Category Archives: STUART PIGOTT RIESLING GLOBAL

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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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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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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Eppstein Wine Diary: Day 3 – Dear Roy, Everyone is Invited to the Bottle Party in Your Memory in Weinstein/Berlin on Wednesday Evening, and We Hope You Will Join Us in Spirit

Portrait of Roy Metzdorf by Andreas Baldauf

Dear Roy,

Sorry it’s been so long since I was last in touch and now it’s too late for you to read this in the normal way, because on March 4th you died of heart failure. I therefore don’t expect that you know I was in New York City on March 8th when I received an email our good friend Max Krull telling me the sad news. Like many of your other friends I was plunged into a pit of grief, but a few days later I pulled myself out of it, because I knew you wanted me to do that. I feel very glad that we had a couple of great evenings together in Berlin in February, because neither you nor anybody else guessed what was coming. Of course, I regret not having been able to say goodbye, but the way you lived your life without the slightest hesitation and the minimum of compromise made it clear to me that one day it would suddenly all be over. I just didn’t expect it to happen anything like that soon.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, March 28th I’m taking the train from Eppstein close to Frankfurt back to Berlin for your funeral the following day, Wednesday, March 29th. That will be a rather private and somber event, but from 6pm that evening there’s a bottle party in Weinstein, the wine bar that you ran from the fall of 1993 until your death to celebrate your life. (For those who have forgotten where it is, the address is Lychener Strasse 33, 10437 Berlin and the nearest subway is Eberswalder Strasse on the U2 line). I’m writing this not only to invite anyone and everyone reading this to attend, but also to ask if you can join us in your remarkable spirit, which lives on. I know that because I can sense a small piece of it in me. Everyone needs to bring at least one bottle of wine, if possible something  special, i.e. last bottle of a favorite wine or simply a rare and/or expensive bottle according to your principal of GSKR, Geld spielt keine Rolle, or who cares about the price!

Of course, I still feel your loss. There will be no more wonderful evenings in Weinstein, which you ran with a flair that almost nobody else in the German wine and gastronomic scene could. There will be no more amazing conversations with you from which I learned how, in spite of all the differences in temperament, background, language, upbringing, education and sexual preferences between us, we had so much in common. There will be no more mind-expanding adventures with you in wine regions near and far during which your curiosity helped open my eyes to things that went far beyond the details of winegrowing and winemaking. And from now on I will only be able to see the look in your eye that said, “all walls can and will fall!” in photos like the one above.  It was taken in Weinstein on April 19th last year by Andreas Baldauf and more photographs from that evening can be seen at:

Stuart Pigott im Weinstein Berlin

Enough of the sad stuff though, and on to the positive things which I know you want me to concentrate upon. I’ve been a storyteller since my teens, and all those years of storytelling taught me that every story has a backstory. Now that you’re gone the part of your life I was able to share has become an essential part of the backstory of the rest of my life. I’m only just beginning to discover what that really means, but I feel sure I’m not the only one who feels that way. Exzellent serviert! or excellently served was another of your principals, and although your life was tragically cut short until that moment you excellently served yourself to all of us.

Thank you for the unforgettable service of wine, food, inspiration and love!

RIP, much love and all the best,

Stuart

 

Stuart Pigott Riesling Global

 

 

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New York Diary: Day 6 – RIP Roy Metzdorf of the Weinstein Wine Bar in Berlin

Roy Metzdorf

I have to tell you about a friend of mine who just died that was one of the most wonderful people I ever knew. Nobody I’ve encountered was more generous, open and supportive than Roy Metzdorf. From the fall of 1993 until his sudden death yesterday he ran the Weinstein wine bar in the Prenzlauer Berg district of Berlin, Germany where I took the above photograph on February 20th, 2013. Roy did so much for me there’s no way I can list even the most important things in a couple of paragraphs, never mind explain what that all really means. Roy was a total original and, in no particular order, a remarkable Berliner, East German, Riesling guy, explorer of the big wide world of wine and food, and a thinker who continually stunned me with his penetrating observations. I’m glad that I was able to give some things back to Roy, for example, by introducing him to America beginning in Califronia in 2003. After his first couple of weeks there he only half-jokingly declared that he would become an illegal Mexican immigrant in order to say! I would need to tell a lot more stories like this for those of you who didn’t know Roy to grasp what he was really like. It’s only a metaphor and probably a very bad one, but it feels as if the most beautiful vase in the world has just been smashed. RIP Roy! NAMU AMIDA BUTSU

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Berlin Wine Diary: Day 4 – In Wine There is Freedom

Freedom!

What the hell has wine got to do with the current trend to nationalism and authoritarianism of myriad kinds that’s sweeping the West and some parts of the East too? This isn’t a rhetorical question I’m posing to introduce some of my recent thoughts about wine, it’s also a question that was asked of me in response to my two last blog postings (scroll down to read them). Of course, the implication of that question is that politics has nothing to do with wine and I have been poking my nose into matters that don’t concern me, at least matters that have no place on this blog.

To my mind that’s ridiculous, because my political stance is one of opposition not to any political party or any particular politician, but to political actions that threaten or erode constitutional freedoms. However, after the question was repeated several times it got me thinking about all of this more seriously and it wasn’t long before it struck me that the pleasure of wine contrasts dramatically with the New Politics in DC, London, Moscow, Ankara, etc. Let me explain.

What all forms of nationalism, authoritarianism and fanaticism have in common is the conviction that there’s a rigid set of unquestionable truths – the core of the particular dogma – and these are above and beyond discussion or debate. Devotees of those dogmas often demonize those who dare to discuss and debate their core beliefs as heretics, because they dare to doubt. In the European dictatorships of the 20th century al these features were all very clear, and although the contemporary versions of them are all (so far) less extreme, they may be every bit as dangerous due to their insidious nature.

Some of you may already be familiar with the name of the prime weapon used by the “true believers”: the thought-terminating cliché. This term was developed by the psychologist Robert Jay Lifton (who’s complete works are highly recommended) in his 1956 study of totalitarianism in Maoist China, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism. Examples of thought-terminating clich#es are, “I’m in charge, that’s why!” is no less a thought-terminating cliché than, “it’s God’s will!” or “everything is relative!” I chose those three because the devotees of contrasting forms of nationalism, authoritarianism and fanaticism use them.

Nothing could be further from my experience of wine than all this, because the taste of even the cheapest and least-pretentious wine is open to endless discussion and debate. The very nature of wine is that the contents of one bottle taste different to different people and there is never any question that someone might be right and all the others wrong even if sometimes claims are made that this is the case. Our differing preferences lie behind our contrasting reactions to the same wine, and they are rooted in our personal experiences, memories and habits and preferences.

This is related very closely to the fact that each of us finds a particular smell either appealing or not, and more loosely related to the way each of us finds a joke funny or not, another person sexually attractive or not, and we either wake up in a good mood or we don’t. There’s no point in discussing any of these things either, because no amount of discussion afterwards can change the way we reacted (thank you Immanual Kant for pointing that out). Apart from the freedom to draw breath this is the most basic kind of freedom and no form autocracy has been able to change any of this.

Just the other day my girlfriend and I had radically contrasting reactions to a handful of 2015 dry German Rieslings from a new producer, Materne & Schmitt in Winningen/Terrassenmosel. They are daring products are far-removed from the fruity and fresh norms most wines conform to, and that kind of wine inevitably polarizes opinion. Put simply, either you dig their kind of funk (technical term reduction) or you don’t!

On paper, I’ve got more professional experience of wine than my girlfriend does, but that is not the point, because personal preference and pleasure are not dependent upon professional experience. I was not right and she was not wrong. We simply reacted differently to the same wine and we both understand that when it comes to personal pleasure in wine there’s never any right or wrong. In wine there is freedom!

I always find it very sad when colleagues or regular folks want to learn from me which wines are right and which are wrong, rather than wanting me to help them intensify and expand their pleasure in wine. It means that person wants some kind of certainty where none is to be had. The only certainties when it comes to wine are the analytical parameters (alcohol content, degree of oxidation, etc.), but they can’t tell you if you will like a wine or not. You have to find that out practically.

It is the hunger for certainty and absolutes and the yearning for a radical break from the continually shifting nature of experience that stoke the fires of nationalism, authoritarianism and fanaticism of all kinds. Give me wine any day. It is the opposite of them!

Stuart Pigott Riesling Global

 

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