London Riesling Diary: Day 3 – In the Long Shadow

Here in London I feel that I’m in the long shadow of the British Empire. You can’t see this metaphysical shadow, but it’s no less real for that. Most of you couldn’t experience it as I do, because in order to sense its presence and feel its influence you need to have at least have been brought up here or in a British colony. If you don’t comply with those conditions I think you can feel glad, because this shadow is nothing pretty or cheerful, rather it is soaked in blood. As a child I was convinced that – excepting the Cold War – I was lucky to be growing up during a period of peace, but now I know that this was an illusion. Colonial wars continued to be fought by Britain from Aden to Northern Ireland. The abuse of native populations continued into the 1970s when the inhabitants of the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean were forcibly deported from their homeland to make way for a huge American air base on Diego Garcia. They are still forbidden to return.

But, of course, there is also much that is familiar, not only people also things that count as old friends, like the rain and the resulting greenness of the landscape. This is still idealized by a large part of the British population, as it was by generations of artists (19th century painters including the visionary Samuel Palmer), and writers (20th century novelists including the modernist Virginia Woolf). Then there is the Anti-Establishment that kicks back at the ugly politics and warmongering. I’m just about to visit Vivienne Westwood’s fashion store, and later I will go to the exhibition of David Bailey’s photography. Both definitely belonged to that Anti-Establishment, but may no longer do so. I will also be meeting Harry Eyres, an old friend who writes the Slow Lane column in the Financial Times. He, I feel sure, remains an uncomfortable voice that the Establishment would prefer to silence if they could, according to the ancient motto Rule Britannia. I will be pleased to leave the Lost Island at the edge of Europe for Germany and the 2013 wines of the Nahe, Rheingau and Rheinhessen tomorrow!

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Berlin Riesling Diary: Day 9 – Dirk Würtz’s Rieslings demand RESSpekt (and taste unique)

Nobody could think up Dirk Würtz, winemaker of the Balthasar Ress estate in Hattenheim / Rheingau since 2009, if he didn’t already exist. Meeting him is like suddenly finding yourself in his movie and realizing that there’s no choice but to improvise, because (once again!) he’s forgotten to bring a copy of the script for you, then you realize that actually you’re having a ball. It turns out that the man widely regarded as Germany’s most successful wine blogger also makes Wurst, or sausage, in his spare time. Hence the title of yesterday evening’s event in the Planet Wein in the Charlottenstrasse / Berlin-Mitte: Würtz, Wein & Worscht (as Wurst is spoken in some German dialects).

OK, the group of somms, journalists and fellow travellers who gathered in this very cool store at 7:30pm yesterday didn’t actually get to sample any of Dirk’s own Worscht, but we did get to try his favorite from biodynamic Metzger Bayer in Kiedrich / Rheingau. More importantly we got to sample Dirk’s unique take on the Rheingau, German wine and his entire Weltanschauung, or world view. It began with a sentence which will shock many readers, “Riesling is an overrated grape variety!” Ouch!

It took a little while for me to grasp exactly what he was talking about, which was that he isn’t interested in the interplay of acidity with sweetnes and/or fruit that is often declared to be the most important characteristic of Riesling wines. The dry Rieslings from Balthasar Ress that he poured for us all had a mild acidity, having undergone malolactic fermentation (that converts the malic acid in wines into the softer lactic acid) and all those described below were properly dry. However, this didn’t mean they were much of a sameness nor the same of a muchness. Instead the wines Dirk poured lived up to his reputation for no-holds-barred individuality.

First came the 2012 Riesling Große Gewächse (GGs) from the Hattenheimer Nussbrunnen and Rüdesheimer Berg Schlossberg , both made from ripe grapes that were still greenish in color, to prove that even with full low acidity there’s a clear difference between the wines from sites as different as these. The Nussbrunnen is quite a mighty wine with rippling muscles and a full apricot note; the Berg Schlossberg is way sleeker and more sinewy, with more tension and underplayed power. In contrast, the 2012 “R” was made from the grapes that were golden with a violet tinge (over-ripeness with the very beginnings of botrytis) and was a much more opulent, full-trottle wine, although I found the flavor ended with something of the sleekness and coolness of the Berg Schlossberg GG. My guess is that as the wine ages this will become more obvious.

Finally came the 2011 of a wine called ‘RESSpekt’ (pictured above – yes it has a metal label!) that is made from only violet-colored, over-ripeness from the Berg Schlossberg site. As Berlin super-somm Billy Wagner said, this was a seriously massive wine for just 12% alcohol (the alcoholic content wasn’t high in any of the wines we tasted). Someone said the wine was schön, or beautiful, to which Dirk replied that, “Wein ist nicht schön! Wein ist geil oder lecker!” that is, wine isn’t beautiful, but it is horny or tasty. Sorry we couldn’t offer you a part in Dirk’s movie yesterday evening in Berlin!

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Berlin Riesling Diary: Day 8 – Give us This Day Our Daily Bread, or the Story of Peter Klann – Part 4

Suddenly I was stopped dead in my storytelling tracks by an email that expressed outrage at something I wrote in one of the first three episodes of this story. This story is “only” about bread, just like most of the stories here are “only” about wine. Both suffer from being frequently regarded and occasionally dismissed as “specialist” subjects, as if they existed in isolated corners of the world, or possibly were somehow cut off from the rest of the world so that they didn’t connect with things political, society, the rest of the economy or human emotions. No explanation is ever offered for this view, rather it is presented as being self-evident to anyone who has any brains. Questioning it is regarded as the sure sign of a feeble mind.

In fact, I’d say that in the West both bread and wine are highly emotional products loaded with symbolic meanings and personal associations. And that’s the reason that they are worth writing about. Of course, a really good story not only has a beginning, a middle and an end (thank you Aristotle for that vital observation), but also has a heroine or a hero, by which I mean someone which we the readers, hearers and/or viewers identify with. In some stories that central role is occupied by an anti-heroine or anti-hero, but this doesn’t fundamentally alter the situation for the purposes of storytelling, for we still connect with that person (though through very different emotions).

In this story that Very Important Person is the baker Peter Klann, the guiding spirit of the SoLuna Bakery in Berlin until his death just over a year ago. It might seem from the those first three episodes that Peter is clearly the hero, and there is indeed so much which was positive about him that he often is the hero of this story. However, like everyone else, his personality was not all positive. During his last months he tried to constructively downsize SoLuna and make it less of a local bakery (i.e. one that doesn’t treat non-locals as second class citizens, as happens sometimes in Berlin), a process that looked like Peter trying to reinvent SoLuna yet again. Don’t get me wrong, every small business has an optimum size at which it is run by a team ideally matched to a particular level of production and quality of product. An important part of the art of running a small business is recognizing where that point is, then moving there. Maybe Peter was right, but from the outside it looked chaotic.

For some ex-employees who departed SoLuna at this time Peter is definitely an anti-hero, whereas for others he is the guru of baking. What I am trying to do here is neither to idealize Peter Klann, but to tell his story how I experienced it. For this reason I am not willing to remove anything from these first three episodes of this story, nor from this one or any of those which follow. Everyone is invited to comment, and as long as I don’t think that a comment is libelous or ugly then I will let it all stand. It is my belief that every story can be told many different ways and they can all be true.

PS The photograph was taken in August 2012 in Berlin when I saw Peter for the last time, and in my mind it leads me to the next episode of this story.


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Berlin Riesling Diary: Day 6 – Let it Grow in Töplitz!

Those of you who’ve followed this blog for some time already know that on May 4th, 2013 a group of friends and I planted just shy of a thousand vines of the variety Pinotin (thank you vine breeder Valentin Blattner) at the Klosterhof Töplitz wine estate just outside Berlin on the southwestern side in the state of Brandenburg. We are talking about 52° 26′ North, almost 12° further north than my other base in New York Wine City! This south facing gently sloping hillside is historic vineyard land originally planted some time in 1360 by Cistercian monks (the ones who were responsible for Clos Vougeot in Brugundy and the Steinberg in the Rheingau). Since 2012 this 6.5 acres / 2.6 hectare organic vineyard has been run by a small team under Ludolf Artymowytsch, a native of Grünstadt in the Pfalz. The most important other member is Andreas Schultze, because he’s the one who does most of the day to day work.

A couple of days ago I spent a day in Töplitz working with a hoe. I would already have reported if the Bukowski meet Müller-Thurgau story (scroll down to the last story) hadn’t demanded immediate attention. The above picture shows you what I found: young Pinotin vines that had just budded out and around them a mixed growth of “weeds”. I put that word in inverted comas, because I consider the other plants growing between the vines as important as them. The greatest possible bio-diversity – excepting the vines mortal enemies, which are mostly fungi, is the goal of Klosterhof Töplitz and I’m in complete agreement with them. It was great to see how their strategy of exposing part of the soil in alternate rows and sowing the seeds of various herbs and flowers into the openings has borne fruit. Now the couch grass (an invasive species that sucks a great deal of water out of the soil) is no longer dominant, instead being just one of many plants growing between the rows and vines. Why hoe at all? Well, I wish I didn’t have to, but young vines are not yet deep rooting and they need a helping hand in order to grow well in their first couple of years, build up a solid main stem and put down some deeper roots.

However, I didn’t just find a diversity of plants. I found many ants nests, saw ladybirds and spiders, then in the afternoon after the sun came out I also saw honeybees, bumble bees and tortoiseshell butterflies. While I worked I heard many small birds (sorry I can’t identify them from their song, but I’m no bird-watcher!), crows and wild geese. High above the vineyard several buzzards circled. When hoeing I frequently found the burrows of field mice, which is the main reason that the hawks were there. Taken together with the invisible microbial life in the soil, and some other creatures which I missed, they all form an eco-system of which I am also part. I will be a more important part of it after the first crop when I start to consume what grows here. The way things look now I feel optimistic that we’ll fill one barrique with Pinotin in fall 2015.

While I was busy with my hoe, the team was busy with the other equally unromantic end of the winegrowing process, bottling. However, this meant that I got the opportunity to taste two just bottled wines and one that would hit the bottle within hours. The latter, the dry 2013 Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio), was delicious with a fresh melon aroma, sleek body and moderate 12% alcoholic, and a beautiful balance of bright acidity and a hint of unfermented grape sweetness. The dry 2013 Cuvée Blanc is surprisingly full in flavor for just 10.5% alcohol with a pronounced nutty character, and the 2013 Bacchus is juicy and spritzy with a sweetness that’s just a tad too much for my palate at 2.4%. Those are pretty good results for an average vintage (early fall frost knocked all the foliage off the vines before optimum ripeness could be reached) at 52° 26′ North! It all makes me feel optimistic about my project to make a powerful and complex red wine in Töplitz that while show what Brandenburg and Pinotin can do…Yes, I am crazy.

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Berlin Riesling Diary: Day 3 – Bukowski meets Müller-Thurgau @ The Cooks Connection / Berlin

Hi! Remember me? I’m back!” is how the beat poet Charles Bukowski said he would greet the cockroaches in hell. It was also the perfect motto for yesterday evening’s mind-expanding multi-media wine tasting event at The Cooks Connection / Berlin, ‘Bukowski meets Müller-Thurgau’. This was all the work of Frank Krüger who works for Berlin wine merchant Wein & Glas. By the way the full quote on the screen behind him says, “Life is an illusion – brought on by lack of alcohol.” And looking at Frank’s silhouette against the screen filled with that quote it really feels like Bukowski is back!

My guess is that now you’re all asking yourselves why, why, why??? Well, not only was Bukowski born in Germany, but for most of his life as a writer his books sold way better in German translation (sales of 4 million books! – how did he do that?) than in English. When Bukowski visited Germany he was not only a sensation, he also discovered Müller-Thurgau (M-T). Sure, he was an alcoholic, but he lived as one for about 40 years and they were really productive years…with the help of German MT. Obviously Bukowski and MT have something fundamental in common, because both were outsiders – as Frank pointed out, even Jancis Robinson’s Oxford Companion to Wine is scathing about MT – but sold well, at least in certain places. Furthermore, there’s been something of a revival of interest in the unruly school of writing to which Bukowski belongs, just as there has for MT. In the latter case the reinvention of MT as a dry white wine with quite some power and intense exotic fruit and/or herbal and mineral character by a group of mainly young winegrowers certainly helped. In Bukowski’s case it is probably just the great wheel of pop fashion turning a full mad circle. “It is not only sex ‘n’ drugs ‘n’ rock ‘n’ roll,” Frank said of Bukowski’s writing, “it is also lyrical and tender.” Not knowing it well enough I’ll have to check on that.

My guess is that many of you are now saying to yourselves, so what???  Well, wines like the 2013 ‘Belemnit’ MT trocken from Weingut Clauß in Nack (herbal and racy), the 2013 MT trocken from Weingut Schwarzer Adler (cassis note, bone dry) in Oberbergen and the 2013 Olgaberg MT trocken from the Staatsweingut in Meersburg (flinty, sleek and intensely mineral) proved that in the region of Baden MT gives character and each with a strikingly individual style. My guess is that many of you  are saying to yourselves, well that’s the exception, the one place MT works well. Well, the 2012 Sulzfeld MT trocken from Luckert in Sulzfeld (at once creamy, spicy and according to Frank, “vibrating“), the 2012 Fürstenberg MT trocken “S” from Horst Sauer in Escherndorf (“it has curves and is sexy like Marilyn Monroe,” as Paula Sidore of described it) and the wines of Christian Stahl, Winzerhof Stahl in Auernhofen proved the same can be said of Franken; a  region with a very different climate, traditions and geography.

Christian Stahl’s bone dry Müller-Thurgaus from the Hasennest site in the Tauber Valley (just 12 kilometers northwest of the historical town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber) were not familiar to many of the participants in Bukowski MT orgy and seriously fucked many of their minds. These wines more than any others we tasted embodied the Bukowski principals of going for the cerebral cortex and the crotch simultaneously, and telling it straight without worrying about the consequences. The 2012 is now  a very sexy mouthful of ripe fruit and fresh herbs, succulent and salty, and God knows what else. With much more natural acidity, and only just bottled, the 2013 is still all elbows. “Razorblade MT!” as Frank described it.

Now my guess is that for many of you the last line of defense is the claim, MT might taste good young, but it certainly won’t age! Well the 2006 MT trocken and 1995 MT trocken from Bernhard Huber in Malterdingen/Baden were both really elegant wines that still had plenty of life. The 1983 Olgaberg MT Kabinett from Staatsweingut Meersburg proved that when grown in an MT Grand Cru site (they’re different from the top sites for other grapes) then aging for a whole generation is not a problem. It was really impressive how this wine was still lively at an age when many Rieslings of the same quality level are starting to fade and dry out. It was the final, conclusive proof that Bukowski knew what he was drinking and that he was right about what he was drinking. As he often said and wrote, “don’t do it,” that is, let it happen to you without being judgmental or trying to force something upon the illusion called life.


Berlin Riesling Diary: Day 1 – Wines of the Month April 2014

2012 Hölle Riesling trocken from Thörle for Euro 19,60

2012 Frauenberg Riesling trocken from Göhring for Euro 11,15

Of course, most of the German wine scene is currently totally fixated upon the 2013 vintage – new Rieslings and much else besides! Nearly all the regular 2013 wines are now on the market, and many of the high-end wines either be tasted at the producer or trade tastings like the Rheinhessen presentation yesterday in Berlin – mega-new Rieslings and much else besides! Since I returned to Berlin in late March I’ve also been immersed this stuff and can now say with some confidence that 2013 was a difficult vintage that yielded wines of extremely varied quality, with a tendency to sharp acidity and quantities are short to very short. That’s not exactly what the market is looking for…

There’s a clear family resemblance between 2013 and 2008. As in that vintage some locations (stony soils!) and some winemakers (dedication to canopy management during the summer, strict removal of rotten grapes in the fall!) did way better than the rest. This next thought may not be pleasant for some readers, but a number of 2013 wines have been successfully deacidified. However, there are others that suffer from this being misjudged or even going wrong. In short, there’s everything from a few sensational wines that will a lot longer before they show their best to some wishy-washy stuff.

2011 and 2012 are already getting forgotten by the wine scene, although these were back-to-back top vintages: the 2011s powerful and muscular; the 2012s more charming and elegant. Thankfully today the top wines don’t come out before September and some of the best 2012s are therefore still around. They include the remarkable 2012 Hölle Riesling from Winzerhof Thörle in Saulheim/Rheinhessen. Pictured above is Jungwinzer Johannes Thörle who has matured really fast as a winemaker during the last vintages. A few years back some of his high-end wines were very impressive, but tended to be a little bit top heavy. This wine has a wonderful aroma of super-ripe pear, is rich and concentrated, but the considerable power at the finish is not a jot too much. And the wine is just entering its best youthful phase. I’d say that it was up there in the first league of Rheinhessen dry Rieslings alongside the best GGs from the established VDP producers!

More seductive and charming is the 2012 Frauenberg Riesling trocken from Arno Göhring of Weingut Göhring in Flörsheim-Dalsheim/Rheinhessen (just around the corner from the famous Keller estate). All manner of yellow fruits pour from the glass as if it were horn of plenty, and there’s a great balance between the full body, ripe fruit and fresh acidity. For this evening this is a great bottle of dry Riesling and a no-brainer for just about any kind of fish dish (also Southeast Asian or Chinese). With wines like these around nobody needs to rush to the 2013s, all the really successful dry Rieslings from which need some time, even if its only a couple of months in some cases.


Winzerhof Thörle

Ostergasse 40

D 55291 Saulheim/Rheinhessen

Tel.: (49) / 0  6732 / 5443



Weingut Göhring

Alzeyer Straße 60

D 67592 Flörsheim-Dalsheim/Rheinhessen

Tel.: (49) / 0  6243 / 408



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On the Riesling Road Diary: Day 1 – Give us This Day Our Daily Bread, or the Story of Peter Klann – Part 3

It says a great deal about Peter Klann – until his death just over a year ago the guiding spirit of the Soluna Bakery in Berlin – that he should have chosen a white rabbit as the symbol for his central idea: “…we are interested in the balance between love and food.” “We” meant Peter and his team at Soluna, and by “food” he meant first and foremost bread. For him love was many things, beginning with his wife Miriam, his family and many friends,  but also extending far beyond this circle until it became something all-encompassing that defied expression in words, including, of course, these words.

Because Peter had worked as roadie for 20 years during which period he experimented with many consciousness-altering substances the symbol for all this had to be a white rabbit. Think of Jefferson Starship’s psychedelic song ‘White Rabbit’ while looking at this Alfred Tenniel illustration from Lewis Carrol’s Alice in Wonderland and I think you’ll get close to what he was thinking of. In this particular illustration the rabbit wears a coat decorated with hearts and is blowing a trumpet to announce that he’s about to read out something important that he’s holding in his other paw. That all fits Peter Klann. He had a message and he lived that message. Bread was his medium in every sense of that word.

If this still seems a bit cryptic let me ask a rhetorical question. What would a world where there is no balance between love and food look like? Well, we don’t need to look far to find out! Our world is certainly one where food is available in much greater quantity than love. Here I think it’s worth pointing out that since the late 1930s “bread” has also been used to refer to money. It seems that this goes back to the jazz hipsters of New York City, legend ascribing it to the saxophonist Lester Young. Whether that’s true or not, “bread” shares the same origin as “hip” and “cool”, although back in the New York of the 1930s those words meant something very different to what they do today, something strong and individualistic, rather than referring to those who follow all the fashions with a herd-like mentality. Peter was acutely aware how the great availability of bread, in both the literal and metaphoric sense, and the widespread tendency to accept it in place of love had promoted that herd-like mentality, and it pained him.

Now I’m sure that it is possible to describe in a scientific manner how Peter made his bread and explain what made it taste so special (thanks Ben for proving that to me by providing part of that explanation!) However, I think if someone does that and leaves Peter out of the equation, then they will make the mistake of creating a different kind of unbalance between love and food. Peter was at once a strong and extremely gentle man, a thinker and a doer; he was restless yet utterly dedicated to his goal. Without all this, as contradictory as it often seemed, I think a huge chunk of the context of Peter’s bread would be lacking, and as Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “the context is the facts.” Call me superstitious, irrational, or whatever else you want, but I believe that if you open the doors of perception and eat a piece of bread from Soluna (or from Ben and some other ex-Soluna employees), then you can taste something of Peter’s message. Sure a winemaker or a baker must master their trade, then work with dedication to realize their goal, but I think that often you can taste where all of this was done with love. And that has nothing to do with “bread” in the other sense.



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Berlin Riesling Diary: Day 8 – Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread, or the Story of Peter Klann – Part 2

Normally I’m really good on dates but not for this story, because I didn’t consider it anything even vaguely resembling a story until long after it all happened and consequently didn’t take notes. This picture shows half a loaf of “Rundling” bread baked in the wood-burning oven at the Soluna Bakery in the Gneisenauer Strasse/Berlin-Kreuzberg. That ray of sunlight striking it makes the picture more dramatic than it would otherwise be, but also seems appropriate to me, reminding me of the words of Leonard Cohen song ‘Anthem’, “there is a crack in everything / that’s how the light gets in”.

That wood-burning oven has a special meaning for me, because I was present at its first firing. I had naively imagined that Ursula Heinzelmann and I were amongst a big crowd of guests who had been invited to this evening and it therefore didn’t seem to matter that we also attended a wine tasting at the residence of the Portuguese ambassador in Berlin the same evening. It must have been between 2002 and 2006, because that’s when Joao de Vallera was Portuguese ambassador to Germany and staged many such tastings and dinners featuring Portugal’s best wines. Exceptionally, this time after the main course we made our apologies and left before some of the best wines had been served. When we got there the windows of the Soluna Bakery were all sealed up with brown paper and I imagined that a big and noisy crowd must be behind them. The shock when we stepped through the door was great, for there were Peter and his then girlfriend standing next to the blazing oven waiting for us. Nobody else was anywhere to be seen.

Of course,  it was immediately obvious that this was some kind of ritual for which Ursula and I had been selected. If I remember right (perhaps some traditional baker who reads this can correct me on the order if it’s wrong), first Peter threw a handful of wheat into the oven, then followed a handful of rye, a handful of salt, then finally a glass of wine. He then asked each of us had to write a wish on a piece of paper without any of the others seeing, fold the paper and throw it into the fire. Peter told me that I should never reveal what I wrote on that piece of paper. However, I will say that it wasn’t difficult for me to think up my wish, because I was then reading a lot of Buddhist writings. They encourage you to think of others, if possible all other sentient beings (human and animal), since they all experience pleasure and suffer, just like you do. Then we ate and drank and very quickly the large room seemed full of life…

Reading these lines I can’t help feeling that although I’ve accurately described what happened this doesn’t get over very well the most important thing about that night. What’s missing is the feeling I had that something like this had happened at the first firing of bread ovens for centuries and possibly many thousands of years. There was also a more vague feeling that in spite of the rampant industrialization of bread baking in the West this was a ritual that would be repeated long after we were all dead, and possible also thousands of years in the future. Apart from at various ritual celebrations of completed wine harvests I never had that feeling anywhere else.

It makes my heart feel heavy to tell Peter’s story and I can therefore only manage a few things in each posting, which means that this has inevitably become a series. Those of you waiting for a wine of the month will not be disappointed though. I am waiting for a particular bottle to arrive in Berlin in order to have a photograph of it to show you as I usually do with my wine’s of the month. Please be patient, and don’t forget that the best is still to come, because, “there is a crack in everything /that’s how the light gets in”.

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Berlin Riesling Diary: Day 5 – Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread, or the Story of Peter Klann – Part I

It was almost exactly a decade ago to the day that I began to think about bread actively for the first time and became aware of its relationship to wine (which only begins with the fact that both are the result of alcoholic fermentation). It was almost exactly a year ago that the news of the sudden death of the man who set me thinking about bread, Peter Klann of Soluna Bakery in Berlin, reached me. It was a terrible shock and the shockwaves are still reverberating within me. Perhaps it sounds melodramatic, but nothing will ever be the same.

Since Peter’s death my relationship with bread has only become more intense, as documented by the photograph above. It was taken in The Tasting Kitchen in Venice Beach/LA in June 2013 and shows what you get there when you order “bread and butter” for $5. Of course, there’s something provocative about charging that much for three slices of bread and a knob of butter. Clearly either it was going to be a complete rip-off or a revelation, and it turned out to be some of the best white bread I’d ever eaten. The whole meal was great and very much in the spirit of this appetizer, but it is the bread which sticks in my mind, reminding me of Peter Klann’s words as it does so: “you have to give yourself up to the dough when you are kneading it, rather than try to dominate it. You have to work upon it with your soul, then you get back a piece of yourself in the bread.” It might seem absurd that someone in LA of all places should work upon a piece of dough with their soul (isn’t that so 16th century?), but clearly someone at the La Brea bakery had taken the trouble to do so!


The bread I ate today was Spezial from Weichardt Brot in Berlin pictured above, a mixed wheat and rye bread which is dark in color, dense in texture, rich and slightly tart in flavor. There’s a clear connection here, because when about 20 years ago Peter Klann finally decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and learn the baker’s craft it was from Heinz Weichardt that he did so. By then Heinz Weichardt had long since become a follower of biodynamics, which back then was regarded with scorn as a kind of black magic by almost everybody. It was the high point of the technocratic attitude to food and wine, but as Weichardt and Peter Klann show, even then there were people willing to risk derision and ostracism to explore paths far removed from the Cartesian form of scientific thinking which insists on focusing on small parts and all but ignoring the far more complex whole. The problem with that is the fact that the world is a “network” composed of an untold number of interconnected “strands” and never remains still while we observe it, but is constantly changing. Our observing it changes it and we the observers are not static or unchanging either.

Of course, today, many more people are open for biodynamics on the basis that although science can’t explain how it functions it does (or at least some parts of the system do) indeed have an effect. The contemporary willingness to first judge the results, rather than prejudged them through a rejection of the theory behind them, also enabled Peter Klann to gain recognition through breads like his petit pain obscure pictured above. In this case he took something as banal and everyday as a white roll and completely reinvented it. What the photograph can’t show you is the amazing texture which it had that I could already sense the first time I broke one with my hands, and fully appreciated the first time I put a piece in my mouth. There was Peter’s “soul”, or whatever you want to call it, and from his bread I got a feeling for it before I ever met him (which that meeting confirmed). That petit pain obscure a decade ago was also the beginning of my obsession with bread. More about that very soon!

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Berlin Riesling Diary: Day 2 – Submerged, but Coming to the Surface

When stuff happens it often happens by the bucket-load. I’ve been back in Berlin 48, but I still feel lost in something like the dead-end pictured above. Don’t worry it really isn’t anything like as bad as this image makes it look! A story about bread and wine that has been a long time in the metaphysical waiting room and will be arriving online at this location in cyberspace soon. It would have landed already, but I’m still not back to normal after a bout of flu. Please be a little more patient!


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