You and I have unfinished business. Don't be afraid, gentle reader, the unfinished business is not with you and I won't come after you with my katana - just to put those of you familiar with movie references at ease. My unfinished business was with Washington D.C., the capital of the richest, most powerful nation on earth. At the Wine Rambler, we don't do feuds small scale, nor do we forget. It had happened to me in 2009 in D.C., and three years later I armed myself properly, booked a flight and returned to settle the score.
In the course of this mission I fought mighty lions, returned to the scene of my disgrace and (well prepared and armed) I did battle, restored our reputation and came home with molten Riesling gold, snatched from the dragon's lair.
You don't go to South East London. At least that is what my friend Sarah thinks, and yesterday she told me so when the question of where to live in London came up. After having lived in the South West, North and West Sarah now contemplates the East - but the South East just seems too far away, like another world. This is a common view in the murky blend of London post codes and identities. It is opposed by a smaller group of those who have lost their hearts to SE London, and they tell me of vibrant local communities with quirky shops, excellent and authentic food offerings and a satisfying restaurant scene. The other day I followed an invitation to explore this world at the East Dulwich wine shop and bar Green & Blue Wines.
It is no coincidence that I used the words "authentic" and "local", as Green & Blue champion wines from smaller producers, especially organic and natural wines.
"Good luck to her, she may need it.", was the comment a wine loving Englishman made when I told him I was about to meet a woman who had just invested her life's savings in a shop. Not just any shop. A shop dedicated to English wine. To set this in context: when I tell people I blog about German wine I sometimes get the "is there such a thing?" look, or perhaps the "enjoy the Liebfraumilch" comment. These come from people who are not familiar with the wine world, otherwise they would know that some of the world's best wines come from Germany. Now imagine what the reaction is when someone dedicates their life to the cause of English wine - a cause that even wine professionals often respond to with the "is there such a thing" look. So there you have the above quoted reaction.
Enter Julia Stafford, a spirited woman who thought London could do with a shop dedicated to raise the glory of English wine: Wine Pantry at Borough market.
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.)
It has been a while since the Wine Rambler has hit the road, but a few weeks ago work called me to Rotterdam. I used the chance to attach a short holiday to explore the city. My voyage of exploration took me to the gigantic harbour, into museums and, mostly, along an impressive display of modern architecture. It also took me to what on the internet looked like a very interesting wine shop: De Gouden Ton. Just a short walk away from the city centre in a more quiet street lies a vinous gem that should excite all fans of exquisite wine.
After having walked around under the merciless sun for a few hours, I really appreciated the somewhat shady and very relaxed atmosphere at De Gouden Ton. The light conditions made capturing the shop well a real challenge for my camera, but trust me when I tell you that it is the kind of design and atmosphere that can make you instantly welcome.
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
Back in the very first days of the Wine Rambler, when we couldn't reasonably expect anyone to want to read what we had to say, we started a little series reporting on german online wine merchants. This ran to three or four issues, and in none of them did we mince our words about the pros and cons of the places we featured. Pinard de Picard, one of our most frequent and important sources, and one that we do think highly of, especially had to take it on the chin. Would a revised reissue maybe be in order? But there is not one word of our original review that we should or honestly could change. So that's the thinking-over done. But there is one point we'd like to make: Pinard de Picard has wonderful hand-drawn graphics to illustrate their wines, which they and artist Susanne Lehen-Friedrich have graciously allowed us to use, and which now grace this Wine Rambler reissue. Enjoy.
What could be a better Christmas present than a mammoth tusk? If you too cannot imagine anything better, you are certainly in line with some of the staff and customers of Harrods, the famous London department store.
I visited this temple of conspicuous consumption earlier today, but as I had already organised all my Christmas presents a while ago, I showed the tusk and another £47,000 fossil that also was on sale the cold shoulder and moved on to the wine shop in the basement, eager to explore what delights it might offer - especially with regards to German wine. I mean, where better to go, one would think, than Harrods if it comes to finding something unusual and extraordinary, right?
Sometimes you find one of these local shops that feel a bit like home. For me, Philglas & Swiggot in Battersea is one of them. Located on Northcote Road, Battersea's food and wine shopping street (especially if you count the St John's Road extension), this gem of a shop has been supplying the locals with wine for almost two decades. Now there are two other branches, one in Marylebone, the other in Richmond. The efforts of the team to provide good wine and good advice have been recognised, for instance through the award of London Wine Merchant of the Year in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006.
So what's so special about this shop?
After the failed attempt to explore wine merchants in Washington, a Wine Rambler desperate to bring some wine stories home from the USA trip moved north to the Big Apple.
I know what I'm needin', and I don't wanna waste more time.
I'm in a New York state of mind.
This posting does in no way claim to be representative of the wine shopping experience in New York. It is just a fairly random sample of wine shops I happened to walk into while exploring New York. And a few comments by a German wine snob about what German wine delight is on offer to the locals.
Well, you went uptown ridin' in your limousine / With your fine Park Avenue clothes / You had the Dom Perignon in your hand / And the spoon up your nose
Product Range: Fairly comprehensive on the South of France, Italy and Spain, good on Germany, a small selection of the rest. Interesting older wines (Bordeaux, Languedoc) at very fair prices come up from time to time.
Pricing: Fairly unbeatable.
Wine prose: None to speak of. Wine descriptions mostly just cite journalist rankings and points. But that's ok, no Parker hypocrisy either.
Upsides: Very competitive prices. The range of wines under 6 € is exceptional, and - as far as I can say - very decent throughout. Since prices are mostly cheaper even than in supermarkets, shipping included, you can stock up on everyday wines without regrets. [read the full post...]
This is not actually a posting about American wine, or any wine for that matter. It is more about how assault rifles and the Sabbath conspired against me bringing you a story from wine heaven.
It was all well thought out. Go to Maryland for a few days of work and use the chance to do some sightseeing in Washington. And to visit a few wine shops there and bring back some interesting stories. So this Sunday morning I left my hotel armed with a few maps, recommendations for places to visit and a list of potentially interesting wine merchants in DC. And an invitation to have dinner in Virginia to try some of the swag.
Product range: Europe, and a bit of the world. Very good covering of France and, unusually in Germany, California. Ambitious and original range of biodynamic and all sorts of alternatively made wines. Fairly great turnover, as the program is remade every two or three years and producers no longer worthy of the concept are ditched mercilessly. [read the full post...]
The other day I opened a bottle of a lovely Pinot Blanc from Markus Molitor's winery. After a little search online I found two wine merchants who have this wine in their online catalogue. One of them was the Alpe Adria Weindepot in Austria.
I emailed them, only to get a reply saying that it was a) too difficult to deliver wine to the UK; b) too expensive (even though that should be the customer's decision, I think); and that c) they specialised in Austrian and Italian wine and could therefore not offer this one. [read the full post...]