Category Archives: STUART PIGOTT RIESLING GLOBAL

Ontario Riesling Diary: Day 3 – Let me be Franc with You

As regular visitors are aware, this blog is devoted primarily to the wines of the Riesling grape, just like my book BEST WHITE WINE ON EARTH (pub. Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2014), but I occasionally throw a sidelong glance in another direction completely, (as a journalist I’m interested in journalism and everything relating to it), or, more frequently, to the wines of other grape varieties. This is one of the latter type of blog postings, because good and great Ontario wine is certainly not only made from Riesling.

Yesterday’s tastings proved that Cabernet Franc isn’t just another interesting variety for the Niagara Peninsula, rather a big part of the future for the region’s red wine production. As the photograph above taken in the vineyard at Stratus close to Niagara on the Lake, my favorite producer of Cab-based red wine blends in this region, shows Cabernet Franc comes through the hard winters here remarkably well. Last winter was the coldest ever recorded, and yet this vine still looks good. The thing that you can’t see from this photograph is that the team lead by director J-L Groux will prune each of these vines three times instead of one in order to optimize the crop for the growing season that’s just begun. That is an awful lot of work and it requires skill. I’ve pruned vines a number of times, but never done this kind of patient, step-by-step pruning spread over several weeks watching which buds produce shoots and which of those shoots will actually bear fruit; the whole point of viticulture!

The 2010 Cabernet Franc from Stratus is cast-iron proof of this grape’s potential to give world class wines here, because it tastes neither like a red Loire wine from this grape (there is only the merest hint of green, a hint of parsley rather than green bell pepper) nor like a red Bordeaux (the tannins are rich, but silkier than is normal there), much less like a American West Coast interpretation (it has some violet aroma, but not the opulence of California & Co). Instead, it is entirely itself and beautifully balanced. This grape also plays a role, it was 15% in the 2010 vintage, of the Stratus red blend, adding freshness and aroma to help this powerful wine remain light on it’s feet in spite of all it’s tannic power. A grape that manages a great solo performance and can play in a quartet like this (with 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot and 15% Petit Verdot) clearly makes a lot of sense in this special wine growing location.

However, the great thing about Cabernet Franc is that it you can produce a range of different styles from it. For example, the 2010 Cabernet Franc ‘Whimsy!’ from Southbrook (not far from Stratus) is quite powerful, but already charming and graceful with a hint of bottle age, but plenty of fruit showing. Here, Cab Franc makes up fully 31% of the blended 2010 ‘Poetica’ red that is conceived by owner Bill Redelmeier as the region’s answer to Bordeaux’s Léoville Las Cases, (one of my favorite wines from the Médoc area, as long as it has some bottle age. The ‘Poetica’ also needs some bottle age to mellow its bold dry tannins, but as the 2007 (the first vintage of this wine) showed, it doesn’t take as many years to mellow this wine as it does Léoville Las Cases. At this point in the day I was about as far away from Riesling as you can get!

Cave Spring are most famous for their CSV Riesling, pictured above, and that was the main reason they were my last appointment yesterday evening. However, they also make some excellent Chardonnay (ranging from Blanc to Blanc sparkling to the elegant, discretely oaken ‘Estate’), and some Cabernet Franc that has a perfume, vibrancy and lightness of touch that no other producer in Ontario quite achieves. The 2013 vintage ‘Niagara Escarpment’ bottling will be a great introduction to this style for many people, and the more concentrated ‘Estate’ bottling makes a serious statement that will impress others. These wines are just about to be bottled, so please be patient. Patience will also be needed for the top Cave Spring Rieslings from the 2014 vintage. The 2014 ‘CSV’ Riesling has intense peach and citrus aromas (not just lemon, but mandarin too) and marries terrific concentration with a tingling mineral freshness, the hint of residual sweetness (technically it is medium-dry) perfectly balancing the generous acidity. The 2014 ‘Estate’ is a smaller scale version of this wine, and the 2014 ‘Adam’s Steps’ is a more succulent (a lot of orange, some pineapple and passion fruit) wine with serious mineral saltiness at the finale. Normally, I don’t do tasting notes here, but let me be frank with you, these are some of the best Rieslings cave Spring ever made and deserve this attention. Maybe they’ll age as well as the great 1999 ‘CSV’ I drank here last time.

 

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New York Riesling Diary: Day 2 – Where the Next Story is to be Found (Welcome to the Corner of West 16th and 6th Ave)

I often ask myself where the next story is to be found, particularly when I’ve been in one place for a long time and familiarity has made me contemptuous of my surroundings, so that I have ceased to take them in properly. Let’s be frank, that means I’m less alive than I could be and ought to be. Then life gives me a jolt and brings me back to my senses. That happened most recently on Thursday when I flew from Berlin to New York, then I was suddenly confronted again with things like the corner of West 16th Street and 6th Avenue in Manhattan, just a few yards from where I live when I’m in New York Wine City (NYWC). As you can see, even the closest and most familiar street corner can still be full of surprises. However, this time I hardly have the time to take all this in, because tomorrow (Sunday) I’m flying up to Toronto for the 2015 Terroir Symposium on Monday, May 11th. I would be able to write more here if I hadn’t spent much of the day figuring out exactly what I have to say on Monday afternoon, and I’m still not entirely sure…but as you can see from the picture above, my heart is in the right place.

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Berlin Riesling Diary: Day 8 – Very Long-Term Planning

Most of my work is horribly short-term stuff. I taste a wine/various wines in order to write about it/them here or in my column in the Sunday edition of the FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE ZEITUNG (German language) on the same day, or within a few days at most. Rarely can I chew over these impressions for months, in fact only in books like BEST WHITE WINE ON EARTH / PLANET RIESLING or in my quarterly column in FINE magazine (German language) can that happen. Today’s main task was in stark contrast to this very short-term turnover of material and deserves the description “very long-term planning” because it has implications that potentially stretch decades into the future. I just purchased a small, but extremely centrally located apartment in Berlin where this eternal student of Riesling will reside (when in this city) for the foreseeable future. As you can see from the picture above, it is currently under construction, and I won’t be moving in until the end of 2015 or very early 2016. I will, of course, keep you posted and the short-term turnover of wines tasted and things experienced will continue unabated. By the way, I don’t intend to stop doing this until I die, and given that my grandmother lived to be 101 that could mean several decades more!

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Berlin Riesling Diary: Day 6 – $196,000 for a Bottle of Smith-Madrone Riesling from California

Pictured above are Stuart (left) and Charles Smith (right) of the Smith-Madrone winery on Spring Mountain in Napa Valley, California. They’ve got good reason to look happy, because a bottle of their dry 1997 Riesling just sold at auction for the staggering sum of $196,000. If you think this is absurd, then I must point out that this is a delicious wine now at the peak of maturity. For the full exciting story click on the link below.

https://tropicsofmeta.wordpress.com/2015/04/30/in-search-of-the-incredible-cult-riesling/

To my mind, this is not a triumph for the Smiths’ dedication to this grape and their dramatic, but challenging vineyard location (pictured below) since the early 1970s, but also a fitting answer to the Riesling bashing that some American journalists and somms have been engaging in recently. Much of this has been driven by envy of the success of Riesling advocates like Paul Grieco of the Terroir wine bars in New York Wine City (NYWC), but some of it has been plain old-fashioned bad blood.

If you can’t afford $196,000 per bottle – I certainly can’t! – then I strongly recommend you the Smith-Madrone 2012 Riesling (a bit closed and worth cellaring for several years before opening) and the youthfully effusive 2013 Riesling. You should be able to find both of them on the shelf for under $30 per bottle. By the way, this was the only American wine included in the hit list of the world’s best dry Rieslings in my book BEST WHITE WINE ON EARTH (pub. Stewart, Tabori & Chang in NYWC)!

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Berlin Riesling Diary: Day 4 – Can You See the Real Me?

Can you see the real me? Can you? 

I first heard The Who’s Quadrophenia album in November 1976 just over three years after it was released, and that line from the song The Real Me instantly etched itself into my consciousness. It’s been going through my mind again during the last days, because a new rumor about me has been going around here in Berlin. The fact that I’m about to buy a small apartment in an ultra-downtown location has lead some people to start saying that, “Stuart’s moving back to Berlin!” On one level this is all good clean fun, but it’s factually incorrect and therefore demands an answer. The fact is, that although I spent a lot of time in New York Wine City (NYWC) from the end of November 2012, and since I moved into my present apartment there in September 2013 it has felt like home, I never left Berlin. It has always remained my official place of residence and with good reason. Most of my work is published in German in Germany, Berlin is my base for reporting on the wines of Europe, and this is the country where I have paid the majority of my taxes since 1994. Buying my own place will cement my connection with Berlin as my long-term base in Germany and also give STUART PIGOTT RIESLING GLOBAL a European HQ. The location close to Alexanderplatz in East Berlin’s Mitte district also means that I’ll be within walking or cycling distance of some of the world’s best wine bars!

So, you see, I feel at home here in Berlin and in NYWC. That situation is what many of the rumor-tellers can’t cope with and that’s the reason this explanation is necessary. Far more than the inhabitants of NYWC, those of Berlin want to put every person into one pigeonhole and get deeply frustrated when this isn’t possible. Ten years ago when I was developing a career as a painter (which sadly failed) alongside my continuing journalistic this double identity caused many of my acquaintances in Berlin a lot of trouble. Now my double allegiance to this city and NYWC is stressing the same people and some others too. Their reaction is that of the child who tries to force the square peg into the round hole come what may, rather than accepting that only a round peg will fit that hole. Like that child they will get over this in time and, reluctantly, accept the reality of the situation. I am what I am. Can you see the real me?

 

 

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On the Riesling Road: Day 3 – 2014 in Germany is Up in the Heavens & Down to Zero

The Mainzer Weinbörse, the annual major presentation of the new vintage by the German VDP producers association is just about to end after two grueling days. They weren’t grueling only because of the sheer number of wines on show (more than a thousand, I think, but I didn’t try to taste them all), but also because 2014 is a vintage that spans the entire range from Up in the Heavens all the way to Down to Zero. Even a few of the VDPs almost 200 members, theoretically the elite of Germany’s wine producers, managed to present wines that I considered so bad that they were incompatible with the designation Qualitätswein, or quality wine. They now need to do some serious soul searching and figure out if they really want to put world-famous vineyard names on bottles of Riesling that smell of wishy-washy rotten grapes and taste drab and bitter. There is also more general problem with bitterness in many of the Riesling wines from the Saar sub-region of the Mosel. Exactly why that is I can’t figure out, but it was a clear pattern.

At the other end of the scale are those winemakers, like Martin Franzen of Müller-Catoir in Neustadt-Haardt in the Pfalz (pictured above), who managed their vineyards so well and were so on top of the harvest that they had no problems at all. His dry Rieslings were probably the most exciting wines I tasted during the last two days, and the other varieties (Rieslaner, Scheurebe and Weißburgunder) were also striking. Other serious highlights were Diel, Dönnhoff, Emrich-Schönleber and Gut Hermannsberg on the Nahe, Flick, Franz Künstler, Prinz and Spreitzer in the Rheingau, Groebe, Wagner-Stempel and Wittmann in Rheinhessen. The Mosel was confusingly heterogenous, although the wines from von Othegraven (who only showed sweet Rieslings) Dr. Wagner on the Saar stood out. Franken is an even more mixed and confusing picture, but with many exciting wines, and I will return to this subject at a later date after more tasting.

Of course, even these days were not totally dominated by wine tasting and the highlight of yesterday evening was meeting the young chap pictured above, Gustav, a tame baby wild boar. I was having a relaxed and delicious dinner at retired top chef Franz Keller’s Falkenhof farm high in the taunts Mountains to the north of the Rheingau’s vineyards and suddenly there was Gustav playing games and generally being the life and soul of the party. The highlight of dinner was thankfully not wild boar, rather the filet of a recently slaughtered Charolais from the fields of the Falkenhof. I’m not a big fan of beef filet, but this one had an up in the heavens flavor!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more details go to:

www.nobelhartundschmutzig.com

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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Berlin Riesling Diary: Day 15 – Unsmiling Faces of Berlin

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

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

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

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