Monday, March 14, 2011

A Glass of Bordeaux – What Else? – With Wine Journalist Panos Kakaviatos

Picture: Christian G.E.Schiller with Panos Kakaviatos in McLean, Virginia

I first heard about Panos Kakaviatos – the international wine journalist – when he moderated a winemaker dinner of Chateau Comtesse de Lalande and Chateau Angélus at the Restaurant Francaise in Frankfurt am Main in Germany. I was in Frankfurt at that time and I would have loved to attend the dinner, but unfortunately it did not work out. It was quite an event as Ralf Kaiser reported on his blog Weinkaiser. Back in the US, in Washington DC, I was surprised one day to see a video of Jean Trimbach from Maison Trimbach in Alsace at MacArthur’s Beverages, taken by the same Panos Kakaviatos. I went to his web site and found out that he spends – as I do – half of his time in Europe and half in the US, in Washington DC. I sent him an e-mail, we met for a drink at Evo Bistro in McLean and then for 3 bottles of wine – with my wife Annette - at my house. The evening turned out to be great fun.

Picture: Panos Kakaviatos

Panos Kakaviatos

During the evening it quickly became evident that he is at home in an American environment as well as in a European environment. Born, raised and educated in Washington D.C. to Greek parents, he speaks English, but he is also fluent in German and French. As these are the three languages I also master, we switched back and forth between English, French and German, depending on the subject we were discussing.

“How did this passion for French wine and in particular for Bordeaux develop?” I asked Panos. “After earning a Bachelor in Communication and a Masters in International Political Economy, I moved in 1996 to Strasbourg, France, in the heart of Alsatian wine country, where I began a press relations career for an international organization called The Council of Europe. During that time, I joined a wine tasting club… which opened this brave new wine world for me” Panos said. This was more than a decade ago. In the meantime, Panos has become a respected wine journalist – admittedly better known in Europe than in the US – writing occasionally for, inter alia, such respected magazines as Decanter.

Pictures: Christian G.E.Schiller and Panos Kakaviatos

Panos is on a 2-track life in various aspects: He lives in the US (greater Washington DC area) and in Europe (Strasbourg); he has dual citizenship (US passport and Greek passport); he has a Master in International Political Economy from American University in Washington DC and has been working since his graduation in that field for the Council of Europe, Associated Press and Agence France Press, to name a few of his employers, while at the same time was trying to make a living with wine, by, for example, organizing wine tastings, writing for the Decanter in the UK and working as a sommelier. In the summer of 2007, Panos worked as a sommelier in a prestigious French restaurant on Nantucket. Nantucket is an island 30 miles south of Cape Cod in Massachusetts, in the United States, well known as a summer colony for the rich and famous. Panos wrote about his first-ever sommelier experience in the summer of 2007. See here.

Panos’ Winemaker Dinners

“Since 2004, I have been organizing winemaker dinners and tastings for top hotel restaurants worldwide, from Nantucket Island, Massachusetts to Berlin, Germany” Panos said. I like winemaker dinners and have attended many of them. I had never thought about how this works, but Panos explained to me, how he does it: “My connections in Bordeaux run deep, thanks so far to 10 years of constant visits to Bordeaux, averaging twice per year. The chateau owner or winemaker typically travels at his or her expense to the venue and sends bottles free of charge to be tasted at the hotel. In return, the hotel provides an elaborate four- to five-course dinner with all service included, prepared around the vintages to be tasted. The hotel also provides free room and board for the chateau representative. My role is to coordinate and help provide press relations services for the event and accompany the winemaker and translate brief remarks made during the dinner (into English or German). I work with the hotel to find a local journalist or two who would be invited to the dinner. Upon request, I can help locate a local merchant who sells the wine. Based on previous tastings, I know that participants enjoy the dinner tastings because I have regulars who attend them, particularly in Germany.”

Pictures: Panos Kakaviatos

Wine Tours

Panos is also offering wine tours to Bordeaux, but this department has been very slow in terms of getting off the ground. Panos has excellent contacts in Bordeaux, knows the language and the area, and is very keen to lead groups through the most famous wine region of the world. If you are interested, contact him!

Decanter, Connections To Wine, Wine Videos, Wine Book

The best place to go to in order to learn more about what Panos is doing is his Blog “Connections To Wine”. You find all his excellent tasting notes there. What I like most, are his very entertaining videos, he has put on YouTube. Videos like “Tasting at Château Margaux: silk or cashmere?” – with Jancis Robinson also appearing - are really fun to watch. He also writes for the Decanter and Harpers Wine & Spirits – two excellent UK based wine magazines. Next month, Panos will take part as a panelist in the Decanter World Wine awards: . I am looking forward to his video; I am sure it will be very entertaining. Panos also told me about a wine book, he plans to write. It will be on French wines, an insider look of the French wine scene, for the American consumer.

The Wines We Drank

We had the following 3 wines, with charcutterie and cheese.

1990 Bacharacher Posten, Spaetlese trocken, Weingut Bastian, Mittelrhein
1987 Chateau Leoville Barton, Bordeaux
1972 Les Forts de Latour, Bordeaux

The German wine was a Spaetlese trocken, i.e. a wine with an elevated sugar content at harvest, which was fully fermented so that all the sugar turned into alcohol. Mittelrhein is an area not well known outside of Germany, but I like these wines very much, because they tend to be bone dry with a good acidity, which keeps them fresh for a long time. Panos said: “I really liked this wine. It is mineral and smoky with evident petrol but good freshness. Perhaps the finish was a bit short and it may have lacked a bit of corpulence, but overall a lovely bottle of wine that has aged gracefully almost 21 years.”

As for the Bordeaux, here is what I picked up from Panos about the 2 wines: “The Bordeaux were both revealing. I have to admit to admiring the Les Forts de Latour more in the end because it showed such power and even freshness for a wine near 40 years old, and coming from a poor vintage. And the color was quite youthful. To think that Robert Parker once graded this wine a mere 74 points! But for me it was surprisingly good. OK, it had a slightly odd aroma initially, and did have a short finish... and was not terribly complex. But the nose ended up showing mainly Pauillac aromatics of cedar and cigar box. Although one could detect the hard tannins from the cold and wet vintage that 1972 was, they had now softened enough to be rather well integrated. In short, Les Forts de Latour 1972 proved that Latour may well have the best second wine of Bordeaux.

As for the Leoville Barton 1987, Leoville Barton showed its status as a second growth. Fine aromas of pencil lead and cassis, a soft entry on the palate with a supple feel, tannins completely melted and certainly not going much further, the wine is at its peak even though a bit of tightness on the finish promises that nicely stored bottles will stay on this plateau for more years. A fine finish, again rather soft, and with time in glass, opens up just a bit more. Some floral notes. The overall impression is a wine that lacks some concentration, although it is not watery. For a weak 80s vintage this is fine.

In the end, both Bordeaux were "in character" with the St Julien more elegant and feminine perhaps, and the Pauillac more powerful."

Forthcoming Winemaker Dinner in Frankfurt and Berlin

Later this month, Panos Kakaviatos will be in Frankfurt am Main and Berlin, Germany, co-hosting two wine dinners – at the Maingau Hotel in Frankfurt on 24 March and at the Sankt Moritz Restaurant in Berlin on 25 March – with Matthieu Cuvelier of Château Clos Fourtet (Premier Grand Cru Classé St Emilion) and Château Poujeaux (Moulis) and with Didier Cuvelier of Château Léoville Poyferré (2nd cru classé St Julien) and Château Le Crock (Cru Bourgeois, St Estephe).

Thursday, March 24, 2011:

Restaurant Maingau
Schifferstraße 38 - 40
60594 Frankfurt am Main- Sachsenhausen
Tel. 069 / 60 91 40
Reservierungen und Info: Frau Geist
89 Euro p.P.


Poujeaux 2007 und Poujeaux 2004
Seeteufelmedaillon auf Pestorisotto

Clos Fourtet 2001 und 1998
Crepinette vom Stubenküken auf Linsen

Léoville Poyferré 1989, und Léoville Poyferré und Clos Fourtet 1990
Rinderfilet Rossini mit Selleriepürre und Rotweinschalotten

Léoville Poyferré 2000

Le Crock 2005 und 2003.
Schokoladensouffle mit Feigen

Friday, March 25, 2011:

Restaurant Sankt Moritz

Regensburger Straße 7
10777 Berlin
Tel. 030 / 23 62 44 70
Reservierungen und Info: Anton Stefanov
124 Euro p.P.


Amuse bouche

Kürbiskernöl & Buchenholz
2007 Château Poujeaux, Moulis
2004 Château Poujeaux, Moulis

Grüne Paprika & Pied de mouton
2001 Château Clos Fourtet, St. Emilion
1998 Château Clos Fourtet, St. Emilion

Zucchini & Staudensellerie
2000 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
1989 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien

Foie gras & Trüffel
1990 Château Clos Fourtet, St. Emilion
1990 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien

Käse von Maître Philippe
2005 Château Le Crock, St. Estèphe
2003 Château Le Crock, St. Estèphe

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