Month: June 2016

Drinking with Proust

Image: Un bar aux Folies Bergère (Manet, 1882) Excerpted from:  Drinking with Proust (Leanpub) We have of the universe only formless, fragmentary visions, which we complete by the association of arbitrary ideas, creative of dangerous suggestions.[1] For a long time hominids were tree-lovers, swinging from branch to branch in the great tropical forests of east Africa. Then the climate changed: temperatures increased, tropical forests dried up and thinned out. Our ancestors were forced to spend more time on the forest floors. They began scavenging for fallen fruit rather than picking it fresh from the source. Our relationship with alcohol is ten-million years old. You can’t avoid alcohol, your body produces it naturally. Your digestive system hosts a complex community of microorganisms. Some of these organisms are just like the yeasts and bacteria that turn grape-sugar into wine, or grain-starch into beer. They allow your body to make use of complex carbohydrates that are indigestible unless they’re fermented. Like it or not, you have a mini-brewery under your belt and yes, this has been used as a defence against drink-driving charges: “I …

Wine laurels

From the archives. Shortlisted  for the Young Wine Writer of the Year Award  in 2013. Driving along the winding ‘Old Road’ due south from Heraklion to Peza; I’ve just rushed past a deserted ostrich farm. Which Cretan wine would go well with ostrich meat, I wonder. I stop by a hillside monastery in the car-sized shade below an unkempt Cypress tree. The 3G signal is strong. Perhaps ostriches run deep, I think, and type “Minoan ostrich” into my device. Between three and five thousand years ago, the ancient Cretans (called Minoans) were Europe’s most advanced civilisation. My cypress-shaded googling reveals that the ostrich/wine pairing is as ancient. Minoans imported ostrich eggs from Egypt and fashioned them into drinking vessels called rhytha. Here I am, on the way to my first Cretan winery and the first thing I know about Cretan wine is that it was served in Egyptian ostrich shells. I enter the monastery with an overwhelming desire for a taste of grape product. Early grape catches the bird The central square is tidy and silent in the mid-day heat. Walls are adorned …

What do you expect?

What do you expect will happen? We usually think in simple terms: better or worse? Up or down? An advert for Mad Money on CNBC advises: Make $ as bull or bear—but don’t be a hog! How we talk about the markets matters a great deal. Stories influence our expectations and our sentiments. The narratives around the Black-Scholes model and the Gaussian copula were once widespread and affected the way we thought about risks and risk dependencies. Now these narratives are out of currency, along with many others. New stories have taken hold: unicorns and the digitalization of the world, for example.The robots are coming to Wall Street. How influential will they become as storytellers? Markets unravel when the stories get too tall and reality catches up with fantasy. Now it’s an interesting question to ask: when are markets vulnerable and when are they robust to irrationally exuberant conventional wisdom? From a psychological point of view, we become more robust as we become more aware of ourselves and our environment. The ability to describe our …

European union (Longing for Langelina)

Image: Johann Friedrich Overbeck, Italia und Germania Germany loves Italy and, in a painting by Friedrich Overbeck (Neue Pinakothek, Saal 4), the affection is mutual. Germania and Italia are represented as young women, one dark-haired, one blond. Behind the blonde on the right lies a walled town. On the left, shouldering the brunette, the landscape is more open; the dwellings are less defensive. In Overbeck’s own words, the general theme “intended is the longing that always draws the North to the South, to its art, its natural landscape, its poetry.” Where there is a longing, there is opportunity. Cantina Langelina a Monaco is a well-oiled hospitality business built to target the North’s (latent) longings like a well-run mine is built to open veins of gold ore. Cantina Langelina includes a hotel business in Corinaldo (a town in the Marche region with fortifications that date back to the Late Middle Ages) and a vinothek in Munich on the Reichenbachstrasse just south of the Viktualienmarkt. How do you define a vinothek? This one is a shop, a café and a wine-bar. It offers four house-branded wines and …

The bits in wine

From the archives. Shortlisted  for the Young Wine Writer of the Year Award  in 2012. See also the follow-on article:  “On the Information Content of Wine Notes: Some New Algorithms?“. During a recent comparative tasting for an Italian wine award, a young Nebbiolo – ‘red as copper, a spirit from the forest’ – stood its ground against a seasoned Chianti, ‘searing red ink with walnut shells melted into its sultry and sulky stream’. However, it was a racy Sangiovese that clinched victory. Swirling, sniffing and gulping with enthusiasm, one of the judges with his alarmed wine-writer wife in tow, declared: ‘she glimpses at me, shiny black leather, disappearing in the dark to a raven muss of hair. She’s been eating morello cherries and chocolate’ – the Sangiovese, that is. If the wine descriptions seem suspicious, it is because the Italian award never happened. The writing has been cobbled together. A dash of Australian wine journalism, a drop from an English baronet wine buff’s pen and a mystery ingredient: one of the three wine notes is an outright fraud. Fraud is a constant in …

Marktwirt

A restaurant called Marktwirt is just a hundred steps or so northwest from the centre of the Viktualienmarkt. The Viktualienmarkt itself hosts a few shops with serious assortments of wine and cheese. It’s also hard to miss the Nymphenburg Sekt Cafe. Nymphenburg Sekt is a Bavarian sparkling wine producer. I do not know of any serious vineyards around Munich.  There are certainly no grapes growing around the former hunting grounds of the Bavarian nobility in Nymphenburg. Nymphenburg Sekt admits on its website that their stuff is made from grapes (do they mean bulk wine?) collected from all around Europe. The Sekt Crystal Cabinet is competitively priced and trocken. Trocken is the German for dry, which is the third-sweetest type of sparkling wine (17-32 g or residual sugar per litre), which means you’ll find it rather sweet. Cabinet is a label word that doesn’t mean anything. The premium sparkling wine from the house of Nymphenburg is called Koenig Ludwig II. Koenig Ludwig II was the eccentric King of Bavaria from 1864-1886. Among other things, he is responsible for the fairy-tale Schloss Neuschwanstein, which inspired the castle of the beast in Disney’s …

Korked

Are there good wine bars in Munich? Why would you expect any? When a wine map of Germany includes Munich it’s only because Germany’s second smallest wine region in Saxony is also on the map. And since that’s also so far-out to the east it makes sense to include Munich, straight down 400 km to the south. The two closest wine regions to Munich are Baden and Württemberg. It’s not clear which of the two is closer. Esslingen in Württemberg is about 200 km away to the north-west. Meersburg of Baden is about 200 km away to the south-west. London and Paris have vineyards close by. Stanlake Park is an hour by train from Paddington (ca. 50 km) while Paris has its own vineyards (Clos Montmartre). In the 16th century, Munich’s rulers from the House of Wittelsbach brought in wine — 40,000 litres or so — from Regensburg (ca. 100 km north). Regensburg had a serious wine-scene at the time developing out of vineyards held by local monasteries. Many of these were destroyed during the 30-years war (1618-1648). After the war beer replaced wine as …