Monthly Archives: April 2013

Sunday Read: The Saar and Mosel Map of 1868

The Saar and Mosel map framed (Photo links to Lars Carlberg’s website, where it is uploaded)

I feel like I owe an explanation for my week long silence, but there really is not much to it. There are weeks when writing this blog is easy, and weeks were it is harder. Last week was one of these. I wrote a lot (work related) last week and so my eagerness to write more diminished. I also didn’t drink much wine last week, to be precise: none, so there was nothing I felt particularly strong about sharing. Let’s see how next week works out.

Today, for my Sunday Read, I want to point you to a particular article but also to a website in general: Lars Carlberg’s page. Lars is an American living in Trier, where we used to live, and he is a wine writer, worked as an importer or winery representative and loves the small estates that dot the Mosel, Saar and Ruwer. I have had the good fortune of meeting him several times and he is knowledgbale and a great conversation partner: thoughtful, witty, never boring. He started a Mosel wine, restricted access database last year in which he profiles wineries and posts his tasting notes. I don’t have access to it, but I like whatever he posts publicly and highly recommend you check his website out.

The article I am sharing today is about the Mosel and Saar Tax Map of 1868. When the Prussians took over the Rhineland and Mosel after the Napolenic Wars, they really had not much of a clue of this heavily Catholic area (the Prussian Kings were Protestants). So they established their administrative system and over the decades decided to streamline taxation etc. In 1868, the Prussian government commissioned this tax map. The commissioner, a Mr. Clotten, divided the vineyard properties in eight categories, or tax brackets, according to the net profit made from wines whose grapes came from the vineyard, and for the map purposes made three different brackets. This way, he identified the profitability of the vineyards on the map (from light red to dark red). This in turn, is now seen as marking which vineyards had the best growing conditions or reputation. Looking at the map today, many of the vineyards we now consider prime spots are dark red on the map. It is pretty awesome, and much more a testament to the idea of terroir than the Bordeaux ranking of estates.

Lars teamed up with the Trier Public Library to produce a reprint of the map. Nina and I own one from the second batch of reprints. It is very high quality and gorgeous to look at. We still need to get a custom made frame for it (it is VERY long), but are looking forward to having it on our wall sometime this year. In his article, Lars explains more about the map, a fascinating piece of history. And you can have it shipped to the US as well…just sayin’ for you fellow Mosel Riesling nuts.

And happy Sunday! It’s a sunny but cold day in Ann Arbor.

Sunday Read: Saar and Mosel Taxation Map

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Martini Bianco my way…

Martini Bianco (Photo from Martini's website)

Martini Bianco (Photo from Martini’s website)

In line with my summery post earlier this week (we popped our first rosé wine this year, see here), I figured I share another of my favorite summer drinks, a Martini Bianco. I am not referring to the mixed drink “Martini” but rather to the brand Martini, an Italian producer of Vermouth. It is short for Martini & Rossi and has an iconic label that many people recognize (featured on the bottle pictured above). I guess the posts say a lot about how glad I am that this long Midwestern winter is finally coming to a close…

Vermouth is a fortified wine that is flavored with various ingredients like roots, barks, spices and seeds. It was first commercialized in Northern Italy, Turin to be exact, in the 18th century, but its roots go way back. It was first used as a medical drink and later became a key ingredient in cocktails, hence the name of the ubiquitous martini. Apparently (I am reading this up in various sources), Vermouth is made from rather neutral tasting grapes that are fermented to wine, to which further alcohol is added along with each producer’s secret set of ingredients. It comes in usually two styles, dry or sweet. Most people know it as dry, the sweet versions have sugar added to them after they have been fortified. Vermouth has a rather bitter taste to it, which makes it a great ingredient in cocktails. France and Italy are the main producers.

Martini & Rossi, the company of which I buy my Vermouth, started its operations in the mid-19th century in Turin. Its logo was first introduced in 1929 (I really, really love the logo) and merged with the rum conglomerate Bacardi in 1993. Some of you might have noticed that Martini is offering several different bottles of its Vermouth in stores. One usually finds the Extra dry Martini in a green bottle, the Martini Rosso, a red version vermouth, a Martini Rosato, a pinkish, sweet version that tastes like Christmas and the one I am talking about right now, Martini Bianco, their sweet white vermouth.

I fell in love with this drink a long time ago. I don’t enjoy sparkling wine very much, a classic starter in Germany, so this was a really great alternative. To me, it is the perfect apéritif on a hot day because it provides freshness, some sweetness (which by now pretty much everyone knows I love) and has an appetizing bitterness to it that makes your mouth water. I started from the welcome combination of sweet and bitter but it definitely needed an acidic kick to help. So I added a slice of lemon peel and the juice of between a third and half a lemon. I am not shy with the lemon juice because I want the acidity to really kick in. I serve it on the rocks, because the melting ice nicely dilutes what would usually be too sweet a drink. Keep the bottle in the freezer to ensure it pours ice cold and you have an awesome starter for a great evening. The bottles retail for between $6 and $9, I tend to buy them when I see them on sale…Nina has fallen in love with this drink as well, and I am sometimes surprised how fast we can go through a bottle…But even if you don’t guzzle it like us, it keeps forever in the fridge, too.

Martini my way: Al limone.

Martini my way: al limone.

And here the recipe again in bullet points, it’s as easy as it gets:

1 lemon
1 strip of lemon peel
Martini Bianco
ice cubes

Fill a glass with two to three ice cubes. Squeeze a third of a lemon over the ice. Throw in lemon peel. Pour the Martini Bianco over. Let sit for 5 minutes. Enjoy.

Do you have a favorite apéritif? Care to share?

Tagged , , , , ,

2011 Maxwell Creek Rosé Wine Napa Valley

2011 Maxwell Creek Rosé Wine Napa Valley

2011 Maxwell Creek Rosé Wine Napa Valley

I don’t know how things are going weather wise for you all, but Ann Arbor has finally had a few sunnier days and temperatures have begun to rise. All this lured me into craving a rosé (or blush) wine. I have a weak spot for Rosés. Always had. While growing up, one of my favorite wines was a Portugieser Weißherbst made by my winemaker friend Pitt Zimmermann in my hometown. Portugieser is the grape, and Weißherbst is a German denomination for a rosé wine that is made from just one grape variety and from one single vineyard. I loved that wine: It was always served very cold, was quite sweet and always hit you with strawberries all over the place.

Over the years, it has become a bit too sweet for my taste buds, but when home I still enjoy a glass or two of this wine. Let’s call it one of the gateway drugs…

For those not familiar with Rosé, it is a wine made from red grapes. Unlike red wine, the pressed must does not sit on the skins and stems for long (or at all). Since the color in red wine comes from the skin, and the juice is white just like in a white grape, this leads to just slight discoloration in the wine, hence the name rosé (or blush). Many regions produce these wines, and there are some general rules: Rosés from Southern France tend to be the most dry of all Rosés. Very dry are usually also the Spanish wines of that kind. American and German Rosés tend to be sweeter, with more residual sugar. To me, there is a place for both. While the Southern European versions are great food companions, I actually enjoy a bit of residual sugar in terrace or garden slurpers, when I have the wine on its own.

I bought four of these bottles of Maxwell Creek during a flash sale on Wines Till Soldout and this was the first of the four I opened. I paid $9 per bottle, I believe. “Maxwell Creek Cellars” is located in Rutherford, California. A bit of research showed that it is not a “proper” winery, but rather a filler of wines apparently serving as a second label to sell off overcapacity. The great news about that is that it is usually produce from good wineries just sold under a generic name which comes with a steep cut in price. I was unable to unearth much more about this wine or label, so if you know more please let me know in the comments section!

The wine had 13.7% ABV. Winehoarder declares that the grape varieties used in the wine are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Merlot.

First off, I have to say I LOVED the color of the 2011 Maxwell Creek Rosé. It was a darker red that I associate with strawberries. I so love that color and prefer it over the more salmony or orange looking rosés. The nose was very fruity, just what I wanted and had hoped for: strawberries, gooseberry and peach, some water melon. Really draws you in if you like fruit-forward aromas. On the palate, the wine was quite light-bodied, with good acidity and some tannin giving it body. To me, peach and cream flavors dominated, later gooseberry coming in. It also reminded me of one of the ubiquitous blends in Germany of sparkling wine and vineyard peach liqueur (just without the bubbles). There was some slight bitterness in the finish, which I think might come from the pretty high alcohol level, which overall led to an unbalanced wine. Nina remarked that for her, the wine was too sweet in the middle section and then not good enough at the end. I thought that was a pretty good explanation of what is going on. There is definitely some sweetness to this wine which many will probably not appreciate. The finish overall is disappointing.

But what can I say? The wine was not impressive or anything special (except for the nose). However, I think this is another example of a wine I only want to drink on a summer afternoon, sitting in the sun. And then it will hit all the right notes and all the right points. It was definitely not the right day to open this bottle with the 45-50 F we are having right now. But I am happy that I have three more bottles to open this summer.

Tagged , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: