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.
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.