The Bilbos go buying 90 bottles of wine

Old Oct 4th, 2014, 08:55 AM
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The Bilbos go buying 90 bottles of wine

The original plan was to catch a ferry from Yorkshire to the Continent and then visit three centres to buy wine over 6 days during three wine festivals at the end of September. You can see some of the details at http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...nd-germany.cfm.

Well life comes along while plans are being made so the trip became
Ferry to Rotterdam
Bad Durkheim in the Pfalz; 2 nights at the world's largest wine festival including wine shopping
St Hippolyte in Alsace, 2 nights at a young wine festival plus wine shopping
Trip through the Black Forest to the Austrian/German/Swiss border area for 3 nights
Urzig on the Mosel for 2 nights, just wine buying
Ferry back to Hull

For some reason we booked many of the these hotels ahead of time and did not follow our usual method, so we used Booking which, once again, like so many booking agencies does not cover certain countries very well (this includes specifically France and Germany) so, once again, I'll go back to Google Maps for future trips.

Throughout this drive of 1000 miles or so we never seem to be out of sight of wind turbines or solar panels.

Day 1, packed the car and head off to Hull. I worked there for 4 years about 10 years ago and it always impresses me as I find more of it. This time we find some Victorian fountains on one of the boulevards (surrounded by grotty streets it is an astounding fountain) and the new giant Tescos in the centre of town where we have a late lunch Chinese buffet. The ferry is pretty well empty mid-week but is clean and tidy and while it leaves on time the heavy fog in the North Sea means we get off it in Rotterdam an hour late.
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Old Oct 4th, 2014, 10:30 AM
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I am sorry I do not understand what you mean when you say "...so we used Booking which, once again, like so many booking agencies does not cover certain countries very well (this includes specifically France and Germany) so, once again, I'll go back to Google Maps for future trips."

Booking uses Google maps to show the locations and when you receive conformation of your booking it gives you an address (sometimes coordinates) plus a link to Google maps. Add them to your GPS and Bob is your what sit, or so I thought.
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Old Oct 4th, 2014, 12:03 PM
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hi bilbo,

I was wondering if our paths would cross but we were home before you set off! We never made it to Bad Durkheim this time - it's about an hour's drive from where our friends live and we don't have the stamina we had 30+ years ago when we first went - but our friends did take us to a local wine festival up in the Pfalz mountains about 30 mins drive from their house. As well as drinking wine, this featured eating Flammkuchen [a sort of german pizza which I'd never come across before] and listening to a "Schlager" or "crooner" of mainly german songs, though several english hits also cropped up. A real hoot!

we didn't take our car, sadly so we couldn't load up like you, but looking at the prices of some very good wines, it would be well worth having a wine-buying expedition like yours.

next instalment please. `
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Old Oct 4th, 2014, 01:57 PM
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ribeira, yes I was just being lasy using Booking.com rather than doing a map search first. Not a big mistake but I can do better.

Annhig, next bit.
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Old Oct 4th, 2014, 02:00 PM
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Day 2, Roads in the Netherlands are, as usual, pretty empty after the UK, though they do insist on driving on the wrong side. German roads are basically faster and you have to watch your re-view mirror for the next crazy. German service stations have introduced 50c fees to access the loos. The affect is that bush areas outside the stations are full of Chinese and Eastern Europeans (and others) taking a poo. Sad to see such a thing in a clean country.

Apart for a little rain the drive is easy and gets more pretty as we pass Koblenz at the mouth of the Mosel and then the motorway follows the Rhine until it turns off for the Pfalz, all the way the valley of the motorway is wrapped in vines. Once we turn off the motorway onto the wine road it becomes typically country German. Many half timbered houses, vines growing across the streets, wine companies along the road and the smell of grape juice is heavy in the air.

Getting to Bad Durkheim (entering from the north) we see the amazing “Saline” http://www.bad-duerkheim.com/sehensw...au-saline.html which must be largest pile of old twigs with salt water pouring over them in the world. Still, after the fire a few years back, it is now is solar powered during the day. We can also see the seat of the wine festival.

We were not able to stay in our preferred hotel so were having to slum it at the http://www.hotel-heusser.de/ which (apart from the Japanese tea building is a classy bunch of houses on a hillside knocked into hotel with great spa facilities as you would like to come across near a wine festival). We check in and discover the E12 a night car parking fee on the booking website was not in place, though the car park is full of black cars, for a moment I thought it was funeral convention and then I remembered that Germans on business like to stay in uniform. ;-)

That night we walked south through the vinyards that enwrap the town to Wachenheim for a meal, we end up in cafe for the local flammeküeche . Now I don't speak German so I was fooled by a “false friend”. “pepperoni “ in German is not spicy sausage (they have loads of words for that) but spicy cheese. Still I had a St Laurent red wine, which is supposed to be the new exciting red. Well I can report it tastes only a little better than a Dornfelder, which is to say like cheap Gamay that has been given a dust bath, not a nice thing. Still after a good local Riesling Mrs Bilbo and I managed to walk back to the hotel without dropping into any wine bars on the way.
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Old Oct 4th, 2014, 05:21 PM
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TTT for what I expect to be delightful read!
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Old Oct 5th, 2014, 12:46 AM
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Peperoni is not a cheese, it is a kind of chili. Originally, it is the Italian plural word for (bell) pepper. Small peperoni (which are spicy) are called peperoncini.

The American term "pepperoni" for a sausage developed in the early 20th century for a salami that was spiced with peperoncini.

Actually, when I was in the USA, I made the same mistake in reverse. When I ordered a pepperoni pizza I expected something hot with lots of chilis.
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Old Oct 5th, 2014, 02:04 AM
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bilbo - when I looked at your link to the Saline I thought it looked very new [my old pictures of it from 30 years ago with people walking round it wearing plastic rain macs show a much older building] and when I scrolled down, i saw that it was rebuilt in 2010. amazing how keen germans are on taking the "cure"; my penfriend was sent off into the Bavarian mountains for several weeks for her nervous problems all paid for by their health service.

Also amazing that they have no speed limit on some Autobahns - those crazies doing over 100 mph are scary when they suddenly appear in your wing mirror!

Shame you have to slum it at the Hotel Heusser. did the female staff wear Trachten [dirndls]? our friends' son's girlfriend works in reception in a very posh hotel in Herxheim and both she and the restaurant staff have to wear them every day; the waitresses have 14 of them [7 for winter, 7 for summer - yellow on Monday, green on Tuesday etc]. Though they obviously need something to liven the place up if they have all those suits to contend with!

we missed out on the St Laurent and stuck to the whites; my penfriend's husband particularly likes Chardonnay which seems a bit weird for a german. I stick to the Rieslings, not too dry when I can get them, though the "trocken" style [which IMO does not suit the Riesling grape] has rather taken over.

More please!
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Old Oct 5th, 2014, 03:50 AM
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Luckily no dirndls, though my sister has one and sent a me photo only two days ago of it. Nor strange leather trousers in reception, though there were plenty at the Wurtz Markt.

Actually the Heusser was pretty good and a SIL has been to a few parties there and said it would be ok if a little tricky to find our way around.

Still we heard that the UK was still in existance while staying there so it will ever be in my heart.
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Old Oct 5th, 2014, 03:57 AM
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"it" above is my sister (65) in the silly thing, must have been going to a party.

Day 3; after one of those international German breakfasts that go on for hours we left the hotel and walked round one of the town tours (lots of butter making tools, pictures of former management, monestries, plus an enormous ball of marble sitting in a fountain for kids, and me, to play with) before a drink stop for fizzy white (cloudy, still fermenting) wine and a little shopping. We then spent a few hours in the hotel spa before visiting the wine festival. For those who have not seen the Wurst Makt I'll do my best to describe it.

The area is a permanent zone bordered by a false Tuscan garden to the west, to the east is the Saline, to the north the main road and to the south a stream (once running underground) which has been elevated and runs through a new garden. The rectangular space within this is given over to a fancy fair (dodgems etc.) food fairs (noodles to pig), the world's largest barrel, large tents for Munich style beer festival action, small tents for the same but think wine in 400ml glasses and finally (our focus) the better wines in a small village of tented wine and food offering only 200ml glasses. Into this pour roughly 25000 people a day for 9 days over a fortnight and stay iat it from 9am to 2 am. I would guess that at least 90% are German (though I heard Czech, Polish and Welsh) and while we spot a few very badly drunk guys, there is no violence, no vomiting and lots of happy cheer.

In the village you sit in a wine producers area, you can order food from some of the local restaurants (they deliver) and after renting a 200ml glass you get to taste their wine range. These tend to be Riesling but they also offer Gewurtz. or even Pinot Gris. So start at one corner and work you way across.

The very best producer in the village does not come to the Wurst Makt but the second best does so we re-discover Wegner. After a bit too much pork and little wine we walk home at about 12, while kids from the local cities are still arriving by tram past a few very bored looking police.

And so to bed.
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Old Oct 5th, 2014, 04:23 AM
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Day 4

Up with the lark, Scotland have voted to stay in the Union (no Germans come up to me to congratulate us for keeping our country together), and quickly into breakfast before we sober up (actually I've never had a hangover from Riesling), and off to Wegner to buy some wine cases (Riesling and Gewurtz.). The staff are so busy at the Wurst Makt they have left Grandpa and Grandma to show people around and sell stuff. Only a little harvest going on (unlike Alsace) which shows both how a few 100kms have such a strong affect.

Then south towards Alsace. This means we have to follow the Pfalz wine road, which is so pretty it almost makes me want to move here. We cross the non-border at Wissembourg (France) and stop at the first supermarket to top up with bottled water and nibbles for the car. Then it is basically motorways down to the St Hippolyte turn off. At this point we end up in one of those terrible queues due to coaches driving down the Alsace wine route. Still we have a small book of wine companies out so we can check them off the list as we pass.

We spot “Rolly Gassman” on a sign (this guy is not in the book but he is pretty famous) and realise we might as well stop. Just off a small churchyard we enter a door in a farm door and find a dark cave with 8 people and woman of 65 working her socks off selling. To the French she is selling Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc, to the Germans she is selling Riesling and Pinot Noir all in two languages, while packing cases, taking money and chatting. It is an impressive sight (and no tips involved ). Great wine so we pick up three cases of Pinot Gris and Gewurtztraminer. each bottle is less than E12 which we think is great value for the wine. We drop in on the Coop at Rorshwihr (which is a massive, very professional place with loads of visitors) and reject their wines as way too expensive for some very ordinary stuff, especially there gold medal winners.

Finally we get to the hotel, the “Hostellerie Munsch aux Ducs de Lorraine” or “the ducks” as we decide to call it. An odd place, fine views over the vinyards, very busy reception (too busy to check us in), the room, while large was just a bit odd, either decorated in the 1970s or as if the designer still lived in the 1970s while the hotel menu looked like something from the past. Still we did not eat there and the place was busy (with tour groups mainly).

That evening we walked up to Le Rouge de St Hippolyte http://www.petitfute.com/v818-saint-...hippolyte.html where we had a good meal and a tasting of 4 wines off the menu (not fantastic but we were only paying E6 for these 4 wines) but worth trying and yet again Pinot Gris stands out as the great Alsace grape. St Hippolyte is the town where they first made red wine in Alsace back in the 1500s (probably wasn't Pinot Noir).
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Old Oct 5th, 2014, 07:36 AM
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This means we have to follow the Pfalz wine road, which is so pretty it almost makes me want to move here.>>

I know, I'd forgotten how lovely it is, Nazi architecture not withstanding. Did you know that the Weinstrasse was their idea? According to our friends, lots of the buildings along the way are in the 1930s faux Roman style, including the Deutsches Weintor near the border where it all starts.

I don't remember there being a village as such at the Wurstmarkt - only the world's largest barrel [complete with brass band] which impressed me at the time - and those 400 ml glasses. Good to read that they now provide more modest measures for those of us who are interested in quality rather than quantity.

Funny - we too went to Wissembourg, where they were having a joint french/german fire brigade exercise. the French definitely won the style competition but the germans looked very efficient - so no national stereotyping there! We also went into a bag shop where i wanted to buy a birthday present for DD - and had the most hilarious conversation in a mix of french and german with the assistant.

Keep it coming - ideas for a wine-buying trip next year are fermenting in my brain along with that new wine you talk about!
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Old Oct 5th, 2014, 07:45 AM
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A few years back we rode bikes from Bad Durheim into Alsace and stayed at a (motor) bikers hostel in Germany and then, coming back, in a Logis in France, both times in Wissembourg. My conclusion was in terms of quality of food, accomodation and price you would always aim to stay in Germany and the differences have increased, unfortunatly I can only speak French.

The new wine with onion cake is the speciality of the Mosel/Pfalz/Alsace region and (while probably a mild purgative) it is a great snack and a good deal more pleasant than any other fizzy drink. Trouble is, you cannot bottle it safely.
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Old Oct 5th, 2014, 10:16 AM
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well, bilbo, as you will find from my TR, if i ever get round to finishing it, the best meal we had was in Alsace, but on the whole, I would agree that Germany is better value than France. And of course there are many people who go there who speak no German and get along very well without it, as english is widely spoken, though i managed to give my german quite a good workout in most places.

We never got to try the Zwiebelkuchen - a good reason to go back?
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Old Oct 5th, 2014, 10:23 AM
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"-- wine with onion cake"? Please explain that one, please. Is it a drink with onion mixed in?
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Old Oct 5th, 2014, 10:37 AM
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onion cake or Zwiebelkuchen is a more like a quiche, according to this recipe:

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/german-...hen-onion-pie/

you eat it whilst drinking the new wine, apparently, but separately, not mixed together.
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Old Oct 5th, 2014, 10:51 AM
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Zwiebelkuchen, as you say, onion quiche, but it does go with the wine and perhaps a little green salad.
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Old Oct 5th, 2014, 11:06 AM
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ttt to read soon
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Old Oct 5th, 2014, 11:37 AM
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Meanwhile, I am wondering how long 90 bottles can last at home if they are not carefully rationed. I know people for whom that would be the ration for a month.
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Old Oct 5th, 2014, 01:22 PM
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kerouac, you clearly don't live in a country where if you buy a £4 bottle of wine, the wine inside probably cost 50p max - the rest is duty/tax/the bottle/transport costs etc. We have learnt to ration ourselves.

Seriously, the 3 wine drinking adults in this household probably consume 6-7 bottles a week between them ie approx 2 1/2 doz per month. so those 90 bottles would go a long way, even allowing for extra Christmas/party/ birthday consumption.

bilbo - that makes me curious - why 90 bottles? is there some unwritten limit of which I am unaware, or was that the max your vehicle could manage? it's just over 7 cases isn't it?
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