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March 31, 2010

Andalusia day 3

WOW! I have finally taught myself how to blog from my IPhone! After having received a warning from my Swedish provider, that I was burning money, our hosts were nice enough to let me hook on to their wireless. Which will be great even for guests coming after us.

So right now I am sitting on their terrace enjoying a wonderful view at my phone. And when looking up, there is a beautiful landscape presenting itself. The sun is quite strong and I have taken off 2 layers, leaving me with one and no, it is not a bikini. But maybe it will be chances for that later on or down at the beaches.

Sorry, there is no photo yet, ( of the landscape, not the bikini) that will be the next step for me to figure out.

However! Costa del Sol is known for much of what is not appealing to us. That is why we have chosen a place in the interiors - and the area is truly beautiful. Closer to the beaches, the landscape is unfortunately being destroyed by buildings everywhere. The further in you get, the better it gets !

As we are higher up it is also a bit cooler, making some 3-5 degrees C. Which explains the layers...

The previous two days we have seen the white village of Casares and Ronda. Both really worth a trip! Houses, seemingly hanging in the mountains... A bit scary as we also have seenconsiderable road damages and washed down mountain areas due to the heavy and long winter rains.

Think, I better send this here now to see, if it really woeks before I continue.

Sent from my iPhone

March 27, 2010

God Bless America

The ending of a many great American speeches. I like it. But I know, some people have their problems with it. Like with many things about America. It is a little bit fashionable in our countries to not like America. Some people blame it on the double moral standards. Aha? As if other nations were without those. My country, Germany: saving the Environmental World, but don't touch the Autobahn and the max. speed! Sweden: making a big fuzz about alcohol, but until shortly one of the world's largest Vodka brands was state-owned. Ta-taaa. And yes, as my friend Heike mentioned the other day: in America it is okay to carry around your gun at many places, but don't you dare to breastfeed your baby in public! So cute... However, I like the God Bless-thing. And I like America.

Today I got my magazin again. Thanks, Lena. Real Simple. Once a month, I find a little piece of America in the mailbox. And it makes me happy. It is fun to see different styles and to read about a different culture. It is the in-between-lines that I like so much. The jokes, the ability to laugh about one's self.

Unfortunately, I hardly ever get to try the recipes, as I am too busy for new recipes. But the time will come...! However, the magazin is nothing fancy and nothing fashionable and it has not much to do with wine. It is about practical matters, it is useful and down to earth, the everyday kind of thing. But it connects me a little to how life is over there. I still miss it at times. Even though I have now been in Sweden for 7 years (can't believe, how fast time goes by) and currently on my way out.

When we first moved to the US, it was shocking in many ways. Everything was so huge! Everything. We had come from Zurich, from a wonderful appartment in a house of typical high Swiss standard and where the parking garage was in the basement. As it is in many other buildings, simply to save space. First arriving the Detroit area, we were out to find a house. The real-estate-lady came and picked me up to check 10 houses she had prepared for us after the vague specifications we had given to her. (What a luxury! We talked to one realtor and that person gets your home for you. In Germany, we are calling all realtors to see if there is one home for us.) The houses were big, more like small school houses... Well, we took the smallest of them and it was still plenty of room... Finding that wonderful home, was the occasion where I got my first American Chardonnay, by the way, (before my life was strictly limited to Riesling, sparkling and still), heavily oaked - phew! I believe, such wines are not even existing anymore today...

Buying butter the first time: Oj! Before in my life there had been butter. Now I was standing in front of a seemingly never ending row of butter, butter, butter...... After some 20 min studying all the labels I asked a lady which one to take. The milk came by the gallon (!) (3,75 liters). And so on. And so on.

Hardest though, was to see how energy was being wasted. I grew up in a household with a dad that had gone through WWII as a little boy with no food and extreme lack of everything for quite some years of his life, since his own father never returned from the war. My dad would always go and switch off the lights in every room where we kids had forgotten to. And mind us using too much water while brushing teeth or washing hands. Germany was one of the first nations to separate garbage, and boy were we thorough with that at our home! For many, many years. And now I suddenly was confronted with people starting their car engines 5 minutes before driving off, just so the car was warm and cozy (winter) or cold and fresh (summer) before they jumped in. Air conditioning running full speed, only to be interrupted during winter periods, where it instead was the heating running full speed in houses with rather poor isolation. At the supermarkets! - 20 plastic bags came home with me after one grocery-shopping tour. It was painful. I tried: came one day with my little shoppingbasket that we used back home, and people around me would stand still, shouting in surprise: oh how cute! What is that? But I know that has changed since then and more and more people are having their own bags or boxes with them when going shopping. (And actually: also in Sweden there are surprisingly many plastic bags...) And besides I firmly believe that this country will be great with alternative energies, etc. once they have really set their focus to do it. And I know that a lot has improved since back then.

Even while still there, I also got to meet people who were very energy consious and who were shopping organics, it went all the way to washable baby diapers. And that is what I want to come to: America is a place of options and choices. One will find anything there. You decide. All is possible, and that I like. We used to say though, that you need to have a certain income and you need to be healthy to make it. So I am glad for those millions of people who are in need for health insurance that this big step has been achieved. We all understand, it is not perfect yet and not finished. But it is a huge step in the right direction. Bravo!

Of course, why should I care, I am not living there anymore. But, besides that my two step children (well... they are not really children anymore) are living in SC and CA, we made some nice friends too. Like my friend Kellie who introduced me to real Margaritas (hicks)...

And, even if it only was 4 years: it was intensive. I met new life in America: my two babies were born there. I had a blast! Being pregnant in America was phantastic! People opening doors for you. Everyone telling you how cute you look (until you started believing it!). Never would I pass the registers when shopping, without being asked when my baby was due. Waiting at the doctor's offices, people would talk to me. Complete strangers. Oh how I loved that part of America! So, so easy going...

I also met death while in America: my dad got very ill back home in Germany and passed away. I could never see him in his final days and I will always miss him and I am carrying this loss around with me wherever I go. And then there was 9/11. The only day while living in America, where my husband had to go to NYC. I did not know where he was, but something told me, he was not at WTC... However, when the cab driver called, the lady that was supposed to pick him up at DTW after his returnal from NYC (which never happend, because all flights were cancelled for days and days), and told me that he was in her prayers and that God should bless him, I did get somewhat nervous. I did not hear from him until the end of the day, when he finally got a phone line out. And it took 4 days for him to get a rental car to be able to drive back to MI. But of course! What was that in comparison to all the families that had gone through much, much worse. A sad, sad event that really connected me with America. The spirit of the people in the days and weeks to come. Amazing. Truly amazing.

Palin and Obama: also America. The day she will be president though, I will have to re-consider... However, she is fun. I liked that little list on her hand the other day.

Wine. One of my husband's favorites is Rutherford Hill, I need to see if I can get hold of those wines somehow... It'll be interesting to see if I still like them today, now that I understand wine a little better. One memorable wine we had at one of our favorite restaurants, The Five Lakes Grill in Milford (which seems not to be existing anymore - bad times in the area...), was a Riesling Auslese from von Buhl from the 70s. Now: we did not choose it because of its age. It was the only one available from Pfalz.

Photo from the website Rutherford Hill

And once we paid 20 $ or so, for a bottle of mineralwater 'Ramlösa', which costs nothing here in Sweden, but we just needed it back then. Are we crazy or what?!

God bless us and God Bless America!

March 25, 2010

Wine. Made in Sweden.

Sweden, like the rest of Scandinavia, belongs to what is known as the vodka-belt. A long history of producing spirit has brought world famous brands, such as Absolut Vodka, to name only one. Aquavit is found in many different variations and there are lots of smaller and bigger beer breweries. But the latest trend is to start talking wine when it comes to Sweden... Swedish wine = wine made in Sweden from grapes grown in Sweden.

I am glad I got to meet and know Ronny Persson, one of Sweden's new winemakers. We share the passion for wine and together, some years ago, we organized the first Swedish Winefest with real vintners from Germany, Danmark and Sweden that was open to the public. Ronny is passionately involved in the Swedish winemakers association and that makes him a good partner to ask about Swedish wine:

Ronny,You are a Swedish winemaker: you and your team grow and produce wine here in Sweden, is that correct? Yes, that is correct. We are about 200 enthusiasts in Sweden who are growing and making wine here.

The atmosphere in the (winemakers'-)country reminds a little of what it must have been during the Gold Rush. Many highly motivated people who are investing loads of time, energy, work and money, into a not-quite-so-sure enterprise. With some of the odds against you, probably - as critical voices might say.

The experts are teaching us that commercial vine plantings should be located between 30-50 degrees latitude to succeed.... Skåne, the most southern muncipal district of Sweden is at between 55 - 69 degrees latitude. (As a reference: Ontario in Canada, which is known for ice wine and often believed to be one of the most northern wine regions, lies at 41-52.) With a winter like this one being extremly strong (like elsewhere), standing and cutting the vines, is only one more of several hurdles to overcome... But you and your colleagues seem to only get challenged, not at all discouraged.

Please explain for us: What makes one wanting to produce wine in Sweden, especially with so much wine being produced world wide?
The reason is that we want to do something different than what we used to do before. That this has become possible, is due to new grape varieties and a warmer climate. Besides, in Sweden, we really have many sun hours during the summer months!

You are not the first and only Swedish wineproducer: When was the first Swedish wine from grapes made and where in the country?
Already in the 60s, wine has been made here, but it is only since 2000 that the wine production is seriously on the rise. There are a few vineyards that were started up around 1995 that are now in full production.

How many winegrowers are there by today? And what is the trend?
We are ca. 200 members at the Föreningen Svenska Vinodlare (Swedish Winemakers Association), standing for about 75 different vineyards, of which some 25 are commercial.

Do this growers live from their wines or is it still a hobby for most?
It is still a hobby for most members. Maybe some 10 growers make their living from wine production today.

How many hectares are currently cultivated, in total?
Totally, we are talking about some 30-50 hectares in Sweden.

When did Sweden officially become a wine producing nation?
I believe, that was in 1998

Tell us about the Swedish Winegrowers Association. Is that an official institution, guaranteeing quality standards?
The association works to guarantee quality and the website lists all Swedish wines that have been approved at the Swedish wine assessment in 2009. The work is continued to devide Sweden into different regions to achieve regional wines and then Quality Wines, but this process will still take some more years. Which also explaines why all Swedish wine is currently sold as Table Wine.

Are the ambitions to change this within the nearer future?
We should not rush it too much. It takes time to learn how to make wine. My guess is, we still need some decades before we can make Quality Wine in Sweden. Regional wine we can get within some few years.

There is no tradition of winegrowing in this country, no experience to look back to as in most other wine nations... You are practically starting from zero.Which grape varieties are working here in the north and how are those picked? Is there any one (or several) leading grape variety?
There are some grape varieties that have proven to do really well here in Sweden. The green one is Solaris and the black one is Rondo.

Are there first results confirming that certain grapes really work fine up here, or is most still experimenting?
Both, Solaris and Rondo have achieved high scores at awards both in Sweden and Danmark. To me this looks like we are on the way to establish a standard.

What quantity (hl) of Swedish wine is made today (grown and produced here, that is)?
Between 500-1000 hl.

Is it increasing quickly? Are there prognoses for the next 10, 20, 50 years?
Yes, it is increasing quickly. My guess is it is doubling per year for the next 10 years.

Are there any contests where Swedish wines have been tasted by qualified panels?
Swedish wines have been judged by leading sommeliers in Sweden and Danmark, but so far there are no international awards.

Which wines have earned prizes so far? Is there any 'leading winery' in the country or is it more balanced and prizes are shared among a few?
One leading winery is Klagshamns Vingård in Malmö. We are very happy to have started a cooperation with them and all their wines are today produced at our winery in Åhus.

Picture: Murat Sofrakis, Klagshamns vingården (from Aftonbladet)

Is a Swedish wine typically expensive? Can you name a price-range for a bottle 75 cl?
The price for a bottle ranges from 200 SEK (ca 20 €) and 400 SEK (ca 40 €).

What is your own personal favorite Swedish wine - could you please even describe it for us?
My favorite is a white wine from Solaris that has been fermented in stainless steal tanks. It had undergone cold maceration during 24 hours and has a wonderful fresh taste. We have not yet launched it on the market, but had the pleasure to taste it at the winery.

Well, and I had the pleasure to taste last year's (vintage 2008) rosé and really liked it very much! It was nicely fresh with good acidity and had nice raspberry aromas, I still remember those.

Thank you, Ronny, for your time. I am looking forward to our next interview about your winery which is very special in several aspects.

March 24, 2010

Andalusia 3

We are zooming in on our upcoming trip... Some more pieces coming together.

Thanks to my education with the Spanish Wine Education programme, which I greatly enjoyed last fall, I got to meet Javier Arauz from New Spain Wines who was kind enough to send me some tips around Andalusia.

Traveling as a family, there needs to be a lot of not-wine-related to do, otherwise no one will want to ever go with me again... so key is to keep the balance!

The Andalucian horses show we understand this is a must!

Photo from the official website

La Alhambra - of course!

It was clear from the beginning that we will do Jerez and he gave me two bodegas to visit, hopefully, I will be writing about that later on.

Fun, that he sends us to Ronda as the 'new' very old wine producing area. Because this is not far from where we already had found a wonderful place to stay. Also in the area is:

Generally, we expect many great views.

Then there are several nature reservation areas, great for the family bird-photographer. (balance-husband)

And of course.... a pool... (balance-kids)

I am still impressed by how many sides there are to Andalusia and Spain in general. Always only traveled the islands before, except of course BCN and Lloret de Mar when much younger.

This is, I'd say, a great example of how the interest for wine really opens up new places and entire worlds to one all the time! The best: it never ends...

Stay tuned for Andalusia 4.

Twitter Wine Tasting Sweden

My 2nd Twitter Wine Tasting! Not mine, I am just participating :-).

My former teacher of the Gustibus Sommelierschool Anders Öhman (see his blog here) is initiating this.

Now, this Friday at 20:00 hrs (CET) a Twitter wine tasting will be held from Sweden. No film is going with it, all is concentrated on the participants' tweets.

These are the wines being tasted:
USA, California: McManis Viognier 2008
Spain, Priorat: GR-174 2007
France, Monbazillac: Grande Maison Cuvée des Anges 2007

If you live in Sweden, here is your Systembolaget shoppinglist

Friday, 26-03-10, 8.00 p.m. CET

March 23, 2010

Bellingham Chenin Blanc, South Africa

The Old Orchards Chenin Blanc 2009
Bellingham, Paarl, South Africa
99 sek (ca 10 €)

A dry white wine with straw yellow color. Rather oily appearance. Intense buttery and yeasty nose with pear aromas and hazelnuts. Medium-full bodied, with flavours of pear, hazelnuts and bitter tones. Very soft tannins from the barrel ageing. High acidity. Long, warming finish with ripen citrus notes. 14% abv. Chenin Blanc.

A nice alternative to an oaked Chardonnay.

I can't find this wine on the winery's website and wonder if it is produced for Sweden?

Bellinchamp, pretty fields, was the original name of Bellingham. A place that started with 1000 vines planted in 1693 by Dutch Gerrit Janse van Vuuren and his wife. Located in the Franschhoek valley, this winery has in 1956 marketed the first Shiraz in South Africa under its then owner, Podlashuk. A name found on a series of successful wines from Bellingham. The company today belongs to the DGB group producing some 4 mill cases of wine per year.

To learn more about the wonderful area of Franschhoek, click here.

March 20, 2010

Signs of Spring

Due to tomorrow's confirmation of my best friend's daughter, I got a nice reason to fly home for a short visit. The Pfalz, with the city of Neustadt at the center of the Deutsche Weinstrasse, has experienced an extra-cold winter, just like many other places. But now spring has arrived. The temps went up to 20 degrees C the last couple of days and the almond trees are starting to bloom. Which in its turn sets the date for the year's first winefest to come. In the little village of Gimmeldingen, outside Neustadt, the wineries will open their doors and besides the locals, thousands of people will come from Heidelberg, Mannheim, Frankfurt, to enjoy nice wines in an absolute picturesque setting. For many years, we have spent that particular Saturday or Sunday at Weingut Mugler and/or Weingut Christmann to chat along with nice friends, meeting new people and just feeling great about life. I have many memories of bright, sunny days - the first after the winter, which makes this fest so particularly intense. Charming is that no one ever knows, which weekend it will take place - that is entirely determined by the onset of blooming. To read more: This year's seems to be happening next weekend.

Same time signs of spring in Sweden: my husband, a devoted hobby-nature-photographer (out at 4 a.m. in the mornings before he goes off to work) sends me this sms: 7 cranes spotted in the nearby biosphere reserve of Kristianstad, 3 herons just flew by our house. Temps are at 10 degrees C, getting warmer there too.

And from Andalusia, where we are off to next week, I hear that the mimosas and daffodils are in bloom.

Spring is here.

March 16, 2010

Bordeaux in 5 minutes

Hahaha. To understand Bordeaux, one needs time, patience, knowledge, experience and... last but not least, the interest and curiousity.

With this post, let me just scratch the surface a little...

Bordeaux is located in the south-west of France. The area is divided by the rivers Gironde, Dordogne and Garonne. This is why it is often referred to the left bank and the right bank... So, to get an orientation, the map is a must, download it here. It also gives a good, quick overview about where the reds, whites, sweets come from.

Bordeaux is $160.000, the auctioned price for a bottle of wine from 1787 from the famous Château Lafite, to Le Cardinal, with 69 sek (ca 7 €) currently the cheapest Bordeaux red available at the Swedish monopoly.

Bordeaux has, for the average consumer, something stiff, distanced, dusty and old fashioned around it. It is something 'for the rich' and for those with grand wine cellars, temperature controlled. It often appears to be intimidating, because we have no clue about a Bordeaux wine. What is it in the bottle? Château blablabla - aha? So What! Give me my Merlot! (Thanks god for the New world, giving us the grape varieties! Suddenly, we
know what a Chardonnay is and we know that we like Pinot Noir - well... truth is, that is what we think to know, but more to that another time...)

Bordeaux wines are mostly blends, though varietal wines can be found as well. The reason for blending different grapes has to do with - among other - unstable climate resulting in vintage variations. By blending, this can be compensated for to a certain degree. The wines are designed to reflect the indivual brand's (chateau) style. They are typically matured over a period of time and the barrique barrels are standard procedure. Some wines can appear very hard and tannic, the traditional ones are made to be stored in many years before they reach their peak. However, to me a nice Bordeaux wine is of elegant nature and I like them good enough to want to understand more.

Bordeaux is a style of wine the rest of the wine-world is peeking at big times. We hear about 'Bordeaux blends' from Chile, Stellenbosch, Australia, California - you name it. The main grapes from Bordeaux, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot have gone out to the world, being parts of blends in regions today, where they not at all were found before. Italy, Spain, Germany... (And now we are talking reds only.)

Bordeaux has understood that the wine-world gets smaller by new regions popping up and becoming popular. Currently, a lot is happening to present the region younger and now they are opening up - the doors of the Chateaux as well as on information. Just go to the homepage and you will see.

Bordeaux produces 2% of the world's wines, about 25% of France's wine, ca 5.7 mill hectolitres in 2007 (Click for more figures!) The big, famous names make only a small part of this masses, then there is a lot of not-worth-mentioning (and worse) wines and some that are real value-for-money products. How to find?! That is where experience and patience comes handy. But: you got to start somewhere. Be open-minded. Be brave. Like me. I will go out to try lots of different Bordeaux wines over the years to come and I will read and hear what others have to say.

What can be of use though, is to understand the classifications a little bit, to help demystify the label of a Bordeaux bottle...

Cru: Better to top wines have the 'cru'-word included. Cru = growth. Bordeaux' classification of growths started shortly before and due to the Exposition Universelle 1855 (World Exhibition) in Paris. To present the best wines of the country, Napoleon (the guy with the funny hat) ordered each wine region to classify their wines in order to come up with the best ones to impress the world.

Place of the World Exhibion in Paris

The châteaux of Bordeaux were meassured by their reputation and market value of sold wines of the past, and sorted by different ranks, the levels of Crus. So they came up with 60 Crus of the Medoc area (plus 1 in Graves) at that time, which have been the same ever since, except for one change, in 1973, when Chateau Mouton-Rothschild was upgraded.

The 1855 classification:
5 Premiers (1st) Crus (Château Lafite, Latour, Margaux, Mouton-Rothschild, Haut-Brion in Graves)
14 Deuxièmes (2nd) Crus
14 Troisièmes (3rd) Crus
10 Quatrièmes (4rd) Crus
18 Cinquièmes (5th) Crus. The complete list can be seen here...

At the same time, 27 sweet wines of Barsac and Sauternes were classified into
1 Premier Cru Supérieur (Château d'Yquem),
11 Prémier Crus and
15 Deuxièmes Crus.

- As one can see, this counts only for a small (nonetheless exclusive) number of Chateaux.

In 1932, the Cru Bourgeois was established as another classification. It includes today over 200 houses in 3 categories:

9 Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel
87 Cru Bourgeois Supérieur
151 Cru Bourgeois

As explained with my post about Chateau de Malleret, the word goes back to the 12th Century, when the Bourgeois, the middle-class, first appeared in Bordeaux. They were the merchants under British time, earning lots of money and thus able to purchase good lots of land, which they were allowed to keep even when the French took the area back over again. They counted 444 in 1932 and were down to 94 after the war (from the official homepage). The classification is being updated every 10 years, so the goal is. However, since 2007, they are working on a new project, which is supposed to start in 2010, with the vintage of 2009. But, somewhere, I read that was not happening. We are in France! It is complicated, but we stay tuned and try to figure out... Still: this group of Crus stands for some 40% of the vines of the Médoc.

1959: Classification of Graves
No ranking. Wines listed are called
Cru Classé.

1955: Saint-Emilion-Classification
The Châteaux of the right banks were classified with this one. This one is different, because it is integrated into the AC system - the official wine law that includes all wines of France. The official AC is called Saint-Emilion Grand Cru and the chateaux within are classified in 3 levels:

13 Premier Grand Cru Classé - devided into 2 classes 'A' and 'B',
with Château Cheval Blanc and Château Ausone the two top names
55 Grand Cru Classé
Grand Cru
- This classification is revised and updated every 10 years.

Crus Artisans
44 family businesses that grow, make, market and sell their own wines. A fairly new classification which is not widely known yet.

- Sounds charming to me, worth looking out for!

AC or AOC = Appellation d'Origine Controlée
The highest level a French wine can attain within the wine laws that regulate any produced wine of the country. (This system has been copied to many other wineregions in the world, even if with adjustments.) It regulates the areas of production, the grapes permitted, the growing and production methods allowed, the max. yields per hectare, the min. alcoholic degree.
Bordeaux has some 57 ACs in 3 levels. The (lowest ranking) generic (Bordeaux AC), the district (i.e. Haut-Médoc) and the (highest) commune level (i.e. Pauillac). Chateau names are not considered here, that is why every big name chateau will also name the AC it belongs to.

If the word 'supérieur' is named with the AC (! not with the Chateaux or Cru name), it indicates that the wine has 0,5-1% more alcohol.

- So a wine labeled with 'Bordeaux AC' indicates that it comes from the lowest level of the AC system, but to find out, if it also is of worst quality and taste is for us to explore.

5 minutes are over.

More confused than before? Starting looking for the labels will help to let this sink in, it can actually become a sport. Now, let's go out to the supermarkets and monopoly-stores to look for some wines to try.

Write me about your favorite Bordeaux wine!

- Go to Schiller-Wein, for some information about the vintages, i.e.
- A German blog, working with the topic just now:
- For the lucky ones living in Sweden, go to my former wine school Gustibus and do a 'Bordeaux initiation course'

March 14, 2010

Kim Crawford SauvBl, Marlb., NZ

2008 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc
Kim Crawford Wines, NZ
129 sek (ca 12 €)

Pale straw-yellow-green color. Medium intense aromas of blackcurrent leaf, gooseberry, grass on the nose. Palate is very fresh and clean, with crisp acidity. Apple, pear, gooseberry, citrus and herbal notes, with some minerality. Dry and light-medium bodied. 13% abv. Drink now.

A nice wine for seafood, sallads. I can see it as an aperitif with veggies and nice herbal dip sauces. We had it with some salmon-pasta with avocado - perfect.

(Ok, we know, I have not tasted a gazillion wines, yet, but:) So far, I have not tasted any NZ Sauvignon Blanc that did not confirm their reputation of being some of the best in the world. Clean! Crisp! Fresh! The country being big in dairy before starting wine production as late as in the 70s, was well equiped from the beginning with best stainless steel tanks, etc. They knew what 'clean' meant and it was easy for them to apply the standards on their wine industry as well. A background that I found very interesting since hearing about it for the first time...

Kim Crawford has only started in 1996 and is already today well known. They seem very good with their marketing and there are lots of activities one can join in on, like their own social-network, etc. Check out the website.

I like their slogan:
When the grape is at its peak, preserve that moment in the bottle and have it come alive in the taste. Kim Crawford wines.

100 Grad Oechsle Winetasting

Following up on yesterday's post:

It was fun! The technique worked very well, the stream was really good, sharp with clear picture and tone. I had problems with twitter though, which showed 'overcapacity' several times. But, since it was possible to make comments via fb as well, it was not a big deal.

It was amazing HOW fast time went by and the show was over. Good atmosphere, easy going, not too serious and a fast tempo - I like that!

Maybe I expected more wine analyzing, I did not really see it as a winetasting, but more as a wine-talkshow. Great fun and interesting themes! Particularly regarding all the wines being drunk too young...

I am sure there will be many more to come and I am sure TV will take on that kind of formate, too, they'll just have to!

Big compliment to Dirk Würtz & Team

March 13, 2010

Twitter & Virtual Wine Tastings

Blogging brings the world to you... Through the countless good bloggers out there, I am now teaching myself how to Twitter. I thought Twitter was for celebs only, and never really got into it so far. Who should be interested in what I am doing? And am I interested in anyone to want to follow them step-by-step? Not really... BUT as I miss the wine-talk within my nearest social circles - as no one really cares enough about it (though most people like a glass of wine, of course) - it seems a good way to meet other wine lovers. Ha! I am not alone...

Twitter wine tastings: Heard about it before, but got really interested in interactive wine tastings since reading about it at the Schillerwein-blog. Go and read about it there!

So, tonight will be my premiere: I'll be trying to follow Wuertz-TV. It will be held in German and starts at 20.15 CET. The idea is obviously, to have the particular wine yourself too, so you can follow adequately and even twitter your comments. Once you get behind the secrets of the #hashtags, etc... I will have to do without the wine, as I heard too late about this and would not have been able to get the bottle in time. However, it will be a good training, even if a 'dry-run'. No! What am I saying... I have already put a bottle of NZ Sauvignon Blanc on cooling, fitting the topic somewhat, as the last virtual tasting with these people was about NZ wines...

March 12, 2010

Chateau de Malleret, Bordeaux, France

Château de Malleret 2003
Cru Bourgeois Superieur
AOC Haut Médoc, Bordeaux, France
ca. 20 € (airport Stuttgart, Frankfurt ?)

Intense, ruby towards garnet colour. Developed and rather intense nose: very nice cedar tones and ripen red fruit, prunes, hints of tobacco. On the palate cherry and plums in wonderful harmony with a good acidity and velvety tannins. Medium bodied. Elegant. Long harmonious finish. 13% abv. Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot.

I am not a Bordeaux nerd and well aware of the fact that there are many great wines out there for much higher prices... So we are not going Bordeaux-ing here - what I am doing is putting this on my own personal list with all other wines tasted since december:

God this was nice! After the fruitdriven, bolder and younger wines of the last days, this was very much appreciated. The aromas of developed tones, combined with the wine's elegance, it's balance... puts things into perspective again. I would wish for every non-wine-connoisseur to just give such a wine a try sometime - just to get a different experience to all the 'modern' wines.

But, I know, Bordeaux is a difficult topic, normally we like to leave it to the wine-snobbs. It is so much easier to identify ourselves with the more modern, hands-on, grape-variety-naming wine world.

Still! I say: go for it! Give it a chance! Go see, if your tastebuds detect any difference.

This wine was aged in French oak barrels for 12 months, which can make some wines very tannin-pronounced, depending on the style the winemaker is wanting to achieve. However, this one was very gentle and soft. Which also has to do with the fact that it had been maturing on the bottle for some years, after coming out of the barrels and before released on the market.

It is an excellent partner for steaks and stews. Typically, people will recommend it to cheese - well, not every cheese in that case. (Cheese is very often better off with white wines.)
We had it with some nice entrecote and oven-baked veggies. So basic. So good. Gott in Frankreich, as we say in Germany...

Château de Malleret is situated on the left bank of the Gironde, in the Haut-Medoc area, where some of the world's most expensive wines come from and where red wines are made exclusively.

It has some 54 hectares under vines, which have an average age of 35 years. Go visit the homepage, but don't get scared by the music, which to me is too powerful with regards to the elegant wine...

The classification 'Cru Bourgeois Superieur'. I am going to explain in a separate post, together with the other Bordeaux classifications. Only so much now: The word goes back to the 12th Century, when the Bourgeois, the middle-class, first appeared in Bordeaux. They were the merchants under British time, earning lots of money and thus able to purchase good lots of land, which they were allowed to keep even when the French took the area back over again. They counted 444 in 1932 and were down to 94 after the war (from the official homepage). But, we are talking about France, so of course there is some fighting included before the whole picture can be explained. Let's get back to this soon...

March 11, 2010

Water - message on a bottle

A bottle of water I bought today... Reading the label on the backside, which has become my habit whatever I buy (food/drink), this one was different.

After listing all the stuff that makes for citrus flavour & bubbles, it states
'...and if you are still reading by now, we recommend you to ask the cashier for a newspaper instead'.

March 10, 2010

German wines - and others - in Sweden

Venus - Emotions - Happy Cat: German wines in Sweden. Of course,there is Christmann, Breuer & co also - but these bottles here really stroke me and I just had to take the pics... The winner is clearly the Happy Cat. Can't be worse than so? Reminds me very much of the bubble bath we used to buy when the kids were smaller... So, sorry, I cannot get myself to try it. Who knows, what I am missing out on?

However: it made me curious. Which wines from Germany ARE there anyway in Sweden? The good thing with Systembolaget (name of the monopoly) is, that it is so systematic: easy to go to the website and browse and look for any kind of wine. This is what I found...

Currently, there are 214 positions of German wine (searched only white) available off the shelves from the monopoly. If you follow this link here, you get to the list in case you are curious. (And the number of positions will of course change with shifting dates...) It is a mixture of cheaper and unknown wines up to the high priced sector.
Not every wine mentioned means that it is available in all stores countrywide. That is only the case with the 'A' (alla = all) marked wines. Some wines can be found in two stores only, some can be spread a little more. Sometimes it will be just 12 bottles, sometimes it might be considerably more. It all depends...
Wines found at the monopoly are purchased by the monopoly after its own specification that previously was given out to all importers. Those receive clear information of what is requested, for which period at what time. From country via wineregion to grape variety etc. - all sorted in price categories. And if there is not a wine existing that matches the request, then such a wine is made (this for the higher quantity-wines anyway).
Interesting to see, that German wines in December 2009 had increased by 10% compared to Dec. 2008 and made 4% of all wines (7th position) (700000 liters), while the leading country, South Africa, made 20% (3.75 mill liters) in that month.

To see other months, go to the monopoly's homepage.

And then there is the portfolio of wines that can be obtained through ordering (called: beställningssortiment). The consumer orders those via the monopoly, too, but here it is actually the importers that make sure these wines are available for the customers. The monopoly does not purchase those of the importers, but works as the 'agent' between importer and customer.

Flickorna Fläderblom, Malmö

Just can't resist to introduce you to this place:

I am thinking Gewurztraminer......... Viognier........ Sauvignon Blanc when stepping in here... That would be some of the wines perfectly suited to accompany the food of this place....

Flickorna Fläderblom (the Elderflower Girls) - a little, tiny place in Malmö. Some 5 bigger tables, 5 seats at the window and a little Hippy-corner. That is all the seating you'll find. If at all, because it is mostly full, when I get here. Here goes a thank to my friend Heike, another German who recently moved from USA to Sweden and who actually introduced it for me...

While I have never been so seldom at restaurants before, as since living in Sweden (Swedes are usually very domestic people and many of them cook like gods), if there is any lunch-restaurant-country: well this is it! It seems like everybody is out eating lunch. And it goes very fast, usually: 11:45-12:00 the places are filling up quickly and by 13:00-13:15 it may happen you are sitting all by yourself. :-)
Flickorna Fläderblom do not sell any of the above mentioned wines - no alcoholic drinks at all, unfortunately. (No one would want to drink for lunch anyway - we are not in Switzerland.) But the food!!! It is so real. So solid. So fresh. So tastebuds-friendly. All pure ingredients, most of it (if not all?) is organic. The girls stand there and cook and bake bread at the same time. So it is also transparent. The furniture has seen a lot. Nothing goes together - which is giving it all it's charme. Phantastic contrast to all the designer-styled places (which are also great!).

Some of the foods to pick from... Veggy Lasagna, Chicken, salmon...

The veggie-buffée - which I like a lot. The colours, the spices...

Today's risotto...
...and salat. Yes, I am a vinaigrette-girl, but this lime dressing was good too...

real bread... (Hello, Lena!)

For a virtual visit: the homepage And for a real visit: come to Malmö!

March 09, 2010

Black Granite Shiraz, South Africa

Black Granite Shiraz 2008
Darling Cellars
Coastal Region, South Africa
79 sek

Medium intense, blue-red colour. Rather intense on the nose, with burnt tones, blackcurrent, blackberry, spices, liquorice. On the palate, dark plums, smoky, liquorice and green herbs, eucalyptus. Tannins from oak gentle, fruit tannins coming little after, also still gentle. Good acidity. Medium bodied. Warm, rather long finish, dominated of the green eucalyptus part. 14 % abv. 100 % Shiraz. Drink now.

A what I would call 'mainstream wine': made to suit many palates. Rather bold. Big in Sweden and big in 3-liters-bag in box. (Sigh)

We served it with pizza and it worked. Would I buy this particular one again? No. I am sorry. But I would certainly give their Chenin Blanc a try and maybe one of their better wines from the Oynx line, too!

Darling Cellars started as a Cooperative in 1948, but is since 1997 a privately owned company with about 20 shareholders. They have around 1500 hectares under vines. The Darling area used to be dominated by dairy production and is also known for its wild flowers.

March 07, 2010


Gustav Vasa, King Gustav I (1523-1560)

1520, when Sweden was still united with Danmark, Gustav Eriksson Vasa came to the region of Dalarna to seek for support from the people who were known to be more rebellish than in other areas of the country. He was speaking to the crowds in front of the church of the city of Mora, trying to get them to stand up and fight against the Danish king, Christian II. But they did not want to get involved. He was forced to flee before the Danish soldiers, that were already after him, would catch up with him. On his skis, he headed for Norway. At Sälen, some 90 kilometers away, 2 Mora brothers came after him. They reported that the people had changed their minds and that they wanted to fight at his side. The 3 of them rushed back on their skis to Mora. 1521 the war against the Danish was started and won 2,5 years later. Sweden was a free country and on the 6th of June 1523, Gustav became king of Sweden.

1922, Anders Pers, a son of Mora, formulated the idea around a ski race with the historical background of Gustav Vasa's escape. The idea was picked up and the first race started 19th of March, 1922, with 119 participants. It took 7 hours, 32 minutes and 49 seconds for the winner to manage the distance of 90 kilometers.

Today, there were 15702 people starting at Sälen in the morning. Anyone can be part of this biggest cross country ski race of the world. Your own physical condition, strength and will decides... The winner, Jörgen Brink, made it in 4 hrs 2 minutes and 59 sec. Susanna Nyström was the fastest lady of today, with the result 4:33:07. Congratulations!

For information go to the website.

And what does this have to do with wine?

Yes: our friend Mats was in the race today and made it all the way! 90 kms on skis. A whole long day... We are so happy for him and proud to be his friends. That we celebrated with a blottle of Château de Malleret, which I will be reporting in my next post. Skål and cheers to Mats and all the other great sportsmen and women!

March 05, 2010

Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet, Australia

Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet 2008
Penfolds, South Australia
89 sek

Intense, dark purple-red color. Nose: intense, dark berries, blackcurrent, herbal. Palate: fruity, black and redcurrent, little mint/herbal-bitter. Medium bodied. Good acidity, firm fruit tannins, softer oak tannins. Simple, straight forward. 13,5 % abv. 70 %Shiraz, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon.

The grapes come from different areas within South Australia. Most of the wine has been maturing in French and American oak barrels (to add tannins and complexity), some of it in stainless steel tanks (to preserve the fruityness). It is made to drink now, but can be stored until ca 2012. (Producer information).

A wine made in the most-possibly same style from year to year, to suit many palates around the world. Nothing wrong, nothing exciting. It doesn't create that smile in your face, but it works.

One of the starting-small-growing-huge stories: Dr. Christopher Rawson Penfold, an English emmigrant coming to Australia in the mid of 1800 was the one planting the first vines that he had taken with him from France. He planted them around his stone house, called the Grange, named after the English home of his wife. The first wines were fortified wines, made for medical purposes. After his death, his wife continued the work and by 1881 they are said to had some 500.000 litres of wine stored, almost 1/3 of Australia's entire wine storage at the time. It wasn't until the end of WWII that the company, still in the family's hand, changed to produce mainly table wines instead of the fortified ones. In 1951 they produced the first Grange Shiraz, still today an Icon wine, known around the world among connoisseurs. In 1962 the company became a public one and since 2005 it is owned by the Foster's group, a beer giant. Today they make some 1.4 mill cases of wine ranging from 9-300 A$/bottle, covering many different price-segments, the one here belonging to the lower ones. See all the different wines here.

Brunello Il Poggione, Tuscany, Italy

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG
Il Poggione 2003
Franceschi, Tuscany, Italia
29 € (Italian Delicatessen)

Medium intensity, dark red towards tawny color. Nose: Intense. Developed, secondary notes of leather and tobacco, herbal. Dark red fruit. Palate: Dark, ripen cherries, earthy, spicy, hints of tobacco. Medium(-full) bodied. Fresh acidity. Firm but soft tannins, both from the fruit and oak. Warm and long finish. Very nicely balanced. 14,5 % abv. 100% Sangiovese (handpicked from 20 year old vines).

A keeper! My kind of wine. Really liked this one. Expensive though, it is a good wine for some special occasion. It can be kept 10, 20, 30 years (who should know exactly?), and makes a good wine for specials occasions yet to come...

It fits very well with the dark meats. Sorry, it is a while ago since we had it, I forgot! But, nevertheless, I remember how much we liked the wine :-).

Brunello is the name of a local clone of the Sangiovese, Tuscany's signature grape. Grown at the hills of Montalcino, it is the base for these famous wines, that are along with the Barolo some of Italy's longest-lived.
Brunello wines must be at least 4 years old before leaving the winery. Two years in oak barrels is the minium, before the next step, the bottle-ageing. Il Poggione is claimed to have spent 3 years in French oak barrels before bottle-maturation, where the complexity develops.

Tenuta, the Italian word for estate, Il Poggione has its roots back in the 1800 and covers today an areal of 600 hectares, of which 125 are under vines. Go visit the website for more information and nice pictures.

2003 was the famous hot summer (which by the way is also when we moved to Sweden) and lots of wines from Italy and Tuscany get bad reviews. But this wine here tastes nothing like baked or marmelade to me, so I trust, it belongs to the lucky ones that got away despite the heat. I would definitely buy another bottle of it!

See the German blog 'Weinverkostungen' for a review of the Tuscany week, where also Brunellos have been tasted.

March 02, 2010

Feminalise - Wine tasting for Women only

Too bad, I have other plans, but maybe next time...?

April 22, in Beaune, the ♥ of Bourgogne, Féminalise, the 4th wine tasting for women only is about to take place. How fun!

" Women have become wine-lovers, 45% of them enjoy drinking wine. In France, 78% of women buy wine in supermarkets, in Germany, 70% and in the United States 80%. Doesn’t one say that women have the art and the talent to taste wine? "... so the website states. How true!
In 2009 2350 samples of French wine were tested. 33% of the wines get Gold-, Silver-, or Bronze medals. A sticker on the bottle, which will help other women to find a good wine when shopping at their local stores. I will start looking for those medals, when back in the Alsace area again...

Sad only, it is not so easy to find women around you that are interested in wine?