A zig-zag across Europe
May 7-22, 1998
Our wine trek through Europe in May 1998 took us on a broad zig-zag from London through Brussels and Luxembourg to the Saar and Mosel, then over to Vienna and the Wachau, back to Munich, by air to Barcelona, and then across Northern Spain from Barcelona through Priorat, Rioja and Ribera del Duero to Madrid. We met dozens of online wine friends, enjoyed wonderful meals, visited more than 15 outstanding wineries, and tasted hundreds of wines. You'll find my full report, including comprehensive wine-tasting notes by me and by wine-loving friends, in the pages indexed below.
LONDON, Friday, May 8: Still shaking our heads and blinking our eyes after the long overnight flight from the U.S., we were delighted to meet with a contingent of friends from the Wine Lovers' Discussion Group and CompuServe Wine Forum for an "offline" dinner at Gilbey's, a very pleasant place in the Ealing Broadway section of suburban London. Thanks to Nick Alabaster and Jamie Goode for their wine notes and comments.
THE SAAR AND THE MOSEL, Monday and Tuesday, May 11-12: We spent our first night in Germany as guests at the lovely winery home of Peter H. Jordan in Wiltingen, in the Saar, where we were joined by a group of German online wine lovers; the next day was spent touring the Mosel with visits to the wineries of Theo. Haart and Dr. Loosen, ending up at the attractive (and highly recommended) apartment hotel run by Tom Graham. Note-taking duties these days fell to Peter Jordan, Jörn Schulz and Peter Ruhrberg, to all of whom I'm grateful.
THE WACHAU, KREMSTAL AND VIENNA, Wednesday and Thursday, May 13-14: Two wonderful Viennese dinners bracketed a long and enjoyable day in the Wachau and Kremstal regions along the Danube not far west of Vienna; with Austrian wine writer Michael Pronay and wine enthusiast Bernie Bruckner as guides, we got a quick but thorough exposure to some of the best wines and wineries that Austria has to offer -- including the Alzinger, Knoll, Bründlmayr and Mantlerhof wineries -- and some of the best Viennese food, at the top restaurants Grünauer and Steiereck.
MUNICH, Friday and Saturday, May 15-16: Visits to the homes of our friends Florian Miquel Hermann and Heinz Bobek, with good food and good wine, highlighted our stopover in Bavaria's capital.
BARCELONA, Sunday, May 17: Flying in from Munich, we met our friend Victor de la Serna, a Spanish journalist and wine writer, for a quick seafood dinner and tour of the Catalunyan capital before heading out on the Spanish wine road.
PRIORAT, Monday, May 18: This beautiful, mountainous region of slate soil and vineyards is one of Spain's rising stars, and it was our good fortune to visit the Alvaro Palacios and Clos Mogador wineries and taste their fine wines.
RIOJA, Tuesday, May 19: Staying over in the medieval walled town of Laguardia, we visited Fernando Remírez de Ganuza, one of the most innovative wine makers I have ever met, whose bodega is still under construction and whose first wine won't be released until September 1998; and Sierra Cantabria in San Vicente, an older, larger winery with an excellent range of Riojas.
RIBERA DEL DUERO, Wednesday, May 20:
Today's visits took us to three distinctly different wineries: Dominio Pingus, where Danish wine maker Peter Sisseck makes tiny quantities of truly world-class red wine in a building no larger than a garage -- because it is a garage ... Abadia Retuerta, a large but impressive property located just outside the boundaries of Ribera del Duero ... and Vega Sicilia, widely regarded as one of the best wineries in the world, making wines so impressive that its top-of-the-line Unico is not usually released until more than a decade after the vintage. During the course of a generous lunch, our hosts opened a bottle of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti 1995 La Tâche, an understated way of saying, "Our wines belong on the table with the greatest." And that's the truth.
MADRID, Thursday and Friday, May 21-22: Finishing up this mad whirl of wine touring in Madrid, we enjoyed a quiet dinner at home with our friend Victor on Wednesday evening, and a large, noisy and jovial dinner with Spanish wine friends Thursday at Viridiana, one of Madrid's (and the world's) best eateries. We flew home Friday, tired and happy, and eager and willing to do it all again.