Category Archives: I have no clue how to categorize this

Voting has begun for MWWC #7

MWWC LOGOIf you liked my rant about why devotion is such a difficult word for me, head over to SAHMmelier’s website and vote for my entry in the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #7!

The voting page has links to all entries, and there are some pretty good ones out there. So even if you don’t want to vote for my entry (shame on you!), take a moment to check out what others came up with and cast your vote for your three top stories.


Go to the Voting page

Read my rant here

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Creeped out by “Devotion”


This is my entry in the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge (MWWC), the theme is “Devotion”. See for further details here. Boy, it sure was a challenge for me this time! :)

Blame it on my five years of Latin in high school, but when I hear the word “devotion” I think first and foremost of the Latin term: devotio. Its meaning has shaped my uneasy relationship with the word.

My Stowasser dictionary (the classic Latin-German dictionary for over a century) gives the following translations for devotio:

1. vow, self-sacrificing;
2.a. curse, 2.b. magic;
3. prayer, dedication (to God), humble request.

Not exactly stuff that is right up my alley. The term stems from the verb devovere, which creeps me out even more:

1. to vow, designate, consecrate as a sacrifice;
2. to sacrifice one self, to suffer the death of sacrifice;
3. to make vows, to curse, to bewitch;
4. surrender, relinquish, divulge.

You may notice that it is a decidedly religious term in Latin, that it is tied to sacrifice, death, surrender and even witch craft. Not all of these components come to our mind when we think of the word “devotion”, which I consider more to be a determination to do or achieve something. It may include some sacrifice because if we really, really want something or devote ourselves to a cause, it might have repercussions…but suffering death as a sacrifice? Seriously? Who of us is actually willing to pull that stunt?

The intro by this issue’s challenger, SAHmelier (congrats on your winning entry again, I really LOVED the story!), stressed the “good” ideas we might have about devotion: hard work, love, children. We can all subscribe to them, but do we need this term? Devotion has a decidedly religious, sacred note, yes, even a succumbing or subjecting note, and I am not fond of either of these expressions. I am not a religious person. Maybe that is why I am not fond of the term. It is so absolute, so resolute, so strong. I tend to veer to the middle, I dislike strong expressions of knowing better, of doing being better, of attaching religious meaning to something I do…and devotion has this ring to it. I am also very weary of subjecting anyone or anything to someone else, and as I pointed out, it also implies that.

I am also a generalist, always have been. I like to dabble in a lot of things, a lot of ideas, and while I like to dig for a while, I usually get bored before I dug too deep to get obsessed with something. Riesling might be one of the few exceptions, although I hardly see myself as a devotee because seriously: When am I ever suffering from my love for Riesling?

Don’t get me wrong: There are people that devote their lives, in the best sense of the word, to a cause, to a person, and I admire them. But the causes need to be deep, they need to matter on a grander scheme, they have to relate to existential problems for me to count. Plus: It has to be meaningful and helpful to others, not just the person doing it (remember, there is a sacrifice component in the term, and mere self-sacrifice for no higher good does not count). I find it hard to see that in wine, especially in me consuming it…if the word is to have any meaning, it needs to be special, and us using it for rather trivial pursuits deprives the word of its meaning.

But you may argue: Don’t winemakers at the Mosel, or in the Douro, where prices are low, work is incredibly hard, and one can legitimately ask oneself why they do it, don’t they show devotion? Maybe. But they also show determination. A term I like better (the Latin word determinatio means “boundary”, “designation”, “conclusion”), it is about the end, not a pseudo-sacred meaning. Our “devotions” don’t need a sacred connotation to matter.

However, one of the beauties of devotio is that it is both: vow and bewitching, consecration and curse. That might be the true essence of the word, and I believe that winemakers that work in difficult conditions can attest to this. The things we subscribe our lives to are a curse and a blessing, they are never just good or just bad.

Wow, this became a rambly semantic post, and I hope I didn’t turn anyone off with it. But I just couldn’t get a grasp on the topic, and once I started thinking about why that was, I figured it might be worth sharing my misgivings, my uneasiness, my immediate shying away from “devotion” as a term.

Now go and devote or determine or dedicate yourself to a good bottle of wine. I plan on doing just that! :) It’s Wine Wednesday after all…

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Some random thoughts on alcohol in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia


Check out these cheap wines in clearance.

Disclaimer: I entered into a tentative agreement with the online wine retailer Wine Chateau under which they sponsor two of my posts per month. Wine Chateau has no influence on the topic I select for the post or its content. Opinions expressed are all mine.

Nina and I have been traveling in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia for about 6 weeks now. We are currently on one of the islands of Ko Samui, Ko Phangang or Ko Tao in the Gulf of Thailand. We are feeling the exhaustion of 6 weeks on the road, thousands of kilometers travelled on poor roads in sleeper busses (with beds!), normal day busses of all ages and makes, minivans and trains as well as on foot. Being in a totally different place every three to four days is very taxing. We have made many experiences, but I want to focus on wine for a bit, in line with my blog…this post will actually not be about wine very much, simply because of the circumstances in these three countries.

In all three countries, beer seems to reign supreme: most of you probably know the Thai megabrands of Chang and Singha. In Laos, Lao Beer dominates the market, with a Leo here and there and Nongkham, which I enjoyed most. In Cambodia, the national champion is Angkor, but there is also Cambodia  Beer and Kingdom…the latest newcomer is apparently “Ganz Berg”, a beer that advertises as “German Premium Beer”, yet I have no clue what it is, and its advertised website is not active.

Finding wine can be difficult, and if you find it it is clearly a luxury product that is heavily taxed. In the wine market, Chile, Australia and France seem to dominate. That is a bit odd, if you try to pair them with local foods, which should be rather difficult. But on second thought, wine is usually consumed with Western foods, not local foods, thus further making it difficult for wine to be embraced and incorporated into local culture. The only wine “product” we have tried so far was “Spy”, a wine cooler produced by a Thai company. They come in the craziest colors and flavors, the best having been the shiny blue “Kamikaze” which tasted like lemonade. Still kind of depressing…

There are developments and changes, but it is happening slowly. In Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand, wine buffets are apparently all the rage. We saw several places offering pretty much an all you can drink buffet which, however, was limited to their housewine only, lasting for two to three hours each night and costing around $10. Which tempted us, but somehow it never happened due to other plans. As I mentioned a while ago, there are also wineries in Thailand now, and I will have the good fortune of visiting the well renown GranMonte estate before we leave Thailand. I will definitely write about that visit in the future…

Globalization is taking hold more and more. Besides the different global wine countries present, we have been able to find German Franziskaner Weissbier (a German wheat beer Nina likes) and our beloved Savanna Dry (a South African cide), just to name a few.

This is my last post from our trip and I want to close with some random impressions:

  • The soft drink Fanta comes in all sorts of flavors and colors. We saw: red (strawberry), pink (lychee), green (tastes like chewing gum), purple (grape), blue (no clue).

  • Easily the best and most affordable food of the three countries is available in Thailand.

  • Chiang Mai rightly lays claim to a great coffee culture, Pakse in southern Laos tries but doesn’t deliver.

  • Lao kids are the best.

  • After traveling in Laos, Cambodia seems like a rich country. After entering Thailand, Cambodia seems like a poor country.
  • We had the best French baguette of our whole trip on Koh Samui, in a bakery run by a young Frenchman from Marseille. Divine.

  • You will find most French tourists in Laos and on the southern Thai islands. Most Dutch tourists by far are concentrated in Cambodia.

  • Upon return to the US we will have to buy a wok, so Nina can make use of the Thai cooking school skills she acquired. Also, we will need a professional blender, so she can make her beloved banana shakes.

  • There are more 7/11s in Thailand than in Canada.

  • Lay’s produces an insane variety of potato chips, from Nori Seaweed flavor to lobster or “American cheesy paprika” or shrimp ginger curry flavor to Sweet Basil Chili (our favorite).

  • Visit Laos sooner rather than later. It is rapidly developing and I fear might lose some of its charm in the near future.

  • After a few weeks, haggling becomes exhausting.

  • Pyjamas are an acceptable piece of clothing for women in Cambodia.
  • Showers are often just attached to the bathroom wall without seperating structures, so your toilet seat is frequently wet.

  • Quail eggs are an everyday staple in Thailand. You can buy 10 fried quail eggs as a snack at street vendors for $1.

  • McDonalds, Burger King and KFC in Thailand offer delivery services.

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