Thank you Paul Grieco of Restaurant Hearth and Terroir wine bar in NYC !
“So you found a home in New York,” Paul Grieco said to me as I sat in a corner of Restaurant Hearth (www.restauranthearth.com) with a glass of Mosel Riesling from Weiser-Künstler lost in thought +++ I was thinking back 24 hours to when the first Long Night of German Wine in NYC had filled the room with people and excitement +++ my partner in this charity project in Berlin, where we already staged 14 of these events, Roy Metzdorf of Restaurant Weinstein and I were bowled over by the response in the Big Apple +++ within minutes of the door being opened at 11pm it was hard to get through the crush to taste the wines which Roy and I had donated from our cellars +++ “hey, pass me the 2001 Egon Müller Scharzhofberger !” someone begged me and it made seem so worth while to have waitted so long to open that bottle +++ just like in Berlin the atmosphere was one of uninhibited celebration and we opened numerous doors of Riesling perception +++
- Serious tasting at Hearth meant serious donations to WEIN HILFT (Photo Marc Metzdorf)
many of the visitors who each made a $40 donation to WEIN HILFT (see www.weinhilft.de – under which motto we collect money for the “Hope” HIV/AIDS foundation in Cape Town) were amazed by the way the dry 2006 Berg Rottland Riesling from Weingut Leitz in Rüdesheim/Rheingau seemed to effortlessly balance in spite of its 15% alocholic content +++ Roy’s “house wines”, which all make a serious style statement for the palate and eye were admired, also for the way the Weinstein name or logo were nowhere to be seen +++ finally Berlin style Dada Marketing has crossed the Big Pond and Madison Avenue will never be the same again ! +++ but for me the biggest surprise that evening came from Bruce Schneider (see below) who I knew as director of Wines of Germany in NYC, but who turns out to also be a talented New York winemaker +++ he brought with him several vintages of Schneider Cabernet Franc (saldy no longer made due to the vineyard having been ripped out) and the 2006 was the most elegant red wine I ever tasted from Long Island +++ but yet more New York wine surprises followed the next day +++
Renaissance wine man of New York Bruce Schneider
the next afternoon I walked over to Hearth feeling pleassantly dazed and confused from the Long Night of German Wine to clear my head for a big tasting of 2010 Rieslings from the Finger Lakes in Upstate New York +++ Peter Becraft of Anthony Road Wine Co. drove into the city with 26 wines from more than a dozen producers which were the most exciting range of Finger Lakes wines I’ve ever experienced +++ my New York colleagues Josh Greene (editor of Wine & Spirits Magazine) and Howard Goldberg were no less imporessed than Roy and Marc Metzdorf +++ we agreed that although the excellent 2o10 vintage certainly helped achieve this, it wasn’t the only factor, rather improved winemaking also played an important role +++ stylistically the wines seemed to know where they wanted to go in a way that was seldom the case just a few years ago, so Olanet Wine it is TIME TO WAKE UP AND TAKE NEW YORK RIESLING SERIOUSLY !!! +++ then as we our tasting table was being cleared for restaurant service to begin at 6pm Josh Greene told me that he was staying at Hearth to have dinner with Stephen and Prue Henschke, the (Hill of Grace) famous winemakers from South Australia +++ and suddenly there they were and I was invited to join them; not only “shit” happens in America ! +++ and I learnt a lot from Prue about what sustainability demands in the often harsh Australian context (much sensitivity and hard work) +++ after dinner I ended up at the bar with several glasses of that Riesling watching Paul Grieco work the restuarant as if it were his second home, which it is in a way that their workplaces rarely are for restaurateurs +++ then before I knew it he’d told me that it was my second home, and who am I to argue ? +++ for the Long Night of German Wine and for Stuart Pigott, in NYC home is where the Hearth is
Randall Grahm extends his antenne to catch cosmic "terroir-waves"
If you think that I’m sometimes crazy then look at winemaker Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon winery of Santa Cruz in California (above) with whom I recently spent a fascinating afternoon in the Waterbar/San Francisco talking about whether terroir and wine journalism exist in America in the positive sense +++ the last thing I want to do is give the impression Randall is not serious so there’s a second picture of him (below) +++ I tasted many wonderful new Bonny Doon wines with him including the first impressive American Alvarinho and Nebbiolo I ever encountered, plus two great Syrah reds from 2007 (Bein Nacido and Alamo Creek vineyards) with terroir written all over them +++ I’ve known Randall since 20 years and it was inspiring both to see him scale new heights and to see that all the money from the sale of his Pacific Rim winery (how many million dollars is a 2 million bottle per year super-premium brand like this worth ?) did not go to his head +++
Is what America is really lacking "terroir-bodylangauge" ?
no time today to report on the first Long Night of German Wine in New York, but the whole point of not calling this a blog is that I can take my time to gather the right photos, quotes, etc to make the story worth reading +++ all of course, according to the motto: NO FACEBOOK, NO TWITTER, NO BULLSHIT !
a whole week later I’m still trying to recover from the bolt of lightning which hit me as I walked down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan +++ an SMS from Uerzig in the Mosel told me that the Green Party of Rheinland Pfalz had caved in to Kurt Beck’s demand that construction of the monstrous Mosel Bridge continue in order to get into bed with him in a coalition government +++ they want us to believe that they had to do this (though they put up no fight at all), and they probably believe their own argument, but I don’t buy it +++ the truth is they were desperate for power and willing to do whatever it took, including a 180 degree turn on this issue +++ so Green political greed and opportunism sold the Mosel down the river +++ Shame on You Eveline Lemke !!! +++ given this spectacular u-turn in the direction of anti-enviromentalism and voodoo economics how can we believe any policy of the Green Party in the future ? +++ Renate Kunast, I think we urgently need an answer to that question ! +++ more on this issue during the coming days, also a big story on WEINHIER when it goes online at 18 hours Central European Time on Tuesday, 17th May
Upon returning to Berlin from many long and intense days of tasting the 2010 vintage German wines and I felt seriously confused +++ although there are plenty of good 2010s and some great wines, just what are the “typical” characteristics of the new vintage ? +++ when I tasted the sweet Riesling Spätlese from the Mosel at the Mainzer Weinbörse on Monday (many of which belong in the “great” category), there was a common thread of lightning-bright acidity and enormous aromatic intensity running through them +++ the Rheingau wines I tasted at the Weinbörse the day before also had plenty of acidity, but this often tasted aggressive and many of them were also rather thin +++ yesterday in Franken the dry Silvaner I tasted nearly all had a moderate to low acidity content, often tasting tasting positively creamy +++ that could be very pleasant, for example at Weingut Horst Sauer in Escherndorf, but some 2010 Franken Silvaner tasted like a big dollop of butter-cream, which I found too much +++ neither the successful 2010s, nor the unsuccessful wines conform to any sort of pattern +++ it’s a bizarre situation I never encountered before
First of all a Big Thank You to everyone who watched WEINWUNDER DEUTSCHLAND on BR3 over the holiday period and particularly to those who emailed me or otherwise took the trouble to send your best wishes, express your excitement about the series or make constructive criticism +++ It’s already the end, but only just the beginning ! +++ The sixth and final episode of the first series went out on 16:30 Central European Time Thursday, 6nd January, but you can still catch it at www.br-online.de +++ This is surely only the first of many times it will be shown on German television and in only a few weeks I’ll be sitting down with Alexander Saran, my co-author and the director of the series, to begin writing the second series of six shows +++ Maybe you’ll see us whilst we’re on location between May and October +++ You can easily spot us in the vineyards, where we look like the above photograph by camera assistant Florian Bschorr which shows us with Egon Müller during work on the last show of the first series +++ You could also bump into us in a DB train where I’ll no doubt be practicing my still scrappy German grammar +++ Anyone who can’t wait for the second series to make it onto the TV screen in about a year should consult my book WEINWUNDER DEUTSCHLAND in Tre Torri Verlag (see www.tretorri.de) where you can find out a good deal about what will be in the next six shows +++ It’s entirely possible that one or more of the strongest figures from the first series, like Thomas Hertlein from Restaurant Blaue Donau in Munich-Schwabing (www.die-blaue-donau.de) in the photo below taken by cameraman Sorin Dragoi, will make another appearance +++
I will certainly also have some unexpected guests and I’ve got a few serious surprises up my sleeve for the viewers, however the most important thing will remain the same: taking wine seriously, but having as much fun as possible whilst doing so ! +++ Thank you to Thomas Gruber, Petra Felber, Herbert Stiglmaier and Anna Martin at BR, Ernst Geyer of Moviepool and all the people at Megaherz (our producers), plus the WEINWUNDER DEUTSCHLAND team (don’t worry sound man Peter Wuchterl, I haven’t forgotten you !) and all the winegrowers who put up with us turning their homes and workplaces upside-down for believing in that simple, but mould-shattering formula.
Anyone who watched the fifth episode of my TV series WEINWUNDER DEUTSCHLAND on BR3 at 16:30 Central European Time on Sunday, 2nd January (you can also see it at www.br-online.de) knows that in 2009 I produced my own wine +++ The show was too short to tell the story of that great adventure, but you can find the long version of it in the book of the series from Tre Torri Verlag (see www.tretorri.de) +++ Here there’s only space for the short version starting with the above picture +++ It might look like it was taken yesterday, but it was actually taken by the wine photographer Andreas Durst on Tuesday, 17th February 2009 +++ That was the day I finished pruning the 10 rows each with 40 Müller-Thurgau vines in the Hasennest vineyard site of Tauberzell in the remote Tauber Valley which Christian and Simone Stahl of Winzerhof Stahl in Auernhofen/Franken (see www.winzerhof-stahl.de) leant me for the year +++ Here the combination of the cool climate, limestone soil and SW exposure makes it possible for the Stahls to produce extraordinarily expressive and minerally wines from the humble Müller-Thurgau grape +++ My goal was to produce a powerful and complex dry wine of Grand Cru / Grosses Gewächs format and what I’d learnt in two semesters as a guest student at the famous wine school of Geisenheim/Rheingau convinced me it was possible +++ Within an hour of this photograph being taken my gloves had disintegrated, my ipod was on strike and water was seeping through my „waterproof“ coat +++
The second picture from Andreas Durst shows my „wine rodeo“ on Saturday, 4th April, that is the ploughing of the vineyard with the Stahl’s winch-pulled plough, and gives a good idea of how steep the Hasennest is (68%) +++ That and my rejection of herbicides for weed control meant that I had to do this with a hoe, which took me eight hours the first time I did it on Wednesday, 13th May; the hardest day’s work of my entire life ! +++ The last work days before the harvest were on Monday, 17th and Tuesday, 18th August when my friend from Geisenheim Helmut Reh helped me to do the „fine-tuning“ that is to make sure every bunch was well exposed to the morning sun and hung freely with optimum air-circulation to minimize the danger of grey rot destroying the grapes before I could pick them +++ Helmut and a bunch of other friends (thank you everyone again !) came to Tauberzell on Wednesday, 30th September 2009 – see Durst photo number three below – to help me pick the grapes and to rigorously separate the clean golden berries from those with noble rot+++
The two lots of grapes were crushed and destemmed separately, but the next day, following 15 hours maceration on the skins, pressing and gravity clarification, the juice from the nobly-rotten berries was so clean I combined it with that from the golden berries +++ Fermentation was with a yeast culture from Weingut Luckert in Sulzfeld/Franken and thanks to the vigour of their „wild yeast“ it only took two weeks +++ Then began the slow process of gently guiding the wine to the best possible harmony despite its 14.1% alcoholic content (all natural) would allow +++ Without Christian Stahl’s advice and help that process certainly wouldn’t have lead to such a good result +++ My wine was bottled on Wednesday, 24th March at which moment I realized just how small the crop had been: 264 bottles or just under 20 hectolitres per hectare! +++ Bottling is a big shock for every wine and mine took months before it started to show well again, so it was good that the official presentation in Berlin didn’t take place until Sunday, 5th September +++ If you want to taste my wine, then come to one of the presentations of the book WEINWUNDER DEUTSCHLAND (thanks to my co-author Manfred Lüer once again !) in the coming spring, but before that you can catch the last episode of the TV series on BR3 at 16:30 Central European Time on Wednesday, 6th January.
Until now many people have known me as the British wine journalist living in Berlin, others as the wine columnist of the FRANKURTER ALLGEMEINE SONNTAGSZEITUNG or as the author of many books on wine (mostly in the German language), but at 16:30 Central European Time on Christmas Day all that will abruptly change +++ Then the first episode of WEINWUNDER DEUTSCHLAND will be shown on the BR3 channel (also on www.br-online.de) and untold thousands of unsuspecting Germans will suddenly think of me as the funny Englishman in the boldly-checked jackets +++ The above photo by camera assisstant Florian Bschorr on location at Weingut Tesch in Langenlonsheim/Nahe with director Alexander Saran (who doubled-up as our make-up artist !) shows me slightly differently from how you’ll see me from the 25th December on the small screen +++ A German colleague once said to me, „one claims that one doesn’t want to burn down the forest, then you find yourself playing with matches“ and that’s exactly how I feel about this TV-project +++ I always said that I didn’t seek fame, just wanted more people to read my work, but now I’ve done something which stands a serious chance of turning me into a houshold name +++ Maybe it was a good thing that due to the travel chaos I couldn’t fly to Munich on Monday morning for the press conference for the first series (of 6 episodes) of WEINWUNDER DEUTSCHLAND, because that way the newspaper journalists couldn’t compare the on-screen Stuart Pigott with the real me and find the latter lacking +++ It turns out we’ve already created a controversy before a single second has been broadcast, a couple of paranoid people in the organic wine scene threatening legal action against us on the basis of a couple of words in a BR press release ! +++ On the other hand we feel the growing public anticipation for the first show about wine on German TV that dares to entertain as well as inform, also with a picture quality far above the norm thanks to cameraman Sorin Dragoi +++ When you consider how German television is stuffed full of dumb cookery shows and narcissistic celebrity chefs, it’s absurd that wine has gained so little space and even less imagination during the last years, but that, of course, is our Big Chance +++ This was something we didn’t think about much on location though, because there was always so much pressure on +++ It only really hit me when I was in the studio of Megaherz in Munich at the beginning of the month to record the voice overs with recording engineer St. Ingo +++ In spite of the poor quality screen I saw the cut version of our work on, at the end of the first day’s work I suddenly thought, „Shit, it doesn’t only function very well, it is also very different from everything else I’ve seen on TV lately !“ +++ Of course, whether you like it or think it’s shit, is up to you and the last thing I want to do is to push you in any direction, but take a look at the second picture from Florian Bschorr and tell me you don’t want to see the first show
+++ Merry TV Christmas and a Happy TV New Year !
I „only“ write about wine, but again and again one thing leads to another and before I know it I’m a long way from home and from wine. My wife and I returned from a wine tour through Hungary and neighbouring Burgenland/Austria just in time for the press conference for WEINWUNDER DEUTSCHLAND on Monday, 20th December at the Oblomov Theatre in the Glockenbach district of Munich. That might look like cutting it a bit fine, but the first show goes out at 16:30 on Saturday, 25th December on BR3 (also on www.br-online.de) so the newspaper journalists and bloggers have plenty of time to damn or praise us as they see fit. Our wine tour focused upon the red wines of the indigenous Kékfrankos grape, also known as Blaufränkisch in Austria and Lemberger in Germany. Along the way we took in as many other things as possible and by the end of our sensational tasting at Vienna pork butcher Roman Thum (see www.thum-schinken.at) just before catching the plane home I worried that having consumed too much meat, bacon, ham and sausage from the Hungarian Mangalitza pig might make me turn in to one of these woolly swines ! (see the photo above) Roman Thum also had an important thought for us: it was with wine that the quality revolution in Austria began, then came cheese, followed by bread and meat. Maybe it was „only“ wine, but it ignited some kind of chain reaction there which continues to this day, and from our experiences in Hungaria I would say that wine is doing the same there. Our Kékfrankos days were organized by Zoli Heimann of the Heimann estate in Székszárd whose single vineyard 2008 is wonderfully elegant (see the photo below and www.heimann.hu).
Most of the truly exciting new Hungarian wines Zoli helped us experience are still produced in tiny quantities and many disappear completely into a network of wine enthusiasts around Budapest entrepreneur, winegrower and wine merchant József Szentesi (see www.kezmuvesborok.hu). The wines of Franz Weninger Jr. in Sopron offer a rare chance to experience authentic Hungarian Kékfrankos and his rich and spicy 2009 from the Spern Steiner vineyard site ought to make the wine world take notice when released (see www.weninger.com) How long will it take Hungary to catch up with Burgenland ? Our last wine tasting, at Moric / Roland Velich (see www.moric.at) in Grosshöflein, rammed home how new the Blaufränkisch revolution in Burgenland is. It dates to the 2002 vintage of the Neckenmarkt „Alte Reben“ from Moric; today a cult wine praised by all the heavyweight wine critics of the world. Thankfully that success hasn’t gone to Roland Velich’s head and he helped his wife Dagmar cook a great dinner for us. The last photo shows him serving pumpkin cooked with the incredibly aromatic Pannonia Saffron from Hannes Pintenitz (see www.pannonischer-safran.at)
I’ll be trying hard to follow his good example during the coming weeks as WEINWUNDER DEUTSCHLAND beams my lean face, boldly-checked jackets and English accent into the living rooms of thousands of unsuspecting Germans.
The picture above captures the magic moment on Friday morning in Bernkastel-Kues/Mosel when Hendrik Hering (SDP), the Minister in the state of Rheinland-Pfalz responsible for winegrowing and roadbuilding recieved the prize for HYPOCRITE OF THE YEAR 2010 +++ Hering won it for claiming to have the best interests of Mosel winegrowers at heart whilst pushing the construction of the so-called MOSEL BRIDGE (Hochmoselübergang & B50neu, to give it its full ugly German name) +++ With the trophy came a petition bearing the signatures of 23,000 people (including me) protesting that this titanic concrete white elephant will not only damage tourism in the region, but also threaten some of the best vineyard sites in the region, begining with the world-famous Wehlener Sonnenuhr +++ From this and other pictures taken Friday at the prize-giving ceremony it looks to me as if Herr Hering first tried to laugh it all off, then ended up feeling rather uncomfortable when confronted with the scale and seriousness of opposition to this mad, bad project +++ Perhaps that’s not surprising, since rumours have it that privately he’s not behind the MOSEL BRIDGE and is only pushing the absurd project in order to further his political career +++ My guess is that behind his polished public mask Hendrik Hering feels a ghastly stab of pain every time a member of the opposition to this monstrosity brings an argument which successfully exposes the emptiness of his own claims of what it will do for the region +++ A few days ago I went to have a look for myself at the first scars being carved into the landscape above the Mosel wine villages of Graach and Zeltingen +++ The picture below shows me in front of one of the first „construction“ sites +++ Why have I got a smile on my face in spite of the scene of destruction behind me ? +++ Because I was being shown around by two leading figures in the opposition and they made me feel sure WE WILL OVERCOME ! +++ Not only are British-born Sarah Washington and German Knut Aufermann intellectually light years ahead of the government of Rheinland-Pfalz, but Sarah has already won political battles that looked far more hopeless than this one +++ If Hendrik Hering were really clever, he’d cancel this absurd project and engage Sarah Washington as his campaign manager, as that would advance his career far more effectively than his present course +++
Scroll down further and have a look at the photo of Sarah and Knut protecting one of the threatened trees +++ I mean, who looks more sympathetic to you, the grey man in the grey suit who has just become the HYPOCRITE OF THE YEAR 2010 or my friends ? +++ Rumours also say that the tenders from construction companies for building the MOSEL BRIDGE all lie at or over 200 Million Euros; far above the 105 Million which the Herings ministry have planned for it +++ Where is all that extra money going to come from ? +++ I’d say that Friday was a very bad day for Hendrik Hering, but to be honest I don’t feel any sympathy, because his prize is well deserved and he knows it !