In 2009 for a short moment I was cool. You might have been too, without knowing it. Back then we had street cred - just by drinking Riesling. No, I am not insane, nor did I have too much Riesling tonight. In 2009 middle-class wine geeks had a moment of cool when Jay-Z put the following words into the mouths of millions: "I'm beasting off the Riesling!" Twitter was full of references to Riesling, mostly from cool kids who sounded like they'd never before heard of it. Just one line, but much more effective than any marketing campaign - I have brought this up in every discussion on how to raise the profile of German wine since.
Around that time I did consider to take inspiration from Jay-Z and play around with video and perhaps music on the Wine Rambler to reach audiences that might never care about wine writing. Sadly or perhaps luckily, my musical talent is limited and co-Rambler Julian (who actually has some) refuses to even go near a video recording device. Three years later, Wines of Germany USA have, in a way, taken up my advice and produced what may be the world's first Riesling rap song: Must be Seduktion. [read the full post...]
Music does not taste. Wine does. Rather obvious, but not nearly as simple as you may think. What we perceive as the taste of wine is actually our brain combining all sorts of information and the tongue only plays a relatively small part in this. What we see, know or hear, everything has an influence on how we taste. And as music and wine are often enjoyed together Classic FM and Laithwaites Wine argue it may be worth thinking about how to match them.
To make this point they hosted a wine and music tasting in London last week and the Wine Rambler went to investigate.
This rather pointless little posting is for fans of aged wines. I don't mean wines cellar-matured to an ideal drinking point, but those left to grow old beyond any responsible borderline moment. It is for those of you who might hunt for old wines on eBay or via specialised merchants, but would never stoop so low as to actually drink what other people throw out in disgust. You don't have to, because this is where your self-sacrificing correspondent comes in. Let me stress, though, that I was not, I was emphatically not rummaging through my next door neighbours' garbage in the hope of finding discarded, but still filled wine bottles. It was rather that someone had left the four of them standing outside of the bin, maybe having been tipped off that there is a pervert living nearby who might have a use for that kind of stuff. He could indeed.
Here, then, is a little report about four random wines whose history is open to anyone's imagination and who have absolutely nothing to lose in terms of taste.
Two years ago the Wine Rambler saw the light of day with a short review on a German Pinot Blanc and a posting on a wine merchant who had no idea about their own catalogue. What started out as a means for two geograpically separated friends to stay in touch about their respective wine adventures has taken on a dynamic we have not quite forseen. The Wine Rambler has changed our lives in more than one way, and I am fairly certain it will continue to do so.
As one of two proud fathers, it falls to me today to say a few words on the occasion of our baby's second birthday. And also to explain what this old newspaper has to do with the Wine Rambler.
Oh the songs
Pour down like silver
They can only
Only break my heart
Drink the wine
The wine of lovers
Lovers tired of being apart [read the full post...]
A friend of mine gave me ten little bottles / Of some special stuff that he brewed up his-self / So I took it and hid it down in my basement / But my wife found out about it and she told me to get rid of it or else / And since I didn't like the way she said or else / I went down there and proceeded to carry out her instructions [...] Picked up the first bottle, pulled the cork out of it...
It did not quite happen like this. Admittedly, there was a basement. And I went down there. Picked up a bottle. Or two. Actually, there were 74. Also, they were not small. And despite the time it will have taken him to put it all together, I am fairly certain host Robert Giorgione did not brew them up by his-self. Even so, he managed to get Riesling from all over the world to London for a blind tasting that I could not miss. And so I went down there and proceeded...
From my window I can see the snow falling. Food is being prepared. Christmas wine delights sorted. It is time to wish all of you a wonderful and very Merry Christmas!
What could be better than this peacful tune played by the importantly talented Schroeder:
See me walking down Fifth Avenue, a walking cane here at my side. I take it everywhere I walk, I'm an Englishman in New York. - Well, almost. Even though I like to think that four years in London give me some English credentials, I have never owned a walking cane. Nor a bowler hat for that matter. The part about Fifth Avenue is true though, as a couple of weeks ago the Wine Rambler went on the road again for another New York adventure. It included a visit to a biodynamic winery on Long Island, and there also had to be a follow-up from last year's random tour of NYC wine merchants.
I wish I could take you with me, all the way to New York City. So come with me, gentle reader, for another voyage of exploration. Ooh, and when you wake up in the mornin' with your head on fire and your eyes too bloody to see, go on and cry in your coffee but don't come bitchin' to me! (And if you can identify all music references in this text without the help of the internet please do visit me in London for a hangover-free Riesling.)
The blessed grace of waking up
Of breathing in the sheets
And hello to you, at the window
Hello to you
Down the hill I'd like to take you
To where I shot a little deer,
My little dear I'd like to take you down there
Rinsing out the iron cup
To have a glass of wine
To have an iron cup of wine
Dear, to drink it down there
Traditionally, it is 'Go West' if you want to embark on an adventure. A few weeks ago a friend of mine made the journey eastwards and relocated to Georgia. As one can never be sure where 'East' is with an international audience I should probably add that we are speaking about the country bounding the Black Sea. It is also one of the oldest, if not the oldest, wine growing countries, and one of the countries whose wine I have never tried before. So when I was scanning the shelves at Philglas & Swiggot for something unusual, a massive dark bottle saying 'fine wine of Georgia' immediately got my attention. As if this coincidence would not have been enough to make it interesting, the wine is also made from Saperavi, and indigenous variety that was also new to me.
So here's to exploring new things, for the bold ones who actually venture there, and for the armchair wine snobs who prefer the safer route to try them with pasta and tomato sauce first.
There is a shop in North London / They call the Sa-ham-plar / And it's been the ruin of many a poor boy / And God I know I'm one
So there is a shop in North London, and it sells wine. Now just that would not make it special, would it? What makes The Sampler special is not just that it is a cute shop with a dog, that they have a good selection of wine or that they organise tastings and other events. No it is, surprise surprise, the sampling. How many wine shops do you know where on any given day they let you taste a 1978 Mouton Rothschild, premier Austrian dessert wines, some of the top names in German Riesling or some of the finest the US has to offer? At the Sampler you can and it is much fun. And so we went, and had the fun and tasted the Mouton and I fear I shall be back for more.
And it's been the ruin of many a poor boy / And God I know I'm one
Whenever the invitations to those '47 Petrus and '86 Lafite tastings go out, somehow our names seem to get passed over. Shame, but that doesn't stop us from embarking on the adventure that is aged wine from time to time.
Today, an 18 year-old german Pinot Noir. This ol' boy comes in a light, cloudy cherry red with brown edges. If you want to know how great decaying leaves, wet earth, manure, marinated cherries and smoked bacon smell when mixed together, I suggest you stick your nose into this. [read the full post...]
Oregon is bad. Stop it if you can. Here it comes. Here it comes. Now it's after you. Flee to some place new. Run away. Run away. - For the Wine Rambler it was too late. Oregon got me. And if you want to find out how it all happened and what this has to do do with one half of a team of almost-giants, well, then it got you too. Don't be afraid, though, it will all be revealed. And make sense. Sort of. Either way, there will be wine!
Who could know better than people who call themselves Wine Rambler that sometimes a wine needs to be approached sideways. Especially if we are nervous about a wine because we know little about it and fear that we may have gotten it wrong. So we'll start with a little tune – bear with us – and will, after somewhat aimless rambling, at the end of this post – promise! - get fearlessly tasting.
It starts with a non-translatable german word Schlager. „Kitschy songs in the vein of Barry Manilow or Chris de Burgh“ would probably be the the way to explain it to the anglophone world. Anyway, one of the best known Schlager is about greek wine, so brace yourselves:
Griechischer Wein ist so wie das Blut der Erde.
Today I do not feel like wine. In fact, I am drinking a lager, imported to London all the way from Munich - where they know damn well how to make good beer - and I am in the mood for Christmas. So I am going to share this little miracle, featuring one of my all-time heroes:
Autumn sun. Full moon. And now's the time, the time is now, to sing my song: Ramble On.
Leaves are falling all around, It's time I was on my way.
Thanks to you, I'm much obliged for such a pleasant stay.
But now it's time for me to go. The autumn moon lights my way.
For now I smell the rain, and with it pain, and it's headed my way.
Sometimes I grow so tired, but I know I've got one thing I got to do...
Ramble On, And now's the time, the time is now, to sing my song.
I'm goin' 'round the world, I got to find my girl, on my way.
I've been this way ten years to the day, Ramble On,
Gotta find the queen of all my dreams.
Got no time to for spreadin' roots, The time has come to be gone.
And to' our health we drank a thousand times, it's time to Ramble On.
Is there any link between wine snobbing and street credibility? The Wine Rambler of course knows a little something about the former; my street credentials though are limited to having taken part in two street fights in Swabian suburbia in the 80s (don't ask) and walking past a burnt-out car in Hackney at 2am. But all of this is about to change! Because from now on, drinking Riesling will be about as cool as hanging out with "da niggas" and torching a few cars. Seriously!
A little while ago I noticed that 'Riesling' became more popular on Twitter; more importantly perhaps, lots of cool (and black, if you can trust their avatars) kids mentioned it: 'Beasting off the Riesling' seemed to pop up every other minute in my TweetDeck. What had happened?
While writing these lines I am sitting at my computer, looking out into the garden, a nice glass of German Riesling in front of me - and a friend from Germany connected via Skype. And as it happens, she also has a Riesling in front of her. It may be hard to believe, but we did not plan it this way. But then it may not have been hard to guess for her that I would not be without a glass of wine.
What are we drinking? Benita has a 2007 Reinhold Haart Spätlese, a guarantee for delicious yumminess. While she is enjoying the more fruity option, I have the dry 2008 Riesling Kabinett from Robert Weil's Rhinegau winery - fresh, lemony acidity and peachy mineral vegetable; certainly not bone-dry. Very drinkable!
While the darkness descends over London, it is time to share some of the music that I am playing while we ramble about this and that, and life in particular.
"Merciful faith rocks this night"; here is the great great John Darnielle, aka The Mountain Goats:
I like this clip with the cheesy radio presenter leading into a gripping "Alabama High Test" by bluegrass neo-traditionalists Old Crow Medicine Show - some really psychedelic fiddle playing. Enjoy!
Thought it'd be nice to have some music here from time to time, to go with all that wine.
And it's my great honour to have a real legend of american music open this segment: This charming little video captures the great folk musician Doc Watson in a guitar maker's workshop, obviously trying out a new instrument.
"Telling my troubles to my old guitar" is just a harmlessly swinging Chet Atkins tune. But in Doc's off-the-cuff-version, this becomes a little marvel of thumping guitar strings and stoic perfection.
And I dare say my co-rambler Torsten will enjoy the little hint of a yodel at the end.