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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 199 (July 28, 2008)

Friday, July 18: Arrive in Frankfurt at 7:20 am on time in spite of leaving forty minutes late from Toronto. On the Lufthansa flight I accompany Ron Fiorelli, who represents the German Wine Institute in Canada, Harry Drung of HHD Imports, my wine writer colleague Dan Kislenko and Borys Tkach, an LCBO wine consultant. John Schreiner, a wine writer from Vancouver, will join us at the hotel NH Bingen. We are members of the judging panel for The Best of Riesling competition. By the time the drinks trolley reaches my seat there is no Riesling left, only Vollmer Sauvignon Blanc Chardonnay 2007 from Argentina. The choice is either that or a non-vintage Sicilian Merlot. I opt for the latter with my chicken. Bad choice. Grab a ninety-minute sleep.

We are met by a bus that takes us to the hotel, a 60-kilometre distance. The hotel is a modern conference complex with 1950s retro interior. Our rooms look out over the Rhine to the Roseneck vineyard across the river at Rüdesheim – a town that Ron describes as Niagara Falls am Rhein. We have a couple of beers in the nearby Binger Sommergarten and then sleep for two hours. We meet in the lobby for 1:30 pm and go looking for a place to have lunch. We cross the railway tracks but everything in the town looks closed so we return to the Sommergarten, which we know is open, but have to wait fifteen minutes at the barrier as four trains go by. I order a glass of Weissherbst, an off-dry rosé which is not identified by producer on the menu. To eat, a white sausage that comes in a soup bowl filled with hot water with a pretzel on the side. Not the most appetizing presentation, but I am hungry enough to finish it.

Return to the hotel for another couple of hours' sleep before going downstairs for "an introduction in German wines." I suspect it's a repeat performance, graphs and all, of the seminar given in Toronto prior at the German Wine Fair in May by Steffen Schindler, Director of Marketing for the German Wine Institute. But first a glass of excellent Sekt, Wilhelmshof Sübeldingen Riesling Brut 2005 from the Pfalz. Ernst Büscher from the German Wine Institute's Press Office delivers the lecture – lots of statistics:

  • Germany has 102,000 hectares of vineyards
  • Germany produces 9–10 million hectolitres of wine a year
  • 2007 was the earliest flowering but a late harvest
  • Germans drink 39% white wine, 53% red wine and 8% rosé
  • 63.2% of wines produced in Germany are white, 36.8% red
  • Germany is the world's biggest importer of wines
  • Germans drink 23.7 litres per capita a year
  • In 2007 German wines' market share was 46.6%
  • Germany has the world's largest planting of Riesling at 20,627 hectares
  • After France and the US Germany is the largest producer of Pinot Noir, half of which is grown in Baden.

Then we eat. The first wine is grown on an island in the Rhine – Reichsgraf von Kesselstadt Bastian Bacharach Insel Heylese'en Werth Riesling Trocken 2006 from the Ruwer (minerally, grapefruit rind flavour, dry), accompanying cream of Riesling soup with black bread croutons. Next dish, beef carpaccio with balsamic glaze and peppercorns (the oil used on the carpaccio is Distelöl – made from thistles, the first time I have tried this oil. It has a lovely, delicate flavour of smoky toasted walnuts). Next, a white fish (Hake? Sole?) with boiled potatoes and hot cucumber served with Max Müller I Sammeracher Katzenkopf Riesling Spätlese Trocken 2006 from Franken in a Bochsboetel (minerally, grapefruit and apricot flavours – goes beautifully with the dish). Finally, a dessert that translates literally as "wine foam cream" served with Hans Lang Hattenheimer Wisselbrunnen Trockenbeerenauslese 2005 (oh, those German names). Then to bed.

Saturday, July 19: Woke at 6:30 am to discover I had forgotten to pack my razor. A hearty breakfast knowing I'm going to taste a lot of wines today. Our bus, along with the American and Polish judging contingents, is visiting three wineries in the Rheinhessen and Nahe. We pass a rolling landscape of wheat fields and vineyards. Our tour begins at Weingut Wagner-Stempel in Siefersheim. Daniel Wagner, the young proprietor and winemaker, welcomes us outdoors with a glass of Wagner-Stempel Blanc de Noirs Sekt Brut. Daniel explains he's the 9th generation of the family, but since there are eight generations before him who only had girls, the name of the estate kept changing every generation. Originally the wine was sold in bulk to the local co-operative but his father began bottling in 1988. They control 70 different vineyards; some are leased. Their own vineyards grow at elevations up to 280 metres, which makes their wine style more like Nahe than Rheinhessen. After visiting the cellar we sit down for the tasting of eleven wines. The best are:

Wagner-Stempel Seifersheim Riesling vom Porphyr trocken 2007 from the winery's two top sites, Höllburg and Heerkretz: medium straw colour; sweet peach nose; well extracted, minerally grapefruit flavour with lively acidity and great length.

Wagner-Stempel Seifersheimer Höllburg Riesling trocken 2007: minerally, peach, spicy orange with a creamy peach flavour; ripe fruit, full-bodied with a good grip.

Wagner-Stempel Seifersheimer Höllburg Riesling Spätlese 2007: medium straw colour; spicy, floral, peach bouquet; honeyed tangerine and grapefruit flavours; very elegant, lovely mouth-feel and great length. (I bought two bottles)

Wagner-Stempel Seifersheimer Heerkretz Riesling Spätlese 2007: medium straw colour; honeyed grapefruit; minerally, mango flavour; beautifully balanced but tighter than the Höllburg with a touch of bitterness on the finish.

We finish with a 2007 Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese which has intense Botrytis notes of honey, dust and sweet nectarine, unctuous but well balanced with great length for such a newly bottled wine. Daniel's three-year-old son is making a row outside the tasting room and appears wearing a T-shirt with the legend, in English, "I Might Not Be As Big As You But I Can Be Louder."

Off to lunch at Restaurant Im Gütchen in Bad Kreuznach. We are greeted by a server holding a tray of Bamberger Riesling Sekt 2005 (a blend of Grauburgunder and Weissburgunder) before sitting down at a long table. First, we have Weingut Lindenhof Weissburgunder Spätlese trocken 2006 with baked perch-pike served on a chapati, under which is a spicy ratatouille. Next course: Surf & Turf – beef with a tempura clam and chanterelles, served with Weingut Emrich-Schönleber Grauburgunder R 2003. Then a trio of desserts, mainly fresh berries, with Weingut Johanneshof-Kornell Riesling Beerenauslese Barrique 2005. Delicious as all of this is, I'm about to bite my wrist for some red wine.

Next stop – Weingut Bürgermeister Willi Schweinhardt Nachf. in Langenlonsheim in the Nahe. We are welcomed by the winemaker, Alex Schweinhardt, who joins us on the bus to drive above the village to see his vineyards. From this height we look down on Langenlonsheim and the sprawling industrial complex of Pieroth, the winery famous for its blue bottle. Parts of the vineyard are bare and Alex explains that heavy rains have washed the earth away, making it impossible to support vines. The soil has sea shells, remnants of a prehistoric lake. Part of the south-facing slope is red volcanic soil. Back to the winery for a tasting of nine wines. Alex tells us that next year in the Nahe region for VDP wines there will be no designation for Spätlese trocken and halbtrocken. The term Spätlese will be reserved only for sweet wines. The best wine here is Rothenberg Terrasse Riesling Grosses Gewachs QbA trocken 2007 (intense, minerally grapefruit flavour with lively acidity and still tight). One of the Polish contingent diplomatically asks, "You are known for your red wines. Would it be possible to taste one." Alex obliges with a Spätburgunder Auslese 2002 (flavours of stewed plum, earthy, dry with a smoky finish).

Our next stop is Weingut Kruger-Rumpf, where Stefan Rumpf proudly shows us the historic cow barn that is being transformed into a tasting room. It looks like a deconsecrated chapel with its pillars, arches and vaulted ceiling. We file into the restaurant for the tasting. "Each year," says Stefan, "we find that the flowering is earlier. In 1984 it was the end of June and now most of the time it's the middle of June. Last year it was the end of May." The other aspect is that German wines, I find, are rising in alcohol. Ironic, since New World winemakers are desperately trying to lower alcohol in their wines.

We taste six wines before dinner is served. The best are Kruger-Rumpf Petersburg Riesling Grosses Gewächs 2007 (spicy grapefruit and white pepper with minerality and lively acidity) and Petersburg Schiefer Riesling Kabinett halbtrocken 2007 (light, minerally, pink grapefruit, off-dry white honey note, very elegant). This last wine is served with a salad of chanterelles. This is followed by a Spätburgunder Blanc de Noirs trocken 2007 – interesting but not really successful with its green banana nose and sour cherry pit flavour with a bitter, hot finish. The wines is served with next course of butterflied shrimp with risotto and ratatouille. An interesting red is next, Früburgunder QbA trocken 2007 (ruby with a bluish tint; vanilla, spicy plum and violet flavour; oaky, full on the palate with a hot finish.) Stephan tells us this variety is a Spätburgunder mutation also called Pinot Madeleine. This wine with veal and pasta. Next wine: Scheurebe Spätlese 2007 (minerally, melon, honey, grapefruit, orange and cardamom flavours with a touch of bitterness on the finish). Scheurebe, says Stephan, can't be grown on slate; it must be loess soil or clay. With the dessert of crème brûlée and coffee ice cream, Munsterer Dautenpflänger Riesling Auslese 2004. This is meant to be the final wine, but Stephan disappears into the cellar and returns with Petersburg Riesling Eiswein 1996 (amber colour, Tokaji-like flavours of orange marmalade and green tea with searing acidity) and unlabelled half bottles that turn out to be Munsterer Dautenpflänger Riesling Beerenauslese 1996 (honey, dried apricot flavour, great acidity, great length). We leave at 8:30 pm. I type up my notes and return after 10 pm to the bar, where Ron Fiorelli, Harry Drung, Boris Tchak and Dan Kislenko are already ensconced over beers, Asbach Uralt brandy and snack food. I can't face another drink. Bed after 11 pm.

Ron Fiorelli sampling the local brew

Sunday, July 20: A lousy night's sleep – up every hour since 12:30 am. Today our visits begin with the state-owned Hessiche Staatsweingüter Kloster Eberbach in Eltville, where we are greeted by its Managing Director, Dieter Greiner. First a walking tour of the Steinberg vineyard, a beautifully manicured 220 hectare site enclosed by a three-kilometre stone wall capped with slate tiles. The domain has belonged to the monastery (now secular, courtesy of Napoleon) for 872 years and is the largest all-Riesling vineyard in Germany. Dieter conducts us through the spanking new facility that cost the German taxpayer 16 million euros – a sore point among Rheingau vintners because of this interest-free subsidy. As we begin our tour we are offered a taste of Assmannhauser Höllenberg Pinot Noir Spätlese trocken 2005 (very Burgundian, a cherry nose with an earthy note, a jammy flavour that dries out to a dark chocolate finish; very elegant).

The new State winery in Eltville

This will be the first vintage for the new winery, which is huge, with a capacity of 1.8 million litres. The next wine on our walking tour is Kloster Eberbach Pinot Noir "R" 2005, an international-style Pinot with an animal and raspberry nose, fully-extracted with flavours of black raspberry and dried tomato, full-bodied at 15% alcohol with soft tannins. In the barrel room we taste Steinberg Riesling Kabinett Trocken 2007 (peachy-grapefruit nose, minerally grapefruit pith flavour) and Dieter directs us to a wall on which hangs a large painting by Apitz of the vineyard slope where the grapes for this wine were harvested. Next series of wines: Rüdesheimer Burg Rottland Riesling Spätlese trocken 2007 (peachy, citrus nose, very elegant, off-dry and seamless), followed by Erbach Marcobrunn Riesling Erstes Gewächs 2006 (minerally, grapefruit, apricot flavours, elegant and well balanced), and then, the best wine of the visit, Rauenthaler Baiken Riesling Spätlese 2007 (licorice and petrol nose, honeyed grapefruit with tangerine and nectarine flavours; very elegant with great length).

The Rüdesheimer Rottland vineyard

A word about Erstes Gewächs: this is a term trade marked by the Rheingau region meaning First Growth. The Mosel adopted the concept but can't call it Erstes Gewächs so they use the term Grosses Gewächs – Great Growth. Another way to confuse the consumer.

Art installation in the Georg Müller cellar

Our next visit is to Weingut Georg Müller Stiftung, a winery that was purchased from the village of Eltville (to whom it had been donated by Müller in the 1930s) by Peter Winter, a former President of Pieroth, in 2003. The cellar is 250 years old and Peter, whose wife own a modern art gallery, has invited international artists to display their works there. He has prepared for us a unique experience of "art selected to the wine and food." We graze on small dishes as we move to different parts of the cellar and inspect the art installations. Our first wine is Cuvée Katharina Spätburgunder Weissherbst Sekt Brut 2006, named for Peter's daughter. A series of Rieslings follow, the best of which is Cuvée Katharina Riesling Auslese 2006 (elegant, honey and peach flavours, beautifully balanced with acidity, light as a feather). But the real treat is the Georg Müller Spätburgunder Cuvée Daniel QbA trocken, which we have with a selection of cheeses in a tent in the courtyard of the winery (very Burgundian, delicate, minerally, raspberry flavour, very poised and elegant). The wine is named for Peter Winter's son. I asked to buy a bottle and the winemaker, Alf, very generously gave me one. The last wine was an anomaly, the only Auxerrois made in the Rheingau and treated by a Chardonnay with oak ageing in barrique.

The last visit of the afternoon is to Weingut Franz Künstler in Hochheim, where Gunter Künstler, Franz's winemaker son, has set up a fascinating tasting to demonstrate how Riesling can age. He has paired the 2007 vintage with older wines from the same vineyard.

Hochheimer Kirschenstück Riesling Kabinett trocken 2007 matched with Hochheimer Kirschenstück Riesling Kabinett Charta 1992 (the Charta movement of top producers has been folded into the Erstes Gewächs designation). The young wine was almost water white, minerally with that banana and citrus note of a newly fermented wine, still tight. The older wine was magnificent (petrol, dried apricot nose; racy, elegant, lime and dried apricot flavours, elegant with great length).

Hochheimer Stielweg "Alte Reben" QbA trocken 2007 with Hochheimer Stielweg Riesling Spätlese trocken 1993. The 2007 is very intense on the nose, showing fresh ripe grapefruit aromas, minerally with lively acidity and good length. The 1993 is all petrol and lime on the nose with minerally, mature lime flavours tinged with a woody note and a tart finish. Very delicious.

Hochheimer Domdechaney Riesling QbA trocken 2007 and the same wine from 1997. The young wine has an intense spicy, minerally nose of white peach, a touch of sweetness in mid palate with good grip. The older wine is petrol and honeyed lime on the nose with an intriguing spicy caramel flavour and a barley sugar note on the finish; good acidity and well balanced. (Gunter says 2007 is the best vintage since 1997.)

Hochheimer Kirschenstück Riesling QbA trocken 2007 Goldkapsel and Hochheimer Kirschenstück Riesling Auslese trocken 1998. The 2007 is very intense on the nose, minerally, floral and citrus notes; elegant, firmly structured with an orange taste; great length. The 1998, by contrast, has a toasty, petrol and dried peach bouquet; buttery on the palate, mature, dried apricot flavour, well balanced with lively acidity.

Hochheimer Hölle Riesling QbA trocken Goldkapsel 2007 and Hochheimer Hölle Riesling Auslese trocken 1993. The young wine shows minerally, banana notes and white pepper with lively acidity good length. The older wine is petrol and lime, very crisp and lively with a dash of oak flavour and a bitter finish. A second bottle proves to be much better.

At this point the heavens open up and violent rain turns to hail. Gunter shuts the windows and looks concerned.

The final pairing is Hochheimer Kirschenstück Riesling Spätlese 2007 and Hochheimer Stieleg Riesling Trockenbeerenausle 2003. The 2007 is very pale in colour with an elegant grapefruit nose, it dances on the palate; great acidity, a seamless wine with a honeyed grapefruit flavour. The 2003 is deep amber in colour with a nose of molasses and marmalade; unctuous, mouth-filling, intense and concentrated flavours of orange, toast and honey; the flavour lingers forever.

I buy a bottle of the Kirschenstück Riesling Spätlese 2007. I guess I'm a sucker for that old-style German wine.

We're late getting back to the hotel and only have 20 minutes to shower and change before boarding the bus to Reh-Kendemann for a tour of the plant, tasting and dinner. After a rosé Sekt outdoors and some finger food we are split into four groups to be led to stations throughout the winery where tables have been set up offering a range of Kendermann products. Our group starts with the Black Tower table (a worldwide 1-million-case brand), where we taste Black Tower Rivaner, Black Tower Rosé and a new product in a small can called Black Tower Fizz, which we drink through a black straw. Paris Hilton, eat your heart out. After 15 minutes we move to the Kendermanns Riesling table where we taste the 2007 Riesling Schiefer (Mosel), Roter Hang (Rheinhessen) and Kalkstein (Pfalz) – I vote for the latter. Then on to Reh-Kendermann's Romanian winery table for Val Duna Chardonnay 2007, Val Duna Merlot Rosé and La Cetate Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (the most drinkable of the three, spicy clove and blackcurrant with a plummy mid palate). Next stop is the varietal table for Silvaner Alte Reben 2007, Riesling Roterberg 2007, Sauvignon Blanc Chardonnay 2007 and Kendermanns Leiwener Laurentiuslay Riesling Auslese 2005 (very tasty with honey and slate flavours and noticeable Botrytis notes). The last table outdoors offers no wine, just a lecture on the company, which sells 56 million bottles a year. Our group is first to finish, which is a good thing, because there is not room for everyone to sit down for dinner. Waiters bring vegetable soup served in hollowed-out brown bread loaves and turkey schnitzel. With it we drink The Kalkstein Riesling 2007 and Pinot Noir 2007.

Monday, July 21: The first day of The Best of Riesling – International Riesling Challenge. There are 160 jurors and 1937 wines mainly from Germany but also ten entries from Canada. This is the largest Riesling tasting in the world, according to the German Wine Institute, who organize the event. Speeches of welcome from the Deputy Mayor of Bingen, Michael Hüttner, State Secretary Professor Dr. Siegfried Englebert and this year's German Wine Queen, who wears a tiara for a crown. Professor Dr. Ulrich Fischer explains the tasting system and allocation of points before we all troop outside to have a mass photo with the step vineyard slope across the river as a backdrop.

The Canadian judges at The Best of Riesling - Harry, Dan, John, Ron, Borys and me

We are seated at tables of five in the convention hall attached to the hotel. I am on a panel that will taste only dry Rieslings, 60 altogether today. The marking system is out of 100 points but you accord points for colour, purity of bouquet, intensity and quality; purity of flavour, intensity, persistence and quality; then points for overall quality. We are given a couple of "warm-up" wines to determine if the judges are on the same page in terms of their scores. Prof. Dr. Fischer announces, "Those who speak German shouldn't talk too loudly." The wines I marked highest are all 2007, mainly Spätlese and Auslese trocken from Germany, although there is one Australian, one Luxembourg and three Austrian Rieslings on the list we are given at the end of the day. A quick Beck's beer with Borys to recalibrate the palate and then to the laptop to type up these notes before dinner at Burg Klopp in Bingen.

Burg Klopp is a castle above Bingen, a fifteen-minute walk from our hotel although it takes the bus that long to get there. The meal is gravad lax salad swimming in vinegar, pork loin and beef with croquette potatoes and chanterelles. The wines are Wendel Binger Palmanstein Riesling Hochgewächs trocken 2007 and a plummy sweet Kummerzienrat Ohler'sches Binger Schlossberg Schwätzerchen R5 Spätburgunder 2006. The waitress brings a bottle of Fritz Allendorf Assmanshaüser Höllenberg Spätburgunder trocken 2005 that is mildly corked and so is the second bottle. A group of us walks back to the hotel before dessert.

Dubai sommelier Lidwina Weh interviewed by local TV

Tuesday, July 22: Today we are judging the winning wines. I am on a panel with a sommelier from Dubai, Lidwina Weh. We are tasting the top dry Rieslings, sixteen of them. There are two stand-outs by my marking. The object of the second panel I'm on is to choose the top Riesling Collection. There is a group of the wines from three different wineries – a dry wine, off-dry and sweet. We have to select in order the best collection, not the best individual wines. Mercifully, the nine of us agree that the first collection is the best, although we are divided 4:5 about the second and third places. There is a press conference before lunch at which the results of the competition are announced, but since we have a visit arranged to Asbach Uralt at 1:30 pm we have to miss it.

We take the ferry across to Rüdesheim where Andreas, who works for the German Wine Institute, drives us in two carloads to the Asbach visitors' reception centre. We are given a tasting of four different products. The three brandies, 2-year-old, 8-year-old and 15-year-old, are served in large bell-shaped glasses with glass dome covers to retain the bouquet. The youngest is deep amber, fruity and sweetish with a marked caramel flavour. 8-year-old: minty, dried fruits, caramel with a licorice note. 15-year-old, minty, smooth with sweet vanilla flavour and a graceful, long finish. The last sample is a liqueur (19% alcohol) made from Riesling and brandy that tastes like a Pineau des Charentes.

The Rüdesheimer Wheaten
The confluence of the Rhine and Nahe rivers

On the way to lunch in Rüdesheim I see a couple walking a Wheaten terrier. I feel homesick for Pinot the Wonder Dog and stop them to take a photo. The dog is the same age as Pinot. We lunch at Weinhaus Endlich on salad (swimming in a creamy dressing) and Bratwurst and chips with a Bitburger pilsner. Up the road from the restaurant is the Torture Museum. Ron is right – Rüdesheim is Niagara Falls on the Rhine.

Our next stop is Georg Breuer. The late Bernard Breuer was one of the first German wine producers I met. His brother Heinrich welcomes us with a glass of Georg Breuer Sekt Brut, a blend of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and 5% Riesling. Then we drive in two cars up to see the Rottland Vineyard, which is directly across the river from our hotel. The winery owns 80 different plots in Rüdesheim totalling 26 acres and a further seven in Rauenthal. Heinrich shows us new plantings on resuscitated terraces. Because Riesling is beginning to command better prices, it is economic to rework the old terraces. He shows us a small block of an old German variety called Heunische (apparently this is the old French variety Jouais Blanc). We drive high in the vineyard, around the curve of the Rhine, past the point of confluence with the Nahe, to the Schloss Berg vineyard, the steepest in Rheingau, with a gradient of 70 degrees.

The ruins of Schloss Berg and the Mouse Tower below

Heinrich Breuer with the rock

A great view from here of the ruined castle, the Mouse Tower on an island (formerly used to collect river tolls) and the two rivers. Somewhere along the rough road Heinrich's Volkswagen Golf had kicked up a large flat stone that got lodged between the rear off-side tire and the wheel well. From our following car we could see smoke coming from the Volkswagen and smell burning rubber. Heinrich had to remove the wheel to dislodge a stone the size of a large brick too hot to touch. We returned to the Breuer cellar for a tasting.

2007 Georg Breuer Grauburgunder: peachy, minerally, light and well balanced, very elegant.

2006 Georg Breuer Spätburgunder: ruby colour; a lovely nose of roses, vanilla and raspberries; very elegant, medium-bodied and well structured with a finish a sweet rhubarb.

2007 Georg Breuer Riesling Sauvage: minerally, very dry, citrus peel nose; firmly structured, tart grapefruit flavour.

2007 Georg Breuer Riesling Charm: an off-dry version of the above. Tart with sweet rhubarb and grapefruit flavours.

2007 Rüdesheim Estate Riesling: petrol developing on the nose with lime and grapefruit notes; very dry, almost austere with searing acidity and a rhubarb finish.

2007 Rauenthal Riesling Estate: broader on the palate, minerally, grapefruit and elderberry flavours but still tight; great balanced with a lemony finish. A lovely wine.

2006 Georg Breuer Riesling Terra Montosa: petrol, grapefruit, minerally, very firm with a green apple finish.

2005 Georg Breuer Riesling: Berg Rottland: minerally, petrol nose; delicate, tight, lots of citrus flavour behind the acidity. Needs time.

2006 Georg Breuer Rheingau Riesling Auslese: honey, minerally, floral, intense concentration; beautifully balanced, tropical fruit and honey; great length. More Beerenauslese than Auslese.

2005 Georg Breuer Roseneck Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel: petrol, honey, apricot jam and licorice notes on the nose; concentrated mango and honey flavours; great acidity, long, long finish. A great wine.

The old cellar of Balthazar Ress

Our final stop for the day is Balthazar Ress. We are welcomed by Stephan Ress with a glass of Balthazar Ress Rheingau Sekt 2004 Blanc de Noir: full-bodied, creamy cherry flavour – the best Sekt I've tasted on the trip. Stephan tells us that Sekt is the only wine in Germany that has an excise tax levied on it. The Germans are great sparkling wine drinkers, consuming 4 litres a year per capita. We tour the cellars and then go upstairs for a table-top tasting in the kitchen. As we taste several vintners arrive. A long dinner table has been set in the adjacent room. They have assembled to honour Ron Fiorelli, who is retiring from his position as Director of the German Wine Institute in Canada.

We taste a series of Balthazar Ress wines that include two spectacular products:

2007 Balthazar Ress Rüdesheimer Berg Rottland Riesling Spätlese: intense lychee, petrol and passion fruit nose; sweet honeyed mid-palate taste; firmly structured with a sweet tangerine finish that lasts forever.

1999 Balthazar Ress Hattenheimer Nussbrunnen Riesling Spätlese: sweet almond and grapefruit nose, firm structure with honeyed fruit.

Wednesday, July 23: Flew back to Toronto. Am reading on the plane David Solokin's book Investing In Liquid Assets – Uncorking Profits In Today's Global Wine Market. The book is geared to American investors; his basic thesis is buy Bordeaux "investment grade wines" (those that have been scored 95–100 by Robert Parker, Wine Spectator, Stephen Tanzer, Alan Meadows) and hold for at least five years. In Ontario and everywhere in Canada except Alberta investing in wine is not a pursuit within the law, unfortunately.

Thursday, July 24: Spent the day going through the accumulation of emails. It seems the entire population of Nigeria has a dead uncle who left them millions of dollars that they can't get out of the country and would I help.

Friday, July 25: A vintages tasting for the August 30th release. Several very drinkable champagnes, including the 2000 vintage of Dom Pérignon which I tasted at Haut Villers in May. Zoltan Szabo and I went over to Eight Wine Bar in the Cosmopolitan Hotel to meet Paul Lokash, who represents several Israeli wineries. Tasted a few of his wine but my palate was blunted by the 50-odd wines I'd already tasted.




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