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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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Berlin Wine Diary: Day 2 – Welcome to Weltstadt Eppstein – Part 2

The astonishing wine truth about beautiful Eppstein!

Weltstadt Eppstein says "Hi"

Although the ancient centre of Eppstein is very beautiful, to my mind matching the historical centers of Paris, Rome and London, my new second home has even more to offer than that. The last stretch of the four main routes into the throbbing metropolis of Weltstadt Eppstein, this little-known world city close to better-known Frankfurt, are all breathtakingly beautiful.

My favorite of these routes, for sentimental as well as aesthetic reasons, is the B455 from the Wiesbaden direction passing Bremthal, a suburb of Eppstein. I call it the Gebrüder-Grimm-Straße, or Grimm Brothers Road, because the landscape looks like one of their bitter-sweet fairy tales was set there. However, regardless which route I took, I always had the feeling that I was traveling away from wine, that is away from the nearest vineyards in Wicker at the eastern end of the Rheingau, and the much larger areas of vineyards beyond them.

Yes, in Vockenhausen, another suburb of mighty Eppstein, there’s a street called Weingasse or wine alley, which suggests that long ago there were vineyards where today neat rows of suburban houses stand. Yes, a few short rows of vines were planted within the ruins of Burg Eppstein castle back in 2012 and they are cultivated organically by Iris Sparwasser. The Eppsteiner Zeitung just reported (page 11 of the September 7th issue) that this year although there were almost no white grapes, the the red grapes achieved full ripeness and there were plenty of them. However, those vines are really decoration for this outstanding historical monument, not for commercial wine production.

Sure, I can drink a wonderful dry Nonnberg Riesling from Weingut Flick in Wicker and tell myself it’s a local wine, but in my heart I know it comes from over the hills and far away. Although my romantic side would prefer it to be otherwise, the fact is that Eppstein is not a wine city. At least, after just short of a year of making frequent and long visits to my new second home, this was my solid conviction.

Thinking along well-worn paths rather than questioning is a common human weakness, and I’m certainly not immune to it. For me, wine means vineyards first, wine cellars second, and the infrastructure associated with both of them (I mean everything from suppliers of cellar equipment to wine tourism) third. Of course, from what I’ve already said it’s clear that Eppstein lacks all three of them. However, the truth is that although wine strikes most people as ancient, old-fashioned and tradition-laden, it’s actually continually changing and developing. Somehow I lost sight of that simple fact, even though it makes my profession as a wine journalist possible in the first place. Hence my astonishment when I was abruptly reminded of this truth the other day.

The reason for my frequent and long visits to Eppstein is Alexandra Stellwagen. Although she originates from Southern Baden she’s lived in her current flat in Eppstein since 1999. Of course, ultimately, she’s also the reason for this series of stories about Eppstein.

One summer evening we were sitting on the balcony of Alexandra’s flat, which has a great view of Burg Eppstein, and on the table were the half dozen bottles of wine that we’d just tasted: the excellent 2015 cintage dry Grüner Veltliners and Rieslings from Weingut Hirsch in Kamptal/Austria. Alexandra then noticed that our neighbors and her landlords, Herr and Frau Vermieter, were sitting out in the courtyard between their house and the one in which Alexandra lives.

“Why don’t you bring them down a couple of these bottles? All six are far too much for us,” she suggested. So I grabbed some bottles and headed down the stairs. As Herr Vermieter gladly accepted the almost full bottles I explained that because of the wines’ youth and their screw cap closures it would be no problem keep the bottles for a few days in the fridge if he and his wife didn’t want to try them all right away. Then I returned to the dinner table on Alexandra’s balcony.

Shortly afterwards Herr Vermieter called up to us, but he had something more important to say than just thanks for the free wine. “You see the disk of foil inside the top of the screw cap which seals the bottle?” He asked holding one up for me to see. I nodded. “If it’s silver in color like this one is, then regardless where the bottle of wine came from that foil was made in Eppstein! I work for a company called Eppstein Foils who make this material.”

The advance of screw cap closures was one of the most important changes in the wine industry during the early 21st century, and I followed it closely from my first encounter with modern screw caps (Stelvin) in Clare Valley/South Australia back in 2000. Jeffrey Grosset, a maker of great dry Rieslings and an elegant red Bordeaux-type blend in that region, was the dynamo of this revolution that’s touched every consumer on Planet Wine. It has virtually abolished cork-tainted wines, not only because screw cap closures remove the prime cause of this type of spoilage (a substance called TCA in corks), but also because their success forced the producers of corks to dramatically improve the quality of their product, because otherwise they would have gone out of business.

Mostly, regardless of where the bottle of wine I unscrew comes from on Planet Wine, that disk of foil which seals the bottle is silver. So your and my wine consumption frequently connects us with my new second home. The crucial role Eppstein Foils plays in this vital technology for the 21st century global wine industry means Weltstadt Eppstein is a very important wine city!

I know this story wasn’t as funny as the first one, but don’t worry, more fun and games, irony and outrage are coming this way soon. WATCH THIS SPACE!

Stuart Pigott Riesling Global

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Eppstein Wine Diary: Day 4 – Welcome to Weltstadt Eppstein – Part 1

Die Burgstrasse, the main drag of the pulsating metropolis of Eppstein

Weltstadt Eppstein

Many readers of this blog and many of my acquaintances still don’t realize that at the end of October 2016 I was suddenly thrown out of my apartment share on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg/New York City. As a result of the short notice and the heavy workload resulting from me joining the JamesSuckling.com team that summer I couldn’t find a new place in time. Therefore four years of regarding New York City as my second home ended abruptly at 8am on October 31st 2016 when I stepped out of the door onto Bedford Avenue for the last time. This harsh blow was softened by the fact I’d already found another second home in the world’s least well-known major conurbation, the story of which begins here: Welcome to Weltstadt Eppstein: Part 1 

I snapped this atmospheric photograph recently at the end of my morning run through the mean streets of my new second home. It shows the Burgstrasse, the main drag of the pulsating metropolis of Eppstein close to the much less important nearby city of Frankfurt, which is unjustifiably far better known. The main reason for that fame seems to be the fact that Germany’s largest airport was named after that city instead of Eppstein, plus all the ugly towers erected in Frankfurt by major German banks before the fallout from the Financial Crisis made many of them look really dodgy. How much more beautiful is the tower of the Burg Eppstein castle that crowns one of the massive slate outcrops dotted around this city! Unlike those Frankfurt-based banks it can’t fail, because it already fell down (and was partly taken down for use as building materials) leaving the imposing ruins I can see from my desk. Eppstein über Alles!

Of course, for those who never heard of Weltstadt Eppstein – in English, world city Eppstein – before this blog posting that last statement might look seriously daring and in urgent need of supporting evidence. The conventional journalistic way of proving such statements is to wheel out all kinds of imposing statistics – seven, eight and nine figures long! – but this is also exactly what those Frankfurt banks do to support claims of their own importance. I suggest that given how dodgy they are this bigger-is-better logic is highly dubious, and I also refuse to get sucked into the childish worshipping of rows of zeros. Eppstein doesn’t need a pile of statistical bullshit in order to stake its claim to greatness. Just look at the street in the photo and you know this is a happening place.

I have to admit that when I first started making the kind of extended visits to Eppstein that I’d previously been making to New York City something seemed to be missing up here in the metropolis of the Taunus Mountains. When I stepped out of my apartment onto the sidewalk of Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg on any day or evening I was confronted by the highest density of hipsters anywhere on Planet Cool. This empirical observation was recently backed up by MIT when they tested their revolutionary new hipstometer on my block and the device exploded after the reading immediately went right off the scale! When I first arrived in Eppstein the hipster density was exactly zero and I felt as disorientated by this as an astronaut having his first experience of weightlessness!

Then came a miracle, what I now call the Great Eppstein Miracle! It happened one day when I was on the way to the nearby Rheingau winegrowing region. As I walked to the local railway station (the S2 line provides a quick connection to big, bad Frankfurt) I spotted an authentic hardcore hipster on the Burgstrasse. Then I saw a couple more of them get into the train. At first I thought this might be some kind of anomaly or my eyes were deceiving me, but since then I’ve often seen hipsters on the streets of Eppstein and clearly several of them now actually live here. Since the frequency of these sightings is increasing I’m forced to the conclusion that my new second home is slowly morphing into an alternative version of my previous second home. Eppstein is cool, or at least it will be one day rather soon.

Now you’re probably wondering what all of this has to do with wine, the prime focus of this blog. I promise you that if I told you the answer to that question now you would be amazed by the connection between Eppstein and your own wine consumption. However, revealing that now would take all the suspense out of the story of my new second home, and you might not bother to continue learning about the world’s least well-known major conurbation. That’s why you must wait for Welcome to Weltstadt Eppstein: Part 2 for that extraordinary revelation.

Stuart Pigott Riesling Global

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Eppstein Wine Diary: Day 8 – Alsace is a Pinot Paradise!

Maurice Schoech Pinot Noir

Working for JamesSuckling.com is really exciting and I’ve been learning so much so quickly, but the speed things move at takes some getting used to. This is a website with an almost continuous stream of new content, not a monthly magazine with regular publication dates and deadlines that automatically gives you moments to draw breathe. The last three weeks I was on the road in Alsace, then Rioja, then the Rheingau for JamesSuckling.com and the dense schedule left little time for reflection. In spite of that, our tastings in the cellar of Restaurant Villa Lalique in Wingen (the home of the Lalique crystal company) forced me to do some serious thinking about the way Alsace has changed in the 30 years since I first travelled there to taste the wines occupied most of my thoughts. Finally I found a moment to put all this down on what I still call “paper”.

Ever since that first inspiring visit in January 1987 I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what makes it so different from any other wine region in the France and neighboring Germany (of which it was part several times in it’s modern history). Some of these things are climatic, the heart of the wine region just west of Colmar is the driest place in France, and is significantly warmer in the summer than the German wine regions of the Pfalz to the north and Baden to the east, also Burgundy to the southwest. The geological complexity of the region is staggering and that makes it difficult to generalize about Alsace wines beyond the vital fact that the climate makes for big dry whites. For example, basic Alsace dry Rieslings seldom have less than 13% alcohol, whereas the leading Pfalz producers try to keep even their top dry Rieslings just below that figure.

Alsace underwent stylistic changes of seismic scale during the time I’ve been following it. The photograph above documents the recent rise of high quality reds from the Pinot Noir grape, which is a dramatic change from the light and pale colored reds that were the norm into the early years of this century. I’d never heard of Maurice Schoech of Ammerschwihr until a couple of weeks ago James Suckling pushed a glass extracted by coravin from the bottle pictured above in my direction. The name “Cuvée Arthur” hardly inspired confidence, and the 2013 vintage was not a great Pinot Noir vintage anywhere in Western Europe. However, the wine had subtle aromas, a stunning elegance. It tasted as good many Premier Crus from top domaines in Burgundy, but was a sleeker and more athletic. I found it exciting and totally distinctive: this is no Burg-Clone!

This development has barely been registered by the international wine scene, which continues to regard Alsace as a white wine region specializing in Gewurztraminer (there written without an umaul over the U). The truth is that Riesling overtook Gewurz as the most widely planted grape in the region many years ago and now accounts for about 4,000 hectares of the total 15,550 hectares. Alsace Pinot Noir has also grown significantly and now accounts for about 1,600 hectares. The striking thing is the rapidly increasing proportion of this which belongs in the Global Pinot First League, most notably the wines of Domaine Paul Blank in Kientzheim, Domaine Muré in Rouffach and Domaine Valentin Zusslin in Orschwihr.

Because they are the best that Alsace has to offer I will be leading seminar tastings of these wines at the International Pinot Noir Celebration in McMinnville/Oregon on the afternoons of Friday, July 28th and Saturday, July 29th. See you there!

For more information see the IPNC website:

www.ipnc.org

For the full Alsace story on JamesSuckling.com see:

https://www.jamessuckling.com/wine-tasting-reports/alsace-charges-back-great-2015-vintage/?mc_cid=6bef749dfa&mc_eid=0765a4a47d

Stuart Pigott Riesling Global

 

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Eppstein Wine Diary: Day 5 – Germany’s Miraculous Mosel Duo 2015 & 2016 on JamesSuckling.com

At Egon Müller-Scharzhof

I make no apologies for using this photograph again, because here I am tasting one of the three 100 point wines, the 2015 Scharzhofberger Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese from Egon Müller-Scharzhof in Wiltingen on the Saar, in my extensive report on the miraculous 2015 and 2016 vintages on the Mosel for JamesSuckling.com. You need to be a subscriber to read the tasting notes and see the individual scores, but anyone can read the opening text and see which wines we tasted – there were almost 700. Here’s the link:

https://www.jamessuckling.com/wine-tasting-reports/germanys-miraculous-mosel-duo-2015-2016/

I’ve been tasting the young wines on the Mosel and its tributaries the Saar and the Ruwer since the 1983 vintage and I never tasted such a stunning range as those from the last two vintages during the long week I spent in the region last month with the managing editor of JamesSuckling.com Evan Mah. Firstly, the number of disappointing wines was very small although we spread our net wide to take in world-famous producers and rising stars, small estates and the largest in Germany’s most famous wine region. More important though is the slew of wines that scored 95+, including a couple of dry wines and six Riesling Kabinetts. The names of some of the producers up in that exalted realm may well be new to you, and the name on the label of one of those 100 point wines will come as a shock to many: Carl Loewen in Leiwen on the Middle Mosel. Congratulations to all the Mosel producers who have dedicated themselves to quality, originality and individuality in this complex and fascinating region. You made this report possible!

Stuart Pigott Riesling Global

 

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Berlin Wine Diary: Day 3 – An Evening in Memory of Annegret Reh-Gartner in Weinstein Berlin

Thank you for the Riesling and for everything else, Annegret!

2011 GGs from Kesselstatt

The work of remembering is never over and done with. So, from 6pm on the evening of Thursday, June 15th I will once again be working as a wine waiter in the Weinstein wine bar in Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg and this time the evening will not only be in memory of Roy Metzdorf, the recently deceased guiding spirit of Weinstein. Instead it will have a double function, as I will be pouring the above quintet of dry Riesling GGs from the Reichsgraf von Kesselsatt estate based in Schloss Marienlay in the Mosel  in memory of the estate’s director Annegrat Reh-Gartner who died five months earlier at the beginning of October 2016. These wines (pictured on my desk) are all from the 2011 vintage, and for me the represent the apogee of what Annegret achieved with dry Riesling at Kesselstatt.

She had just become the estate’s director when we first met in May 1984 and we quickly became friends. Unlike some journalists who think that critical distance also needs to be physical and the air occupying it must be icy I never had a problem being friends with winemakers. However, some of them had a serious problem with my friendship when it wasn’t accompanied by rave reviews. Of course, if a winemaker’s friendship would mean that I never criticized their wines or (worse still) only gushed praise for them regardless of how they tasted, then I would be an extremely bad wine journalist. Annegret never expected anything like this, and always wanted to know what I thought about each wine.

Now I am very interested to know what you think about these wines. On June 15th in Weinstein you can taste just one or two of them or you can order a flight of all five. The sites are: Scharzhofberg (Saar), Nies’chen (Ruwer), Juffer-Sonnenuhr, Sonnenuhr and Josephshöfer (all Mittelmosel). I promise you that they are strikingly different from one another and that it really makes sense to try all five. Here is the link to the Weinstein website for more information:

http://weinstein.eu/

Stuart Pigott Riesling Global

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Eppstein Wine Diary: Day 6 – Riesling Reload

Because the Spirit of Riesling is ever renewing itself

At Egon Müller-Scharzhof

Please excuse me. I would have written earlier, but the last weeks my feet barely seemed to touch the ground. My first long and intense tasting trip to the Mosel (and its tributaries the Saar and Ruwer) in several years was the main reason for this. Above you see me pictured at Egon Müller-Scharzhof where the 2015 vintage is spectacular and the 2016 great for the Estate Riesling and Kabinett quality wines. On a very high level this reflects the overall picture of these two vintages, but for the detail you will have to wait a couple of weeks for my forthcoming report on this subject with almost 700 tasting notes on JamesSuckling.com. Suffice to say here that I think the Mosel hasn’t looked stronger in the 35 years I’ve been following it.

I will be away for the next few days around my birthday when I return to Eppstein for the International Riesling Symposium at Kloster Eberbach in the Rheingau on May 29th and 30th. I hope to see you there too, because attending this event will not only give you the opportunity to meet dozens of the world’s best Riesling winemakers, but also to taste some of the finest young and mature, dry and sweet Rieslings in the world. For more information see:

www.international-riesling-symposium.com

Above and beyond this a reorientation of this blog is in the planning. Given the way my own life and the way the world are developing there is no alternative, but to adopt a more personal approach and state the truth the way I see it. In retrospect, I feel that during the last couple of years I sometimes worried too much about being artistic. There’s no time for that kind of stuff any longer. Please be patient as a number of pieces must fall into place before I can implement this plan. Until then may the Riesling Force be with you!

Stuart Pigott Riesling Global

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Berlin Wine Diary: Day 5 – The Big Virginia Story, including Trump Winery (owned by the family of President Trump)

Me with Trump wines!

My big story about the wines of Virginia on the East Seaboard of the USA was just published on JamesSuckling.com and ought to cause a stir for a variety of reasons. It is not only the first in-depth report on the wine industry of the state where Thomas Jefferson famously failed to found a wine industry (this process actually began with the arrival of the first colonists from Britain in 1607) by a non-American journalist I’m aware of, it also the first to place the Trump estate winery – the biggest in Virginia – within a wide-ranging state-wide context.

Yes, that’s the winery owned by the family of President Donald Trump, and unlike many of his pronouncements my Virginia story is composed of fully-formed statements that are free of alternative facts. My training as a wine journalist, part of which was under James Suckling when he worked for Wine Spectator magazine, taught me that facts are facts, and quotes are quotes. The policy of JamesSuckling.com is that wine ratings should never be influenced by politics and there was therefore no discussion that the Trump wines would be included in my report and they would be treated exactly the same as all the other couple of hundred wines I encountered during a week of blind tastings and visits to leading producers.

I was very pleased that although there wasn’t time to visit Trump winery I got the chance to taste Trump wines on four different occasions and I also got  to talk at some length with the winemaker, Jonathan Wheeler. He’s very serious about what he’s doing at Trump winery and from this encounter I’m convinced that he has the talent and experience necessary for his considerable winemaking responsibilities. During that discussion he told me that sales at Trump winery are rocking (the same is true of many of the other leading wineries in Virginia), not least, “because of all the publicity.” That was certainly interesting to learn, particularly in view of the controversy about whether the businesses owned by the Trump family are benefiting from the fact that he’s the President of the USA, but in no way influenced but in no way did it influence how I rated and described the Trump wines.

Of course, you are all now wondering whether the Trump wines are amongst the highest-scoring in my report, or if they bombed out. I’m sure that how many of you feel about the results of our tastings will be colored by your opinion of the 45th President of the United States of America, and that’s your privilege. Although I cannot reveal all the results of my week discovering the exciting new developments in the Virginia wine industry, I can tell you that several Trump wines rated 90+, but one was far below that level. Will Trump’s critics fry me for praising the former, and will his followers demonize me for criticizing the latter? And how will the Trump family themselves react to the report? We will see.

The cellar at Boxwood in Middleburg

Meanwhile, I strongly recommend you to read the report and consider that a couple of Virginia wines rated 95+. Those are scores that JamesSuckling.com is very cautious about giving and this therefore represents a milestone for the state’s wine industry. There is now not only much beauty in the landscapes of Virginia, but also in its wines (the photo above is of the barrel room at Boxwood in Middleburg, one of the new red wine stars.) Thomas Jefferson has finally been proven right!

Here is the link to the full story:

https://www.jamessuckling.com/wine-tasting-reports/thomas-jefferson-proven-right-virginia-wine-comes-age/?mc_cid=0c790a51a1&mc_eid=0765a4a47d

 

ROCK STARS OF WINE AMERICA

 

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Eppstein Wine Diary: Day 9 – READ THIS BOOK! Bianca Bosker’s CORK DORK is the Best and Most Innovative Wine Book of the 21st Century!

Cork Dork

Maybe this is the first time that the category’s existence been openly declared, but I have no doubt that something worthy of the name New Wine Journalism is out there and that it came into existence shortly after the last turn of the century. Anyone who thinks that these are yet more Alternative Facts should buy and read Bianca Bosker’s brilliant new book Cork Dork, for it is irrefutable proof that this is not bullshit.

Let me give you a brief introduction to the intoxicating nitty-gritty of the New Wine Journalism. It is never directly concerned with which wine of a particular type and/or vintage is the best and it never uses numerical or other ratings of the conventional kind, e.g. five star system. Instead, just as New York-based Bianca Bosker does in Cork Dork, it delves into the guts of the wine world and after the writer’s deep immersion in it she returns to what is oh so glibly referred to as the “normal world” to report on this strange and still largely unknown – to “regular folks” – other reality just around the corner.

Of course, the name I’ve given to this new category is deliberate plagiarism of the New Journalism that developed in America during the 1960s and flourished there during the 1970s. I’m claiming that this theft is fair game, because the proponents of the New Wine Journalism – let me be straight with you in case you didn’t guess, I’m one of them too – make liberal use of the tools that were developed by Hunter S. Thompson, Tom Wolfe & Co. Bianca Bosker does this with aplomb in Cork Dork, but these are far from being the only means she employs to explore widely differing aspects of obsession with wine, and how it changes those who befall this terrible infectious disease. By the way, as the story of her 18 month long deep immersion in wine unfolds she too develops all the symptoms and becomes a sufferer. That, more than anything else about Cork Dork, is truly gonzo!

One of things that makes Bianca Bosker’s book such a racy read and an impressive piece of journalism is the way her texts morph with each change of viewpoint, for example from her review of the science of olfaction (Chapter Four, The Brains) to how dinners are treated by the somms in top NYC restaurants (Chapter Five, The Magic Kingdom), then on to the hedonism of wealthy wine collectors (Chapter Six, The Orgy). As she flips with agility from one side of the wine world to another her writing style effortlessly changes to fit her new subject. As a result almost every chapter in the book can be read as a self-contained work with its own logic. In spite of that, each of them has one or more stunning surprise for you, like  the story of the scent of her grandmother in The Brains or that of “normal somm” Annie Truhlar of Virginia Beach, VA in The Trial (Chapter Ten). I didn’t see the end coming either. The things that holds the wild and fascinating human cocktail of Cork Dork together are Bianca Bosker’s sociological / anthropological approach to analyzing each individual and sub-culture she encounters, and the way she does so both with compassion for her subjects and an eagle eye for the absurdities of their lives.#

All this makes Cork Dork much funnier, more compelling and richer than any other work of New Wine Journalism I know (including my own Rock Stars of Wine America e-books). How, then, can I adequately describe it in a short review like this? The best I can do for you is to say that Cork Dork is the journalistic equivalent of a great 10 course tasting menu in one of the NYC restaurants Bianca Bosker investigated. Even if you have even only a little curiosity about wine her book will pull you along then suck you in, as it did to me.

Cork Dork is published in paperback by Penguin Books, New York and costs $17.

ROCK STARS OF WINE AMERICA

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Eppstein Wine Diary: Day 7 – Farewell Roy Metzdorf!

Roy Metzdorf

Farewells always ripped me up, but sickness not inner struggles is the only reason that this photographic record of the farewell for Roy Metzdorf (pictured above) of the Weinstein wine bar in the Prenzlauer Berg district of Berlin took two weeks to post. Thanks to Andreas Baldauf for these photographs that so beautifully capture the mixed emotions of that evening. My selection reflects what I saw, and no doubt others would make a different selection with good reason. How could I write anything that could add to what these images say? No idea, so I’ve decided to present them without captions or commentary of any kind. If you are pictured here, but don’t want to appear in this way, then let me know and I will replace the relevant photograph(s). Roy would not want to be idealized here or anywhere else, nor would he want us to be sad (though I’m sure he would entirely understand our grief). I hope the following succeed in reflecting this spirit and something of Roy’s practical and inspirational generosity. Last words: NAMU AMIDA BUTSU

Weinstein, March 29th 2017

Weinstein, March 29th 2017
_g8b1203-2Weinstein,March 29th 2017Weinstein, March 29th 2017Weinstein. March 29th 2017

Weinstein, March 29th 2017

Weinstein, March 29th 2017_g8b1266-2Weinstein, March 29th 2017

Weinstein. March 29th 2017

Namu Amida ButsuWeinstein, March 29th 2017Riesling Global

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