#RieslingRoadTrip Diary: Day 3 – Ten Thousand Flamingos can’t be Wrong!

Yes, ten thousand flamingos can’t be wrong. This picture shows that we are in complete agreement about the sparkling Riesling Brut from Theo Minges in Flemlingen/Pfalz. Just in case some of you didn’t see this and the images below on social media, I thought I should put them up here so you get an idea of what we on the Riesling Road Trip 2 have been up to the last couple of days.

I was seriously amazed by Miami-Wynwood, because I knew nothing about it before I stepped into Panther Coffee (highly recommended!) there. It was great that Paul Grieco knew his way around and even had a contact at Goldman Properties, the dynamo of the area’s self reinvention. Of course, both Paul and I are what the German call Dickköpfe, or big heads, and although we agree about Riesling and many of the other really important things in life we sometimes have heated discussions.

Many of the most beautiful things in Florida have to do with the special light here, which isn’t quite like anything else I’ver ever seen. Maybe I’d feel the same in Cuba, Jamaica or the Bahamas, but I’ve never been to any of those places so I can’t compare. The picture below is one of my sunrise pictures and was taken in Palm Beach in February during my first trip to the Sunshine State, but I could have taken it early this morning as I struggled to finish my newspaper column for next Sunday (in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, for those of you who read German).

Worth Avenue in West Palm Beach is a luxury goods and swanky restaurant bubble without obvious connection to the workaday world. I enjoy it for a short visit like ours, but what would it be like to be stuck in this Truman Show for the 1% for life? It could be extremely difficult to adjust too, even if I had the money to shop in stores like the one I’m standing in front of in the picture. Likewise, I enjoy all kinds of wines,  including some of the expensive hi-end reds, but a daily does of California Cult Cabernet would quickly jade my palate. Where is the refreshing light German Riesling?

Quite possibly within a few hours these pictures will look pretty tame, because our next stops are the Kennedy Space Centre followed by Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. That strikes me as an archetypal American combo, or is it just too much for one day?

PS last night at dinner the team learnt a new piece of vocabulary, which amused them very much. Maybe this could become a phenomenon like VWs use of the word Fahrvergnügen, or drinking pleasure? I therefore pass this on. Dickhäuter, literally the thick-skinned, is a collective term for elephants, rhinoceros and hippos. You pronounce it dick-hoy-ter.

 

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#RieslingRoadTrip Diary: Day 2 – Miami, the Whale and I

We just left Miami-Wynwood where I took the above picture and a slew of other eye-popping images of street art. For me this one was particularly interesting, because it had multiple meanings, not least the fact that yesterday we left Key West, a place that considers itself some sort of paradise. Of course, the fact that Key West is the #RieslingRoadTrip paradise lost doesn’t cut any ice with Miami native, even amongst people like the crowd at last night’s Riesling & Co. dinner at The Cypress Room. This is an astonishing different restaurant from the Miami norm, and the crowd were clearly all fans of what I’m calling Alternative Miami, but some people might even consider Anti-Miami. They were in the best of moods and had the best of thirsts. Even before we sat down the Riesling Brut sparkler from von Bühl in the Pfalz – “like Champagne, but really dry” was a frequent positive comment – had persuaded a bunch of guests to let Paul Grieco tattoo them with some elegant and startling results, as my photos show.

The crowd the  enthusiastically emptied one Riesling (the Gelback feinherb from Schloss Johannisberg in the Rheingau!) after another (delicate Mosel Kabinetts from C.H. Berres and Selbach-Oster, then a very exciting Spätlese from Maximin Grünhaus in the Ruwer Valley). Then the powerful, but subtle 2004 Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) served with spit-roasted pheasant and morels blew many minds: “that’s really a German red wine?” So the Co. part of the evening’s theme not only functioned well, but seemed to hit a string of bulls eyes. The evening was also special for me, because we held a twitter competition and David Sprintis won a copy of my new book, BEST WHITE WINE ON EARTH – The Riesling Story (#BWWOE). That made him my very first real reader, because so far only members of the team at Abrams (under who’s Stewart, Tabori & Chang imprint the book appears) have read it.  We will be holding a competition like that at every event during our expedition. Just tweet with our hashtag #RieslingRoadTrip and you stand a way bigger chance of winning a copy of my book than a New York Lottery ticket give you of winning that pile of millions! The prize is something that even all that money can’t buy you, because the book is unavailable until close to June 17th; the official publication date. Riesling Contraband!

I’m not someone who can do all this strange Riesling stuff and travel all these distances on the Riesling Road without doing some serious thinking about what it all means. It strikes me that although I’m not on sailing the high seas on a huge ship and I don’t have a harpoon in my hand, just my notebook, camera and a wine glass, but I am a bit like Captain Ahab in Hermann Melville’s novel ‘Moby Dick’. The difference is that Captain Ahab had to search for his whale, his nemesis and we’re dragging mine behind me all the time, all the way to NYC on May 16th. I’m referring to the retro-fitted 20 foot shipping container that is our mobile tasting room. The first time I saw it standing at the side of the road in Venice Beach/LA last July it reminded me of a beached whale and that’s how it looked to me again on Monday when I met up with it again on a Key West backstreet. Sometimes, like last night’s aperitif hour under a freeway overpass on the wrong side of the tracks in Miami, it seems to swallow me whole, but so far it always spat me out in one piece. As Nietzsche said, “anything which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger!” and Miami didn’t kill me in spite of a couple of slightly dangerous moments. The locals call them Miami Moments, but NOW our small convoy, the whale and I are approaching West Palm Beach. I’m coming back, because I was here in February. The images below are by Wynwood based artist Peter Tunney, for whom Miami is a City of Dreams. For me it’s West Palm Beach!

 

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#RieslingRoadTrip Diary: Day 1 – The Great Riesling Lamp Goes On in Key West/ Florida

This is how our whole mad endeavor began early this morning on Higgs Beach in Key West/Florida. Suddenly it was time to hit the Riesling Road and head due north on #RieslingRoadTrip 2! North is the direction every Riesling wine looks in its heart of hearts, and it’s the direction that the heart of every Riesling leans too. The Rhine, Mosel, Nahe, Main, Neckar (four wine tributaries of the Rhine) and the Elbe!  Strange and holy waters in the Riesling Far North on the other side of the pond pictured above. So there was no alternative, but to say goodbye to the tropical vegetation, the beautiful birds and lizards of this island with a sell-by date (due to global warming and the rising oceans that it’s unfortunately causing).

That’s a sad story, so let’s turn to my big positive discovery here: the grossly under-appreciated Key West Sunrise. Tourists here are obsessed with two things, the Southernmost Point in the U.S. and the Key West Sunset. Of course, I also did those two Must Do things. To be frank the Southernmost Point marker looks like a gaudily colored, over-sized traffic obstacle. Parking our whale (more about our mobile tasting room soon) next to it actually made the marker look a whole lot better. It wasn’t even a surprise, because when I landed at Key West airport yesterday the terminal building was adorned with a copy of it and what looked like wax works of a group of tourists standing around it. At that moment any suspense was out the window.

However, the Key West Sunset really has a lot going for it, although when people talk about it what they actually mean is the sunset plus crowds of tourists in shorts watching it. And in that warm, waning glow most of those people look way better than in full daylight. In contrast, the sunrise is seen only by few, because most people are still crashed out from the previous night‘s revelry. This means that the hardy few can savor it undisturbed. Even the luxury condos look beautiful in that pearly and peachy light. To misquote the radio DJs: it’s another beautiful daybreak in paradise!

I have a theory that I’ll be testing on a group of Floridian wine consumers in Miami later today. It says that when the sun comes up the Great Riesling Lamp goes on. Then the normal human response to that is to feel a growing yearning for my favorite wine in it original German form, with that dangerously refreshing taste which changed my life so many times I lost count. It can do the same for you too!

As many of you (the regular readers) already know I was in February I was in Florida for the first time, and even that early in the year the Great Riesling Lamp went on every day. I think this means that Florida has the longest Riesling Season of any state in the Union! The only problem is that many residents of and visitors to the Sunshine State don’t realize this vital fact yet, and are suffering unnecessarily from Riesling Deprivation Syndrome (RDS). By the way, recent research showed that RDS reduces your sex appeal and may even harm your credit rating.

During the next couple of days I’ll be doing all I can to reduce the still high percentage of Floridians suffering from RDS. I don’t begin to understand it, but yesterday evening in Key West drinking big heavy Californian reds. I’ve nothing against those wines on principal, but on a warm Key West night unless you’re in a room with the AC cranked up full blast (artificial winter) and you’ve got a big steak (hardly local produce!), they could be difficult to get down in more than homeopathic quantities. Maybe the explanation for this illogical behavior lies in images like the above, or at least their presence as fantasies in the minds of a certain type of men. I mean the ones who think that they’re macho.

If those really are the only wines you enjoy, then as Your Drinking Advisor I suggest beer or margaritas instead. However, Riesling is the best refreshment in this climate. I speak from experience, having tested the effect of Riesling on my own body and soul under varying degrees of heat blast in Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and West Texas during the first #RieslingRoadTrip last July. It always worked, even in temperatures way over 100° F in Phoenix, and sometimes it was the wines I thought would be too simple to excite me which gave me the greatest refreshment.  One of the wonders of German Riesling is that global warming increased the number of those wines. There’s something paradoxical about this, because climate change reduced the acidity content of German Rieslings and increased their bodyweight, and on paper that ought to make them much less refreshing.

Next up will be some thoughts about the deeper meaning of our Undertaking, our eccentric vehicle, and the road we are taking. Of course, there will also be plenty of strange stuff that happened, because when you undertake something like this you invite strangeness to come and seek you out. At least, if you imagine that it won’t, then I think you’re deluding yourself. I promise you that I’m not, and I promise that I’ll keep all my sense and my mind open for it at every twist and turning of this Long and Winding Riesling Road. Grab a glass of wine (preferably something dangerously refreshing from Germany), sit back and watch this space!

PS We just reached Miami and I must dash into the shower to make sure I’m halfway on time for this evening’s dinner at The Cypress Room in the Design District

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#RieslingRoadTrip Diary: Day 1 – Wine of the Month, May

All apologies for this horribly delayed posting. The problem was a demon combination of the terrible internet reception and midnight bug-hunting in my Key West/FL hotel. Finally, here is my wine of the month for May 2014:

2012 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir from Kutch Wines for about $45

The night before I left New York Wine City (NYWC) on #RieslingRoadTrip 2 I drank this awesome “normal” Pinot Noir. You could say that it was an appropriate choice for that moment, because Jamie Kutch used to work on Wall Sreet, that is before he chose wine over bonds, but that’s really not the point. He’s been in pursuit of balance ever since then, and is one of the leading members of the eponymous association of California Pinot Noir producers. What’s really important is that there’s something seriously bewitching about this wine that marries ripe black fruit and chocolate aromas with radically cool herbal elements, the sweetness from the Californian sun mingling with a contrasting darkness, light and shadow seemed to dance on your tongue in a way that defies facile description. Then there’s the fact that it doesn’t taste like Burgundy or anything else on Planet Pinot, but is entirely itself, entirely Sonoma Coast and Jamie Kutch. That’s why I’ve enormously stretched my normal price limit for the wine of the month this time. Some things MUST be and all the rules must go straight out of the window!

The 2012 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir from Kutch Wines is rather widely distributed in the New York area. For example, you can get it for $42,99 plus tax at Chambers Street Wines. See:

www.chambersstwines.com

PS as soon as I’ve finished my Cafe con Leche and Pan Cubano breakfast the #RieslingRoadTrip for Riesling & Co. from Germany begins in earnest!!!

 

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New York Riesling Diary: Day 3 – My Book is Here, is Real!

This morning I was sitting in the office of Paul Colarusso, the marketing manager of Abrams Books just a couple of blocks from here in Downtown Manhattan, when he pulled up an email onto his computer screen and said to me with some real excitement in his voice, “Stuart, the advance copies of your book are here!” Just a couple of minutes later I was holding the book pictured above in my hand and the theoretical phase of this project had abruptly ended. No less suddenly, the practical task of making sure that as many people as possible find out that my book exists had begun. The day continued along those lines with Levi Dalton doing a long in-depth interview with me for his popular wine podcast ‘I’ll Drink to That!’ Life has changed dramatically and for a period of some months is going to be very different to the long haul of the research (February 2012 thru July 2013) and the intense burst of writing and corrections (August 2013 thru March 2014) that brought me to this point. I can’t wait to hear all your comments, but, sadly, you will have to be patient until the official publication date of Wednesday, June 17th (or slightly before if you’re really lucky). Many thanks to all of you who supported this project in so many ways! Anyone wanting to pre-order should click on the link below or contact their bookseller:

http://www.amazon.com/Best-White-Wine-Earth-Riesling/dp/1617691100/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1394226046&sr=8-1&keywords=Best+white+wine+on+earth

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New York Riesling Diary: Day 1 – How Riesling is becoming a Role Model for German Wines from Other Grape Varieties

Yes, sometimes it’s frustrating for me when bad internet reception delays a new posting going online, as it did yesterday at Düsseldorf Airport just before I jumped on my flight to New York Wine City (NYWC). However, the fact is that this blog is not a news site, rather a collection of what American journalists used to call “think pieces”. For thoughts that go way beyond the bustle of daily activity in NYWC and the Big Wide Wine World (BWWW) there really isn’t the same urgency to get the story out there. Then the important thing is that the thoughts are followed through in a way that gets to the bottom of what’s happening. I hope that that’s the case with the below.

I often get the comment from people in NYWC and in the BWWW that the title of my forthcoming book BEST WHITE WINE ON EARTH – The Riesling Story (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, from Mid-June) is a declaration of war on the wines of other white grape varieties, or at least a statement that seeks to exclude them. This is an understandable misunderstanding, because the people making it haven’t been able to read my book yet. As great and longstanding as my enthusiasm for Riesling is, I see it as in peaceful coexistence with other grape varieties everywhere it’s grown. For example, in Great Southern/Western Australia it flourishes next to Shiraz (Syrah), in the Wachau/Austria next to Grüner Veltliner and in the Rheingau next to Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir). It is not in competition with those grape varieties in any of those place. In all those places, rather Riesling complements them, sometimes being statistically more dominant than them, sometimes inferior to them in terms of vineyard area planted. However, I can already hear some voices calling out, “well, so what?”

Pictured above is Carolin Bergdolt, the winemaker of the Bergolt (St. Lamprecht) estate in Duttweiler close to Neusatdt/Pfalz. Following in the footsteps of her father Rainer she produces some of the finest dry Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc) in the world. The bottle she is holding is her 2013 Weissburgunder “Mineral”, a sleek, extremely lively and intensely mineral-flavored wine. This name is highly reminiscent of the dry Riesling “Mineral” from Emrich-Schönleber in Monzingen/Nahe, of which the 2012 was one of the stunning moderately-priced wines of that vintage in Germany. And, of course, a lot of other German Rieslings are named after geological formations, which certainly strongly imply that they possess a mineral character. Here we have a perfect example of how Riesling has become a source of inspiration for the wines of other grape varieties in Germany. It’s important to note that this wine is not a Riesling-copy (something which some other producers offer), but has the fresh nuts, pear and citrus aromas that I find prototypic for Weissburgunder and the more moderate acidity typical of this grape’s wines. This positive use of Riesling inspiration for other wines will surely become much more common and important during the years to come and not just in Germany. It is a sure sign that Riesling is now being accepted as an inherently positive phenomenon by consumers, rather than being viewed with a vague and irrational skepticism, as was long the case.

The picture was taken at the Mainzer Weinbörse on Monday, April 28th. The 2013 Weissburgunder “Mineral” from Bergdolt wasn’t the best wine I tasted at that event, although Carolin Bergdolt’s richer, more sauce and complex 2013 Mandelberg Weissburgunder was certainly a candidate for that title. If you insist on regarding this story as “news”, then I’m definitely way to late in publicizing it. However, if you want to understand what’s going on in the BWWW and you’re willing to think things over in order to do so, then this is a very timely posting. I hope that you’re on my side on this thing. If not, then please let me know!

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Rhine Riesling Diary: Day 4 – Can the Germans eat Cold Fried Chicken with their Hands?

“Can the Germans eat cold fried chicken with their hands?” was the question that Rienne Martinez of the Carl Ehrhard Winebar in Rüdesheim/Rheingau asked herself as she marinated the chicken for the third course of the Dirty Dozen wine dinner we jointly staged at the winebar. It was a good question, for while Germans love picknicks and eagerly eat with their hands in that situation once linen and silverware hit the table and candles have been lit the German tendency to fear being seen to do the wrong thing comes to the fore. So, when the silverware was removed from the table, then the course was served Rienne was giving them a big push. Would they leap or recoil?

A couple of people – I think they were students at the nearby Geisenheim wine school – eagerly grapsed their pieces of chicken in the hand while others observed them from a distance. Then a few well manicured hands gingerly reached out for the food that would smear jewlery and nail polish in grease. Then suddenly everybody had that cold fried chicken in their hands and was chomping on it, although I don’t think most of them would like the verb I’ve chosen to describe what they did. Amazingly, the powerful but subtle 2007 Morstein Riesling “Großes Gewächs” from Wittmann in Westhofen/Rheinhessen was a great match with the dish, and everybody got that too. It was like a scene in an as yet unfilmed movie!

Of course, this was a wine dinner and we didn’t limit ourselves to Riesling. One of my favorite wines of the evening was the 2005 Spätburgunder “Edition” from Carl Ehrhard, which was in that sweet spot for Pinot Noir reds where there is still plenty of fruit and livliness, but time has had a chance to round off the edges and open up the non-fruity aromas. This was such a charming wine, but also serious stuff. Don’t worry, the depot pictured above was not thrown by that wine in a fit of jealousy that some of the other reds got as much positive comment as it. This stuff was in the bottom of all three decanters in which the 2008 Saperavi from NIKA winery in Georgia was massively aerated prior to being served. If you think Chateau Latour has a lot of dry tannins, then think again and try the NIKA Saperavi, which is made entirely in amphora. The taste is as extreme as this picture looks – if it was from a movie I’d say it was from a splatter movie – but the majority of the guests at the Dirty Dozen dinner wanted a repour when asked. The Germans are braver than the world makes them out to be!

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Rhine Riesling Diary: Day 2 STOP PRESS – Tesch leaves VDP! (with an amazing comment by Justin Christoph)

Perhaps you already heard the news and your jaw already dropped as mine did when I read it in the Rhine Main Presse newspaper of April 22nd. The Tesch estate of Langenlonsheim/Name has left the elite VDP wines estates’ association of Germany. That daring decision  was made by Dr. Martin Tesch, pictured above during my tasting of his 2012 and 2013 wines yesterday in his HQ.

It was an extremely interesting tasting. Almost the entire wine scene and nearly all the critics have long-since switched their focus from the 2012 wines to the 2013s, but the dry Rieslings from Tesch are marathon runners who never sprint off at the beginning of the race like many other wines, instead maintaining a steady pace throughout the race, slowly, but steadily, moving through the pack and towards the front of the field. The sole problem for Tesch during recent years has been the unwillingness of many people in the wine media, trade and scene to recognize this fact. Continuing with the athletic metaphor, for them the only races that really count are the 100 and 200 meters, and occasionally the 400 meters. All too often this is about rapidly and clearly demonstrating their own importance, rather than finding out about the wines’ potential. The dry wines of Müller-Catoir of Neustadt-Haardt/Pfalz, suffer in the way, so this isn’t only a problem for Tesch.

But enough of metaphors, what about the wines? Tesch’s six dry 2012 Rieslings (Unplugged plus the five single vineyard wines) were obviously hard for some professional tasters to make sense of a year ago, but now they are an extremely impressive group. How many wines out there have this strength of personality and an  excellent harmony, in spite of being bone dry? Very few. Following the general tendency of the new vintage, his 2013s are slightly more acidic and much less ready to drink. My guess is that their potential will also be misjudged, but that they are almost as good as the 2012. The other strength of the Tesch wines is their great consistency.

Tesch switched completely to bottling with Stelvin Luxe screwcaps instead of corks with the 2005 vintage. So it is logical for him to think of vertical tastings like the one of his dry Riesling from the Karthäuser site of Laubenheim in terms of 2005 to the latest vintage. That is exactly the row of wines he put in front of me, and it was a most remarkable row too. You see, although the differences between the vintages (particularly between the cool vintages and warm ones) were striking every single wine impressed. I can’t remember the last time that a leading German Riesling producer poured a 2006 vintage wine for me (what I tasted from my own cellar tells me many of them have aged prematurely because of a negative Botrytis character), but Tesch’s 2006 Karthäuser was still in good shape and a real pleasure to drink. 2008 was a problematic year for entirely different reasons, generally having an even more aggressive acidity then 2013. Tesch’s 2008 Karthäuser was remarkable polished for a wine of this vintage. I just wish I’d had the time to taste through the wines after the bottles had been open another few hours, because I feel sure that the wines would have become even more interesting then.

Tesch’s decision to reach for the ejector seat button will no doubt lead to another round of “Tesch bashing”, but frankly I think that would probably have happened anyway. However, it throws up a string of questions for the VDP, particularly for its Nahe group which is now down to just 9 members. The most important of these is whether the Nahe is really such a weak wine region that there are only 9 top producers there? I think an official answer to that question is necessary.

PS There was an amazing comment on this story by Justin Christoph which I gladly give here in full:

There’s Pradikats on the street
Kab, Spat, and Auslese
People shufflin’ their feet
Sussreserve in their shoes
But there’s a Government Warning Label
on the bottle in my hand
There’s a lot of people sayin’
we’d be better off dry
Don’t feel like Parker,
but I am to them
So I try to drink it,
Any way I can.

Keep on Trocken in the free world,
Keep on Trocken in the free world,

I see a woman in the night
With a bottle in her hand
Under an old street light
Wine made in a garbage can
Now she puts the Sancerre away,
and she’s gone to get a hit
She hates her wine,
and what they’ve done to it
There’s one more wine
that will never be made in school
Never get to fall apart,
never get to be cool.

Keep on Trocken in the free world,
Keep on Trocken in the free world,

We got a hundred points of right
For the Blaufranksich man
We got a kinder, gentler,
Machine gun Wine Spectator
We got department stores
Selling wines and toilet paper
Got Monsanto GMOs
for oozing into every layer
Got a blogger of the people,
says stay dry to keep hope alive
Got alcohol to burn,
got roads to drive.

Keep on Trocken in the free world,
Keep on Trocken in the free world

 

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London Riesling Diary: Day 3 – In the Long Shadow

Here in London I feel that I’m in the long shadow of the British Empire. You can’t see this metaphysical shadow, but it’s no less real for that. Most of you couldn’t experience it as I do, because in order to sense its presence and feel its influence you need to have at least have been brought up here or in a British colony. If you don’t comply with those conditions I think you can feel glad, because this shadow is nothing pretty or cheerful, rather it is soaked in blood. As a child I was convinced that – excepting the Cold War – I was lucky to be growing up during a period of peace, but now I know that this was an illusion. Colonial wars continued to be fought by Britain from Aden to Northern Ireland. The abuse of native populations continued into the 1970s when the inhabitants of the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean were forcibly deported from their homeland to make way for a huge American air base on Diego Garcia. They are still forbidden to return.

But, of course, there is also much that is familiar, not only people also things that count as old friends, like the rain and the resulting greenness of the landscape. This is still idealized by a large part of the British population, as it was by generations of artists (19th century painters including the visionary Samuel Palmer), and writers (20th century novelists including the modernist Virginia Woolf). Then there is the Anti-Establishment that kicks back at the ugly politics and warmongering. I’m just about to visit Vivienne Westwood’s fashion store, and later I will go to the exhibition of David Bailey’s photography. Both definitely belonged to that Anti-Establishment, but may no longer do so. I will also be meeting Harry Eyres, an old friend who writes the Slow Lane column in the Financial Times. He, I feel sure, remains an uncomfortable voice that the Establishment would prefer to silence if they could, according to the ancient motto Rule Britannia. I will be pleased to leave the Lost Island at the edge of Europe for Germany and the 2013 wines of the Nahe, Rheingau and Rheinhessen tomorrow!

PS If you are wondering what the fate of the Chagos Islanders has to do with you ask yourself when you last used GPS. One of the five ground stations for the GPS network is on Diego Garcia. You may use it to find your way around, but for the Pentagon who developed it and run it the goal is, “putting bombs on targets” (to quote SAC).

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Berlin Riesling Diary: Day 9 – Dirk Würtz’s Rieslings demand RESSpekt (and taste unique)

Nobody could think up Dirk Würtz, winemaker of the Balthasar Ress estate in Hattenheim / Rheingau since 2009, if he didn’t already exist. Meeting him is like suddenly finding yourself in his movie and realizing that there’s no choice but to improvise, because (once again!) he’s forgotten to bring a copy of the script for you, then you realize that actually you’re having a ball. It turns out that the man widely regarded as Germany’s most successful wine blogger also makes Wurst, or sausage, in his spare time. Hence the title of yesterday evening’s event in the Planet Wein in the Charlottenstrasse / Berlin-Mitte: Würtz, Wein & Worscht (as Wurst is spoken in some German dialects).

OK, the group of somms, journalists and fellow travellers who gathered in this very cool store at 7:30pm yesterday didn’t actually get to sample any of Dirk’s own Worscht, but we did get to try his favorite from biodynamic Metzger Bayer in Kiedrich / Rheingau. More importantly we got to sample Dirk’s unique take on the Rheingau, German wine and his entire Weltanschauung, or world view. It began with a sentence which will shock many readers, “Riesling is an overrated grape variety!” Ouch!

It took a little while for me to grasp exactly what he was talking about, which was that he isn’t interested in the interplay of acidity with sweetnes and/or fruit that is often declared to be the most important characteristic of Riesling wines. The dry Rieslings from Balthasar Ress that he poured for us all had a mild acidity, having undergone malolactic fermentation (that converts the malic acid in wines into the softer lactic acid) and all those described below were properly dry. However, this didn’t mean they were much of a sameness nor the same of a muchness. Instead the wines Dirk poured lived up to his reputation for no-holds-barred individuality.

First came the 2012 Riesling Große Gewächse (GGs) from the Hattenheimer Nussbrunnen and Rüdesheimer Berg Schlossberg , both made from ripe grapes that were still greenish in color, to prove that even with full low acidity there’s a clear difference between the wines from sites as different as these. The Nussbrunnen is quite a mighty wine with rippling muscles and a full apricot note; the Berg Schlossberg is way sleeker and more sinewy, with more tension and underplayed power. In contrast, the 2012 “R” was made from the grapes that were golden with a violet tinge (over-ripeness with the very beginnings of botrytis) and was a much more opulent, full-trottle wine, although I found the flavor ended with something of the sleekness and coolness of the Berg Schlossberg GG. My guess is that as the wine ages this will become more obvious.

Finally came the 2011 of a wine called ‘RESSpekt’ (pictured above – yes it has a metal label!) that is made from only violet-colored, over-ripeness from the Berg Schlossberg site. As Berlin super-somm Billy Wagner said, this was a seriously massive wine for just 12% alcohol (the alcoholic content wasn’t high in any of the wines we tasted). Someone said the wine was schön, or beautiful, to which Dirk replied that, “Wein ist nicht schön! Wein ist geil oder lecker!” that is, wine isn’t beautiful, but it is horny or tasty. Sorry we couldn’t offer you a part in Dirk’s movie yesterday evening in Berlin!

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