Monday, November 22, 2010

Saufgelage ~ another hard night at the favourite industry hangout ~ !

…specifically the one ‘cross 10th Ave from the old railroad trestle at the corner of 24th…. Where the jukebox played Schweizer Volkrock all evening while we drank some very fine Austrians—

Quintet of rather unusual suspects: Me and Millman, Ellisa and Cynthia—plus Allison Lee, with whom I used to share an elevator on 8th Ave during my VOS days ~

On this occasion, Allison the Instigator, so would if we could call her Alligator for short, but she’s not short, more like 5’10” so I guess we can’t…

One of the things I like best about working with Austrian wines is that the people involved typically work and play well with each other. Always happy to see Carlo or Monika or Jonathan or Allison, who works with Daniel Hubbard at Domaine Select…

On this occasion 4 courses and 8 bottles, one cork-stinker—sorry Mr Glatzer—but truthfully even for us pros, 9 would’ve been too many…

—not quite Noah boarding the Arque,

but still I set up the animals two-by-two. Firstoff:

2008 Lackner-Tinnacher Gelber Muskateller—heavenly aromas, lovely vibrant acids, one of the finest in Steiermark—the only uncertainty might be, what does one drink with it? GM experiments in the past have favoured just the slightest of flavours—but we drank it by itself, which is a more reliable decision.

2008 Wimmer-Czerny Roter Veltliner—we put this alongside the GM, because RV has comparatively little in the way of aromaticity—but we dug deeply into it when the fondue arrived. Texture, texture, texture… great flavour and great match with molten gruyère and emmenthaler (nb I have been to Emmenthal...)

then came 2 Grüne Veltliner from opposite ends of the spectrum:

2007 Emmerich Knoll GV Federspiel, which Cynthia Sexton brought, an aromatic and lively interpretation of the GV, somewhat on the citric side of the colour-scheme—second course was a little mason-jar of chicken-liver paté, quickly the victim of a feeding frenzy—went five-ways handily, and whetted appetites in a tantalising fashion.

2006 Gritsch Mauritiushof GV Singerriedel Smaragd, a heavyweight with plenty of punch, firmly nestled into the tropical spectrum of grüner veltliner aroma and flavour, glorious minerality typical to the site, and well balanced even with 14.5% you-know-what. This with the steak tartare was a heavenly combination—nice as well with crepinette de porc and ris de veau…

followed by 2 more Heavyweights from the teeming metropolis of Spitz an der Donau:

2002 Hirtzberger Riesling Singerriedel Smaragd, a bottle that Frau Irmgard H. gave me some years ago. Whereas their 02er Hochrain Smaragd was pristine and bright a year ago, Singerriedel showed about as much botrytis as could be safely packed into a dry riesling. Beautiful light-orange colour, apricot and citrus-zest nose, apple and pineapple cream on the palate. Intense minerality against still-zingy acids. Most of the diners headed for red wine dishes for their main courses—I ordered the pork garlic sausage with Yukon golds and leeks, so got to drink a substantial quantity of it…

2007 Karl Lagler Tausendeimerberg Neuburger Smaragd, out of a rather slatey site; like the first two bottles it came with Allison. I find fascinating that not-so-aromatic wines like Neub and RV don’t come across as deficient when tasted alongside fragrant bottles of RR and GV. Lovely texture, nutty flavours almond and pistaschio, a bit of bosc pear, acids well folded into layers of fruit, very handsome.

‘twas not really intended to be White Night, just sortof

turned out that way—but good to have a couple Rotweine from Burgenland, from opposite sides of the lake:

2007 Hans & Anita Nittnaus Heideboden, Zweig/Blauf/Merlot cuvée, just like satin—fruit sashaying backandforth from blueberry to sourcherry, very polished thanks to the international partner in the blend, ripe tannins and plenty of gitupngo. And I have to say that chef Ralf Kuettel has really got the hang of the hangar steak.

2006 Rosi Schuster Blaufränkish Reserve, the last bottle in my basement, and the end of the line for this cuvée from Hannes—sweet core of fruit, black-cherry and blackberry; expansive material, very little wood from 2nd fill barriques; pretty depth and nice minerality heading down the dolce vita.

…after the crowd thinned out I realised a personal ambition and got the three ladies to read

the opening of Act IV Scene I from the Scottish Play—

Allison was a good sport about it, and the other two know me

well enough to be prepared for all sorts of foolishness…

—and at this point, I shall turn into the spirit and soul of discretion, and allow the remainder of the evening to remain at our table… will only say that Bob Millman

gave a very good account of himself as sitdown-comic—

or was it Standup-Philosopher?


Sunday, November 7, 2010

¡ Verkorkt ! Bouchonné ~ !

bottle of Beaujolais Villages, intended for showing to retail buyers,
vivid stinker, and spoiled on the palate as well...

started to pour it out,
poured it in the lentil stew instead, along with half as much water—
almost immediately aromas of fresh and lovely gamay fruit
came wafting out of the pot.
no trace of corkiness in the dish.

yes, the cork-taint TCA does make itself scarce under fire.

and do try this at home.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

headnote—quick take on GV

there are some Grüner Veltliner we love, some we admire, and some which inspire the uttermost respect.
Others we hang out with simply because of the variety's almost sluttish willingness to widely and wildly embrace quite a variety of table-companions...

Friday, October 8, 2010

Greet the Grape ~ Grüner Veltliner

…although a respected colleague labels her litre wine Grooner, pronouncing the actual first syllable of Grüner Veltliner is a bit more involved—the vowel is halfway between oo and sometimes-y—the groove that you hit, and the grin that you grin where the wine goes in.

that’s what the titties on top of the ü are about… The German language has more vowels than does the American or even the British. Let’s try this: gewurztraminer has no ü in French, but Gewürztraminer does in German. So try, perhaps, saying Grüner with a French u… as in Muscadet sur lie…

but surely that’s the only tedious thing about this remarkable grape—also known as Weissgipfler because of the white tipping on the leaves. Either way, it’s just as much the national treasure of Austria as poor Mister Mozart—and much more so than Familie Trapp, or the Spanische Hofreitschule

at the basic level when GV comes out of the spigot in a tavern in Grinzing (Vienna 19) it’s sort of like pinot grigio with an imagination. At the exalted heights of Högl or the unrelated Pichlers, it can scare the hell out of a great white burgundy—my wine-snob friends in Los Angeles will not allow me to bring Bründlmayer or Gritsch to dinner when we are drinking their Ramonet or Coche-Dury.

one thing that various members of the GV tribe have in common is their aromaticity and spice—the simpler versions attract attention by means of a peppery snap, while the more luxuriant expressions trade this for an entire orchard of tropical fruit-tones and a vibrant acidity that is not so obvious as that of the noble Riesling. My take on the vintage variability of some of these wines is that the skin phenolics are greatly influenced by exposure to sunlight, so each year is bound to be different, depending on sunshine and leaf-work done by the Winzer. GV prefers warm autumns so it may ripen patiently and evenly, but is happy growing in many different kinds of soil.

it’s an interesting grape variety at nearly every point in the spectrum. Litre GV is so charming and resilient that one can even drink a good one after the great Smaragd-level wines from the Wachau. Federspiel and comparably-weighted wines from the Traisen, Kamp and Krems are among the most versatile bottles that will ever sit on your dinner-table. But cheap GV will give you a belly-ache like no other wine. Promise. The Austrian word for heartburn is Sodbrennen.

we Americans associate GV primarily with the famous wine-growing districts of Lower Austria—Wachau, Kremstal, Traisental, Kamptal—but there’s so much of it in the Weinviertel that a good chunk of real estate carries the subtag “Veltlinerland.” And we have known for a long time that Traminer was one of the parents of this remarkable critter, but only recently has the other been discovered—a hitherto unknown variety in St Georgen, in the Leithagebirge on the west side of the Neusiedlersee in Burgenland. Where GV is widely planted. (NB. Roland Velich’s rare Moric GV from this district changes spots for stripes with a new vintage: sometimes it comes across like Château Laville Haut-Brion, in other vintages more Cortoncharliesque...)

as far as food-matching goes, there’s not all that much that GV can’t handle. Sauvignon blanc is better with tomatoes. I like guzzling litre GV with a gyro—between what the fruit does with the tzatziki sauce and how the acid digs its talons into the mystery-meat... And then I recently drank an extraordinary half-bottle of Schloss Gobelsburg’s 2008 Ried Lamm in the restaurant Rote Bar at Hotel Sacher in Vienna after the Staatsoper performance of Tannhäuser early last month. It paired most handsomely alongside an Almo-Ochsen Tartare served with mustard-grape ice-cream, but then equally well with Beuscherl—a rather gratifyingly hearty concoction made from a calf’s pulmonary apparatus and ticker simmered in Riesling. Visitors to Vienna should not miss the GV selection at the Asian restaurant Kim Kocht out by the other opera house on the Gürtel, where Sohyi Kim’s remarkable, sometimes fiery cookery provides the variety with some very interesting challenges.

Foto: © ÖWM/ Faber

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

~ reflections approaching a signpost birthday...

one of the most important things which has smoothed my way through life—aside from having inherited my father's teeth and my mother's

is that while frequently in the company of those who need to
be Right, my need has been rather to be Heard...

photo: self-portrait—Auf der Brücke, KZ Dachau

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Greet the Grape ~ Neuburger

...there are many unique autochthonous grape varieties growing in Austria, some several of which produce memorably flavorful wines. And among these varieties, many turn out to be spontaneous crossings of two previously established types—and certainly Mr Roter Veltliner wasn’t always all too concerned about whom he woke up next to in the morning…

Neuburger—literally, the “new citizen”—is one of these extraordinary products of ampelographic promiscuity—Roter Veltliner mating with Señora Sylvaner (as ‘posed to Zierfandler, which is what that old goat Roter did with Madame Traminer…)

legend has it that a floating bundle of grape-cuttings was fished out of the Danube some hundred-plus years ago, planted out of curiosity, and turned out to produce a hardy vine that needed so little moisture that, as Josef Högl puts it, “sometimes the dew is enough.”

he holds his liquor well, does this son of the river—Karl Lagler in Spitz, among others, bottles a Neuburger that does not lack for agility at 14% alcohol and even a touch more… Nikolaihof picks it earlier, gets it into the bottle a little lighter with a handsomely polished texture—quite a lovely wine.

once upon a time, Schildknecht and I were entertained there by the eternally gracious Christine Saahs, where we tasted all manner of wondrous Rieslings and GVs, both ancient and youthful. And we were invited to take any bottles from our tasting down to dinner, which we did. It was springtime, and so Spargelzeit, the asparagus season so beloved in Austria and Germany. And at the end of our dinner, surveying the wreckage of a groaning board, the mighty Rieslings and Grüne Veltliner—the Steiner Hund, the Im Weingebirge—stood yet half-full upon the table—but the Neuburger bottle was empty…

one thing that Wachauer Neub is not, however, is particularly aromatic. Mainly about texture and tongue—

elsewhere the wines turn out lighter and spicier, as proven by Karl Alphart, in the Thermenregion south of Vienna. His Neuburger “Hausberg”—out of deep brown soils with a bit of limestone—not only comes in at a modest 12.5%, but also shows aromatix that neither mom nor dad could’ve called their own. Lightly spiced and elegantly tropical, Hausberg finishes with a wave rather than a wallop.

Foto: © ÖWM/ Faber

Sunday, August 1, 2010

while Thomas Mann was having a difficult evening, James was enjoying himself in the morning—...

————Zitat des Tages

——————Thomas Mann, im Tagebuch am 27.11.36
hinsichtlich einer Rundfunksendung der Venusbergmusik aus Tannhäuser:

"Die Romantik ist eine unsaubere Welt. Ich will nicht mehr viel davon wissen."


Friday, June 25, 2010

a memorable bit of Outdoor Beethoven—

having recently come back from a short week in Berlin, I got into a little discussion about Beethoven and other symphonists—along with the great conductors—on one of the wine boards.
Something that's worth recycling:

Berlin, Germany—9 November 2000

the country had seen in prior weeks an ugly spate of Turk-beatings and gay-bashings—a nasty trend toward skinhead violence. So the city of Berlin laid-on an official demonstration against Facism.

in the early dark I found myself among 200,000 other individuals gathered in Boulevard Unter den Linden, clear and cool.

Paul Spiegel, president of the Central Jewish Council, delivered a stirring address—blew a lot of lazy people's shit away, actually—
in memory of the Kristallnacht Pogrom of 9 November 1938.
Dr. Spiegel went on to point out—and people did not stop talking about this for a good while—that if one were truly opposed to violence against minorities, whether distinguished by colour, nation, sexuality or religious heritage, it became incumbent upon the individual to speak up and object whenever—at the dinner table or in the bar—jokes or stories were told making fun of this or that group, because in these seemingly innocent anecdotes lay the potential seeds of violence and murder.

nearly a quarter of a million people shoulder-to-shoulder while a great orator laid it on real thick...

and when the shouting died down at the end of Spiegel's address, there, on the bandstand in front of the Brandenburg Gate—
the Stadtskapelle Berlin, Daniel Barenboim on the podium.
—the four strokes of doom that open Beethoven's middle symphony.
this, ladies and gentlemen, was electric.
and in the finale, the excitement grew to nearly overwhelming.
Whoever coined the phraselet "to beat the band" must've had Barenboim in mind...

Monday, March 1, 2010

a quick word from across the water ~

I see some folks in the course of my travels who ask me why Austrian wines are comparatively expensive, and I tell them that most of the cheap stuff is actually disposed-of either in the village, or beyond that border most immediately to the west. Thanks to contributions from two Facebook friends, I have an example to show:

Falstaff Mario Scheuermann berichtet, wie peinlich österreichische Weine im deutschen Diskonter angepriesen werden. Ein Zweigelt, angeblich Reserve mit klingenden Beinamen wie "Swinging Mountain", "Pride auf Austria" und "really red". Ah geh! Um 1,49 Euro.

according to Falstaff magazine, (Hamburg-based) wine-critic Mario Scheuermann reports, how embarrassingly Austrian wines are promoted by German discount-stores (say, like Target or Wal-Mart). For 1,49€ (a little over two dollars) one can buy a Zweigelt—supposedly "Reserve"—with a sonorous (English language) nom-de-guerre like: Swinging Mountain, Pride of Austria or really red—
...ah gitaway!!!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

winely reflections from boa-constrictor brunch ~

...this is of course none other than the famous illustration from Antoine Marie Jean-Baptiste Roger de Saint-Exupéry’s great novel, Le Petit Prince, which depicts un serpent boa, qui avalit un fauve—I beg permission for fair use—

and not hard to figure out, boa-brunch is when you cannot eat a thing for the rest of the day, and for me yesterday it was dim sum that done the deed.

but was interested to note, that along with the stuffed eggplant, the shu-mai, the crystal shrimp dumplings, the sesame-fried wontons—the better companion was not the grüner veltliner 08 Höhlgraben from Gerald Malat—but rather a riesling Smaragd—Josef Högl Vision 06, left over from visiting Tom McKnew and Dean Gold and Tony Quinn in DC on Wednesday.

—imagine that—we all know grüner is best with everything, and high-octane riesling Smaragd from ripe vintages proves too often problematic in the dining department—but on this occasion I was amazed at how, though the GV cleaned up quite nicely after each mouthfull, this big middle-linebacker of a riesling had the knack to fit and insinuate the corners and billows of its sweet, savoury and tart flavours into those of what for suburban NJ was really pretty respectable dim sum.

...depicted below, also © M de St.-Exupéry his heirs and assigns, what the serpent boa looks like (and feels like) after said brunch...