Thursday, October 15, 2009

Day 13: for love of wine

I’m drunk. I’ll just preface with that. I am finally drunk, after nearly two weeks spent dutifully engaged with family and children, I am drunk off Riesling in Germany. Wasn’t my goal, regardless of whether I liked Hefeweisen or Riesling to be a connoiseur by the time I returned to the states? Well, I won’t be a connoiseur, but I have definitely developed a taste. I fled Scheidt (yes, “Shite”), the outskirt of Saarbrücken that my grandparents live in, to Trier, where the only souls I know are Nina, a friend from high school, and her boyfriend, Oliver. I took the train from Scheidt to Trier (freaked out at every stop before, since the train display would say “Trier hbf” as the final destination, and I thought it might be the current location), and the bus from the hauptbahnhof to Nina’s house.

Nina and I rode bikes into downtown, looked at ancient, ancient things like the Romabrücken (Roman bridge), the pilings of which have been here since Roman times. Okay, so maybe I’m a little bit of a bridge scour geek because I’m paid to be, but isn’t it amazing that these pilings have been trusted for two millenia? Especially since the spans are quite short- the effective flow area of the river is probably reduced by 20 percent by the bridge pilings, but no one has had any reason to question whether they will scour out. Wow! Makes me wonder if the Romans’ just had more money to spend on building with lasting materials, like stone, or if their engineering was superior. You could say their engineering was wasteful- shouldn’t all components fail at once, if one part fails, the entire thing fails, so why have anything else over designed and wasteful? But the bridge is still being used, still being crossed. It’s not over designed if those pilings are still within their functional lives. The gates were left standing, a church built up on them, then torn down, but the building still stands. The building has not failed. Isn’t that really successful engineering?

We did a little eventide sightseeing and windowshopping, (including trying on 70 euro peacoat that we both loved… and didn’t feel like spending 70 euro on), I learned about the clash between the Trier bisshop (an important Catholic personage) and the people of Trier about the ownership of the town. The city built a tall steeple to outdue the bishop, so the bishop just raised one steeple of his church (most German Catholic churches look kind of like an H- two steeples. He raised one, but not the other). The Pope came and decided that yes, indeed, since the bishop’s steeple was higher, she owned the church. If you look at the old Rathaus (townhall), the guard-sculpture looking to the city church is alert, composed, and well dressed, while the guard looking to the bishop’s church ha his helmet fallen over his eyes and doublet exposing his nether regions.

When we got back, Oliver, a 32 year old PhD candidate writing his thesis on the US Supreme Court (many sarcastic jokes stem from this, which makes it difficult to decipher the true attitudes), had made fantastic chili out of the gift beans that had been smuggled from the Air Force base. We enjoyed that with the best ciabatta in Germany and barbecue-flavored tortilla chips. Then the wine came out.

Oliver is a fan of sweet Rieslings, which I initially turn my nose up at, but he really knows his sweet Rieslings, and damn are they good. I think I only want to drink good sweet Rieslings from here on out. Each of the four bottles at one point were zipped into the “Floozy Koozy,“ a red-and-white polka-dotted koozy with red boa, sold by a flamboyantly gay man in New Orleans. If you’re wondering what the wines were, ponder no more:

Matthias Mueller 2006 Mittelrhein 12,5%
Bopparder Hamm/Mandelstein/Riesling-Hochgewaechs/trocken/Gutsabfuellung

Matthias Mueller 2006 Mittelrhein 8,5%
Bopparder Hamm/Mandelstein/Riesling Spaetlese/Gutsabfuellung

Weingart 2006 Mittelrhein 7,5%
Schloss Fuerstenberg/Riesling Spaetlese/Gutsabfuellung

Weingut 2005 Rheinhessen 12,5%
Elisabethenhof/Sceurebe/Beerenauslese Praedikat/Erzeugerabuellung

Oliver and Nina, true wine devotees, taught me how to drink a wine: to swirl the wine in the glass, to smell, to describe the smell, to taste, to swish, to burble. Oliver said to describe whatever it is that you smell or taste: if it smells like dirty socks and tastes like green bell peppers, then say so. He also said that the longer a wine’s taste sits in your mouth, and usually the more complex they are (specifically white wines), the better the wine is.

Nina added that wines with animal names (or any marketing ploy with a shock value name trying to get you to buy it) usually aren’t very good, because the winemaker is trying to get you to buy the wine for its name rather than the wine itself. She also noted that tannins are best neutralized by dairy: in oversteeped tea, you need cream, with a really dark wine, cheese.

This all has to be taken with a grain of salt, because a $10 bottle of wine enjoyed with friends after a great day and good meal will taste better than a $100 bottle of wine drunk alone and depressed. So these 3-4 euro (cheap!) wines were amazingly delicious enjoyed in good company in a sweet apartment in the oldest city in Germany.

The combination of a lovely evening featuring tasty friends and interesting wines and reading a book all about a woman who tackled a major project (Julia and Julia, cooking her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking) makes me want to adopt a much smaller project. My project is not intended to be a grueling task on a schedule, I can leave that for hiking the PCT. No, a project lasting years, with the intent of helping me improve my skills and knowledge in the gastronomical world as well as spend good times with good friends.

The two ideas most obvious to me are pizza and wine. Yes, I love beer, and really do want to do a great American IPA challenge once I get back, but I love wine more. They might just mold into one project: wine and pizza. Once a week, or once a month, or whenever we feel like it, a gathering of friends, ingredients, and beverages. So, friends, specifically blog readers of Anchorage, are any interests piqued?

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