Berlin Riesling Diary: Day 20 – Billy Wagner’s Restaurant Nobelhart & Schmutzig is Some-thing/where Else (Part 2)

The photograph above is a Portrait of the Gastronomic Artist as a Young Man, which is to say the previous incarnation of Billy Wagner just before he started seriously planing what became his new restaurant Nobelhart & Schmutzig (N&S) on the wrong part of the famous Friedrichstrasse in Berlin (the section in the Kreuzberg district, rather than the much cooler one in Mitte). I was not in good shape health-wise the evening I visited N&S for the first time on Friday evening, which had the advantage that I didn’t take a very active a part in conversation and therefore had plenty of time to think. Watching Billy Wagner zipping around the restaurant, opening bottles, pouring wines and changing the vinyl on the record player it struck me that N&S is not only the stage on which the new Billy Wagner performs with the grace of a gazelle in its natural habitat, it is the stage which gave birth to the new Billy Wagner! If you doubt this, then I suggest you compare the above picture with the one in Part 1 below and see if you really find no difference.

We return to the Mahlzeit, or meal, just as the oh so very noble, hard and dirty soup course was served. Like many other dishes, you can’t tell what is actually from the “menu”, because it only tells what the main ingredients are and where they came from. In this case it said celery, leak and lamb fat from Bauer Zielke (farmer Zielke). Exceptionally, I think my photo conveys very well what this dish looked like. Either you’ll love this soup’s very low key, delicately rooty and mellow flavor, or you’d find it way too bland and ask for Tabasco or some other form of chili to pep it up, as someone in my group did! (Billy Wagner just laughed at that comment). Every dish at N&S has this potential for controversy to a greater or lesser degree, and if that idea doesn’t excite you I suggest that you don’t go there. Maybe this was a shock for some of the “young and beautiful people” who made up the majority of the guests last Friday, but if so they weren’t showing it. Maybe the pervasive aura of coolness surrounding N&S at this early stage in it’s life distracts some guests from this situation, but that’s an effect that will wane in a short time. Then we’ll see how they take these gastronomic slaps in the face. Not everyone can say, “hit me”, and very few can say it and mean it.

Meat was a single course and – if you really wanted to see things this way – was just about recognizable as a “main course”. I forgot to take a picture of my plate when it arrived and when I was able to take a picture of another plate of this dish later in the evening (the photo above) the piece of meat was much larger than the one I got. I guess that I got about 75 grams / <3 ounces, but feel I should point out that this is all any of us need per day to obtain the protein our bodies need. I’m actively in favor of this portion size, also if it’s goal is to make this dish less of a conventional “main course”. Democracy for dishes and wines is something I strongly believe, but am sometimes not thorough enough about.

This piece of Mangalitza pork neck from the Landwerthof farm was delicious thanks to the exact preparation and the intense flavor of the fat. The caramelized onion with it made it even more schweinisch, or piggy, as Billy Wagner called, and the hint of camomile added a light touch to this fat bomb of a dish. The 1975 Kiedricher Gräfenberg Riesling Spätlese – a 30 year old sweet Riesling from the now defunct Rheingau estate of Schloss Groenesteyn – was also the most daring and exciting wine pairing of the evening. The combination of fat and delicate sweetness landed spot on the pleasure center of my brain and I could have wallowed in this dish like a Mangalitza pig in mud. By the way, there is a pig in my name, Stuart deriving from styward, or warden of the pigsty.

Also only slightly sweet was this combination of flower pollen sorbet with elderberries and yoghurt and for my palate this would have been the perfect happy ending to the meal, because the sweet dishes I like are anti-desserts like this. That’s a personal preference though, and not to be taken too seriously if this is a serious review who’s purpose is to assess how good N&S really is according to the motto, “two stars or three?” Before I go any further I have to take that purpose and heave it into the dustbin of history though, because what this story is actually about is figuring out what N&S stands for and what the food, drinks and everything else about it says to us. “I’m not a critic, I’m a free thinker!” Let’s leave this subject right now though, so that the dustbin doesn’t get too full of what seem to me rubbishy ideas before this posting ends.

The other end of the scale to personal preferences are those things that once we taste them immediately make us want to retch. I started eating this dish with the Elstar apple ice and liked the “odd” – an ugly little 3 letter word – contrast with the grains. Then I tried the oat mass and, although I eat quite a lot of oats, the flavor was just too intense for me and I wanted to retch. I consider that quite an achievement by chef Micha Schäfer, because most chefs are so dependent upon being praised, admired, talked about and generally loved to death that they only put stuff they know almost everyone will like on the plate. That narrows down the range of gastronomic possibilities before even ingredients are bought never mind prep begins. Don’t get me wrong, other people in my group loved this stuff. It’s me that was the problem, and the good thing is that Micha Schäfer doesn’t shy away from this kind of collision. As I wrote yesterday, N&S is a gastronomic collision chamber!

With the considerable help of his friends the team, the new Billy Wagner has made N&S this. Everything from the David-Lynch-dim lighting to his own wine selections fits into this dangerous, rag-bag whole without anything ever drifting off in the direction of familiar well-rounded harmonies. I dislike them as much as I like well-rounded answers to difficult questions. That makes this is the Berlin restaurant for me.

For more details go to:

www.nobelhartundschmutzig.com

 

Posted in Gonzo, Home, STUART PIGOTT RIESLING GLOBAL | 1 Comment

Berlin Riesling Diary: Day 19 – Billy Wagner’s Restaurant Nobelhart & Schmutzig is Some-thing/where Else (Part 1)

I don’t normally do restaurant reviews, but occasionally my visits to restaurants were so exciting that I ended up writing some kind of “review”. This is such a case thanks to restaurateur Billy Wagner (left), dishwasher Samuel Teye-Osom (centre), chef Micha Schäfer (right) and the rest of the Nobelhart & Schmutzig team (sadly invisible in this “group” photo).

Before I pressed the bell of Nobelhart & Schmutzig’s (N&S) front door in an unlikely off-centre location in Berlin-Kreuzberg I already knew a great deal about the personality behind this new restaurant that dares to declare itself to be oh so noble, hard and dirty. I first met Billy Wagner when he became the sommelier of Weinbar Rutz in Berlin-Mitte a few years back. That was “late”, since many other people in the wine and gastro scenes knew him from his previous job in Düsseldorf. At first I didn’t know what to think of this larger than life Natural Born Waiter, then we slowly became sort-of-friends, although contact was always erratic, and my observation that I’m old enough to be his father (me vintage 1960, he vintage 1981) repeatedly annoyed him. More importantly, many waves of mostly positive comment crashed over his new restaurant even before it opened, then a rogue wave of immense proportions hit immediately after it opened. I haven’t read what people wrote on the social media, blogs and in newspapers, although some of it was reported to me by friends. As the door opened I tried to forget all this stuff before going, and what I could remember certainly didn’t prepare me for the experience.

I stumbled into the dingy space, and immediately felt dazed and confused in this small-town bar on steroids in the wrong location, turned around and saw I was actually in an over-sized Japanese restaurant (all the best places in Japan are small), then sat down at the enormous three-sided bar and felt sure I was actually sitting in the lovechild of Noma (Copenhagen’s most famous joint) and New York’s Momofuku Ssäm (David Chang’s luxurious street food emporium). It is all of this, but also defies any simple description. Then it was clear that the long gestation process before the lovechild’s birth wasn’t due to any problems, but had been necessary for all of these facets to align in this precise pattern. Diamonds and movies both have to be cut, and N&S had to be cut too.

Not that every aspect of the evening was “perfect” in the conventional sense of that nasty little 7 letter word. The two surprising, but playful amuse bouche – ramps roots with mayonnaise, then goats milk cheese nuggets coated with elderflower – along with the delicious white bread and butter (from Stettin in Poland) count as dishes in the 10 course Mahlzeit, or meal, that is the only solid nourishment on offer. I’m all in favor of breaking down the hierarchy of dishes, so it is seriously inconsistent of me to now “complain” about these details. And let me say right away that whatever other criticisms I have – the wine list is too complex for me to read, but maybe I’m just way too linear? – the 80 Euros which the N&S Mahlzeit costs is a wound I will inflict on my credit card as often as I can.

The super-delicately flavored trout from Müritz in the state Mecklenburg served with potato purée and almost raw chicory (pictured above) announced that regional products are not a fad here, much less a politically correct reflex, but are at the very heart of what N&S aspires to be. I don’t think it’s going too far to say that this restaurant is trying to reinvent the regional identity of this city, and with dishes like this Micha Schäfer has already got a long way along down that path. Yes, this dish doesn’t look like that much if you’re used to all the clever fancy stuff that passed for gastronomic creativity before the Age of Noma, but I think even my so-la-la photo does communicate something of the Geist or spirit (it is, of course, a Zeitgeist) of N&S.

“Too many vegetables!” was one comment I heard, but realizing the untapped vegetable potential of the landscape around Berlin (mostly flat with sandy soils, many meandering rivers and lakes – lush green in summer, grey-brown in winter) is a noble cause, which has its hard and dirty sides. So, I was all in for the gherkin with emmer wheat and rowan berries. The combination of textures was as exciting as those of flavor, and all of these ingredients have deep roots in this landscape. In some way, that I can’t adequately describe this fact gave the dish an inner logic behind the interplay of textures and flavors. To some degree you could say that about all the dishes.

Radish is one of my favorite root vegetables and like parsley it feels at home in this region. Blood sausage is something fundamentally German with many subtle regional  variations and personal interpretations, as any genuinely national dish must have. It looks so right, elegant, but also so very down to earth, and that’s exactly how it tastes. I can imagine that this dish is something of a shocker for some of the guests, just as Billy Wagner’s wine combinations sometimes are. His drive to surprise and his delight in astonishing is one of his best traits, and N&S is a collision chamber where all of this takes place within its own space-time. And, I say that although I wasn’t “pleased” – another nasty little 7 letter word – by every beverage and food combination he presented me during the evening. I was always surprised and often astonished.

Now, I’ve reached the halfway point and I’m wondering if this is the right way to tell this very fascinating story. Have I managed to fascinate you, that is to communicate something of the knot of impressions and feelings I had during my hours in N&S? Part 2 – hopefully – tomorrow will therefore not only be a description of the second half of the meal, but a second attempt to nail this story which keeps running away from my hammer and nails. Watch this space!

 

Posted in Gonzo, Home, STUART PIGOTT RIESLING GLOBAL | Leave a comment

Berlin Riesling Diary: Day 17 – The Vanishing Wine Journalist: Good, Bad or Flaky?

As you can see from the title of this posting it’s Day 17 for me in Berlin this time around, but sometimes it felt like Day minus 17. Several times I’ve walked into wine stores, wine bars or wine tastings and someone here I’ve known for many years said something like, “Oh look who’s here, the vanishing wine journalist!” What they’re referring to is the fact that the Wine Metropole of Berlin used to be my sole home and now New York Wine City also feels like some kind of home to me. They always try to make it sound as if those words are a joke about my new situation as a “bi-polar” journalist, but every time there was something judgmental about their tone, and it was this I didn’t like.

I think what they feel is that I’ve somehow let them down by spending so much time away from the city in recent years, or through my more limit presence here than in the past I’ve forfeited my membership to the Club of Proper Berliners of which they are fully payed up members. They are annoyed with me for behaving in a way that seems to cast doubt on their own commitment to this city. Of course, the doubt is all in their minds, for I have never questioned the importance of this place. As a whole Berlin is the most creative, relaxed and liberal city in the German-speaking world, but their attitude doesn’t fit into that. However, theirs is a highly parochial and narrow-minded attitude that demands people be divided up into neat groups (including those of the Good, the Bad and the Flaky – in their eyes I belong to the latter group). This is definitely the worst side of Berlin, and clear proof that the city still has some way to go before it’s fully cosmopolitan in the way New York is. I am doing my best not to let it get me down, much less cramp my style, because there’s so much else about Berlin that is so positive!

Posted in Gonzo, Home, STUART PIGOTT RIESLING GLOBAL | Leave a comment

Berlin Riesling Diary: Day 15 – Unsmiling Faces of Berlin

Achim von Oetinger is not a Berliner, at least not normally. After looking very carefully at this photograph of the winegrower from Erbach, Rheingau I took the other evening at Berlin wine merchant Planet Wine I’m not sure how to describe him, except to say that obviously, he isn’t smiling. Not being able to smile would certainly be some kind of problem, and might well indicate some deeper psychological issues, but blindly insisting on smiling come what may would surely be no less strange and inappropriate. Likewise, when it comes to wine what makes the taste fascinating isn’t the bright, ripe fruit flavors, rather the less obviously attractive characteristics that set up a tension with the immediately appealing elements. At least, this seems to me to be a good description of what his new wines are like. My gut feeling is that we’ll be hearing a lot more about Achim von Oetinger and his Rheingau Rieslings that are both attractive and fascinating.

Michael Hoffmann, pictured above at the Markthalle Neun in Berlin-Kreuzberg where he runs the Kantine (or cantine), is one of Berlin’s most talented chefs, but actually he’s far more than that. Even when he was running the now closed restaurant ‘Margaux’ his reputation was primarily made though the unconventional path of a spectacular vegetarian menu. During the latter years of that restaurant’s life a large part of the produce which went into that menu was grown in his own garden just outside the city. He continues to cultivate it, last year growing 15 different varieties of Kraut, cabbage, and two tons of tomatoes. I think those two figures give an idea both of how serious this is, and the importance Hoffmann attaches to growing varieties outside the box. No less important for him is the Soluna Bakery, also in Kreuzberg, that he took over after the death of it’s founder Peter Klann, about which there will be a separate story shortly. The ‘Rundling’ bread from Soluna is nourishment for my imagination.

Last, but not least of today’s unsmiling faces is that of Portuguese wine journalist Rui Falcao who yesterday held a Madeira masterclass in the Ellington Hotel. I never learnt so much about a category of wine as I did about Madeira during the hour he spoke before the first wine was served. Since this will almost certainly be the subject of my column in the FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE ZEITUNG on the first Sunday in May I will save what he said. However, the way he said it proved that passion and clear thinking certainly don’t need to get in each other’s way. Likewise, it was all undoubtedly great promotion for Madeira in a city that doesn’t begin to understand or appreciate these wines, but to do that he didn’t need to smile all the time.

Posted in Home, STUART PIGOTT RIESLING GLOBAL | Leave a comment

Berlin Riesling Diary: Day 10 – Champagne, Gossip & Decadence (according to Frank Krüger)

I know that this blog is sometimes very serious, even dead serious, but this is not one of those days. Today, it is literally dead funny. You see, I’m still on this God-awful VIP-trip and many of today’s VIPs, are dead. The only one who isn’t already in his grave is German TV anchor and comedian Harald Schmidt, pictured above. However, many people would say that his career is already dead in the water.  A brilliant segment of one of his old shows, back in that other geological era when he was on top form, was shown last night at the Champagne, Gossip & Decadence event at Cooks Connection staged by Frank Krüger. His comment on Moet & Chandon was, “11am in Düsseldorf,” a very frou-frou German city,  ”very important, to wear the Polo Ralph Lauren baseball cap!” That’s quite an alternative tasting note and is also spot on! At least, that’s how Moet tastes to me.

There was a semi-serious side to the evening, which was to taste some growers Champagnes and that was important because almost nobody in Berlin knows them. This is one respect in which the Berlin wine scene is on a completely different wavelength to New York Wine City. In NYWC it really must be an Extra Brut (bone dry) growers Champagne that smells a bit funky and tastes a bit sour or you might be mistaken for a Tea Party member or – much worse still! – a tourist from the Mid West. For many members of the packed house it was their first exposure to growers like Agrapart, Gonet-Médeville and Legras & Haas and that experience was rather like suddenly having to try to walk on the moon in one-sixth normal gravity. But that’s why Frank did it!

Enough beating about the bush, here is a very dead VIP; the King of Pop is dead, long live the King! Whatever you may think of his personal life in later life, Michael Jackson was surely one of the greatest African-American singers of all time. He was also a regular guest of Studio 54 during that New York club’s rather short life in the 1970s, and Frank showed a short excerpt of a great documentary about the club. It may be historically correct that Roederer Cristal is the Champagne most associated with Studio 54, but I felt the super-sexy berry bombe that is the Billecart-Salmon Rosé Brut (the one non-grower Champagne of the evening) aligned best with the spirit of Studio 54.

Although I really enjoyed the Blanc de Blanc ‘Terroirs’ Extra Brut from Agrapart in Avize that was my contribution to the evening (a great Chardonnay with zero perceptible oak aroma or flavor, although the base wine is aged in oak), I was also really impressed by the Blanc de Noirs 1er Cru Brut from Gonet-Médeville, which was halfway to being a rosé, and had  great orange peel, quince and herbal character. That seemed to me to fit with the video of the dead American writer Truman Capote, pictured below. Not everyone looks better after ingesting large quantities of Champagne. Did I mention white powder? No, I don’t think so…

Nobody was stupid enough to spit any of the Champagne poured, and by the end of the evening there was plenty of gossip plus a little bit of decadence. What exactly that means, I leave to your imagination, but feel compelled to point out that I did nothing I regretted today after sleeping all that Champagne off. I have taken legal counsel and am denying all the rumors. Honestly, I am always pure and virtuous. But, I guess, if you’ll believe that you’ll probably believe anything. Thank you, Frank!

Posted in Gonzo@de, Home, STUART PIGOTT RIESLING GLOBAL | Leave a comment

Berlin Riesling Diary: Day 8 – Almost Famous on a Good Night

Yes, for those of you who are familiar with German TV, that is Thomas Gottschalk sitting next to me. I should have posted this photo of our meeting in the great Berlin wine bar ‘Weinstein’ right after it happened, but I misplaced the photo in a fit of forgetfulness. Last night I walked into the great Berlin Chinese restaurant ‘Hot Spot’ and there was Joschka Fischer (sorry no photo this time), the ex-foreign minister of Germany. Not only did he do a great job then, he’s also a real expert on German and many other wines. He had something important to say to me too. He must be one of very few people who read my recent Riesling book BEST WHITE WINE ONE EARTH (English language edition by Stewart, Tabori & Chang) and PLANET RIESLING (German language edition by Tre Torri Verlag) in both languages. “Mr. Pigott, I much prefer the English language edition,” he said, “the design is much better.” This reminded me to hunt for the lost Thomas Gottschalk picture and, miraculously, I almost immediately found it. It doesn’t look so bad either. By the way, Gottschalk was impressed by the house dry Riesling at ‘Weinstein’, called ‘Schlank im Shrank”, Lean in the Closet, which is produced by the Karlsmühle estate on the Ruwer.

Finding the above photo reminded me that Gottschalk is good friends with Germany’s current number one TV anchor, Günther Jauch, the owner of the von Othegraven estate on the Saar, and one of the region’s top Riesling producers (for dry and sweet wines). A couple of years back the WEINWUNDER DEUTSCHLAND, Wine Wonder Germany, TV team and I shot an interview with Günther Jauch at von Othegraven during which the photo above was taken. From left to right are Jauch’s wife Thea Sihler, Günther Jauch, von Othegraven’s winemaker Andreas Barth (also of the Lubenitushof estate in the Terrassenmosel) and myself. Now this might all seem like showing off, but what these photos say to me is that on a good night I’m an passable foil for these real stars; at best I’m almost famous.

 

 

Posted in Home, STUART PIGOTT RIESLING GLOBAL | Leave a comment

Berlin Riesling Diary: Day 4 – Rockstar Wine Guys, Real Rockstars ‘n’ Riesling

I still don’t know what I was waiting for / And my time was running wild…

I had to do a lot of work to this image to make it look like what it actually is, an old photo of Rod Stewart and David Bowie with a bottle that looks suspiciously like Blue Nun Liebfraumilch. It’s only recently that at least some rockstars have once again allowed themselves to be photographed with wine. This comes after a long period when it was considered very uncool for them to be seen with the drug made from grapes compared with the drugs made from leaves (cocaine) and flowers (cannabis), which they often waived around like big flags. That is, unless the rockstar in question had a record contrast that specified (s)he would never be seen using intoxicants of any kind in a public place. And if real rockstars did admit to liking wine, then it was always something very expensive and either French, Italian, or more recently Californian. The truth about their wine consumption was often (surprise, surprise!) very different from the image they projected. For example, I know that Madonna was a big fan of the powerful, medium-dry Riesling ‘Three Stars’ from Gunderloch in Rheinhessen/Germany, but Ms Erotica never acknowledged this publicly for fear of looking uncool and damaging her image of being dangerously sexy. In contrast, the movie actor and director Kevin Costner came out about loving Gunderloch’s ‘Three Stars’. He danced with wolves and with Riesling!

So, for a long time there was a huge gulf between what Rockstar Wine Guys (and Gals) were recommending and drinking themselves – they were nearly all seriously into Riesling! – and what Real Rockstars appeared to be drinking. This photo dates from before that period, that is from another era of cool. Thankfully, we seem to be moving back in the direction of the 1960s early 1970s when rockstars often had a wonderfully relaxed relationship with wine, and Riesling was something many of them did. And what Rieslings do today’s rockstars drink? Well, quite a few of them are fans of the wines from Martin Tesch of Langenlonsheim/Nahe in Germany, because Tesch is a big rock music fan, has many friends in the rock music world and took the trouble to introduce them and their friends to his bone dry Rieslings. I have to say, that every time I drink a glass of Tesch Riesling ‘Unplugged’ I get a jolt of energy like that which good rock music gives me. And when I taste one of his masterpieces, like the 2012 St. Remigiusberg, then the hairs on my arms stand up like they do when I hear the first chords of Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’.

Here we are now; entertain us / I feel stupid and contagious…

Posted in Home, STUART PIGOTT RIESLING GLOBAL | Leave a comment

Berlin Riesling Diary: Day 0 – All Edges and Indecipherable

I just got off the plane from New York and I’m feeling a bit disorientated, which is my excuse for presenting this enigmatic image as proof that my Riesling Diary continues its twisting and turning path, now from Berlin for quite a while. Let me put you out of your misery though, the object pictured above is a hunk of glass I found in the garden of the house in suburban London where I grew up. I always loved gardening, and one day whilst digging in the garden 46 years ago I literally dug it up. I presume that it dates from the years when the house was under construction (1939-40), but that’s only a guess, because I really can’t explain how it came to be there. However, from the moment I held it under an outdoor tap and the cold water freed it from the dirt clinging to it to reveal these sharp and irregular contours I was fascinated by it, also attracted and repelled by it.

And that’s very much how I feel in Berlin this evening. I’m sitting at the desk in the shared apartment where I have a room and wonder what the hell I’m doing here, even though I can explain rather well how I got here. Of course, it is all part of my way of life oscillating between the twin poles of Berlin (my North / +) and New York (my South / – ), but also with my use of entirely legal (where purchased) medications to cope with the stress of intercontinental flights. While we passed over Ireland around 5am the turbulence was pretty extreme and some people in the plane were yelling and screaming in panic. But, I feel sure that this is far from being the whole truth. This kind of dislocation enables me, at least on days like this, to acutely see and feel some of the things nearly everybody else on the street takes for granted and are therefore blind to.

I know that it sounds too obvious to say, but here in Berlin it really is totally different to in New York City, and in ways that no New York Times correspondent will every be able to get into that newspaper (fear not, for I certainly don’t want to suggest that they don’t feel the same kinds of things as I do), because every publication has its explicit and implicit agendas that filter out exactly this kind of stuff. Who wants to pick up a newspaper and find an enigma with jagged edges like those of the hunk of  glass staring back at them? Not many people, but I’m damned if I’m going to let that fact alter the way I report anything I experience to you. Here it is, jagged edges ‘n’ all.

Posted in Home, STUART PIGOTT RIESLING GLOBAL | Leave a comment

New York Riesling Diary: Day 28 – The Eternal City of Destruction and Construction

Pictured above is the junction of 2nd Avenue and East 7th Street in Manhattan where on Thursday afternoon a gas huge explosion lead to a fire that consumed three entire buildings, the ruins of which can be seen in the photo behind all the cops, Fire Dept vehicles and the red stop lights. Just 10 minutes before the explosion I’d driven by in a friend’s car, but this wasn’t the reason I had to visit the scene of this terrible accident that appears to have cost at least two people’s lives. I had to pay my respects to all that was lost that day. You see, this place really means something to me.

When I began coming to New York City for longer periods at the end of 2012 I stayed in a shared apartment on East 7th street just yards from this junction that the tenant Jürgen Fränznick nicknamed the ‘Hotel of Hope’. It was there that I wrote the first posting entitled ‘New York Riesling Diary’ late on November 26th, 2012. For almost a year my room at the Hotel of Hope felt like home, because it was the new somewhere that my hopes blossomed after that long period of depression I’d been unable to shake off at my old home in Berlin. When I woke on Tuesday, December 4th in my room at the Hotel of Hope I felt that an enormous weight that I’d been carrying for many months had dropped from my shoulders, and I began to become the person that I am today. Special thanks to Birgitta Böckeler (an even longer term member of the Hotel of Hope team) for the photograph below of my cooking buffalo steaks from Wild Idea in South Dakota.

I could write a lot about this part of Manhattan, but another writer has already said nearly all of it better than I could, so here’s the link to Sarah Larson’s excellent story in The New Yorker. There are just two things I would add to what she writes. The first is that the entire thing struck me as being like a miniature 9/11, except that this was an accident rather than terrorism. 2nd Avenue is still completely blocked off to traffic south of East 14th Street and this photo was taken as close as I could get to the scene of the disaster. The second thing is that just a few blocks from this intersection on East 12th Street between 1st Avenue and Avenue A was the original Terroir wine bar and this has now gone too, although not with a bang, but a whimper. It recently reopened as Fifty Paces and it looks good, but that loss cannot be replaced either. It was where my book BEST WHITE WINE ON EARTH – The Riesling Story was conceived. Of course, New York is famously the eternal city of construction as well as of destruction, so what has gone will be replaced by something very different, but possibly no less positive. We will see.

http://www.newyorker.com/culture/sarah-larson/the-east-village-fire-love-saves-the-day?intcid=mod-latest

Posted in Home, STUART PIGOTT RIESLING GLOBAL | 2 Comments

New York Riesling Diary: Day 25 – A Counterintuitive Question and the Surprisingly Delicious Answer

I know that it might seem counterintuitive for me to ask this question, because this blog is largely focused on Riesling, but why are German dry whites from the Weissburgunder (aka Pinot Blanc / Pinot Bianco) and Grauburgunder grapes (aka Pinot Gris / Pinot Grigio) nearly invisible in New York Wine City (NYWC) restaurants?

I just had lunch at Le Coloniale on East 57th Street (between Lex and Third Ave) and this was my scallop and shrimp salad. I had a glass of semi-dry Riesling from Hermann J. Wiemer with it, and that was good (it would have been better if the bottle hadn’t been open for a couple of days already). However, a full-bodied dry Weissburgunder or medium-full dry Grauburgunder would have been sensational with this dish. OK, Le Coloniale is a French-Vietnamese restaurant and there aren’t so many of them in NYWC. On the other hand this combination of seafood and vegetables with a slightly spicy sauce is nothing unusual in the city’s restaurants, in fact it’s so common it’s almost standard.

Why am I going on about this? The German Wine Institute (DWI in Mainz on the Rhine) just released the vineyard stats for 2014 and they did something very interesting with them. Instead of just comparing 2014 with 2013, they also made a comparison with those for 2000 to reveal the long-term trends. During that time the vineyard area in Germany planted with Grauburgunder more than doubled (to 13,900 acres / 5,627 hectares) and that planted with Weissburgunder almost doubled (to 11,846 acres / 4,794 hectares)! Those are very substantial figures, making Germany the number two (only Italy has more vineyards planted with Pinot Grigio) and the number one producer of wines from these grapes in the world. Does anybody realize that yet?

 

Posted in Home | Leave a comment