pay top dollars to put a couple of cases of these wines in their cellar. They have become a major player in the top market segment.

The November 23, 2009 edition of the New Yorker contains a fascinating article by Evan Osnos on Donald St. Pierre, a Canadian and a prominent importer of wine to China. He arrived in China in 1985, a few years after the economic reform process started, thanks to a position with American Jeep. Ten years later, he started importing wines after forays into other things such as scrap metal, lingerie, and Chinese and Russian ammunition. Dr. Vino's Blog contains a short summary of the article, including an interesting series of comments. The whole article is only available to subscribers of the New Yorker.

To conclude, here is the comment of Chris Robinson, which I found very useful: “The market in China has changed so markedly that no one would claim to be able to meet the diverse range of market demand in China. Leaving aside the huge differences between provinces in China it is clear that there are two market extremes for imported wines – the cheap and cheerful, velvety textured, red only wine, under US$10 and the LafMoutTrus segment where unless it has a Parker 95 plus US$100 plus retail price and can be pronounced by any drunken cadre over a corruption-funded dinner it is going nowhere. The Hong Kong auction market has to be the best indicator of the stupidity of this latter segment. A narrow range of wines sell to mainland Chinese buyers at auction some 20-30% above the retail prices one can pay for them in Hong Kong on the same day as the auction. This is all about one thing the mainland Chinese are masters at – showing off. It will be many years before a serious middle tier develops in China – and therefore many years before any wine marketer a la the West can claim to be a China success story. One amusing experience sums this up. At a recent auction in Hong Kong a rather attractive young mainland Chinese lady of about 20 years of age sat next to me. She was clearly struggling with the English and all the action of the auction. Being a “nice guy” I offered her a few tips and introduced her to some of the things she needed to understand if she was going to bid. She then told me her boyfriend had given her the equivalent of US$100K to buy wine and she was there to buy “Beetroot”, which of course rather threw me. it was only some 20 lots later that I discovered beetroot was in fact Petrus. When mistresses no longer bid on Petrus at auctions we can probably then conclude the wine industry in China may be appraaching maturity, until then today’s heroes are almost certainly tomorrow’s losers. As the Chinese would say, the industry is best described as ” playing a violin in front of a cow”. It will be years before serious wine interest catches up with the marketing bull…”

A good source for what is going on in China is Grape Wall of China, an English-language site about the wine scene in China.

China is clearly the most important emerging wine country, with potentially major implications for consumers and producers of wine around the world.

Schiller Wine --- related postings:

Emerging wine country: Russia --- After the breakdown of the Soviet Union, many important wine growing areas became foreign for Russia, October 24, 2009

Emerging wine country: Poland --- The early days of a climate change gainer? October 21, 2009

Emerging wine country: Serbia --- Still in the early days after the break-up of Yugoslavia, October 12, 2009

Saturday, November 28, 2009

German Wine Makers in the World: Anton Mueller Invented the Remuage Technique Revolutionizing Sparkling Wine Drinking, 1800s, France

Pictures: The technique of remuage, Madame Clicquot and the Veuve Clicquot Champagne Label

Anton Mueller, a German, is the inventor, with Veuve Clicquot, of the remuage or riddling process. The remuage technique revolutionized sparkling wine drinking. It remains a key elemement in the production of Champagne until today.

Until the beginning of the 1800s, the appearance of Champagne was marred by the lees, the sediment of dead yeast cells that remained suspended in the wine following the secondary fermentation in the bottle. In consuming a bottle of Champagne it was thus necessary to either decant the sparkling wine before serving it or to leave it in the glass for some time so the sediment could settle before drinking the Champagne.

The remuage technique put an end to that.

The system centers around wooden racks into which the bottles are placed neck first at an angle of 45 degrees. Each day the bottles are turned and tilted so that the bottle points further downwards with each day, the process gradually bringing all the sediment into the neck right behind the cork, from where it can be removed during disgorgement. Today, this manual way of riddling sparkling wine is still used for Prestige Cuvées in the Champagne, but has otherwise been largely abandoned because of the high labor costs. Mechanized riddling equipment called gyropalettes, invented in Spain in the 1970s, are used instead.

When riddling is finished, the sediment collected in the bottle neck is frozen to form a "plug" which the next step in the process removes (dégorgement or "disgorging"). After adjusting the level of fill and setting the sweetness, the bottle is corked, caged and labeled; the sparkler is clear --- without any sediment.

Anton Mueller was born in Germany. He moved to France to work in a Champagne cellar. In 1810, he assumed the position of Veuve Clicquot’s cellar master and developed with Veuve Clicquot the system of remuage in the following years. Then he married into the Ruinart family, a famous Champagne family. The Ruinart Champagne House was the first French Champagne House founded in 1729. With the Ruinart daughter, Mueller created his own Champagne House, Ruinart-Mueller, which does not exist anymore.

While at the helm of Ruinart-Mueller, his compatriot Bollinger was one of his employees, before leaving Ruinart-Mueller and setting up his own Champagne House. Bollinger joined Mueller-Ruinart in 1822 to sell their Champagne in the Kingdoms of Bavaria, Hanover, Wuerttemberg and the Netherlands. In 1829, with his Mueller-Ruinart colleague Paul Renaudin de Villermont, he formed the Renaudin-Bollinger Champagne House which would become the famous Bollinger Champagne House.

Here is an interesting slide show from Cornell University about the production of Champagne.

Schiller Wine --- Related Postings

This is part of the series German wine makers in the world:

Anton (Antoine) Mueller, 1800s,France, November 28, 2009
Dr. Konstantin Frank, 1900s,USA, November 14, 2009
Christian Woelffer and Roman Roth, 1900s/2000s, USA, November 12, 2009
Robert Anton Schlumberger, 1800s, Austria, November 7, 2009
Robert Stemmler, 1900s/2000s, USA, November 3, 2009
Eduard Werle, 1800s, France, October 29, 2009

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Meeting Winemaker James Cahill and Tasting his Soter Vineyards Wines from Oregon

Picture: Christian G.E.Schiller with James Cahill, Winemaker at Soter Wines; Steve, On-Site Owner of Out-of-Sight Wines on the left side in the background

James Cahill, the charming winemaker of Soter Vineyards came to the Out-of-Site wine store in Vienna, Virginia to lead us through a tasting of his Sparkling Rosés, Oregon Pinot Noirs, and Napa Valley Cabernet Franc. James Cahill is a 10+ year veteran of the Oregon wine industry and now works full-time as winemaker with Soter Vineyards. James came to Soter after a long stint with Beaux-Freres.

This boutique winery in Oregon is owned by Tony and Michelle Soter. Tony, with over 30 vintages under his belt, came to Napa Valley in 1975, founded Etude Wines in 1982, and served as consulting winemaker to such famous estates as Araujo, Niebaum-Coppola, Shafer, Spottswoode, Viader and Dalle Valle. Etude was known throughout the wine world for elegant and balanced Cabernet sauvignons, Chardonnays and most especially Pinot Noirs. But the Soters decided to return to their native state and to sell Etude in California. They purchased land in Oregon and founded Soter Vineyards
Soter Vineyards is devoted to biodynamic wine growing and wine making. There are sheep on the Estate as well as goats. No pesticides, herbicides or fungicides are used within the vineyard. Tony plants beans, peas and other legumes in between the rows of vines as a means to "fix" the nitrogen content in the soil.

Soter Vineyards is in the Willamette Valley, were about two-thirds of the state's wineries and vineyards are. Buffered from Pacific storms on the west by the Coast Range, the valley follows the Willamette River north to south for more than a hundred miles from the Columbia River near Portland to just south of Eugene. It has been recognized as one of the premier Pinot Noir producing areas in the world, although it is still a young wine growing area. Pinot Noir has been planted in Oregon for a bit more than 40 years only. Sater Vineyard lays at the 45th parallel of latitude, just about on par with Burgundy some 6,000 miles to the east.

Tasting Notes

We started out with two sparkling wines.

2004 Soter Brut Rosé, a beautiful example of American sparkling wine, salmon pink-colored, tiny bubbles, with aromas ranging from peach to raspberries, fresh and vibrant on the palate, with a lasting finish.

2005 Soter Brut Rosé, 48% Pinot Noir and 52% Chardonnay, salmon pink-colored, nice legs on the glass, constant stream of tiny bubbles, minerals and raspberries on the nose, medium-bodied, long finish.

Of course, these two world class sparklers are made in the Methode Champenoise. I asked James about the remuage technique, which was invented by Veuve Clicquot with her German cellar master Antoine Mueller. The remuage technique revolutionized sparkling wine drinking. The system centers around wooden racks into which the bottles are placed neck first at an angle of 45 degrees. Each day the bottles are turned and tilted so that the bottle points further downwards with each day, the process gradually bringing all the sediment into the neck right behind the cork, from where it can be removed during disgorgement. With Veuve Clicquot's new technique, Champagne would no longer require decanting before serving, or being left in the glass for the sediment to settle before drinking it. But the system of remuage is a tedious process as James was able to confirm.

We then tasted 3 Pinot Noirs. In the US, Pinot Noir shows great promise in Oregon and California. In Germany, the Pinot Noir is called Spätburgunder. It is to red wine what the Riesling is to white wine: the cream of the crop. The reputation that gets Pinot Noir so much attention, however, is owed to the wines of the Bourgogne in France, where it has probably been cultivated since at least the 4th century (first documented, however, in the 14th century).

Regardless of where it’s grown, Pinot Noir is not typically a value wine. That is so because Pinot Noir is such a delicate grape that it is difficult and expensive to grow and make into the spectacular wine it can be. It is sensitive to climate and soil, Pinot Noir needs warmth (but not intense heat) to thrive and does well in chalky soils. As the German name implies, it ripens late (spät). Oregon’s Willamette Valley has emerged as a highly regarded new-world source for superb Pinot Noirs.

2007 Soter Pinot Noir "North Valley", a blend of Pinots from both Estate-grown fruit and also grapes purchased from some of Tony's esteemed neighbors, medium-ruby colored, attack of strawberry and pain grille on the nose, very delicate and lean on the palate, long note of spice on the finish, a typical cool-climate Pinot Noir, the North Valley wines are mostly aged in previously used French Oak cooperage.

2006 Pinot Noir Beacon Hill Vineyard, medium-ruby colored, attack of concentrated dark red fruit and dark chocolate note on the nose, coupled with wet leaves, spicy wild berries, deep fruit aromas on the palate that lasted through a long finish.

2006 Pinot Noir Mineral Springs Vineyard, medium-ruby colored, beautiful nose with a wave of spice, earth, and strawberries, soft and silky on the tongue, with an a lasting spicy light-tannin finish.

All three Pinot Noirs are very approachable, but could improve with bottle age for several years. However, these are clearly not wines that are not drinkable now and need several years of maturing to display all their brilliance. They do that now

The wines reminded me of top German red wines that are increasingly appearing in the American market. Germany also is an area —- like Oregon --- where people used to say, it does not work for red wines, but now produces extremely elegant red wines with a lot of finesse.

We finished up with a Napa valley wine

2004 Napa Valley "Little Creek" Proprietary Red, a Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon --- a right bank Bordeaux--- blend, the wine was grown in Napa valley (around the house where Tony used to live), harvested, destemmed and brought with dry ice on it, preventing fermentation, to Oregon, much darker in color than the Pinot Noirs, the Cabernet Franc contributes unmistakably to a cigar-box aroma, the bouquet presents impressive concentration and intensity with aromas of black cherry, vanilla and a subtle note of smoky toast, full-bodied, persisting finish, much more closed than the Pinot Noirs, I feel this wine will indeed benefit from putting it away and letting it age gracefully.

Schiller Wine --- related postings

In the glass: Pinot Noir from California, Germany and France

The 100 Top Wines in Germany of 2008 - Weinwirtschaft

Picture: The New ECB Building - European Central Bank - in Frankfurt, Germany

The American Wine Spectator just published its Top 100 Wines List for the American market. Here is a similar list for the German market.

The list was put together by the wine journal WEINWIRTSCHAFT, which is read mostly by professionals and not by the wine consumer, as the American Wine Spectator is. It is a list of the most successful wines in the German wine market. Only wines that sold more than 10.000 bottles in 2008 were included in the contest. That left many of German’s top wines from smaller top wine makers out of the rating.

The criteria for the ratings are the tasting results and four other, mostly commercial criteria: The price-quality-ratio, the bottles sold, the views of the readers of the Weinwirtschaft and the marketing concept for the wine.

It is a bit like the Wine Spectator Top 100 list, where a below $20 wine from Washington State won this year.

Overall, the list is dominated by Old World wines, as the German consumers continue to be reserved vis-à-vis New World wines, lead by the assumption that mother nature plays a much smaller role in growing and making the wine in the New World than in the Old World. Not a single wine from the US made it to the list, although I typically find inexpensive American wines on the shelves of the large supermarkets when I am in Germany.

The red wines are dominated by Italy, with 20 of the 60 wines coming from there. Also, there are only very few German red wines, although the area growing red grapes is rapidly expanding in Germany. Only 4 wines are from Germany.

For the white wines, it is just the opposite. About half of the 40 wines are from Germany, with the 2007 Hochheimer Hölle Riesling Erstes Gewächs (Weingut Künstler, Hochheim) and the 2007 Kiedricher Gräfenberg Riesling Erstes Gewächs (Weingut Robert Weil, Kiedrich) taking the lead. Again, no American wines and just one wine from the New World, New Zealand.

The list reflects the wine consumer behaviour in Germany well. For white wines, you go for German, in particular Riesling, wines. For red wines, you look to other European countries, in particular France, Italy and Spain.

Here is a complete listing of the 100 Top Wines 2008.

Schiller Wine --- Related Postings:

Wine Ratings: Top 100 of the Wine Spectator 2009 includes Wittmann and Loosen

Wine Ratings: Gault Millau Germany Wine 2010

Wine Ratings: German Wine Eichelmann 2010

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wines served at President Obama’s State Dinner in Honor of Prime Minister Singh from India.

Picture: Source-Huffington Post

Picture: Photo by Lynn Sweet

At Tuesday night's inaugural Obama administration State meal, Guests of honor were the Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh, and his wife, Mrs. Gursharan Kaur. The following wines were served. In selecting the wine the President and his wife focused on “green” wine.

2008 Sauvignon Blanc from Napa Valley, California, Modus Operandi

Modus Operandi is operated by Jason Moore, a newcomer to the Napa Valley. His first vintage was in 2004 and 2009 will be the first vintage at "JuiceBox", a state of the art new "business park" winery located in south Napa. A number of wines are made here including several already well established brands. Jason also makes wines here for a few other small boutique producers. The 2008 Sauvignon Blanc is sourced from an organic vineyard in Rutherford. The total production is currently under 1000 cases.

2006 Riesling from the Willamette Valley, Oregon, Brooks Winery

Brooks Winery is a family owned and operated winery in the Willamette Valley in Oregon since 1998, producing old world style Rieslings and Pinot Noirs. Brooks is committed to organic and biodynamic farming, hands on in the vineyard and minimal intervention in the winery. Jimi Brooks was born and raised in Portland. He developed his passion for winemaking while working for the Deschamps family, in the Beaujolais region in France. Brooks returned to Oregon in 1996 and began working at WillaKenzie Estate in Oregon's Yamhill-Carlton wine region. He started the "Brooks Wines” label while still an assistant winemaker at WillaKenzie and oversaw production of 3,500 cases of Brooks-label wine. Brooks died in 2004, at the age of 38, at his home in McMinnville, Oregon. He left the winery to his son, now age 13.

2007 Grenache, from Santa Ynez, California, Beckmen Vineyards

Founded in 1994 by Tom and Steve Beckmen, Beckmen Vineyards is a family-run, estate winery located in Santa Barbara County's Santa Ynez Valley. Since its founding, Beckmen Vineyards has emerged as one of North America's premier producers of Rhone varietal wines, while also helping to establish Santa Barbara County as one of California's most highly regarded winegrowing regions.

Eager to return to his farming roots, and convinced of the Santa Ynez Valley's vast potential to produce world-class wines, Tom Beckmen began searching for promising vineyard property in the early '90s. He found what he was looking for on a 40-acre parcel of land with an existing small winery. There he established Beckmen Vineyards. Working together, Tom and Steve began revitalizing the site. They replanted the vineyard with carefully selected varietals, clones and rootstocks., 2006 marked Beckmen’s transition to a fully dedicated program of biodynamic farming. As a result, all 125 planted vine acres of Purisima Mountain Vineyard are now certified both biodynamic and organic, with the property’s surrounding 240 unplanted acres acting as a natural buffer zone. The estate winery that has established a reputation as one of North America’s premier producers of Rhône-varietal wines, including Syrah, Grenache, and Marsanne.

NV Sparkling Chardonnay, Brut, from Monticello, Virginia, Thibaut Janisson

The dinner was finished with a sparkler from the Monticello district near Charlottesville in Virginia. Thibaut-Janisson is an French-French joint venture and up-and-coming specialist in fine sparkling wine in Virginia. Winemaker Claude Thibaut is convinced that Virginia has the climate and terroir to produce excellent bubbly – and evidently the president agrees. Born and raised in the Champagne/France, this worldly winemaker left his family’s vineyard in France to study oenology in Reims and then spent years creating award-winners in Australia and California. About seven years ago, billionaire-bubbly-bottler Patricia Kluge entreated Thibaut to add sparkle to her cellar. At the Kluge Estate, Thibaut challenged notions that cool climates and limestone soil were essential for producing a wine that compares with its Champagne cousin. When he approached 50, he realized hat his dream would not be complete until his own name—like his father’s—appeared on the bottle. So he launched his own winery, together with Frenchman Manuel Janisson, dedicated exclusively to producing sparkling wines from Virginia grapes. The Janisson Family winery started in 1920’s in France with Manuel Janisson’s grandfather vision to produce his own wines from the vines that he grew in Verzenay France. Manuel Janisson produces Champagne under the name Champagne Janisson & Fils Tradition.

With his third vintage in the bottle, Thibaut-Janisson Blanc de Chardonnay, $28, is a Mid-Atlantic success story.

The dinner's menu is available on the White House Web site here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Wine ratings: German wine --- Eichelmann 2010

There are three influential wine guides in Germany, the Eichelmann and the Gault Millau, followed by the Feinschmecker

The 2010 Eichelmann was presented this month (November 2009) for the 10th time. 949 wine estates and 10,081 wines are rated and described. It addition, there are 4 special awards.

1. Best wine collection of the year: Weingut Wittmann in Westhofen in Rheinhessen. Since the 1980s, the Wittmanns have grown their grapes organically. Already 5 years ago, Guenther Wittmann and his son Philip got the best wine collection of the year award. "Pure Riesling!" said Eichelmann in presenting his choice.

2. Best red wine collection of the year: Weingut Franz Keller in Oberbergen in the Kaiserstuhl area in Baden. Great "Burgundy" from the Kaiserstuhl by Fritz Keller. His exemplary Pinot Noir combines power and concentration with finesse and elegance.

For decades Franz Keller Senior has led the way for German viticulture, fiercely opposing large scale land consolidation and plot realignment. Often ahead of his time, he vehemently advocated fully fermented wines and the use of barriques at a time when quantity was more important than quality in many German cellars. His son, Fritz Keller, who now runs the estate, shares his father's preference for French-inspired wines. Franz Keller was also one of the leaders of the German food revolution in the 1970s and his restaurant Schwarzer Adler was a must for every German Feinschmecker at that time and still is.

3. Best collection of noble-sweet wine of the year: Weingut Horst Sauer in Escherndorf in Franken. Few wineries in Germany produce outstanding noble-sweet wines with such a consistency as Weingut Sauer, feels Eichelmann. "Without Horst Sauer we would not know what noble-sweet Silvaner can be”.

4. Discovery of the year: Raumland in Florsheim-Dalsheim in Rheinhessen. Raumland is a Sekt Estate and this is the first time an Eichelmann award goes to a Sekt Estate. Volker and Rose Raumland have been making impressive sparklers over a number of years and each year is a step forward in terms of finesse and elegance. The Raumland Sekts are like Champagnes, without copying them.

There is a number of winemakers in Germany, who make first class Sekt. One of those Sekt makers is Volker Raumland, who produces only sparkling wines. He bottle-ferments for himself and for others. He keeps the bottle sur lie up to 12 years before corking and labeling the bottle for sale. There is a large and growing number of winemakers who have started to produce world class Sekts. Unfortunately, their production is very limited and they are difficult to find in the US. Volker Raumland's Sekts are imported by Rudi Wiest.

5. Wine Classic. In addition, Gerhard Eichelmann presented a wine classic award. This is for him a wine that is of high quality and that can be regarded as a prototype of its grape variety and its region. He chose a Riesling from the Rheingau, Ruedesheim Berg Schlossberg Riesling trocken from Weingut Georg Breuer in Ruedesheim with wealth and power, fruit and complexity, minerality and sustainability.

6. Best Red Wine of 1998. On the occasion of the tenth edition of the guide, a special prize for the best red wine of the vintage 1998, the red wine vintage, was awarded to a Pinot Noir from Weingut Siegrist in Leinsweiler in the Pfalz region.

Picture: the Siegrist couple and Gerhard Eichelmann (source: Siegrist web site)

Schiller Wine --- Related Postings

Wine ratings: Gault Millau Germany 2010
Wine ratings: Top 100 wines f the Wine Spectator includes Wittmann and Loosen

Artisanal American Cheese Going to Europe

Picture: Point Reyes Blue Cheese (California)

When you talk in Paris with a Frenchman about cheese made in the US and tell him that there are now excellent such cheeses made by very devoted and knowledgeable cheese makers, he will not believe you. But there is a rapidly expanding production of great artisanal cheeses in the US, though starting from a very low level. Cheese will probably never play the role in an American household it plays in a French household. The typical French grew up in a household where in the evening his or her mother would serve a four courses meal---crudites as starter, main plate, cheese and dessert, with a glass of wine of course, or two. The French have it in the Jeans. He or she knows so much about good food, including cheese. In the US, it is very different. Cheese is eaten as topping for Pizza or for the cheeseburger or similar food. But America is changing. Some Americans have started to show serious interest for high-quality cheese and artisanal cheese makers are springing up across the country.

One constraining factor that one keeps hearing is that the income groups in America that would eat cheese are very health conscious. On average, the Americans spend roughly double the amount on health care per person than the French. That does not mean that every American citizen gets the double amount of health care than the French. In fact it does not. But cheese is widely regarded as something detrimental to good health.

The other thing is that while Americans spend double the amount on health care, they spend only half of the amount on food, compared with the French. Again, this is an average and can be misleading. I would say that in the areas, where I mainly spend my time in the US, the Washington DC area, New England and in the San Francisco Bay area, the food—as well as the wine-- that you can buy there is outstanding. The seafood that is readily available in these areas, New England Lobsters, King Crabs from Alaska, wide range of oysters, the Maryland crabs, just to name a few items, is hard to beat. Equally, in terms of fresh vegetables, meat and fruits, what you can choose from in the Supermarket in say Concord, New Hampshire, where my daughter Dorothea studies, is amazing. The other day we had a feast in Concord, with New England Lobsters, New York Strip steak and outstanding red and white wines from Dr. Frank winery in the Finger Lakes region. We ended the meal with amazing cheeses from New Hampshire and Vermont.

Of course, when you go to the cheese department of the Safeway in McLean, no comparison to the cheese department of Carrefour in Paris. In particular, when it comes to high-quality cheese, very few American cheeses are offered at the Safeway, while at the Carrefour you find a huge selection of all kinds of French cheeses. But a lot is happening in the US. Similar to the wine boom headed by Robert Mondavi and others from California, there is a cheese boom happening right now.

You can see it everywhere. The Ten Bells wine bar in New York City run by three Frenchmen only has American cheese on their menu, to go with their Old World wines. The Cowgirl Creamery of Point Reyes, north of San Francisco, opened a cheese store in the Penn district in Washington DC a year or so ago. I love their Blue Cheese. Cheesetique on the Virginia side of greater Washington DC area, specializing in hard-to-find cheeses from around the world, also has a large selection of American artisanal cheeses.

And this cheese explosion is going east now to Europe. I was at the Borough’s market in London a few months ago and I was surprised finding Neal’s Yard Dairy to sell Roque River cheese from Oregon and the Pleasant Ridge cheese from Wisconsin.

J.S. Marcus, a writer based in Berlin, has written an interesting article about this for the Wall Street Journal, which you can find here.

Schiller Wine --- Related Postings

Wine and Food: Artisanal in New York City

Wine and Food: Blue Cheese Tasting
Wine and Food: Wine and Cheese Matching Demystified

Monday, November 23, 2009

Woelffer Wines from Long Island, New York State

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller at the Woelffer Estate

I tasted Woelffer wines at their Estate in the Hamptons of Long Island.

In little over a quarter of a century the Long Island wine industry has grown from one small vineyard to 3,000 acres of vines and over thirty wineries producing outstanding wines. Located in New York State, on the East Coast of the United States, Long Island extends some 120 miles into the Atlantic Ocean. Its maritime climate, geography and soil characteristics provide ideal conditions for producing wines of exceptional quality.

The Woelffer Estate is one of the top wine estates on Long Island, New York State, and one of the few Long Island wineries that is located in the Hamptons, while most Long Island wineries are cluttered on the North Fork. The rustic, Tuscan-style winery is set on a rise overlooking the vineyards to the east and the gently rolling Hamptons landscape to the west. It would not be what it is today without the two Germans Christian Woelffer, its founder, and Roman Roth, its wine maker. I have written about them in my German Winemakers in the World series. See here.

Reflecting the vision of industry pioneer Christian Wölffer, who is no longer with us because of his untimely death last year, the former potato fields of what are now the vineyards of the Woelffer Estate have become an area that produces wine which are among those that set the quality benchmark of Long Island winemaking today.

Woelffer produces 16,000-20,000 cases each year. The 12,000-square-foot winery houses a tasting room and boutique; a state-of-the-art winemaking facility equipped with computerized stainless-steel tanks, laboratory, riddling rooms, bottling line, and a cellar to hold the wines before distribution; and in keeping with the European tradition, barrel rooms constructed of high-vaulted caves and a wine library. Guests may select from a range of wine flights and enjoy a cheese plate with a selection of artisanal cheeses. French doors open onto a stone terrace that is bordered with hydrangeas and overlooks the vineyard, offering one of the most picturesque views in Hamptons wine country.

Tasting Notes

Sparkling Brut Blanc de Blanc, 2006—100% Chardonnay, medium lemon colored sparkler, with an active light bead, clean, fragrant aromas of bright melon and pear with a floral note, very crisp, effervescent attack, creamy mousse, dry on the palate with modest green melon and apple fruit, robust finish

Chardonnay 2007---100% Chardonnay, 30% stainless steel fermented, the rest oak-barrel fermented, lemon in color, attack of tropical fruit on the nose, on the palate, it displays a honey leesy mouth feel with moderate acidity and a firm finish

Grandioso Rose 2008—39% Chardonnay, 32% Cabernet Franc, 29% Merlot

This is a “Schiller”. Winemaker Roman Roth knows how to make Schiller from back home in Germany. Schiller is made by blending red and white grapes before fermentation. It looks like a Rose, but it is not, at least not in the French tradition. You can find Schiller only in the region of Württemberg in the south of Germany. The wine got its name from the verb “schillern”. The verb “schillern” means “to scintillate”. “Schiller” is thus a wine with a scintillating color, reflecting the fact that the wine is a blend of red and white grapes. In the past, Schiller used to be a Gemischter Satz wine, but to my knowledge nobody does it any more. Today, Schiller is a blend, but not a field blend. See my posting of August 12, 2009

The Grandioso is a blend, but not a field blend, shinny pale in color, the aroma is full with fresh lime, papaya, and some raspberry notes, the mouth-feel is crisp, elegant and austere, lip-smacking acidity and beautiful yeast notes ensure a vibrant finish

Fatalis Fatum 2006 -- 42% Merlot, 29% Cabernet Franc, 27,5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1.5% Barbera, dark-red in the glass, attack of blueberries and strawberries aromas, full-bodied wine with layers of soft tannins and dark chocolate, intense and lasting finish

Merlot 2007—89% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 1% Cabernet Sauvignon, a typical right bank Bordeaux blend, dark-red in the glass, aromas of prunes and ripe cranberries, medium-bodied and balanced between fruit and tannin, long finish, Woelffer is member of the LIMA (Long Island Merlot Alliance), also comprising Borghese, Clovis Point, McCall, Pellegrini, and Raphael.

Cabernet Franc 2006---78% Cabernet Franc, 20%Merlot, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon, another right-banl blend, dark-red in the glass, very aromatic wine, showing cassis, raspberry and vanilla hints, the mouth-feel is rich and vibrant, concentrated wine, but with a classic elegance that reflects the high portion of cabernet Franc, long finish

Estate Selection Merlot 2004---80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, very dark red color, aromas of figs, dried prunes with toasty oak, medium-bodied mouth-feel with dark chocolate and red cherries, long finish, a great wine with a considerable aging potential

I tasted also the Christian’s cuvee which I have described separately in my In the Glass Series. See here.

I also visited the Borghese Estate. The tasting notes are here.

Woelffer wines are available in Germany through the Bacchus-Vinothek in Rottweil

Wine Bar: Paris of Alexandre-Balthazar-Laurent Grimod de la Reynière

Picture: Alexandre-Balthazar-Laurent Grimod de la Reynière, photo by Ed Alcook for the New York Times

Alexandre-Balthazar-Laurent Grimod de la Reynière is considered to be the first French food and wine critic. He was born in 1758, became a successful theatre critic before the French revolution and turned to food and wine reviews when he approached the age of 50. His Almanachs des Gourmands became the Michelins or Zagats of the time.

Tony Perrottet presents a wonderful trip through the food and wine scene of the Napoleonic Paris in the New York Times, which I tremendously enjoyed reading.

The wonderful piece by Tony Perrottet does not mention the restaurant Tour d’Argent on the left bank, which exists since 1582. It is said to have been frequented by Henri IV. It is famous for an outstanding view of the river Seine and Notre Dame, if you have the right table. The restaurant also has a huge wine cellar containing more than 450,000 bottles of wine.

Living in Paris is like living in a museum. There is history everywhere and there are almost no skyscrapers and very few new buildings. Of course, Tony Perrottet captures only one period. When I used to live in Paris, I very much liked to discover the Paris of Sartre, Camus and Simon de Beauvoir and the others. The café de Flore in the St. Germain was their home, as Sartre wrote: Simone de Beauvoir and I more or less set up house in the Flore. We worked from 9am till noon, when we went out for lunch. At 2 we came back and talked with our friends till 4, when we got down to work again till 8. And after dinner people came to see us by appointment. It may seem strange, all this, but the Flore was like home to us.

The Flore today is as it was when Sartre was sitting there. Today, Karl Lagerfeld is one the regulars. But he doesn’t work there. He comes only after work for a coffee and a Coke light.

Schiller Wine --- related postings

Wine bar: Paris, Berlin, New York, London

Wine bar: Paris --- Le Petit Monceau, Willi's wine bar and Lavinia
Wine market: Tour d'Argent sells its wine in an auction

In the Glass: Columbia Crest 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon - # 1 Top 100 Wine Spectator 2009

PATERSON, Wash.–(Press Release)–Wine Spectator magazine, one of the most influential wine publications in the world, has named the Columbia Crest 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon as the editors’ pick for the No. 1 Wine in the World for 2009.

Equally noteworthy is that Columbia Crest is the first wine produced in Washington state to fill the top spot in Wine Spectator’s annual Top 100 wines of the world ranking.

“For the first time in the Wine Spectator’s 21-year history of creating an annual ranking of the world’s Top 100 wines, editors have named a wine from Washington state as No. 1. This is an historic moment for Columbia Crest and for all wineries in Washington,” said Ted Baseler, President and CEO of Columbia Crest’s parent company, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates.

Since 1988, Wine Spectator editors have surveyed the wines that they have reviewed during the previous 12 months in order to select their Top 100 Wines of the World. The 2009 ranking was culled from 17,000 wines tasted and reviewed by editors with the final selection based on such attributes as a wine’s quality, value, availability and excitement.

Prestigious châteaux and estates from the world’s most important wine regions have held the No. 1 designation in previous years, including, Australia: Penfolds; Bordeaux: Château Ducru-Beaucaillou, Château Latour, Château Pichon-Longueville-Baron and Château Lynch-Bages; California: Paloma, Joseph Phelps and Caymus; Châteauneuf-du-Pape: Clos des Papes, Château de Beaucastel, E. Guigal; and Tuscany: Solaia and Ornellaia.

“We are honored that editors selected the Columbia Crest Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon as No. 1 in its 2009 Top 100 list,” said Winemaker Ray Einberger. “And it’s a particular honor to be the first wine from Washington state to receive this recognition. We have always believed that the region is among the best wine-producing areas in the world, and this reinforces that belief.”

Columbia Crest’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon has been ranked previously on the magazine’s Top 100 list. In 2004, Wine Spectator ranked the 2001 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon No. 30, and over the years 15 Columbia Crest wines have been named to the Top 100 list.

Einberger, who became head winemaker in 2003, joined Columbia Crest in 1993 and helped to establish the winery’s Reserve program, which has received consistently strong acclaim.

Columbia Crest’s Reserve wines are hand-crafted in le petit chai, a small winery within the overall winery. The chai is dedicated to Walter Clore, the father of the Washington wine industry, and it’s there that the artisanal approach to winemaking is reminiscent of the top boutique wineries and châteaux. In fact, cellar techniques are modeled, in part, on Einberger’s experience working in the cellars of Château Mouton-Rothschild and Château Clerc Milon in Bordeaux and Opus One in Napa Valley.

Founded in 1983, Columbia Crest has grown from a small winery in a relatively unknown wine region to one of the most significant wineries in the U.S. and a major force behind Washington state’s emergence as a world-class wine region. More information about the winery can be found at

Schiller Wines -- Related Postings:

Wine Ratings: Top 100 of the Wine Spectator 2009 includes Wittmann and Loosen Rieslings
Wine Ratings: German Rieslings -- Wine Spectator List of April 2009

New World wine country: Chile and the Carmenere Gape

Chile is a New World Wine country but actually has, as other New World wine countries, a long tradition of wine growing and making. Of course, when the Spanish conquistadors and missionaries came, in the 16th century, they were used to drinking wine and brought vines from Spain, which they planted in the colonized region. 200 hundred years later, when the French came to Latin America, they brought their vines. One of them was the Carmenere grape, which at some point was very popular in Bordeaux.

Until becoming an New World wine country in the international wine market, Chilean wine makers were mainly producing for the local market, as in neighboring Argentine. But today, Chile and Argentine have become a major player in the international market. Wine drinkers in New York and London are associating Argentinean wine with the Malbec grape, which is also popular in the Cahors region of France. For Uruguay, the Tannat grape has taken over that role, which is planted in France mainly in the Basque country region, in the South West. In Chile, the Carmenere grape has become a kind of a national grape, although it accounts only for a small portion of local wine production.

Historically, Carmenere has been difficult to grow in cold, humid climates, and, although this is one of the most ancient varieties in Bordeaux, plantings have practically disappeared in Bordeaux, let alone any other part in France. Carmenere requires a lot of heat to ripen fully. That’s why it fell out of favor in Bordeaux. But it was imported to South America in the 1850s, along with other Bordeaux varieties. The largest established vineyards of this variety are now in Chile.

Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher, the wine couple from the WSJ, have devoted last weekend’s wine article on Carmenere from Chile. Read it here.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

New York Manhattan Wine Bars -- Bar Boulud, The Ten Bells, Terroir and Clo.

I have checked out 4 wine bars in Manhattan: Bar Boulud, The Ten Bells, Terroir, and Clo.

Bar Boulud
Bar Boulud is Daniel Boulud’s wine bar and bistro located across from Manhattan’s Lincoln Center. Daniel Boulud is a star and plays almost in the same league as Alain Ducasse He is a chef, owns now a little restaurant imperium across the globe and just got his third star Michelin. In contrast to Alain Ducasse, however, he is not at all established in his home country, France.

The name says Bar, but the Bar Boulud offers full dinners, not just bar snacks, like a typical French wine Bistro, such as Willi’s wine bar in Paris, where you also can have a full meal. When we were there, everyone was eating a full meal, nobody was standing at the bar just with a glass of wine.

I like the place very much. We sat down at a large communal bar table and started with some terrines, of which there are many on the menu . It was excellent, very French. I then had a steak tartare and my wife had the special of the day, delicious peasant. We finished with a fabulous Ile Flottant, with Pernod in the Vanilla crème, which is very unusual, but delicious.

The cellar of the Bar Boulud is dedicated to the wines of the Rhone Valley and Bourgogne, north and south of his native city Lyon. The selection of Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays from the Bourgogne and the Syrah, Grenache and Grenache Blanc and other grape varieties from the Rhone valley are impressive, with some bottle costing up to $ 5000. But you can also get wine at reasonable prices. We ordered

2008 Appelation Cote Roannaise Controle, Cuvee Troisgros, 100% Gamay, $ 38

While placing special emphasis on the Cote du Rhone and Bourgogne wines, the Bar Boulud also offers “cousin” wines produced outside of the Cote du Rhone and the Bourgogne. These include superb Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays and other grape varietals from the New World. The Pinot Noir from the wine estate Knipser in Germany caught my eye. But the offer of New World wines is limited. The focus is on the Old World and one should take advantage of the excellent wines offered there.
Bar Boulud, New York City

The Ten Bells
One of the hot wine bars in Manhattan is currently Ten Bells, 247 Broome Street (Ludlow Street), (212) 228-4450, on the Lower East Side. The Ten Bells was opened in 2008 by three Frenchmen as an organic, sustainable restaurant and wine bar. But when I was there it did not really feel like a French Wine Bistro, as I know them from my days in Paris, it felt more like a British Pub. There are no tables to sit down for a full dinner, only bar tables. You can sit there or stand at the bar. Many people stood. It is a very intimate place. It was crowded when I was there and noisy. The wines are excellent. Ten Bells focuses on off-the-beaten-track wines from Europe, in particular from France. They also have a couple of wines for people with a big wallet, like Corton-Charlemagne and Charmes-Chambertin. The food is largely Tapas along with a good ham selection, excellent American cheese and oysters. The wine list and the food menu are written on two blackboards hanging on the wall.

This place is run by three Frenchmen who know what they are doing. I adore the French. They have it in the Jeans when it comes to what is good food and wine and what is bad food and wine. I have only been there once, but I could immediately sense that this is a place that serves great food and wine in the best French Bistro tradition.

I had a 2007 Riesling dry, Rheinhessen, Germany, Wuertz with Fisher Island Oysters

The Oysters and the Wuertz Riesling were a perfect fit. The wine was light-yellow in the glass, wet stone and floral notes with lemon-lime citrus on the nose, attack of green apple on the palate, very fresh and spritzy, with lasting finish. The oysters, with lemon juice, were fresh, firm and deliciously salty in the seawater, with a hint of soem sweetness.

Almost no new world wines and all the wines are supposed to be organically and sustainably made. Many wines are off-the-beaten-track as is the wonderful 2007 Riesling dry, Rheinhessen, Germany from Wuertz. I talk about the Wuertz Riesling at the Ten Bells in my In the Glass series here.
The Ten Bells, New York City

It a very futuristic place, not a cozy wine bar. It is very different from everything else I have seen so far in terms of wine bars. Only limited focus on food-- the focus is entirely on wine, on excellent wine.

It is all self-service. You get a kind of an ATM card at the beginning and you use this card throughout the evening, when you pour yourself your wine.

The wine menu is very special. It is an inter-active visual wine menu displayed on the communal table in the middle of the bar, like on an I-Pod. There is a projector beaming down the selection on the communal table and it reacts to finger movements. You find the grape, region, color you are interested in, and the location of that wine amongst the four walls of wines around you.

For drinking wine, you bring your glass over to the eno-system on the four walls, insert your ATM card, place your glass under the spout corresponding with the wine you want to enjoy, press a button, and out comes a perfectly-metered 4 oz. pour. The automatic dispensers includes an impressive selection of about 100 wines selections. The inter-active visual wine menu is fun, but one needs a bit of experience to operate it; I ended up taking a look to the "paper" menu.

Knowledgeable staff are there who are obviously into the wine, though ironically their involvement with customers is minimal, because it is self service.

A big advantage is that you can look at the wine bottles although ordering by the ounce. You can stroll along the bottles and take a glass here and a glass there.

The selection of wines is outstanding, although it is not cheap. Wide and interesting wines selection. Italian, Spanish, French among others and even some dessert wines including Porto. Don’t forget it is sandwiched between Per Se and Masa. And you get a view of the inside of the Time Warner building and Columbus Circle. Definetely a tasting wine bar.
Clo, New York City

Terroir is a French word often referred to as a “sense of place” in a wine. A wine bar with a sense of humor. The staff wears red Che Guevara t-shirts, only Che’s image has been swapped out for Bartolo Mascarello, a producer of Barolo wines. Charming, cute, cozy, great servicer!

The wine menus are graffitied, 3-ring binders - and the menu is printed on lined loose leaf. The three-ring binders are plastered with wine-centric graffiti, crudely drawn cartoon figures, and Hello Kitty stickers. Inside, each page has a different theme, and a different font to reflect it, like scary Gothic lettering for German wines. A lot of love and personality went into their creation. The loose leaf notebook/menu with scribblings make for fun reading while enjoying your glass.

The list is very heavy in European wines, as they are generally of the more terroir driven style. Almost no New World Wines. Their emphasis is Riesling, but there are many other wines. Several pages on German Rieslings. One full page on Hermann Wiemer wines from the Finger Lakes alone with a description of the wine estate, one page on Rieslings that are on the sweet side and have a noticeable a mount of remaining sugar.

We had cheese, which was excellent. If you're in the mood for dessert, try the panna cotta with cherries!
Terroir, New York City

Here are reviews of wine bars that I posted in the past couple of months on my Blog in

Paris, Berlin, London, New York
Frankfurt am Main/Germany

German Rieslings --- Wine Spectator List of April 2009

Bruce Sanderson covers Germany in the Wine Spectator team. Two wines, a reasonably priced day to day wine from Loosen and an expensive high class dry Riesling from Wittmann made it to the Top 100 wines of the Wine Spectator this year. See my posting on this.

Sanderson published a comprehensive tasting report on the 2007 Riesling wines from Germany in the April, 30, 2009 issue of the Wine Spectator. He feels that the 2007 vintage for German Riesling is one of the greatest in a string of successful harvests dating back to 1988. These white wines are fresh and balanced, exhibiting ripe, complex fruit flavors, elegance and density, and a mineral streak that manifests itself from the first sip. Quality is consistently high across all of the country's major regions.

The character of the 2007 wines is best defined by the long, growing season; the Riesling grapes remained on the vine for one to two months longer than usual. With the perfect weather of an Indian summer at harvest, the late-ripening Riesling stayed healthy and matured fully. Wine after wine featured the structure, depth and harmony that will allow them to be enjoyed for a few years after release and develop for decades in the bottle.

Here is his full report in the April 30, 2009 issue of the Wine Spectator.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Top 100 of the Wine Spectator 2009 include Wittmann and Loosen Rieslings

Picture: Wine Maker Philipp Wittmann from Rheinhessen/Germany

The Wine Spectator released its Top 100 Wines 2009 list today.

The Number 1 wine is:

2005 Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington State/US

Two German wines made it to the list.

2008 Loosen Riesling QbA, Dr. L, Mosel, Number 62, 90 points, $12

2007 Wittmann Riesling QbA Trocken, Weingut Wittmann, Rheinhessen, Number 87, 93 points, $48

Weingut Loosen is well known in the US. Ernst Loosen produces in a joint venture with Chateau Ste. Michelle the famous Eroica in Washington State.

Weingut Wittmann is one of Germany's rising stars. He also got the Best White Wines Award of the Eichmann wine guide 2010. In Germany, there are three influential wine guides, the Eichelmann, the Gault Millau and the Feinschmecker. The Eichelmann was just released, with the following awards:

Best white wines: Wittmann in Westhofen
Best red wines: Franz Keller in Vogtsburg-Oberbergen
Best noble-sweet wines: Horst Sauer in Escherndorf Franken
Shooting star of the year: Raumland in Floersheim

Wittmann is from Rheinhessen, which is the largest viticultural region in Germany. Every fourth bottle of German wine comes from Rheinhessen. About one third of Rheinhessen’s agricultural area is cultivated with vines, more than 26000 hectares. The high-yielder Mueller-Thurgau accounts for about 1/5 of the vineyards, and Silvaner and Dornfelder both for 1/10. Riesling is on the backburner. Unlike in other German wine regions, where monoculture of the vine is the norm, here the many rolling hills are host to a wide variety of crops grown alongside the grape. Rheinhessen also has the rather dubious honor of being considered the birthplace of Liebfraumilch.

At the same time, Rheinhessen is at this time among Germany’s most interesting wine regions. A lot is happening there. This is not because of the terroir, but because of the people. There is an increasing group of ambitious and dynamic winemakers who want to produce and indeed do produce outstanding wine and not wines in large quantities. Weingut Wittmann is one of them and, along with Weingut Keller, leading the group of wine makers in Rheinhessen, who now produce sensational white wines.

Some of the ambitious, young winemakers from Rheinhessen have formed the message-in-the-bottle group, on which I have reported here.

Blue Cheese and Wine

Very interesting and useful posting on the Washington Post Blog All We Can Eat by Domenica Marchetti on Blue Cheese. Here are the Blue Cheeses reviewed:

Little Boy Blue from Wisconsin/USA
Oregonzoal from Oregon/USA
Montagnolo from Germany
St. Agur from France
Achelse Blauwe from Belgium

None of the classics like Roquefort, Gorgonzola and Stilton were included in that tasting. I would be interested in a tasting of Roqueforts from different producers (Societe, Charles, Papillon, etc).

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Beaujolais Nouveau 2009

The Wine Coach explains what it is all about with the Beaujolais Nouveau today, on the third Thursday of November, here.

The Ten Bells Wine Bar in New York City, run by 3 Frenchmen, doesn't have any Beaujolais Nouveau tonight, but instead 15 Beaujolais from different vintages and winemakers. See here.

Bernard Burtschy from Le Figoro in Paris is very positive about the 2009 Beaujolais: Profondément enfoncé dans la crise, le beaujolais ne doit pas rater son rendez-vous avec le millésime 2009, qui est perçu par tous d'une qualité exceptionnelle. «C'est le plus grand millésime que j'aie vécu et mon père qui a beaucoup plus de recul que moi en pense de même : le plus grand depuis cinquante ans», raconte Édouard Labruyère, un des grands producteurs de moulin-à-vent qui est considéré comme le meilleur cru du Beaujolais.

Gault Millau Wine Germany 2010

In Germany, there are three influential wine guides, the Eichelmann, the Gault Millau and the Feinschmecker.

Gault Millau published its new guide, Gault Millau 2010, in November 2009. It reviews and describes almost 300 wineries and more than 2000 wines. Its rating symbol is a grape and Germany’s best winemakers are awarded one to five grapes, a bit like the forks in the Gault Millau food guide.

Ever since 1994, the Gault Millau guide Germany has honored outstanding personalities of the German wine world – in addition to special wines. This year, these are:

Wine maker of the year: Tim Fröhlich from Weingut Schäfer-Fröhlich. The "Winemaker of the Year" this time comes from the Nahe region, a small region between the Rheingau and the Mosel regions, with the Nahe river flowing through it. Tim Frohlich took over Weingut Schäfer-Fröhlich in 1995. He has impressed Gault and Millau with his dry, sweet and noble sweet white wines.

Shooting star of the year: Gleichenstein Estate from Baden. The Estate of Baron Gleichenstein has founded in 1634 already. But only in recent years the estate has taken off under the young Baron Johannes von Gleichenstein. "Increasingly, he uses the great potential of the prime locations in Oberrotweil for excellent Burgundy,” editor Joel Payne praised his wines. With his Pinot Noir of 2007 Gleichenstein also moved into the top range of German red wines and with his Pinot Gris from the Oberrotweil Henkenberg into the top range of white wines.

Discovery of the Year: Eva Vollmer from Rheinhessen. No other region has received as many grapes for the first time as Rheinhessen. Among the newcomers is also Eva Vollmer from Mainz, the "discovery of the Year" in this year's Gault Millau. 2007 is her first vintage. After an internship in California and wine studies at Geisenheim, the 27 years old wine maker founded her winery in 2007; she has taken over the vinyards of her father, who used to grow grapes only and sell them.

Best wine collection of the year: Bürklin Wolf from the Pfalz region. Most top-dry Rieslings in 2008 come from the Pfalz region, according to Gault Millau. Leading that extraordinary quality movement is the winery Bürklin Wolf in Wachenheim, which has been honored for its outstanding wine portfolio.

Best Sparkling Wine of the Year: 2004 Cuvee Brut Schlossgut Diel (Nahe). Schlossgut Diel is from the same region as Tim Froehlich, the wine maker of the year. In the US, Armin Diehl is known for producing the evanescent Poet’s Leap in Washington State’s Columbia Valley.

Best Red Wine of the Year: 2007 Pinot Noir Friedrich Becker (Pfalz). 97 points. Friedrich Becker and his family own around 14.5 ha of vineyards in the Southern part of the Pfalz region. He was the first of his family to distant himself from delivering the grapes to the local co-operative and decide to make his own wine. Right from the start he turned out as one of the best producers in the Pfalz and one of the best Pinot Noir producers in Germany. 60% of his production is Pinot Noir which is gown primarily on stony, chalky soil on the Alsatian side of the border and his wines are made "by instinct". The same instincts seem to have been transferred to his son Friedrich Jun, who has taken over more and more responsibilities with his sister Helena.

Best Dry Pinot Blanc of the Year: 2008 In the Sunshine Ökonomierat Rebholz (Pfalz). This wine maker was Gault Millau’s winemaker of the year 2002. "For Hansjörg Rebholz, the respect for nature is the source of all the things that characterize the wines." Wine writer Stuart Pigott says.

Best Dry Riesling of the Year: 2008 Forster Kirchenstück Bürklin,Wolf (Pfalz). 96 points. A Grosses Gewaechs from the winemaker with the best collection of wine of the year.

German Wine Queen Marlies Dumbsky with Gary Vaynerchuck at Terroir in NYC

Gary Vaynerchuck is one of the pioneers of video wine blogging. His series has many followers around the world. From a German perspective, episode 711 with the German Wine Queen, Marlies Dumbsky, in the Terroir Wine Bar in Manhattan is most interesting and worth watching. Watch the video here

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Wines of Castello di Borghese, Long Island, New York State

Picture: Christian G.E.Schiller with Borghese's Assistant Manager Evie Kahn

We tasted the wines of the Castello di Borghese Vineyard and Winery on Long Island, New York State. The Castello die Borghese is owned and managed by Prince Marco and Princess Ann Marie Borghese, who live on the premise.

There are more than 30 wineries on Long Island and the list is growing. The first winery on Long Island was founded by Louisa and Alex Hargrave in 1973. This is when it all started and the Hargrave couple can be considered as the parents of the wine industry in Long Island. Marco and Ann Marie Borghese bought the vineyards and the winery in 1999 and renamed it Castello de Borghese Vineyard and Winery.

The reference to vineyard, where the grapes are grown, and the winery, where the wine is made, in the name of the Estate may appear strange to European readers, because both processes are typically in the same hands in Europe, in the US they are often not. The special mention of vineyard and winery in the name is intended to show clearly that at the Castelleo di Borghese wine is made in the European tradition, where wineries rarely buy grapes from others but typically grow them themselves.

Marco Borghese comes from the famous Borghese family in Italy, which includes many well known personalities, including Pope Paul V (he was Pope many centuries ago) and Marco’s cousin, well know from the popular TV romance US reality series “The Bachelor: Rome,” in which attractive and sexy women were competing for an eligible, handsome, and presumably rich bachelor, Marco’s cousin.

When the Borgheses bought the property from the Hargraves, they inherited an unenviable tradition of making Pinot Noir. Although this hard-to-manage Burgundian grape does not seem well suited to its East End maritime agriculture habitat, the Hargraves made successful Pinot Noirss periodically. The Borgheses have continued on this route and the Pinot Noir has become the flagship wine, although many consider Long Island to be a Merlot region. The vineyard has 84 acres under vine and produces around 10,000 cases per year.

In little over a quarter of a century the Long Island wine industry has grown from one small vineyard to 3,000 acres of vines and over thirty wineries producing outstanding wines. Located in New York State, on the East Coast of the United States, Long Island extends some 120 miles into the Atlantic Ocean. Its maritime climate, geography and soil characteristics provide ideal conditions for producing wines of exceptional quality.

Looking over the vineyard of the Borghese Estate, I could see why this piece of land has attracted Marco Borghese and how it probably has recalled the Tuscany of his youth to him, where for centuries his noble family had farmed and made wine.

We tasted the following wines in the wonderful tasting room.

Chardonnay 2007 Estate $17—stainless steel fermented; straw-yellow in the glass, pear and green apple on the nose, clean and crisp on the palate, with a rich texture and straightforward fruit aromas.

Riesling 2008 Estate $22-- Stainless steel fermented for 3 weeks, light-yellow in the glass, attack of green apple on the nose, scents of pear mate on the palate, coupled with mineral flavors, lovely balanced wine with a crisp and bright acidity on the finish.

Pinot Noir Barrel Fermented 2005 $44—Purple-red in the glass, a lot of cassis notes on the nose, with hints of dark chocolate and toasted oak, a full-bodied wine with a strong tannin profile, both round and velvety. This wine has been aged for a year in a blend of virgin and vintage French Oak Barrels. The Borgheses are making a special effort to promote the Pinot Noir on Long Island; it is a difficult effort, but can be very rewarding as this wine shows.

Merlot 2002 Reserve $29—Aged in a blend of vintage French and American Oak for 20 months, dark-red in the glass, aromas of raspberries and black current on the nose, restrained in fruit notes, coupled with a charming finesse and elegance and a noticeable profile of tannins that promises well for keeping the Merlot in the cellar for a couple of years. In July 2009, Borghese became the seventh member of the LIMA (Long Island Merlot Alliance), joining Clovis Point, McCall, Pellegrini, Raphael and Woelffer, although Pinot Noir remains Borghese’s flagship wine.

Meritage 2005 $60—Aged for 2 years in the French Oak. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (40 %), Merlot (40%) and Cabernet Franc (20%). Bordeaux’s tend to be blends, but with either the Cabernet Sauvignon or the Merlot dominating. As a very broad generalization, Cabernet Sauvignon (second most planted variety) dominates the blend in red wines produced in the Médoc and the rest of the left bank of the Gironde estuary. Typical blends are 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc & 15% Merlot. Merlot (most planted variety) and to a lesser extent Cabernet France (third most planted variety) dominate in Saint Emilion, Pomerol and the other right bank appellations. These blends are typically 70% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc & 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. This Meritage is half and half Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, very big, juice, full wine, with lots of vanilla, cassis and dark chocolate aromas on the palate, lasting finish with a strong tannin profile, as I have detected by all Borghese red wines. Not cheap, but worth the money of someone, who is prepared to spend that amount.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

St. Pauli Weinklub -- Wine Club, Germany

Picture: Founding members of the St. Pauli Weinklub at the Restaurant Freudenhaus (Brothel)

When I hear St. Pauli, several things come to my mind.

First, it is a well known district of the city of Hamburg, Germany.

Second, its soccer club, the FC St. Pauli has a long tradition, but they do not play in the Bundesliga right now.

Third, St. Pauli’s Reeperbahn has a long tradition as an amusement center. Hamburg has a big port and the Reeperbahn, the red-light district, is where the sailors were looking for amusement and relaxation. Prostitution is legal in Germany and this is the area, where you go, if you are looking for that kind of thing.

Fourth, there is not only sex at the Reeperbahn, but many other things. The Beatles lived and played in St. Pauli at the Star-Club before becoming famous. The famous singer and actor Hans Albers--the German Frank Sinatra--did the song "Auf der Reeperbahn Nachts um Halb Eins" (On the Reeperbahn half past midnight), which every German woman who is from that period can sing by heart.

Fifth, ending on a personal note, a few years ago I spend a weekend in Hamburg with my son, just the two of us, first we saw Eintracht Frankfurt in a soccer match playing the HSVand then we saw amazing stuff at the Reeperbahn.

Now, five gentlemen have initiated the St. Pauli wine club.

Hendrik Thoma, Master Sommelier, Matthias Storm, owner of the legendary restaurant Freudenhaus (restaurant whorehouse) in St. Pauli, wine maker Stefan Maas, actor and musician Ulrich Tukur and general manager of the legendary St. Pauli Theatre Ulrich Waller.

This seems to be an interesting group of wine lovers. They might even come to the US and might enjoy a wine tasting at the Ten Bells, which is one the best wine bars in New York City. I have written about it on my wine blog here. And here is a picture from the Ten Bells wine blog, which the five gentlemen might like.

Here is more, in German:

Ein Sachse, ein Westfale und drei Schwaben retten die Weinwelt

Es ist ein knapp 5000 Jahre altes Kulturgut, ein globales Getränk, ein Gottesgeschenk. Wein war da, als Jesus Christus sich von seinen Jüngern verabschiedete. Und er ist immer noch hier, bei jeder Messe, jedem Date, jedem Geschäftsessen. Doch das, was die Trauben so großzügig schenken, verkommt immer mehr zu einem Mode- und Massengetränk, für das sich erdverbundene und traditionsbewusste Winzer schämen.

Denn guter Wein ist ehrlicher Wein ist echter Wein. Guter Wein ist ein himmlisches Erlebnis. Guter Wein ist nicht: industriell in Massen gefertigt, voller Aroma-Hefen und anderen Manipulationen, nur um jeder aktuellen Geschmacksnachfrage das passende Trendangebot zu bieten. Monetäres Streben und trügerisches Marketing darf die uralte Handwerkskunst der Winzer nicht in eine leb- und lieblose Maschine verwandeln. Genau so leicht wie die Hersteller machen es sich heutzutage leider schon viele Weintrinker: Sie maßen sich an, Geschmack zu haben und ihn definieren zu können. Sie bestellen einen Trockenen, weil das alle tun. Und sie setzen Preise und Titel mit Qualität gleich. Damit beleidigt die Weinwelt ihre Essenz, ihren Bodensatz, ihren Schatz. Denn Wein ist ein zu komplexes, spannendes und vielseitiges Thema, als dass man es mit so wenig Anspruch bewertet und in Sekunden-Bruchteilen beurteilt. Das betrifft auch das Personal, den Service der Gastronomie.

Aus diesem Grund haben sich Matthias Storm, Wirt des legendären Restaurants "Freudenhaus" auf dem Hamburger Kiez (43, Sachse), Master-Sommelier Hendrik Thoma (41, Westfale), Winzer und Weinprofi Stefan Maas (47, Schwabe), Schauspieler und Musiker Ulrich Tukur (52, Schwabe) und der Intendant des St. Pauli Theaters, Ulrich Waller (53, noch ein Schwabe), zusammengeschlossen. Sie sind nicht nur Genussmenschen, sie fühlen sich dem Genuss auf Lebenszeit verpflichtet. Mit dem "St. Pauli Weinklub in der Vereinsgaststätte Freudenhaus" bieten sie eine einzigartige Plattform von und für Weinprofis, Weinkenner, Weininteressierte - Weinfreaks.

Der "St. Pauli Weinklub in der Vereinsgaststätte Freudenhaus" wird die Erzeugung schlechter Weine nicht verhindern können. Doch den Genuss in eine sinnvolle Richtung lenken, der Entstehung von Wein huldigen, ehrlichen Winzern ein kleines Denkmal setzen, jungen Winzern eine Bühne bieten - das ist innerhalb dieser Vereinigung nicht nur möglich, es ist das erklärte Ziel. Zu erleben ist das an jährlich sechs Themenabenden im Klubheim.

Mitglied kann nicht jeder werden, es gibt ein spezielles Ausschluss- und Aufnahmeverfahren. Neben dem vollkommenen Einverständnis mit den Prinzipien dieses Klubs sind gediegene Kleidung und gepflegter Umgang Grundvoraussetzung, dunkler Anzug und Einstecktuch Pflicht. Der Jahresmitgliedsbeitrag beträgt 50,00 Euro. Die Veranstaltungen berechnet der Schatzmeister je nach Kostenaufwand individuell, eventuell anfallende Überschüsse kommen am Jahresende einer gemeinnützigen Einrichtung in Hamburg in Form einer Spende zugute.

Medienvertreter sind herzlich zur Gründungsfeier des „St. Pauli Weinklub in der Vereinsgaststätte Freudenhaus“ eingeladen.

Termin: 17. November 2009
Uhrzeit: 20 Uhr
Ort: Restaurant Freudenhaus, Hein-Hoyer-Straße 7-9, 20359 Hamburg.

Anwesende Klub-Gründer: Ulrich Tukur, Ulrich Waller, Matthias Storm und Stefan Maas.

Anmeldungen zur Gründungsfeier nur über diese Email:

Artisanal Fromagerie, Bistro and Wine Bar in New York City

Picture: Artisanal Fromagerie, Bistro and Wine Bar in New York City

My wife Annette and I had cheese at the Artisanal in New York. Just cheese and wine. The cheese selection there is very special. It is outstanding, but very different from what you find in the capitol of cheese, Paris.

Artisanal Fromagerie, Bistro and Wine Bar

2 Park Ave
New York, NY 10016-5675
(212) 725-8585

Let’s take Androuet in Paris, who build his cheese imperium starting with a cheese shop cum restaurant in the rue d’Amsterdam. I used to go to his little shop at the Villier market, although there were several other amazing cheese stores in the neighborhood. There, the cheese selection is outstanding, huge, narrow, French and deep.

Androuet offers a huge selection of different cheeses, narrowly focused on where the best cheese of the world come from, France. There is almost nothing from other countries, perhaps a few cheeses from Switzerland or the Netherlands. The French selection is very deep. Typically, you find an amazing number of different chevres in all kind of different forms. For some cheese, such as Roquefort--a cheese I always carefully check who the producer is--there probably will be several from different producers, such as Societe, Papillon, Charles, who all have slightly different styles. But when it comes to other countries, and there are many other countries that produce outstanding cheese, including the US, almost nothing.

Artisanal in New York City is just the opposite, a decent--not a huge--selection of cheeses, the selection is extremely broad in terms of country coverage, all the classic cheeses from around the world are there, global, and by necessity shallow. The New York global macro-perspective is in sharp contrast to the Paris narrow micro-perspective. Here at the Artisanal, you got a global view of the cheeses of the world. They have French cheeses, but also cheeses from Italy, Spain, Switzerland, England, Portugal, Ireland, Netherlands and the US.

We went over to the counter and ordered six cheeses:

We chose:

Upland's Pleasant Ridge, a cow’s milk cheese made in the style of mountain cheeses from the alpine regions, Wisconsin, US, yellow and hard, with subtle floral notes. The US has started to make excellent cheeses. The American consumer is only slowly starting to appreciate American cheeses. In general, in Europe, American cheeses have not yet arrived. But there are people who feel that America's great artisanal cheeses are getting ready to take Europe by storm. This spring, Pleasant Ridge went on sale at Neal's Yard Dairy and La Fromagerie, two of London's best-known cheese purveyors.

Queijo Serra da Estrela, a raw sheep’s milk cheese, mildly herbaceous, from the mountains of Portugal, a soft cheese, soft cheeses still retain a high percentage of water in the paste, as the cheese ages, it loses its moisture to evaporation - the angel's share - and slowly hardens.

Monte Enebro, made in Avila, Spain, a goat's milk cheese, a soft cheese, very creamy, stark-white paste because of the goat’s milk that is deceivingly mild, with a mottled, bluish-gray rind, which I did not eat, but some of my friends in Paris do.

Livarot, one of my favorites, a cow’s milk cheese from France, washed-rind cheese, dark orange rind, the cheese has been washed during the maturing process with salty water and turned regularly, soft, thick and reddish, the colorful pungent rind contrast with a beautifully smooth and creamy interior, I do not eat the rind of the Livarot.

Shropshire Blue, a cow's milk blue cheese from the UK, firm texture, but very creamy, orange with deep blue streaks, a new cheese, at least by European standards, produced for only twenty-five years, the first time I had it.

Bleu des Basques Brebis, from the French part of the Basques country in the South West of France, most Blue cheeses in the world are from cow’s milk, among the exceptions are the Roquetfort, which sets the standard for Blue cheeses and the Bleu des Basques Brebis, which is more difficult to find, both are from sheep milk, a bit over-aged for my taste, as is often the case with blue cheeses here in the US, very creamy texture.

Conclusion: It is an excellent place to taste cheeses of the world. The interior is lovely (almost as beautiful as Balthazar). It reminded me of La Coupole on the left bank in Paris. The Artisanal also serves classic French Bistro food such as Steak Tartare and Plateau des Fruits de Mer.

The wine list fit perfectly. It was also very broad, although a bit tilted to the Old World and in particular to France. But overall, Artisanal offers an amazing overview of what is available today in the market in terms of wines from around the world. 150 wines by the glass from around the world, grouped by regions and grape varieties. I had a

2006 Riesling Heron Hill from the Finger Lakes in New York State for US$ 12 per glass