Monthly Archives: February 2011

The Burgstall goes down a treat

The visit of some friends on Sunday afternoon was a good excuse to share a bottle of wine. I’m pleasured to say that our new found love of the Burgstall 2009 Zweigelt (Wellanschitz vineyard) was share by all. Of particular delight to our friends was the way the smooth taste of the wine lingers in the pallet for some time.

Much discussion was had about the other wines we recently purchased from this vineyard. Alas with Sunday drawing to a close and a busy week ahead for all of us it was agreed that further tastings would have to wait for another day. However, there was enough time to start discussing the possibilities of a trip in the spring to the vineyard, an idea that I suspect will soon blossom.

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Filed under Vienna Life, Wine, Beer & Food

The sound of snow, an odd coffee experience, good wine….and Richard the Lionheart

As I stood alone in the woods, the only sounds were those of the occasional bird call and the noises of the snow melting around me. The silence at times would be almost complete but then the stillness would be broken by the sudden crashing of branches accompanied, as you looked up, by an isolated flurry of snow. With the sun shining through the branches, the light upon the flakes created a beautiful mix of bright colours contrasting in some places with the darkness of the wood or in others the whiteness of the trees still covered in thick blanket of snow.

The Wachau is a wine growing area that sits alongside the Danube River about an hour or so from Vienna. The area is very popular with day tripping tourist, with its attractive villages, vineyards, castle ruins, as well as orchards and places to sit and eat by the river. Away from the Danube it’s mostly steep, rolling hills but we had come on a day trip to a small mountain in the area in order for R and H to do a little skiing before the snows disappear completely. As the others started to ascend the slope on the ski lift, I set off along a nearby forest path to enjoy the sunshine and to walk through the snow covered countryside before this frozen world transformed itself into a muddy, damp landscape.

Although not far from the ski slope I quickly found myself alone in a silent landscape which was gradually emerging from under its thick blanket of snow. Much of the ground and some of the trees were either free from the snow or had only a little covering, whilst others remained entrapped in their thick wintery coats. This is what I had come to see the beauty of the colours and the strangeness of the shapes the come with the transition from wintery snow to spring blossom. As I moved through the open countryside and into the woods the images and the peacefulness of the scenes in front of me made the walk in the crisp sunny afternoon a real joy.

Nearing my destination I could hear the clank of metal generated by the ski lift at the top of the slope. I quickly found R and H preparing to make another decent and after confirming that they were happy to continue skiing, I followed the signs to the nearby cafe. As the path emerged from the trees I found myself looking at an old wooden watch tower which now housed the promised a cafe and with it my hopes for another enjoyable coffee experience. The venue was empty at this time but it was a quaint little place with an older lady sitting by the fire doing her knitting. She gave me a friendly welcome and after our exchange of greetings I successfully used one of the few German phrases I have at my disposal – ‘Black coffee please’.  With some effort I managed to keep a friendly if puzzled look on my face as I realised that my host was telling me that indeed coffee was available from the vending machine to my left. With a heavy heart I put my money in the slot, recovered the ‘coffee’ in its plastic cup and went to take a seat in the corner. In a country with true coffeehouses and great coffees it seems to me (despite my liberalism) that someone should pass a law banning the serving of coffee from vending machines.

Travelling back through the Wachau, in the late afternoon, we pulled off the main road to drop into the vineyard of Karl Mayr. I was first introduced to his St. Laurent red wine at my wedding reception. Although our wedding was held in England my In-Laws were kind enough to ensure that we had a true flavour of Austria with the supply of red and white wines from Karl Mayr’s vineyard. I have been a fan ever since and his wines provide an enjoyable glass with a meal or to share when friend call round. Unfortunately, as time was against us, we declined the invitation to share a glass of wine and some conversation. Instead we promised ourselves we would be visiting again soon, got some advice on the best place to purchase some local fruit  and having made our purchases headed back towards Vienna .

As we drove through Durnstein H groaned as I once again pointed to the castle that sits above the town and reminded her that it had once been the prison of Richard the Lionheart. Driving along the side of the river R commented that in the bright sunshine, for once, the Danube really did almost look blue. On the other side of Krems we again left the main road and entered a small village in search of fresh fruit. Unfortunately, by the time we reached Vienna the majority of the apples R purchased had already been eaten. So I guess it won’t be long before we are back in the Wachau in search of good walks, good food and great wine.

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Filed under Out and about in Lower Austria, Vienna Life, Wine, Beer & Food

A good read on the climate change debate

Today in the Independent there is a really interesting piece about climate change:

The exchange doesn’t really move the debate forward but it does provide a great summary of the core arguments for and against in the climate change debate.

Personally I’m a believer but can be sceptical about some of the solutions that are put forward. I often get irritated and concerned that climate change arguments get used to justify other causes and beliefs. This lazy and/or politically selective use of climate change arguments can then obscure the real issues and damages wider the environmental movement.

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Filed under Climate Change, Green

City rankings

It seems that Vienna has dropped to third place in the Economist Intelligence Units livability ranking. It’s been pushed out of second place, in the ranking of 140 cities, by Melbourne. They continue to place Vancouver in top spot but I don’t think I’ll be moving.

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Filed under The odd thought or observation, Vienna Life

Bilingual kids better at prioritising tasks and multitasking

From the moment H was born we have been committed to the idea that she should be brought up to be bilingual. This is in partly because of the evidence that it would beenfit her in life and also that she could engage fully with both cultures. It’s interesting to read this new evidence of the benefits of being brought up bilingual:

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Filed under Languages, Schools, Vienna Life

Climate change link

Interesting article in the Independent about scientists for the first time being ‘able to plot with any confidence the link between the extreme weather with man-made greenhouse gases’.

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Great wine and the beautiful game provides the right results

Last weekend produced a good set of results in my efforts to restock the wine rack. It also saw good results on the football pitch for both Austria Wien and Leicester City FC, who each picked up three points and moved up their respective league tables.

On our way back from to Vienna we stopped off to buy some of my favourite Austrian wines from the Pimpel Vineyards. The winery in Goettlesbrunn and the vineyards’ are in the heart of Carnuntum wine country, situated between the Danube and Neusiedler See. The ‘Optime Merlot’ is a wine that puts of others of the same grape into the shade. It’s a wine for those special, quiet, summer evenings or for those winter nights gathered around the fire with friends – wine and moments to savour.  Whilst my other preference, from Gerhard Pimpels selection, is the ‘Zweigelt Rubin Carnuntum’ which can be trusted to provide an enjoyable and entertaining glass every time – the wine, dear reader, that sits next to me as I write this blog entry.

We discovered these wines by accident a little while ago now. We had taken H, who has inherited her father’s love of history, to the Carnuntum Archaeological Park. In addition to the Roman ruins, the reconstructed buildings really bring to life the Roman world as well as providing a genuinely interesting family day out. As we were leaving R asked the chap at the information desk (who turned out to be another Englishman who had made Austria his home) for advice on local vineyards. Based upon his enthusiastic suggestion we made our way to Goettlesbrunn and the winery of Gerhard Pimpel.

As we sat in the courtyard that evening with Gerhard Pimpel, my expectation was that R and I would spend less than an hour sampling three or four wines. In fact, we spent a very enjoyable evening talking about wines, England and Austria (with R interpreting as necessary) and becoming properly acquainted with the Optime. The wine had sold itself to me with the first tasting but spending some time understanding a little about the area, the grape and the person behind the wine added to a very enjoyable evening.

Afterwards I discovered that those who actually know something about wine also have a high opinion of these wines. But for me it’s all about personal taste and the passion people have for what they do.

As we headed back to Vienna last Sunday, with our new supplies of ‘Optime Merlot’ and ‘Zweigelt Rubin Carnuntum’, my attention turned to my iPhone. This is device that more than any other helps me to function in my adopted country. It provides maps and navigation, help me translate key words when needed, helps to deal with all sorts of every day demands, as well as providing me with the opportunity to stay in contact with friends both in Austria and around the world. This latter facility also allowed me to keep certain friends up to date with my wine purchasing efforts and other activities, through photos, messages etc, which I’m sure they appreciated really.

In this instance, my need to consult the iPhone was to find out the score in Austria Wien’s first game after the winter break and to keep track of Leicester City’s match against Derby County. For those not up to date with such matters, I am happy to report wins for both Leicester and Austria. So as I settled down on Sunday night it was with the feeling that all in all the weekend had produced the right results – good wines and the chance to read about success on the pitch. What more do you need to start the week?

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