Author Archives: Stuart

Eppstein Wine Diary: Day 4 – WEIN WEIBLICH Der Schlamm und Ich

Nonnberg Schlamm Für den Dokumentarfilm WEIN WEIBLICH arbeite ich dieses Jahr im Weinberg. Hier meine Gedanken zum zentralen Thema des Weinbaus: Schlamm. Wer interessiert ist unseren Projekt zu unterstützen kann auf den Link zu unseren Crowdfunding klicken. / This year for the documentary movie WINE, WOMEN, RHINE I’m cultivating a small vineyard in the Nonnberg site of Wicker at the eastern end of the Rheingau. Here, in German, are my thoughts on the vital subject of mud. I hope to be able to provide an English translation shortly. Anyone interested in supporting us should click on this link:

www.startnext.com/weinweiblich

DER SCHLAMM UND ICH

Scheiße! Der Schlamm hier im Weinberg schluckte mich und will mich nicht wieder los lassen. Wie ist das mir, einem Journalisten, der normalerweise Weine am Schreibtisch aus feinen Gläsern testet, passiert? Wie wurde dieser Schreibtisch-Tiger in ein Nilpferd verwandelt das fest im Schlamm steckt?

Es passierte mir nachdem ich heute anfing in „meinem“ Weinberg zu arbeiten. Das sind sechs Rebzeilen in der Spitzenlage Nonnberg, einem sanften Hang nahe der kleinen Weinstadt Wicker am unbekannten östlichen Rand des Rheingaus. Diesen Weinberg habe ich von dem Winzer Reiner Flick für dieses Jahr geliehen. Schon innerhalb einiger wenigen Minuten hafteten fette Klumpen von Schlamm an meinen Stiefeln. Meine Füße fühlte sich fünf Kilo schwerer und doppelt so breit an wie vorher. Noch schlimmer: egal wie ich meine Stiefel schüttelte klebten die Schlamm-Massen fest daran! Wie soll ich so arbeiten?

Wenn der Normalo an Weinbau denkt, dann kommt ihm ganz was anderes in den Sinn. Er sieht prächtige Bilder von der Weinlese im goldenen Herbst: goldenes Reblaub und goldene Trauben! Wegen der warmen Sonne des Altweibersommers sind alle Lesehelfer leicht bekleidet und fröhlich. So kann es im glücklichen Fall auch vorkommen, aber dies hier ist die nicht weniger reale verschlammte Kehrseite davon.

Als ich das erste mal hier arbeitete, vor zweieinhalb Wochen, herrschte Frühling. Die Sonne schien, es war mild, der Boden war trocken und blieb unter meinen Füßen stehen, statt sie zu verschlingen. Das waren angenehme Arbeitsbedingungen für den Rebschnitt – die erste große Arbeit des Winzerjahres – und ich kam dementsprechend gut damit voran. Und das, obwohl ich nur mit einer alten Rebschere ausgestattet war und aus der Übung bin. Vor neun Jahren schnitt ich zum letzten mal eine Rebe! Wie geht das?

Es ist schon schwierig genug mit einem solchen Gerät ein Stück Rebholz, welches zwei Zentimeter dick ist, durchzuschneiden. Um das zu schaffen muss man mit der Schere fest drücken und mit dem Ding „schaukeln“. Danach hat eine Dusche gut getan und ich litt unter etwas Muskelkater, aber ich war gut drauf – statt einem Häufchen Elend, wie ich mich jetzt fühle.

Lange Zeit war Schlamm dafür verantwortlich, dass Winzer kein cooler Beruf war. Das gute Gesellschaft hat alle Arten von Landwirtschaft für unter ihrer Würde betrachtet. Nach wie vor verstehen die wenigsten von ihnen überhaupt die Unterschiede zwischen Boden, Schlamm, Kompost, Mist und Scheiße, weil sie sich nicht damit auseinandersetzen wollen. Statt dessen neigen Normalos dazu sie alle als „Dreck“ zu bezeichnen, was fachlich gesehen Quatsch ist. Trotzdem ist Winzer Anfang des 21ten Jahrhunderts ein cooler Beruf geworden, weil es als kreativ gilt, bzw. in „Winemaking“ oder „Wein machen“ umgetauft wurde.

Das ist jetzt auch meine Aufgabe. Ich muss einen trockenen Weißwein aus der Riesling-Traube für den Film WEIN WEIBLICH erzeugen. Ich bin natürlich kein Weib aber die vier weiblichen Hauptfiguren des Films haben verlangt, dass ich genau das für die Kamera mache was sie auch tun. Und das habe ich anstandslos zugesagt, auch weil ich nicht diesen Schlamm erwartet habe. Meine vorherigen Übungen mit Weinbau waren in Lagen mit steinigen oder sandigen Böden die tendenziell nicht in fetten Klumpen an meinem Schuhwerk hafteten.

Das hier ist aber wirklich Winemaking! Denn ohne diese Arbeit tragen die Reben keine reifen Trauben und ohne reife Trauben gibt es keinen Wein – Basta! Aber auch ich verbinde Winemaking meistens mit schönen Holzfässern in einem prächtigen Weinkeller, aus dem Schmutz in jeglicher Art verbannt wurde. Auch vor meinem inneren Auge ist eine Probe des edlen Weins, die der Winemaker mit einer langen gläsernen Pipette aus dem Fass zieht, strahlend klar. Das ist natürlich so weit weg von Schlamm wie man sich nur vorstellen kann und das ist auch mein Ziel.

Der Weg zum Ziel ist aber auch für mich lang und „dreckig“. Mein Wein wird hoffentlich in etwas über einem Jahr genau so aussehen wenn ich eine Probe mit der langen gläsernen Pipette aus „meinem„ 500 Liter Holzfass im Keller vom Weingut Flick in Wicker ziehen werde. Dummerweise verwandeln sich Trauben nicht von selbst schlagartig in trinkfertige Weine verwandeln.

Zuerst muss der Most aus den Trauben durch die Kelterung gewonnen werden, was eine Menge Überreste (Beerenhaut, -Kerne und der Stilgerüst) hinterlässt, die schnell zu Matsch werden können. Dann vergärt die Hefe den Most zum Wein, was aber auch zu einer ganzen Menge schlammartigen Depots, bzw. tote Hefe führt. Das muss von dem jungen Wein getrennt werden, was auch nicht so einfach ist. Erst Monate nach der Traubenernte herrscht im Keller DAS was der Normalo unter Sauberkeit versteht. Dann folgt die Abfüllung, was wiederum zu anderen Arten von Schlamm führt. Aber dann hört es endlich damit auf!

Aber bevor ich damit überhaupt anfangen kann, muss ich x-mal während der nächsten sieben bis acht Monate hier im Weinberg arbeiten. Da die Rebe nicht wie Korn wächst, sondern eine ganz Menge Pflege erfordert, habe ich sehr viel Arbeit vor mir. Mal wird das Wetter schön sein und die Arbeit daher schlammlos, aber manchmal wird es eher nass sein und ich werde mich wieder in ein Nilpferd verwandeln. Wie gut das Ergebnis schmecken wird kann ich Ihnen jetzt leider keinesfalls voraussagen, weil die Qualität des Weins zum guten Teil vom Herbstwetter abhängt. Im Gegensatz zu schnöder Büroarbeit ist das Ganze unglaublich hart und ziemlich unberechenbar.

Wie mein guter Freund, der Rockstar James Maynard Keenan (Sänger von der Heavy Metal Gruppe Tool und von seiner eigenen Band Puscifer) der auch Winzer in Arizona ist (Caduceus Cellars & Merkin Vineyards) oft sagt: „Rock Musik ist Chaos. Weinbau ist Chaos. Wenn Du keinen Chaos verträgst lass die Finger von den beiden!“ Aber er ist süchtig nach Winemaking und ich bin es inzwischen auch. Wir Winzer nehmen den Schlamm im Kauf, weil manchmal kommt ein Wein raus der so genial ist, dass fast jeder Trinker so was sagt wie, „Wow! So was habe ich noch nie im Leben geschmeckt!“ Dafür kämpfe ich mich weiter durch den Schlamm.

Oh je! Jetzt fängt es an zu regnen und das Wasser fließt mir den Nacken runter…

Wein Weiblich

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Eppstein Wine Diary: Day 2 – What Becomes of My Scathing British Satire Now that I’m German?

bildschirmfoto-2018-03-24-um-16-10-03

Some people have suggested that because I recently gained German Citizenship I’m now no longer British and that I will therefore lose my British humour, if I haven’t done so already. This deserves an answer and a satirical one at that! You see, satire isn’t just the heart of British humour, but also an essential element of British character. So let’s start with the official announcement I have not given up my British citizenship nor do I intend to do so unless forced by the machinations of so-called politicians on the Island of Great Brexit. As far as British humour goes judge for yourself from the following.

We all have a more or less clear idea of what satire is and realize that it in its full-blown, no-holds-barred form it is always scathing. However, that doesn’t alter the fact that even on the Island of Great Brexit it  leaves a few poor souls, including those so-called politicians, stone cold while many others only warm to its charms on occasion. I always found it astonishing that scathing satire could sometimes fail to ignite the fuse of laughter, but clearly it’s possible to have a temperament ill-adjusted to this type of humour, or one that which easily mistakes incendiary satire for poisoned malice directed at the innocent.

In fact, satire never attacks the common man as an individual, rather it burns those who, in one way or another, have pushed themselves into positions of importance and/or the limelight, who’s faces, words and actions are part of public life and well exposed in the media. The movers and shakers of this world are the natural targets of satire, also because they’re easily recognizable to the audience. Their characteristics features, typical gestures and favourite phrases must be exaggerated by the satirist to achieve his goal of igniting laughter, but never so far that the likeness gets lost or he fails as a result of that.

The Plain Man

Satire cannot burn The Plain Man who live quietly next door, because nobody would recognize them except his neighbours resulting in a gaping chasm of silence where there should be ecstatic laughter. At the most he can serve as anonymous models for a satire of a group, e.g. social class, political party, etc. to which they belong, but then his identity is lost in that crowd. Satire cannot hit him anywhere near as it easily does the leaders of such groups.

The whole point of satire is that it should unmask the true character and intentions of the powerful, wealthy, self-important and would-be saints who don’t measure up to their own standards. It’s enemies are greed, arrogance, vanity and all other gross forms of human weakness in public life and the media. For its targets satire is always a double-edged sword, for it exposes them for what they are, but on the other hand by doing so it flatters them with its attention, thereby increases their fame and/or infamy.

However, all this only functions if the satirist’s words, images, gestures, etc. connect directly with an audience. If the incendiary which the satirist has carefully prepared and ignited sets their minds on fire, then he succeeds. Some of them may feel rudely ripped out of their normal state of mind by the satirical work and laugh hesitantly, but others will see their own thoughts confirmed and magnified by the satirical work and laugh boldly. If these reactions are contagious, then a wildfire of laughter results and all hell is let loose!

The kind of laughter has a cleansing effect upon our minds in the way that a big gust of wind that blows away all the dust that’s built up in the back yard. It helps us overcome the adverse effect upon us of those movers and shakers have on us, and through the laughter it unleashes it enables to at least temporarily throw off some of the general fear and loathing that the work-a-day-world induces.  Thankfully, realizing all this won’t defuse the effect of the next piece of satire you encounter, just as an explanation of why something is sexually exciting doesn’t undermine that reaction next time around.

The final essential quality of satire is that although in the strictest and most literal sense of the word the story it tells is not true, in a more fundamental sense it is totally true. That’s one reason why the illustration to these lines is one of the most famous satirical cartoons of James Gilray (1756/7–1815). It shows William Pitt, the British prime minister of the time sitting at the dinner table with Napoleon Bonaparte of France where they are carving up the world as if it was a plum (Christmas) pudding. Of course, this pair never actually did that, but what the cartoon says to us about the two leaders is brutally true. No wonder this cartoon unleashed a wild fire of laughter when it appeared in 1805, even if some laughed behind raised hands, while others denounced it as disrespectful to one or both leaders. Of course, they were right that the cartoon was totally outrageous!

a_drunken_party_with_men_smoking_sleeping_and_falling_to_th_wellcome_v0019069

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The other reason for using this image is that it belongs to the great tradition of British satire. That begins properly with the writer Jonathan Swift (1667–1745) and the engraver and painter William Hogarth (1697–1764, his A Drunken Party is pictured above), however, it’s backstory is the explosion of political and other pamphlets published during the Civil War of the 1640s when royal censorship was effectively suspended. British satire went on to reach it’s next high point with Gilray and his colleagues Thomas Rowlandson (1750–1827) and George Cruikshank (1792–1878).

I hope those illustrious and notorious gentlemen would appreciate these thoughts if they could read them, although mine is no pure form of British satire. Both Berlin and New York have influenced the way I write in this vein. If you wish to call the result a hybrid, then you are welcome to do so. Satire, including my own, invites and revels in satirical responses!

Of course, satire can hurt those who are its targets, but mostly it does that because it is the bringer of painful truths. Who has never been shocked by unexpectedly seeing themselves in the mirror? One such moment is the climax of “The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved” by Hunter S. Thompson (first published in Scanlan’s in June 1970), one of the great works of modern satire in the American language. What makes this story innovative is that there’s a lot of precise factual reporting in it, but in the end you can’t tell where reality ends and satirical exaggeration begins. Remarkably those real things don’t prevent the satirical incendiary from igniting a wildfire of laughter. In fact, at the end the joke literally blows up in Thompson’s face! That inspired my own recent satirical writings.

Satire is always a wake up call, even if the satirist knows in his heart that their work won’t change the world. I think that acceptance of this is part of the mature satirical state of mind. It doesn’t alter the fact that we urgently need to laugh at the “great” of this world in order to be free of their noxious influence upon our minds and hearts. That’s when scathing satire is at its best, be it British, of another nationality or a hybrid of two or more nationalities as my own is.

WATCH THIS SPACE!

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Eppstein Wine Diary: Day 4 – WEIN WEIBLICH also known as Wine, Women & Rhine: The Movie

Stuart Pigott In Nonnberg

Yesterday, my assistant Peam Saisombat, a young Thai woman studying winemaking at the famous Geisenheim wine university, and I pruned 6 rows of Riesling vines in the Nonnberg site of Weingut Flick in Wicker at the eastern end of the Rheingau. Reiner Flick has leant to us them for the rest of this year so I can make a Riesling wine from in his cellars. And we’re doing all that in front of the camera for the feature length documentary film WEIN WEIBLICH.

The deeper I get into this beautiful and crazy thing the more I ask myself how did I get in so far so fast? Yes, I live in Germany and I’ve been writing about wine every since I arrived here a quarter of a century ago, but I’m not a young woman winemaker on the Rhine, and that’s what WEIN WEIBLICH is all about. How should I translate that title into English? Literally, it means wine womanly, but I feel happier with Wine, Women & Rhine because it tells you about the three essential ingredients of this revolutionary project. Revolutionary? Which other movie showed in gritty close-up how vines are cultivated and wine is made with a predominantly female cast? None that I know. For more information see our German language website:

https://wein-weiblich.de

I can’t deny that right from the beginning I never hesitated, and from the moment that Marco Schulze first pointed his camera in my direction in Restaurant Heimat in Frankfurt on December 6th, 2017 there was no turning back. In spite of that, there’s also no doubt that Christoph Koch and Gunnar Swanson of the film production company frames2art are equally responsible for my current predicament. We’re all guilty as charged!

Guilty? Yes, of taking the feminization of wine in Germany seriously. I remember that around 1990 I got my first commissions from magazines to write stories about women winemakers. At the time this seemed like an important thing to do, because there were rather few of them and they often struggled for recognition. However, during the next decade the situation for women in the German wine industry changed dramatically for the better. As a result I changed approach to watching out I didn’t miss the talented, then treating them exactly like the guys. In spite of this when I began a year as a guest student in Geisenheim/Rheingau in October 2008 I was pleasantly surprised to find nearly half the students were women. Now they’ve got a better position in the German wine industry than in that of almost any other major wine producing country. But why make a movie about all that?

I don’t think it would have happened if I hadn’t met Christoph and Marco back in the spring of 2007 at the Darmstadt/Germany HQ of the email-provider T-Online. There, with a minimum of technology and time we shot what is still my most successful YouTube video (see: www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8J8tBreHTQ) with around 10,000 views. Not bad considering it’s in German without English subtitles. I returned to that studio a couple of times and developed a great creative relationship with them, but then our paths separated. Fast forward to an Italian Café in Wiesbaden on February 9th, 2017 and my first conversation with Christoph in a decade. He convinced me that although I was very well aware of the wine winemakers the wider public’s awareness of the feminization of wine was lagging well behind. That provided compelling logic for his proposal to shoot a 100 – 120 minute movie introducing the world to this social and cultural change in Germany.

First day shooting in Restaurant Heimat, Frankfurt

Now I’m in the same filmmaking boat with four successful thirty-something women winemakers: Theresa Breuer of the Georg Breuer estate in Rüdeheim/Rheingau, Dr. Eva Vollmer of the eponymous estate in Mainz-Ebersheim/Rheinhessen, Katharina Wechsler of the eponymous estate in Westhofen/Rheinhessen and Silke Wolf of Shelter Winery in Kenzingen/Baden. Their names are familiar to anyone who closely follows the astonishing renaissance of the German wine industry since the last turn of the century (the most important theme of my writing).

When we told this quartet we wanted to follow them over a period of about 18 months as they each produced a dry Riesling wine, from pruning of the vines through to the finished wine being tasted for the first time (in July 2019) they accepted the challenge, but collectively demanded I do the same thing. It’s true I once made an experimental wine but it was a dry Müller-Thurgau and that was back in 2009. That’s why yesterday, I suddenly found myself with a pair of old vine pruning shears in my hand. So help me God!

German wine usually comes in six packs, so we decided to add a young woman winemaker at the very beginning of her career to add a yet younger perspective. A casting day at the wine university in Geisenheim left us with an extremely difficult choice, because we had 10 strong candidates for this role. Finally, we decided in favor of 27 year old Carolin Weiler of the tiny Weiler estate in Lorch/Rheingau who abandoned a career as a kindergarten teacher to study wine with the goal of taking over her family winery. Another of the candidates, Peam Saisombat, became my assistant, and that made me feel a lot more confident about making my first ever Riesling.

All of this is unusual enough, but the way we have, financially speaking, thrown ourselves off the trapeze without a safety net is completely new to me. From spring 2010 through fall 2012 I co-wrote and anchored eighteen TV shows (30 minutes each) called Weinwunder Deutschland together with director Alexander Saran. That project was bankrolled by BR, the state TV network of Bavaria and was my largest source of income during that period. We started shooting WEIN WEIBLICH without any of the approximately 80.000 Euros we need to complete the project, a figure that doesn’t include any pay for the core team of Christoph, Gunnar and I, or for the women winemakers!

We seriously need your help. By giving us your financial support, however large or small, you will become part of our team and be able to follow our work on this daring documentary movie. Please visit out crowd funding page at:

www.startnext.com/weinweiblich

Wein Weiblich

 

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#greatburgundyyoucanactuallybuy – The (often delicious) Real Thing vs. (often unaffordable) Holy Burgundy

Norman Hardie

Who doesn’t want to taste the best wine in the world? One theory says the only possible way to do this is to go straight to Burgundy/France, do not pass Go and do not collect $200. At JamesSuckling.com we don’t roll quite like that, but we’re open for all the wines of the world including Burgundy, so in January we spent some fascinating and hectic days tasting in the region.

In Burgundy I keep bumping into winemaker and somm friends from far away and it happened three times last time! The first time I was crossing the Place Carnot, the central square of Beaune when voila there was Norman Hardie – pictured above – my favorite producer of Chardonnay (the signature grapes of Burgundy) in Ontario/Canada. “Norm” greeted me warmly and introduced me to his two hip young companions.

One of them then said to me with enormous gravitas and no hint of irony, „so you came to worship at the shrine.” It was a statement not a question, because the hipster was sure Burgundy is holy. When I answered, “no, JamesSuckling.com and I aren’t interested in Holy Burgundy. We’re interested in the Real Thing, the real place and the real wines!” the young Burgundy Buddha was deeply shocked. How could that be? NO!!!

No other wine-producing region in the world is more idealized and more weighed down by myths than Burgundy. That wouldn’t matter – we believe in the freedom to worship whichever God you want! – if it wasn’t for the way this helps inflate wine prices and promote misconceptions about this beautiful and historic region. Burgundy is famously all about “terroir”, the French word for the taste of the place, but often that’s presented as a mystery so profound only Burgundy Buddhas can even begin to understand it.

We’ve got nothing against a bit of mystery spun around wine, but the truth is that terroir mostly expresses itself in the particular balance between the major flavor components – aromas, body, tannins and acidity – of each wine. On top of this, not even a Burgundy Buddha can separate the influence of the vineyard site from that of the winemaker and the vintage, because each wine is necessarily the product of their interaction. How this plays out in hundreds of wines from the 2016 and 2015 vintages is what makes the new JamesSuckling.com Burgundy report so interesting. Here is the link to it:

Great Burgundy You Can Actually Buy: 2015 and 2016 Shine

For us the problems arise when some people, particularly people whose job it is to sell these products start complicate everything in order to make the wines seem more special than any wine can ever be. The result is not only a culture of veneration, but also explanations for the wines that are as convoluted and narrow as the Medieval streets of the region’s towns and villages. And I promise you they are extremely convoluted!

Again and again we’ve been told by Burgundy Buddhas that the wines of this region are horribly difficult to understand, although the classification system – regional wines, village wines, Premier Cru vineyards then Grand Cru vineyards – is actually as easy as 1, 2, 3, 4. We recommend you treat the hysterical adulation of and holy-than-thou marketing hyperbole for Burgundy with the same healthy degree of skepticism that we do.

Norman Hardie and his two cool companions also reminded me of the other huge problem for this region. “Where did you taste this morning?” I asked them on the Place Carnot. “Oh, the best! We were at Domaine Coche-Dury,” he answered. And it’s true that no white Burgundy wines have a higher reputation around Planet Wine than those from Coche-Dury. “Of course, we didn’t ask if we could buy a bottle,” Norm told me, and that’s equally true. Try to buy a bottle of Coche-Dury in one of the luxury wine stores on the Place Carnot and you’ll either draw a blank or you’ll pay many times the price that the lucky few with an allocation at the domaine do. Norm goes there because although the Coche-Dury wines taste totally different to his own he finds inspiration in them. Of course, that’s great.

The cult surrounding the wines of this domaine, along with those of many other famous Burgundy domaines, is so extreme that even the world’s leading restaurants can’t buy from importers anywhere near the quantity they need to keep the wines on their lists year round. Aldo Sohm, the humble chief sommelier of Le Bernardin in New York explained that situation to me. He told me he has no choice but to scour the secondary market for every bottle he can find, “and, of course, I’m not the only person doing that!” This is one of the factors pushing prices for the wines of the most famous Burgundy domaines up from the stratosphere towards outer space.

What relevance would ratings JamesSuckling.com have for a totally over-heated market like that have? We humbly suggest the answer to this question is, “absolutely none”. And as you will see from our report there are other producers whose wines are rather widely distributed, so that you can buy them in the normal way! Some of them taste so good I’d consider licking them up off the floor!

PS There’s a prize for anyone who can recognize the Burgundian tasting room floor in the picture below!

Grand Cru floorboards in Burgundy

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#bordeauxisreallyback and I am Really Back in Bordeaux

Monday, January 15th at Château Lafite Rothschild

As you can see from the photograph above, taken by Nick Stock on January 15th at Château Lafite Rothschild, after steering clear of red Bordeaux for quite a few  years #bordeauxisback and I’m getting back into Bordeaux with enthusiasm. My lack of interest for red Bordeaux during the decade beginning 2006 had a lot to do with the high prices asked for the excellent 2005, 2009 and 2010 vintages. Since then prices shifted back down to more reasonable levels while prices in a bunch of other regions specialized in high-end reds continued to head skywards.

During my three tours of the region since November 2016 and most recently in January 2018 with the JamesSuckling.com team I found plenty of excellent wines in the Euro 10 – 50 range from the 2014, 2015 and 2016 vintages. It’s a long time since Bordeaux had so much excellent wine to offer! I also came to the conclusion that as long as legendary wines like Château Lafite Rothschild also taste legendary there’s no problem with three figure Euro prices. “Expensive” is one of the most elastic words out there, not least because it’s so personal – you decide! – and often depends on both situation and mood.

The other reason for my renewed enthusiasm for Bordeaux is that after some pretty wild stylistic exaggerations that had a lot to do with certain producers trying to cash in Robert Parker’s then enormous influence upon the market there’s been a return to sanity. The long Parker Period is not only over, it’s starting to feel like history. When I was in Bordeaux in January with James Suckling and Nick Stock tasting primarily the 2015 vintage wines in bottle for JamesSuckling.com, I frequently felt a connection between the new wines and the best I tasted when I was introduced to red Bordeaux in London back in the early 1980s. The best comparison is with the string of 1982 cask samples I was lucky to taste (although the 2014s are lighter, the 2015s crisper and the 2016 firmer than those wines). Small quantities of 1982s – I was a poor art student – were amongst my first wine purchases not destined for immediate consumption.

Wines with dominant new oak aromas are now as rare in Bordeaux as those that are massively extracted, both techniques that attempt to magnify the stature of red wines. I’m sure that reverse osmosis concentration and micro-oxidation machines are still being used in some cellars, but today none of the winemakers treat them as short cuts to high quality as was once the case. Sure, some winemakers are picking the grapes later than I would if I was in their shoes, but that’s not manipulation, rather an aesthetic decision on the part of the winemaker. It helps create the wonderful stylistic diversity in Bordeaux.

The result of this is not only well balanced wines with an attractive freshness (very pronounced in 2015), but also that taste of their appellations and sometimes have a clear vineyard character. There’s so much character that it would be possible to write lengthy stories about a bunch of individual producers scattered throughout the region. Isn’t that what we’re looking for? For quite a large chunk of the wine scene in the West the answer seems to be “NO!” in this case, because for them Bordeaux is passé. I’m talking particularly about those somms, journalists and merchants focused on so-called “natural” and orange wines. For many of them red Bordeaux is an industrial and elitist product that’s grossly over-priced. To me it looks like they talked themselves into this corner, and often they can’t really explain why they see the region that way.

I humbly advise anyone who hasn’t taken Bordeaux seriously during recent years to study the reports on the 2014, 2015 and 2016 vintages on JamesSuckling.com because there’s so many stunning wines out there, some for friendly prices. Here’s a link to the report on the 2015s in bottle. Enjoy!

Bordeaux is Really Back with 2015

After this was published and I announced its posting on Facebook Annette Schiller (of Ombiasy Public Relations and Wine Tours) made a comment that’s  makes some important additional points, and I therefore quote it in full:

I totally agree with Stuart Pigott. The image of Bordeaux as a wine region that is for a big part in the hands of international companies that reign over huge wineries is simply not true. There are about 7,500 producers in Bordeaux. Only 8% have more than 100 ha; only 3.5% of wines are more expensive than 15 Euro per bottle, only 1.25% of Châteaux belong to the classified ones that make headlines in the news. There is an ocean of dedicated, quality driven producers – the so called “petits Châteaux” who struggle to make ends meet. Just last night we opened a 1987 Château du Grand Bois, Lalande de Pomerol and a 1997 Châteaux Beauséjour, Puisseguin – Saint-Émilion of our friend Gérard Dupuis whose father was a pioneer in the late 1940s to convert to biodynamic winemaking. Both wines were excellent, no teenagers anymore but wonderful mature adults, and did not break our bank. I truly love the Bordeaux wine region and Bordeaux wines.

And just to show that I don’t only use eccentric photos, here is a more conventional one showing Nick Stock (second from left), James Suckling (third from left) and I (far right) with members of the Château Lafite Rothschild team.

Monday, January 15th lunch at Château Lafite Rothschild

 

 

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Eppstein Wine Diary: Day 2 – WEIN WEIBLICH The Movie Seeks The Superstar / WEIN WEIBLICH sucht den Superstar

This could be you!

I am a small part of the documentary movie WEIN WEINBLICH or Wine Women team. We – Christoph Koch, Gunnar Swanson and I – are seeking a young female winemaker who is studying at the Geisenheim Wine University to be one of the stars of this movie. There is no age limit and you don’t have to be from a wine background, nor do you need to look anything like a Hollywood movie star! Because fluency in the German language is a requirement the German version of this announcement precedes the English version. 

WEIN WEIBLICH sucht den SUPERSTAR

Stuart Pigott sucht das größte Nachwuchstalent unter den angehenden Winzerinnen an der Uni Geisenheim!

„Wein Weiblich“ ist ein Dokumentarfilm in Spielfilmlänge (100 Minuten plus) für den wir eine Jungwinzerin suchen, die Studentin an der Hochschule Geisenheim ist.

Ihre Aufgabe: Sie muss einen eigenen Wein machen.

Die Vorgabe:   Trockener Riesling, Jahrgang 2018 (min. 300 Liter).

Vom ersten Rebschnitt bis zur Abfüllung begleiten wir Sie mit der Kamera. Im großen Finale findet eine Blindverkostung mit allen Weinen der Protagonisten statt. Mit dabei sind die Winzerinnen Dr. Eva Vollmer, Katharina Wechsler, Silke Wolf (Shelter Winery), Theresa Breuer und der Weinkritiker Stuart Pigott, der für dieses Projekt auch einen eigenen Wein kreiert. Am Besten haben Sie genauso viel Spaß an der Sache wie wir. Dann wird es richtig gut! Bitte nicht vergessen: wir sind NICHT in Hollywood! Unser Ziel ist so nahe wie nur möglich an die gegenwärtige Realität des Weinbaus zu kommen!

Am 31.01.2018 findet unser Casting an der Hochschule Geisenheim statt. Sie müssen sich und Ihr Weinbauprojekt „Trockener Riesling 2018“ vor uns und der laufenden Kamera präsentieren (max. 10 Min., jede Teilnehmerin bekommt einen eigenen Termin).

Alle Bewerbungen bitte an folgende E-Mail: casting@wein-weiblich.de

Wir nehmen max. 20 Bewerbungen an. Die ersten 20 Bewerberinnen werden berücksichtigt und bekommen einen Termin am 31. Januar. Die Dreharbeiten beginnen mit dem Casting und enden im Sommer 2019 (ca. 8-10 Drehtage für Sie insgesamt)

Sie erhalten zwar kein Geld, aber werden zum SUPERSTAR!

Stuart Pigott und das WEIN WEIBLICH Filmteam freuen

sich auf Sie.

*********

WEIN WEIBLICH seeks the SUPERSTAR

Stuart Pigott seeks the best new winemaker talent amongst the female students of Geisenheim!

„Wein Weiblich“ is a documentary film of feature film length (100 minutes plus) for which we are seeking a female student at the Hochschule Geisenheim.

Your task:                     to make your own wine

The parameters:          dry Riesling, 2018 vintage (minimum quantity 300 liters)

From the pruning of the vines to the bottling of the finished product our camera will follow how you make your wine. The finale of the film will be a blind tasting in which the wines of all the protagonists will be included. This means that your wine will stand next to those made for our film by Theresa Breuer, Silke Wolf (Shelter Winery) Dr. Eva Vollmer, Katharina Wechsler and the wine critic Stuart Pigott. Ideally you will have as much fun doing all this as we will filming it. Then the results will be really good. Please don’t forget that this is NOT Hollywood! Our goal is to get as close to the contemporary reality of winemaking as possible!

The 31.01.2018 is the casting day for this role and the casting interviews will take place at the Hochschule Geisenheim. You must then present yourself and your dry Riesling 2018 project to us in front of the running camera (maximum 10 minutes per candidate, each of whom get an appointment to prevent long waiting times).

Please send your application to the following email address:

casting@wein-weiblich.de

Unfortunately we can only accept 20 applications, since this is the maximum number of casting interviews we can on 31.01.2018. Therefore it is important to apply as soon as possible. Shooting begins with the casting interview and extends through to the end of the summer 2019 (in total you can expect c. 8-10 days shooting).

Sadly, we can’t pay you for all this,

But it’s your chance to become a SUPERSTAR!

Stuart Pigott and the WEIN WEIBLICH film team look forward to working with you!

Wein Weiblich

 

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Eppstein Wine Diary: Day 1 – The New Beauty of German Wine, James Suckling and I

James Suckling

Who believes in the beauty of wine? James Suckling (pictured above) and I, along with many others too. However, some of our colleagues seem to have a problem with it. My report about the wines of the Nahe region of Germany came out just a few days ago on JamesSuckling.com (for the link scroll to the bottom) and very quickly it became clear that while many wine lovers agree with me about their beauty, some of my colleagues are stunned and outraged by my report.

What’s the problem? It’s very simple really: I dared to rate many dry and sweet Rieslings from rising star producers 90+ and some 95+ because that’s how good the wines struck me when I tasted them. For us at JamesSuckling.com the taste of the wine is everything; fame gains a producer no extra points and being unknown denies them no points either. We are fundamentally democratic in our approach and open for every kind of wine beauty.

Over the last 20 years the printed guides to German wines – there are now 5 of them! – developed a system of rating not only individual wines, but also producers. The problem with that approach seems to be that if a producer is highly-rated, then their wines get higher scores than they would if the producer was less highly rated. During my research for the series of German wine reports (Mosel, Rheingau, Rheinhessen, Pfalz and Nahe) I wrote this year for JamesSuckling.com I was repeatedly told by rising star winemaker in Germany that they didn’t get 90+ scores from one or other German wine guide, “because I’ve only got two stars/grape symbols, not four or five.” Looking at several of the guides (Falstaff seemed to be an exception) I could see exactly what the young winemakers were talking about.

The problem with this situation is that it results in a distorted picture of the nation’s wines being communicated to the readers of the wine guides. I reject this not only because it creates a strange hierarchy but, more importantly, because the ratings fail to reflect what you or I can taste. The beauty of certain wines doesn’t seem to count fully for some of my colleagues.

Of course, giving a wine a 95+ score makes a big statement, and the words of description I used for these wines on JamesSuckling.com do the same thing. Of course, I am sticking my neck out with them and if the majority of readers disagree with me about the beauty of that wine, then I made the opposite mistakes to the wine guides. However, in my opinion every wine critic must be willing to take that risk to state her or his opinion as clearly as possible. Certainly, this is how James Suckling has worked over the 30 years I’ve known him, and this was an important reason for me to join his team.

I must point out that these “high” ratings are not the product of my desire to lavish praise on underdog producers. Rather, they result from the great ambition, determination, perfectionism and rigorousness of the new generation of German winemakers who emerged from the last turn of the century. They have created a wealth of new wine beauty and this demands my attention. However, because of the inherent conservatism of their methods and what strikes me as a grudging attitude to recognizing the achievements of young talent, the printed wine guides are lagging behind this development. All too often their ratings seem to be influenced by the situation 5, 10 or more years ago.

Maybe I am wrong, but my gut tells me that behind this problem lies in the longing for more certainty than is realistic in our rapidly changing world. Many of my colleagues seem to yearn for is a canon of classics that though not static, changes by small increments that are determined by them. They want the illusion that they are in charge, when the truth is that the market is the decisive thing. At JamesSuckling.com we want to be part of that dynamic and believe that doing so enables to have more influence than if we try to pull the breaks on.

None of this means that we are against giving well-established producers top ratings if their wines deserve it. Some of my favorite wines during JamesSuckling.com tastings this year were 2014 Château Mouton-Rothschild (rated 98), 2008 Vega Sicilia Unico (rated 100 points) and the 2015 Hermannshöhle Riesling GG from Dönnhoff (rated 97 points). Take a look at the Nahe report on JamesSuckling.com by using the link below and decide for yourself. Please note that you can read the story for free, but to see all the ratings and tasting notes you have to take out a subscription. The only thing we have in common with the wine guides is that you have to pay for the results of extensive tastings. Please don’t hesitate to tell me what your impression is. You can easily find me on Facebook and Twitter.

https://www.jamessuckling.com/wine-tasting-reports/lost-world-riesling-nahe/?mc_cid=1336fcb083&mc_eid=0765a4a47d

Stuart Pigott Riesling Global

 

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Eppstein Wine Diary: Day 13 – Hurricane in a Wine Glass (of 2016 Riesling “1896” from Weingut Carl Loewen)

95 points from JamesSuckling.com

A hefty controversy on Facebook that blew up yesterday makes it essential for me to make a clear statement about the way I am scoring German and other wines at JamesSuckling.com, for which I am a contributing editor. My major reports about the Mosel, Rheingau and Rheinhessen have already appeared on the website and similar reports about the Pfalz and the Nahe will appear shortly. A major report on the nation’s Spätburgunder/Pinot Noir reds will follow before the end of the year. Of course, the other regions of Germany will follow in due course, but they export little and this is the reason that they are lower down the list of priorities.

Anyone can read the text of all my reports on JamesSuckling.com by going to the website, and a few of the most spectacular scores can be found in those texts. However, to read my thousand plus published scores and tasting notes you’ll need to take out a subscription first. I suspect that almost nobody taking part in the controversy already has a subscription, and that they are therefore ignorant of the range of scores I have given.

The first point to make is that I certainly don’t only give 90 plus scores. However, if the great majority of wines submitted for a report like that on Rheinhessen deserve scores of 90 plus then this is what they get from me. The score always reflects the quality of the wine and should never be swayed by the name of the producer and/or region, the vineyard, vintage, or the personality of the producer or anything else. JamesSuckling.com is completely committed to that principal. No less crucial for us is the principal that under no circumstances does a wine producer ever pay to have their wines reviewed.

During the last year I was also on the road with James Suckling in Bordeaux and Spain where I tasted and rated wines ranging from products that land on supermarket shelves for less than Euro 10 per bottle right up to 1er Grand Cru Classé and Vega Sicilia. I was also on the US West and East Coasts where I tasted hundreds of wines, plus a smaller number of wines from locations scattered around Planet Wine. My ratings for German wines place them fairly within this global context, which I see without any nationalistic prejudice or favoritism. In fact, I consider nation states in the 21st century to be largely illusory, and it is therefore absurd to have wine preferences on that level.

During the last year and every wine that amazed, delighted and electrified me rated 95 or more, and each of the wines that I instantly fell in love with on encountering them rated 100. That is how JamesSuckling.com defines great and perfect wines respectively. Of course, others are free to adopt different definitions, use different criteria and the reader/consumer will decide whose notes and scores they prefer. That is what the free press and the free market economy are all about.

The cause of the current controversy was the 95 points I gave to the dry 2016 Riesling 1896 from Weingut Carl Loewen in Leiwen, Mosel, or rather the fact there’s a difference of 6 points between my score and that in the printed guide to German wines just published by the Mondo press of Gerhard Eichelmann (see page 725).I actually prefer the 2015 vintage of it (if anyone wishes to sell bottles I’d be delighted to buy them!), which I gave 97 points to. That 89+ score was given by his assistant Wolfgang Fassbender, something I was not aware of when on I rhetorically asked on Facebook if Mr. Eichelmann was in a coma when he tasted the wine.

I used this drastic expression, because for me this is a very special wine – it has a very special character and style – that has been made since the 2012 vintage by Christopher Loewen using methods that imitate those used a century and more ago. Of course, that in itself makes the wine taste different. The ungrafted Riesling vines from which the grapes are harvested was planted in the great Longuicher Maximiner Herrenberg site back in 1896 and this is therefore genetic material from way before clonal selection began. And this too results in a different character to wines made from modern clones of Riesling.

What’s my problem with that 89+ score? Of course, it’s a personal opinion and entirely justified as such. However, to me it’s also part of a pattern of scoring wines particular to the printed German wine guides. To me they seem to be absurdly cautious about giving more than one point more to the new vintage of a particular wine than they did to the one before. That already makes their entire rating system inherently conservative and non-responsive. In contrast, I want to respond openly to each individual wine and rate it accordingly.

To this must be added the way they rate producers in hierarchies, in Eichelmann’s case with a five star system. Weingut Carl Loewen has four stars, which is a good rating. The problem with these producer hierarchies is that they seem to influence, or even dictate, the maximum score that each individual wine can receive. If a producer with only one or two stars (other guides use different symbols, but the principal is the same), then they have almost no chance of getting a 90 plus score, however stunning their wines taste. If, on the other hand, a producer has five stars, then 90 plus scores seem to be no problem even when the wine doesn’t taste that special. Of course, this is the opposite of what I am doing.

The result is that the average ratings for all the wines in each of the annual guides has inched up only slightly since the turn of the century. That is radically out of step with the reality in the glass though, the average quality of the wines reviewed having increased much more dramatically than the scores. As a result of the way this scoring system works a great many wines are underrated.

The problem with all of this is that it suggests to the normal reader that nothing much has changed out in the wine world in recent years, rather than that the stasis results from the systematic conservatism of the guides. Beyond this, a score of 89+ for one of the best dry Riesling of the 2016 vintage in the Mosel and Germany – I am not alone, it is also the view of JancisRobinson.com (Jancis works with Michael Schmitt in Germany) and Weinwisser (Giuseppe Lauria is the taster in this case), to mention just two – could be misunderstood as implying that Weingut Carl Loewen is only worth something like 89+ points. This extrapolation could conceivably be extended to the whole region.

My own rating for that wine can rightly be understood also as praise for Christopher and Karl Josef Loewen’s winemaking skills and as praise for the amazing leap in quality the Mosel winemakers have collectively made since I started following them back in 1984. It has been a joy to see all these talents blossom and untold thousands of consumers around the world respond to these wines.

Stuart Pigott Riesling Global

 

 

 

 

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Berlin Wine Diary: Day 2 – Thumbs Up for Boris & Brexitspeak at the Edge of the Cliff

GREAT Britain, you’re invited!
Really Good by David Shrigley

The photo above shows the seven meter high bronze sculpture Really Good by David Shrigley that currently occupies the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square in Central London. Of course it shows a massive, phallic thumbs up, but for what? In the following all dates are this year unless otherwise stated.

Could there only be a hundred hours to go before we awaken from our collective nightmare? Maybe it doesn’t seem that bad after all, but such a short-cut to the sunshine seems totally impossible. Maybe the fear and loathing will only last a hundred days? Let’s face it we British will be extremely fortunate if that’s the case! It’s far more likely that the Brexit disaster movie will continue to run for a full hundred weeks longer – reel after reel, an Everest of reels! – or that we’re in the worse case scenario of this bizarre shadow-boxing-rerun of World War II and every other British War: Agincourt come back,we love you! If that’s the case then we’re in for the long-term and it could be almost six years, or maybe it could even keep going for another Hundred Years.

Almost every day I’ve been shocked anew when I read the news from the UK, although I’ve been following hard-core Brexitism since the campaign for the referendum about Britain’s to decide the nation’s future began – within the EU including all the compromises associated with that, or a nostalgic return to Splendid Isolation – and I’ve therefore become seriously desensitized to it. In spite of that process, I could have written a hundred stories about this form of GREAT Britain Your’re Invited!, punching-above-our-weight, let-the-British-lion-roar collective madness, but mucking in with the warmongers is something I forbade myself long ago.

Then I spotted something that as a cultural historian brought up with liberal and humane principles I couldn’t avoid commenting on, because it seemed crucial to understanding what’s happening in the UK now. Perhaps the most important force leading the country  up to the cliff edge of hard Brexit with as yet unquantifiable consequence is what I call Brexitspeak: the aggressively nationalistic, manically utopian and stridently xenophobic discourse that now fills much of the British media. During my recent visit it seemed to be seeping into daily life on all sides through myriad cracks in the decaying edifice of the nation’s erstwhile political pragmatism. Even if the majority of people in Britain just want the whole mess to go away, a large number now want action of some (often unspecified) kind, there are some who want bags of EU swag and a few seem thirsty for blood. Yes, Back to blood! Let us unite against every single them on the Continent now!

Nelson's Column on Trafalgar Square

My moment of gruesome revelation came when Philip Hammond, the Chancellor of H.M. government, said of the Brexit negotiations with the EU in an interview on Sky News on the 13th October, “The enemy, the opponents, are out there. They’re on the other side of the negotiating table.” It was Carl von Clausewitz, the author of On War, who famously observed that “war is the continuation of diplomacy by other means”, and diplomacy is fundamentally about negotiations. That one of the few circumspect figures in a cabinet dominated by vain and unprincipled opportunists with no respect for the facts should descend to this war-like tone is shocking in itself. However, what pushed him to do so makes plain just how dangerous British politics have become recently. We are on a slippery slope, it’s steep and it descends in the worst possible direction. Let me explain why that’s my conclusion.

Just the day before Hammond uttered those words – shortly afterwards he retracted them, replacing “the enemy” with “our friends and partners in the EU” – ex-Chancellor Nigel Lawson said of Hammond, “what he is doing is very close to sabotage,” and an editorial in The daily Mail newspaper called for Hammond’s dismissal for this very reason. Fear of that personal cliff edge towards which he was being pushed drove Hammond to adopt the language of the hard-core Brexiters, although previously he previously scorned their naivety. That’s a phenomenon I’m familiar with from journalistic history where it’s referred to as self-censorship. For example, in communist East Germany there was almost no direct censorship, rather the entire media ran on self-censorship by journalists and editors, and it dealt with more than 99% of the “problems”. This is precisely the kind of mechanism that has begun to get a grip on Britain, and for this reason I fear that Brexitspeak will soon be the dominant discourse of the entire land.

I didn’t choose that name for the new language of hate in my erstwhile homeland on a whim. It is derived from Newspeak, the ascendant language in the mega-state of Oceania in George Orwell’s novel 1984. After some research I’m convinced that the origin of Brexitspeak lies in the articles Boris Johnson wrote for The Daily Telegraph newspaper when he was their correspondent in Brussels between 1989 and 1994. Let me quote at some length what his French contemporary in Brussels Jean Quatremer had to say about this in The Guardian of 15th July, 2016.

“Johnson was the incarnation of the gutter-press dictum: never let the facts get in the way of a good story. Indeed, this is what a grinning Johnson often remarked to his foreign counterparts when they protested about his exaggerated stories…It was a game, a big laugh, especially as his fiercely anti-European newspaper lapped up the stories and gasped for more…Johnson managed to invent an entire newspaper genre: the Euromyth…Johnson created a school of EU reporting: the entire British press, to varying degrees, began peddling Euromyths.”

This is the reason that when the referendum campaign rolled began in early 2016 so many voters responded so strongly to the Leave campaign’s blatant lies: they’d read this language so many times before that when they heard it being bellowed at them it all rang true! When bullshit is repeated frequently and consistently enough it sounds like it can only be right. This opening out of Euromyths onto the street was the coming out of Brexitspeak’s as the ascendant language of the land. This wave was the force that swept Boris to become Foreign Minister of H.M. Government and will probably carry him to the premiership of the U.K. In that same article in The Guardian Quatremer describes Boris’s appointment to his present position as follows:

“It’s not every day that a country appoints as its global representative a known liar, a character for whom gross exaggeration, insult and racist innuendo seem utterly untroubling, a man apparently devoid of deep conviction about anything other than his own importance.”

But even this incisive scathing analysis is focussed primarily on the man himself and not his creation, on “Dr. Frankenstein” rather than his monster Brexitspeak, which is now a many-headed hydra infiltrating innumerable nooks and crannies of British culture. That mean my mother tongue is now fast becoming the equivalent of Oldspeak in Oceania, and this argument can therefore be easily dismissed by Brexiters as old-fashioned.

Perhaps it sounds as if I get some intellectual pleasure from writing all this, but I promise you that’s not the case. I’ve watched all these developments with a growing sense of foreboding, most of all because of the widespread conviction in my homeland that the U.K. is in control of the Brexit talks with the EU, can dictate the terms, and will therefore come out as the victor – 1415, 1814 and 1945 all rolled into one! – with considerable financial advantage and a greatly enhanced reputation around the world. To give those of you who aren’t familiar with utopian Berxitism let me quote Boris Johnson’s article My vision for a bold thriving Britain enabled by Brexit published in The Daily Telegraph on 15th September in which he said European integration was,

English rain

about trussing the nations together in a gigantic and ever-tightening cat’s cradle of red tape…we will take back control of roughly 350 million pounds per week…this is our chance to catch the wave of new technology and put Britain back in the lead…we have a glorious future…I believe we can be the greatest country on Earth.”

The truth is that we are one small country with just shy of 1% of the global population, but also with a major track record for colonial aggression and slaughtering foreign civilians in droves as we saw fit (just look at all the colonial wars Britain fought post 1945, never mind before), and an atomic arsenal that could rub out more of them by the millions. That was quite a dangerous bowl of punch beforehand, but combined with the grandiose delusions of the hard-core Brexiteers – behind which obviously lurks enormous self-doubt – that could literally become an explosive cocktail. All it would require is an authoritarian and xenophobic leader who whipped up popular hate against some kind(s) of them.

Fascism is the belief that there are simple solutions to complex problems, as long as Big Brother’s orders are followed unwaveringly and without hesitation regardless of the direct cost and collateral damage. On the 11th October Sky News reported that a Sky Data poll had just revealed that 74% of the British people support the H.M. Government’s position that if “necessary” the UK will leave the EU without a deal. This widespread mood makes it almost inevitable that no deal will be the result of the negotiations, which would create a deep rift between Great Brexit and “the Continent”, as it was already referred to during my childhood. Who will trust the UK after that? Who will lend them money or invest in their industries? Quo vadis pound sterling? And how many actual enemies will the UK have on the other side of what was once the negotiating table? Or elsewhere?

For hard-core Brexiters all this is just the predictable negativity of a sour remainer. For them only the most massive and phallic thumbs up is enough and David Shirgley has given it to them. Let’s face it, in their eyes anything less than this would treasonous, just like as it was for Big Brother in Oceania in 1984. How can the current drift towards fascism, confrontation and maybe even war be stopped? I wish I knew.

If you are wondering what all this has to do with wine, then let me conclude with another quote from Boris Johnson’s article My Vision. He also thinks that Brexit, “will mean a bigger market in the UK for everything from Italian cars to German wine.” Of course, that’s more Brexshit of the kind that has persuaded me to apply for German citizenship. 

Stuart Pigott Riesling Global

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Eppstein Wine Diary: Day 2 – My Reports on the 2015 & 2016 Vintages in the Rhine & Mosel for JamesSuckling.com

The work of wine critic Stuart Pigott can be read in English at JamesSuckling.com

Stuart Pigott by Sorin Dragoi

 

Since my major report on the wines of Rheinhessen with notes and ratings for almost 500 wines was posted on JamesSuckling.com on Sunday, September 10th I have been reeling at the realization that I am now not only a wine journalist (two of my favorite words combined to form one description), but also a mainstream wine critic. For a variety of reasons I long tried to avoid that role, but clearly in view of the response it’s something a lot of people want me to be. Then so be it, and given the ideal platform which JamesSuckling.com offers me for publishing major reports on the wines of Germany (I also worked on reports as diverse as those about the 2014 vintage in Bordeaux, and the massive overview of Spain) this is set to continue for the foreseeable future.

In the case of the enthusiasm for the Rheinhessen report the great response also has a lot to do with the hesitant praise and over-cautious scores many of my colleagues – often in spite of their claimed enthusiasm for the region – have been giving the new wines of the region. “They only give me 88 and 89 points for my best wines, regardless how good they are,” was a complaint I frequently heard from producers during my research. My answer was that I give every wine a realistic score regardless of who made it or which vineyard site it grew in. Clearly for some of my colleagues these are major factors influencing their scores, and they seem incapable of and/or unwilling to recognizing the great strides forward made many of the new generation of winemakers have made during the last five to ten years. My sole basis for rating wines is how they taste now, and yet the result seems to be highly controversial. Maybe I’m amazed!

This approach resulted in a top rating of 99 points for the 2015 EMT – I’d never heard that name before I tasted the wine! – from Wagner-Stempel in Siefersheim, a producer frequently underrated by other critics, because in this cool and rocky corner of Rheinhessen the wines are “untypical” if compared with the bolder, more muscular wines from the warmer Wonnegau in the south where the soils are generally richer (i.e. with more clay). In my view it is not the job of the wine critic to mark wines up or down on the basis of what is theoretically typical only to decide how good the wine tastes, and that regardless of style (as long as it’s clean and not faulty). That’s why the wines rated 95+ in this report come from a wide range of producers and are as stylistically diverse as their makers. More of them are dry than sweet, but this reflects the emphasis of high-end production in Rheinhessen.  Producers who were famous a century ago like Gunderloch in Nackenheim stand next to those whose fame dates from the 21st century like Keller in Flörsheim-Dalsheim. Here is the link to the report. Please judge for yourselves:

Rheinhessen Comes of Age

Almost immediately after the posting of my Rheinhessen report those about the Mosel and the Rheingau published earlier this year were reposted on JamesSuckling.com with new tasting notes for over a hundred of the 2016 GGs from these regions. They are now seriously comprehensive reports on these two major export-orientated regions that report on the current releases of all the leading producers and many rising stars. Here too the focus is on 2015 and 2016 since both these vintages are in the market at the current moment, and in their different ways are both worthy of your attention. Today when it comes to both dry and sweet white wines Germany is right at the top of global production

Once again, because of my approach, the stylistic variation amongst the highest-rated wines is great. Here there are more sweet wines because this is part of the historical focus of these regions. Once again famous producers stand next to names many readers will read for the first time. I’m thinking about combinations like that of world-famous Egon Müller-Scharzhof on the Saar and little-known Carl Loewen in Leiwen who both have wines rated 100 points in the Mosel report or almost unknown Fred Prinz  in Hallgarten with 100 points and legendary Robert Weil in Kiedrich with 99 points who together top the Rheingau report. Openness for this kind of result is a vital aspect of the JamesSuckling.com ethos and of mine too. in My view critic’s job is reflect reality and describe it in a compelling way. The latter part of that job is all about taking a position for what you believe to be true. Read the Mosel and Rheingau reports to see what I mean:

Germany’s Miraculous Mosel Duo of 2015 & 2016

https://www.jamessuckling.com/wine-tasting-reports/rumors-true-rheingau-back/

 

Please note that you can read the text of my reports on JamesSuckling.com free of charge, but in order to read the tasting notes and ratings it’s necessary to be a subscriber. This policy seems to annoy some people who think that all information should be free, but the amount of work which James Suckling, his entire team and I put into these reports would be impossible without the support of subscribers. They make our impartiality possible and we thank them for that. Wine criticism lives at JamesSuckling.com ! For that reason this posting ends with my favorite photograph of James.

PS Reports on the 2015 & 2016 vintages in the Nahe and Pfalz are in preparation!

James Suckling

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