Umeshu Matsuri – Plum Wine Festival in Tokyo

If you live or happen to be around in Tokyo this long weekend, why don’t you pop in Yushima Tenmangu, or Yushima Tenjin to sip umeshu, Japanse plum wine?

Umeshu (梅酒 : 梅 ume = plum, 酒 shu = sake) is made by steeping unripened Japanese plums in alcohol and sugar to allow the flavours to infuse. It is called plum ‘wine’ in English, but it is liqueur type of alcohol.

venue: Yushima Tenmangu, near Ueno

Over the weekend, the Umeshu Matsuri, Plum Wine Festival is held at the Shito shrine, which is famous for its beautiful plum blossoms in spring. Beer is nice – Oktober Fests are thrown here and there around this time of the year even in Japan, but it may be a good idea to try this aromatic, sweet and plesantly sour liqueur.

the leaflet and token coins

At the entrance, purchase 18 token coins for 1,600 yen (advanced ticket was 1,400 yen). 1 or 2 coins are required for a small cup of umeshu (about 30 ml/cup), but 3 for some or award winning ones. Okay, now you are ready to sip. Enjoy and find your favourit(s) out of 156 umeshus from sake breweries all over Japan.

made with distilled alcohol – from Hiroshima
made with sake – from Hyogo
made with sesame shochu – from Fukuoka
Kosher umeshu – made with sake – from a brewery in Kyoto (established in 1673!)
made with brandy – from Akita
blended with yuzu juice – from Wakayama
blended with gyokuro green tea – from Kyoto
nigori umeshu from my favourite sake brewery in Hyogo producing Kotsuzumi which I mentioned on Kinosaki Onsen post (left: more fruity and tastes like peach juice right: with plum pulp and full flavour)
umeshu hopping

If you find your favourit(s), you can buy it/them!!

I bought a bottle of 梅申春秋, Baishin Shunju from my fav brewery!

left: Baishin Shunju / right: Daku Daku


Umeshu Matsuri

Facebook page
Period: 6th – 9th October 2017
Venue: Yushima Tenmangu
Access: Nearest staion is Yushima on the Chiyoda Line. Take Exit 3 and the left, turn left at the first intersection and walk down about 30 metres. It’s on the left hand side.


Now that you’ve come all the way, why don’t you look around the site?

Tribute to the Shito deity: the first rice sheaves of the harvest are presented as offerings, called shinsen, to the kami, deity or sacred power of Shintoism during agricultural and other festivals.

Yushima Tenmangu(湯島天満宮)a.k.a. Yushima Tenjin(湯島天神)was originally founded for Ameno Tajikaraono Mikoto in 458, and became one of Tenjin shrines in 1355 – Kitano Tenmangu in Kyoto is the most famous one.

‘Tenjin’ is the name of Michizane Sugawara (845-903), a scholar and a high government official. Like other Tenjin shrines, Yushima Tenjin is visited by students to pray for passing exams and inscribe ema – small wooden plaques – with petitions for success in exams, esp. entrance exams.

Among lots of ema, you will find Michizane on a cow. A cow, a typical feature of a Tenjin shrine, is believed to be the servant of the deity.

In the precincts of the shrine, there is a bronze cow, which is known as nade ushi (a cow to stroke). People believe that touching or stroking the cow will cure physical illness, and that is the reason why its head  and forehead are so shiny.

You will also see plum trees in the garden and bonsai as well.

Tenjin is strongly related to plum because Michizane had always favoured the trees and blossoms (There is a legend about him and his tree, called ‘Flying Plum Tree‘),  so ‘plum’ became a crest of the shrines.

 

plum blossom crest in the blue circle

Strolling in the precincts, you might come across a wedding ceremony.

Would you like to try omikuji, sacred lot?

If the fortune telling is not a good one, tie it around branches of a pine tree or some such. If good, keep it in your purse or wallet!

Hope you enjoy umeshu and the visit.

See you!  S/he is cute, isn’t s/he?

 

More about Umeshu:
Umeshu seminar in London last year
Umeshu made with whiskey by Suntory produsing Hakushu, Yamazaki, Hibiki whisky

More about Tenjin, read the post of one of my blogger friends.

 

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Rotweinkuchen – Red Wine Cake and Ahr

 Actually, I was not planning to post the recipe in December, but the result has come out satisfactory just before the festive season! The flavour is wintry and Christmassy – wine and spices –  so you might want to try this Rotweinkuchen out for the upcoming holidays. Or maybe with an unfinished bottle of wine from the feast.

As for the wine, it doesn’t need to be expensive or high quality, but full bodied dry red wine should be used for the cake.  So far, I have tried two varieties: Spätburgunder (German Pinot Noir) and Zinfandel. I chose wine with slightly smoky, spicy and cocoa flavours, and that goes well with chocolate. I used:

  • 140 Jahre Spätburgunder trocken (2013) – Winzergenossenschaft Mayschoß-Altenahr
  • Napa Valley Zinfandel (2013) – Napa Cellars

The Napa Zinfandel matched with cocoa/chocolate so well that aroma of spices had been drowned out, so I added ½ tsp allspice more, i.e. 1 tsp allspice for the Zinfandel and ½ for the Spätburgunder cake.

The cakes baked with the each wine properly stored for a few days after opening taste better than with those two right after being opened.


updated 17/2/2017
For the people who prefer less sweet cake with very dry wine:

  • from Mendoza, Algentina
    Amancaya  Gran Reserva (2013) – Domaines Barons de Rothchild (Lafite) and Nicolas Catena (alc. 14.5%, Malbec 60-70% Cabernet Sauvignon 30-40%)
  • from Puglia, Italy
    Chocolate Tube (2015) – Mare Magnum ( alc. 14.5%, Primitivo 100%)

If obtainable, do use Alter Eco’s Nor Intense chocolate. My brownies baked with this choc are divine 🙂 , and it turned out be perfect for the Rotweinkuchen as well!!

source: Alter Eco website

Ingredients

(for 16 cm Gugelhupf tin)

110 ml full-bodied red wine (I tried Spätburgunder / Zinfandel), warmed
40 g sugar free dark chocolate (I used cacao 60 %), grated
150 g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ – 1 tsp allspice, to adjust
150 g butter, softened at room temperature
150 g caster sugar
2 egg, whisked
icing sugar, to decorate
(optional: whipped cream)

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180° C. Add chocolate in the warm wine to dissolve completely and set aside.
  2. Into a bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder, cinnamon and allspice.
  3. In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg a quarter at a time, beating well after each addition.
  4. Fold in the flour mixture until just combined, then stir in the wine mixture until evenly combined.
  5. Spoon into a greased tin and bake for about 60-70 minutes or until a skewer poked in comes out clean.
  6. Leave it stand for 10 minutes and turn it out on to a wire rack to cool completely. 
  7. Dust with icing sugar to serve. Tastes better the next day or two than when freshly baked but store properly to keep the cake moist.

 


Some of you may already know, but I am into German wine, especially Ahr red wine. And again, I made a visit to the wine region this September, during the harvest season.

Ahrweiler Markt
@Ahrweiler Markt

It was a bit early for the beautiful ‘Golden October’, but the leaves in the mountains and the vineyards had started turning yellow and brown.

Ahrweiler Markt from vineyards
The harvest of Frühburgunder, ‘pinot madeleine’ or ‘pinot noir précoce’ in French, had been done a week before my arrival and the vintners were about to move on to Spätburgunder. Frühburgunder is a mutation of Spätburgunder, and ripens approximately two weeks earlier than Spätburgunder. (früh = early, spät = late)

This year I enjoyed a different weinfest: Dernau Winzerfest, or Dernau Vintners Festival. It is one of the biggest wine festivals in Ahr, so tons of tourists got together in and around Dernau, which caused not only traffic (hikers) jams on the Rotweinwanderweg but also train delays! (What was worse, there were construction work on tracks and a fire somewhere on a track or at a station, which caused more delays, train cancellations, destination changes etc… and I almost missed my flight back to Tokyo!! )

source: Rotweinwanderweg Facebook page

I didn’t see such a number of people last August – pretty amazing – and I found that “most of Ahr wine is consumed locally and by the tourists” is completely true.

source: Rotweinwanderweg Facebook page

Do you remember that my previous visit was too early for Federweißer and Zwiebelkuchen (Zwiebelkuchen posted in September 2015)? Rotwein the Foodie never forgot about it 😀

Weingut Peter Kriechel’s Federweißer and takeaway Zwiebelkuchen

Bought a 1.0 litre bottle of Federweißer and enjoyed it with Zwiebelkuchen, onion tart  and Käsekuchen, cheesecake, which matched really well! Federweißer is sweet and low alcohol drink (about 8%) and tastes like juice, so I could manage to finish the bottle in 3 – 4 days! Sometimes I sipped it in the morning before going out 😀

Zwiebelkuchen mit Federweißer @ Hof Bärenbach in Rech

Also enjoyed Federrotter made from red grapes. I prefer weißer though.

Federrotter @ Weingut Peter Kriechel’s wine station on the Rotweinwanderweg

It’s worth visiting Ahr for its beautiful red wines but also worthwhile for Federweißer/rotter in autumn 🙂

Flammkuchen and Ahr Wine Region

Three flammkuchen – with bacon & onion, smoked salmon & courgette, fig & cranberry cheese – recipes to follow below.

flammkuchen with fig & cranberry cheese

As I posted last month, I went to Germany last year to see the wine festivals. What I enjoyed most there, however, is  Rotweinwanderweg, i.e. Red Wine Hiking Trail, rather than the festivals.

A view from Rosenthal Vineyard – St Laurentius Kirche in Ahrweiler Markt

Rotweinwanderweg runs high above the floor of the Ahr Valley along the River Ahr which flows into the Rhine just south of Bonn. It offers beautiful views over the vineyards and spectacular ones overlooking the valley.

The trail is 35.6 km long and takes in the winemaking villages in the Ahr wine region en route (More about the region, read my Holiday in Vineyards): from Altenahr in the west, it stretches via Mayschoß, Rech, Dernau and Marienthal, passing by Walporzheim (where I saw the festival), Ahrweiler (where I stayed) and Heimersheim (where another festival was held), then to Bad Bodendorf in the east.

 

Rotweinwanderweg Route Map with vineyard names

Unlike in the Lower Ahr Valley between Walporzheim and Heimersheim with flatter vineyards and mainly loess soil, in the Middle Ahr Valley, vines grow on the steep terraced cliffs of volcanic slate. The grapes on the south-facing vineyard slopes can receive a greater intensity of the sun’s rays, with sunshine falling on an angle perpendicular to the hillside, and the soil has an ability to store heat during the day, and gently releases it during the night. This is one of the reasons why full-bodied wines can develop here despite the northern location.

See? How steep the vineyards are!

I felt myself as if I were a ski jumper on a takeoff ramp!!

I’m not a wine expert. I don’t know much about Terroir and how different soils affect the flavour of wine, but I liked the wines from the Middle Ahr Valley more.

I hiked about 3/4 of Rotweinwanderweg – 26.1 km between Altenahr and Bad Neuenahr Ahrweiler in 3 days. Sometimes I walked down to the villages for some break and sometimes got lost in the mountains 😀  – cos it intermingles with the Nordic Walking Trail!! So I reckon I walked at least 30 km in total.

Walking in the mountains and vineyards, in the fresh air and pleasant sunshine, I felt myself extremely happy – almost natural high like a marathon runner! This is when I decided to start a blog, hence my name, ‘Rotwein Wanderer’.

Most of the trail runs through open vineyards, and various descents and paths lead you from the vineyards into the winemaking villages.

Some parts of the paths are tarmacked for agricultural vehicles.

Each village has some wineries or wine estates where you can sample some wines in their tasting rooms, and cozy restaurants and taverns which serve the local wines. (Read Rhine and Around: Ahr on wine tasting at a wine estate in Ahr – I’m glad she also found the hidden gem! and jealous cos I couldn’t try Jean Stodden’s!!)

pretty buildings in Altenahr
Mayschoß
Dernau

As usual, well-organised Rotwein the foodie had already planned where to have a break and what to eat – like a marathon runner who plots out. 😀  Then headed down a ramp for the first water station, more precisely, DRINK station in Marienthal.

Weingut Kloster Marienthal
A view of vineyards from Klostergarten

Weingut Kloster Marienthal was once state owned, but two cooperative wineries, the Winzergenossenschaft Mayschoss-Altenahr and Dagernova Weinmanufaktur, and two private wine estates, Weingut Brogsitter and Weingut Meyer-Näkel, have managed since 2004. In the vinotheque, you can taste some Kloster Marienthal wines and also purchase a limited range of the four owners’ as well as Kloster Mariental’s.

Weingut Kloster Mariental is located in the former Marienthal Convent with a cafe/restaurant. I took a seat in the patio with a wonderful ambience – surrounded by the ruins of the convent and a view of the greenish vineyards ahead of me.

I ordered „Klassisch“ – ‘Classic’ or traditional flammkuchen – with bacon, onion and cheese along with a glass of their Blanc de Noir as I had found it my very ‘cup of tea’ at Heimersheim Wine Festival a few days earlier.

Flammkuchen with Blanc de Noir @ Weingut Kloster Marienthal
„Klassisch“ mit Speck, Zwiebeln und Käse @ Weingut Kloster Marienthal

The flammkuchen was superb – the best one I’ve ever had! Very crispy rather than crunchy, rich but light at the same time, perfect saltiness….

It was so good that I couldn’t help experimenting at home although I knew it was difficult to roll out the dough very thin and to make it really crisp in high flame – my electric oven isn’t enough!! I believe, however, it turned out rather good! Other than ‘Classic’, tried something different. I wanted to use Wensleydale cheese with cranberries but not available in this country, so substituted Boursin’s – the black pepper gave it a good kick!

If you would like to enjoy with some wine, try Blanc de Noir if available, or Riesling if not. As for the dessert flammkuchen? Hmmm…. Spätlese,  Auslese…. I don’t store sweet/er German wines, so paired with sweet Sicilian spumante made from Moscato Bianco, or Muscat Blanc, which went nice together.

Guten Appetit!

Ingredients

(makes 2: about 20cm x 20cm each)

for the dough (makes 2)

1 tsp instant dry yeast
1/4 tsp honey
100 ml/cc lukewarm water
150 g bread flour
30 g whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp olive oil plus some for coating

for the topping

i) Klassisch (for 2)
80 g sour cream
2 tsp Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
white pepper, to taste)
30 g eschallot (French shallot), finely chopped, squeeze and pat dried with paper towel
50 g bacon, chopped
40 g red onion, thinly sliced
fresh chive (to sprinkle), chopped

ii) smoked salmon & courgette (for 2)
100 g sour cream
½ tsp truffle salt (I used black truffle salt)
white pepper (to taste)
30 g eschallot (French shallot), finely chopped, squeeze and pat dried with paper towel
100 g smoked salmon
½ – 1 courgette, thinly sliced
fresh dill (to garnish)

iii) fig & cranberry cheese (for 2)
100 g Boursin Cranberry & Pepper cheese
7 – 8 fresh fig, sliced
balsamic vinegar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 – 2 tbsp runny honey, to adjust (I used orange blossom honey)

Boursin® Cranberry & Pepper
flammkuchen with smoked salmon & courgette

Method

  1. For the dough, dissolve the yeast and honey in the lukewarm water, and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
  2. Tip the flours and the salt into a bowl, and mix and form a well in the middle. Pour in the yeasty water and the oil, then mix thoroughly. Knead by hand for 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Add in some more flour or water a little at a time if required.
  3. Shape the dough into a ball and coat the surface lightly with the olive oil. Place in a bowl, and cover with a clean tea towel or clingfilm. Allow to rise in a warm place for 45 minutes or until it has doubled in size.
  4. Remove the dough from the bowl, and punch down gently to degas. Divide into two equal pieces, shape both into a ball, and grease with the oil. Cover again and allow to rise a second time for 30 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, combine i) the sour cream and yogurt in a small bowl. Add in the eschallot, nutmeg, salt and pepper, or ii) cream the sour cream in a small bowl. Add in the eschallot, truffle salt and pepper, and mix well.
  6. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
  7. On a piece of parchment paper, roll out the dough pieces (2-3 mm). Prick all over with a fork. Spread half of i), ii) the cream mixture or iii) the cranberry cheese onto the dough, but leave a small border around the edge.
  8. i) Scatter with the bacon and onion on top, ii) Top with the courgette and smoked salmon, or iii) Top with the fig, drop the balsamic on each figs and sprinkle with the cinnamon. Bake for 10 minutes or until the edges are nicely browned and the bottom is crisp.
  9. Remove from the oven, and i) sprinkle with the chive, ii) garnish with the dill, or iii) drizzle over the honey.
flammkuchen with bacon & onion and Weingut Kloster Marienthal Blanc de Noir

German Wine Festivals in 2015

A year has passed since my summer holiday in Germany last year – beautiful and peaceful days in vineyards.

<Itinerary>
Dusseldorf Airport – Cologne (Cologne Cathedral) – Ahrweiler (8 days; one day trip to Rühdesheim am Rhein) – Frankfurt Airport

I stayed in one of Germany’s least-known and northernmost wine regions, Ahr where, unlike other regions, red wines are primarily produced (about 85% of the total wine production), and enjoyed three wine festivals during the stay. If you wonder why not beer festivals or why red wine rather than white wine, you might want to read my post, Holiday in Vineyards.

 

Cologne – Cologne Cathedral (14th August 2015)

On the way to Ahrweiler, stopped over at Cologne to see the cathedral. It was almost suicide for exhausted, jet-lagged, sleepy and hungry Rotwein to climb up the tower – 100 m high and with 533 steps – after 17 hour journey and just before lunch!

 

Heimersheim Weinfest (14th – 16th August 2015)

After checked in a holiday apartment and had a shower, headed to Heimersheim, adjacent to Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, the capital of Ahrweiler district, for the opening of the festival and the proclamation of the new wine queen.

The admission was 6 euros (valid for 3 days; 5 euros for Sunday only), and 3 euros for a wine cup (See the pic above – the admission wristband and the cup).

I had (only 😀 ) two cups at the wine stands that night, but many were enjoying a bottle (presumably, bottles) with their family or friends. There were also food stands available.

On the following day, went back there (of course with the cup 😀 ) for the historical vintners’ procession followed by the wine queen.

She’s not the queen though. Pretty, isn’t she?

The most famous winery in Heimersheim is Weingut Nelles (VDP). Although I had no chance to visit their office/winery for wine tasting, tried two wines from the winery at the festival – Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) RUBER and Blanc de Noir – Trocken (dry), and loved the latter so much that I brought the bottle back home.

‘Blanc de Noir’, or Pinot Noir Blanc/White Pinot Noir, is made from Pinot Noir grapes in a white wine style, produced quickly removing the skins from the juice after the grapes have been pressed. ‘Blanc de Noir’ is often used for Champagne or sparkling wine. In Ahr, however, it refers to white still wine made from Spätburgunder grapes.

‘Blanc de Noir’ tastes richer than white, and the colour, as you can imagine, is pinkish but lighter than rosé. Nelles’s is slightly orangish or light salmon (See the pic with the cup above). They describe it ‘on the nose, vineyard peach, passion fruit and pineapple, in the mouth these aromas are supported by the elegant fruit acidity.’ It was perfect for summer drinking.

Nelles’s top product is B-52 Nelles Spätburgunder GG Heimersheimer Burggarten – I have to try this one day! Here is the review on WordPress:
B-52, Spätburgunder, Nelles, 2006

Info: Heimersheim Weinfest 2016 (19th – 21st August)

 

Rüdesheimer Weinfest (13th – 17th August 2015)

The day after the procession, I took a train down to Rüdesheim am Rhein for another weinfest. Rüdesheime is located in Rheingau, one of the most famous German wine regions for its high quality Riesling.  In Rheingau, white grapes cover about 85 % of the vineyards, and as for the vine varieties, Riesling approx. 78% of the total wine production (2014 statistics).

Rüdesheimer Weinfest flyer with Friedrich Fendel Riesling Trocken

Drosselgasse is a major draw for visitors. There are wide range of wine bars, garden taverns and traditional restaurants – a good place to sample local wines! Also a place to try famous ‘Rüdesheim Kaffee’, Asbach brandy and coffee with a topping of whipped cream. I wanted to try the coffee, but I couldn’t…. Well, the thing was I couldn’t take anymore alcohol after Rüdesheimer Weinfest!!

Rüdesheim Coffee

It was a rainy and chilly day (about 13°C)and not an ideal day for Riesling….

And yet, had 3 or 4 wines (I can’t recall!) shivering in the rain: Sekt, German sparkling wine from Solter and Riesling Spätlese from Leitz (VDP), which I liked most at the festival.

Rüdesheim am Rhein is not only the place for drinking! The cable car ride up to the Niederwald Monument offers you panoramic views over vineyards and the scenic views of the Rhine. I was going to take a Rhein River Cruise from Rüdesheim on the way back to Ahrweiler, but rain and fog discouraged me 😦

lunch @ Ratsstube

Well, that was fine as Hausgemachter Sauerbraten vom Rind ,,RHEINISCHE ART”, Kartoffelklößen und Apfelmus – Braised beef (marinated in vinegar), dumplings and applesauce at Ratsstube compensated it 🙂

Later at home, I learnt that one of the most popular travel bloggers was also in Rüdesheime for the festival. Her posts will give you more details about Rüdesheimer Weinfest and Riesling in Rheingau:

Rüdesheim Wine Festival: Sneak a Peek Into Germany’s Wine Culture.

Incredible Ways to Experience the World of German Wines!

Info: Rüdesheimer  Weinfest 2016 (18th – 22nd August)

 

Ländliches Weinfest Walporzheim (21st – 23rd August 2015)

The weinfest flyer with Peter Kriechel Frühburgunder Trocken

Rural Walporzheim Wine Festival is held on the 4th Weekend in August with winegrowers’ parade on Sunday and fireworks on Monday. I was supposed to go home on Saturday, so I just saw the opening and the announcement of the new wine queen on Friday evening.

It was a bit smaller than Heimersheim one, but I liked the cozy and intimate atmosphere – perfect for the last night in Ahr. I had had enough red wines, especially Spätburgunder, for 8 days, so topped off the last night with white wine and rosé sparkling.

Lyra Weißburgunder (Pinot Blanc)
The last glass with  Peter Kriechel Rosésekt at the last night in Ahr.

Info: Ländliches Weinfest Walporzheim 2016 (26th – 29th August)

Wine festivals and events in Ahr:
http://www.ahrwein.de/de/events/weinfeste-events/

If you have no time to visit wineries in Ahr or no idea what to buy, visit Ahrweindept at Ahrweiler Markt. You can try some samples, and the shop owner will happily help you.

 

Holiday in Vineyards – Ahr, Germany

<about a year ago>
Okay, my next destination is going to be Germany, but where in Deutschland?
When it comes to Germany, oktoberfest and beer come up to mind.
What about wine then? Do they have wine festivals?
They produce good white wines, but red wine sounds unfamiliar …

That was the prologue of my trip. I did lots of research trying to find my ‘cup of tea’ in Germany, and in the end, picked up AHR – one of the smallest and least-known of Germany’s 13 wine regions, where red grapes cover 84.2% of its total vineyard surface while in Germany overall,  just 35.1%  (2014 stats.  Source: Deutscher Statistik 2015/2016). More over, unlike Württemberg, another region of which red grape production predominates, Ahr is one of the northernmost wine-growing areas in Germany/Europe. In other words, despite the northern location, four out of five bottles of Ahr wine are red.

2013 vinyard surface in Germany
White vs. Red Production in German Wine Regions (2013)

Ahr’s red vine varieties are Spätburgunder (63.1% of the vineyard area including white), Frühburgunder (6.6%), Portugieser, Regent, Dornfelder etc (cf. Riesling 8.2%). The name of the dominant red grape is the German synonym for Pinot Noir. ‘Spät’ means ‘late’ in English (I completely mastered the word at the train stations – ’10 minuten später’ – and learnt that DB, or Deutsche Bahn, trains are as unreliable as Virgin in the UK!), and ‘burgunder’ refers to the variety’s Burgundian origins. That is, Spätburgunder is Pinot Noir which ripens relatively late in the season. (Frühburgunder – ‘früh’ means ‘early’ – is an early ripening mutation of Pinot Noir.) You may already know but Germany is the world’s third largest producer of Pinot Noir after France and USA.

red vine

red & white

white vine

About Ahr Spätburgunder:

The classic Ahr Spatburgunder is brick-red in color and smells of red cherries, sweet spices, forest floor, possibly with a hint of smoky bacon fat if barrel-aged. Ahr Pinot Noir is now a much more serious, modern and “international” wine style that it once was. Until 30 years ago, the wines were often slightly sweet and very pale. Today they are invariably dry and deeper in color – although still much paler than the ink-dark Pinots found in, say, Central Otago. 

Meyer-Näkel Spätburgunder (QbA - trocken)
Meyer-Näkel Spätburgunder (QbA – trocken)

Have you ever tried or heard about Ahr wine, by the way? It is said that most of the wine is consumed locally and by the tourists. Unsurprisingly due to the small acreage (564 ha/1,393 ac), it’s quite difficult to find it in the marketplace outside Germany. Mmmmmm, must be a hidden gem!  The peculiarity of the region and the rarity of the wine were attractive enough for the hidden gem hunter to choose Ahr for her holiday!!

Well, I should also mention wine festivals. In Ahr, lots of wine related events are held throughout the year. The festival season starts in May, and September is the heyday. I planned a visit, however, for August as I wanted to see Heimersheim’s historical festival with the proclamation of the new queen of wine and the vintners’ procession, and one in Walporzheim at the following weekend. What is more, I luckily found another one in that same period, not in Ahr though, and added one more to my itinerary: Rüdesheimer Weinfest in Rheingau, one of the most famous German wine regions for its high quality Riesling. Rüdesheim am Rhein is a 2.5 hour journey away by train, so it’s easy to make a day trip. Then I fixed my schedule – 3 German wine festivals in 9 days!! (The stories about those three festivals are to be followed after ‘where to stay in Ahr’ information.)

wines from 3 festivals
(from left) wines from Walporzheim, Heimersheim, Rüdesheim

How to get to Ahr

  • From Cologne Bonn Airport (Flughafen Köln/Bonn): approx 1.5 hour by bus and train
    1. Airport — Bonn Hbf (Bonn Central Station): bus 35 mins
    2. Bonn Hbf (bound for Ahrbrück) — Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler: direct train 35 mins
    or
    2. Bonn Hbf (for Koblenz Hbf) — Remagen (for Dernau/Ahrbrück) — Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler: trains 35 mins
  • From Dusseldorf Airport (Flughafen Düsseldorf ): approx 2 hours by train
    Airport (for Koblenz Hbf) — Remagen — Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler
  • From Frankfurt Airport (Flughafen Frankfurt (M)): approx 2.5 – 3 hours by train
    Airport — Bonn Hbf — Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler
    or
    Airport — Koblenz Hbf — Remagen — Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler

For more details, check with DB Timetable

Zwiebelkuchen – German Onion Tart

Just before the summer has gone, we had a potluck picnic.

A friend of mine was going to bring red wine with her, so I  chose white summer wine. ‘Something good cold too’ needed to be prepared for Riesling. I had just learnt through my cooking that the wine goes well with heavy cream, so Zwiebelkuchen, quiche-like German onion tart immediately came to mind as it had stuck to me recently.

During my holiday in Germany last month, Federweißer (literally means ‘white feather’ in German), a fizzy alcoholic beverage fermented from freshly pressed grape juice, traditionally served with  Zwiebelkuchen  was on my ‘to-eat/drink’ list. One day at a wine tasting table, Rotwein the Foodie, who doesn’t understand any German except some words, never failed to catch the word  when the locals chatting with the winemaker mentioned ‘Federweißer’. Unhesitatingly she asked the winemaker in expectation.

“Too early!!”

was his reply, sad to say. Actually, in some German wine regions, people enjoy the combination in autumn, normally in September and October – just before the fermented grape juice turns to be wine in wine making process, and mid-August was not the right time yet unfortunately. 😦

So Zwiebelkuchen was missed out of the list as well – one of the regrets I left undone in Germany. Anyway, the Riesling (fresh and slightly fizzy white wine) and the Zwiebelkuchen matched well and turned out to be more than the compensation, and besides, they were perfect for the picnic to farewell the summer and welcome the autumn.

Zwiebelkuchen before baking

Ingredients (for 20-22cm pie plate)

A: sour cream
180ml lukewarm heavy cream (30-40℃)     2 tbsp yogurt
(substitute: 200ml crème fraîche will work)
B: Dough
200g flour      100ml milk      40g butter, room temperature
1 tbsp sugar   ½ tsp salt    1 tsp dry yeast
C:  Filling
100g bacon, chopped
3.5 – 4 medium onions (650-700g), sliced thinly
1 – 2 tsp salt (adjust to taste; 2 tsp as appetizer for alcohol)
D:  Egg Filling
2 eggs      4 tbsp flour      1 tsp caraway seeds


 Method 

  • Sour Cream
    Stir the yogurt into the lukewarm heavy cream, and leave it in a warm place overnight or for half a day. (If you use crème fraîche, this process not required)
  • Dough
    Put Ingredient B (except milk) into a bowl, then make a well, pour in milk and bring together. Knead for 5 mins until smooth. Cover with a tea towel or clingfilm and set aside for at least 30 mins.
  • Filling
    Saute the bacon over low heat (no need to be crispy) and set aside. Then  saute the onion slowly in the bacon fat adding salt on low heat until translucent and beginning to brown. Set aside to cool.
  • Egg Filling
    Whisk the eggs and the flour together in a bowl, stir in the sour cream and caraway seeds, and put the onion and bacon in.
  • Preheat the oven 190℃
  • Roll dough out on a lined and lightly floured pie plate. Lightly prick the base of the tart with a fork, and pour the egg filling with onion and bacon mixture over the dough.
  • Put it on the lower rack of the oven and bake for 40-50 mins, or until golden brown on top.

Zwiebelkuchen by Rotwein

Oma’s Reibekuchen served at 5.00 pm every Friday is another regret, hmmmmm