A mile of wine (literally)

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The Saale-Unstrut wein region

This time last year I was preparing for a challenging aerobic goal.

Not it wasn’t a half marathon or the City2Surf. I was training to walk a mile.

But not just any mile. A wine mile. Or Weinmeile to be precise (and Germans are always precise).

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The pretty town of Naumburg

Tucked away in Saxony is the town of Naumburg (not to be confused with Nuremberg), which sits in Germany’s northernmost wine region of Saale-Unstrut. Naumburg is a picturesque medieval town, filled with castles and architectural ruins from its heyday as an important fair and trade centre.

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A typical house with a terraced vineyard for a backyard

Many people live along the Saale river which runs through the town and most houses have a little vineyard tucked away on the steep slope of their backyard. Once a year in June, every household along the river bands together to celebrate the local wine industry by hosting the Saale Weinmeile – a day of walking, drinking and feasting in the sunshine.

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The Saale river

I was staying with friends Marc and Kathleen in nearby Leipzig when they casually mentioned they’d be taking me to a fun wine event about an hour away. I didn’t realise just how much fun we would end up having (or how much wine we’d end up drinking!).

Willkommen to the Weinmeile!

We joined the throngs of people at the starting point, draped with a welcoming banner. Every house along the river participated in some way – usually with a stand selling glasses and bottles of their homemade wine and food.

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One of the many stands spruiking local wine

As a group of six we decided early on that bottles would be our currency and we picked one up every few stands. Someone had the clever idea to also kick off with a bratwurst or two to provide some ballast for what lay ahead.

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Grüner Silvaner was another of my favourites wine varieties

It was a scorching hot summer’s day in June so the locally grown crisp white wines that we encountered at every step were an ideal refreshment. The mild climate that comes from the river valley is perfect for cultivating dry white wines with a fruity flavour.

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A snapshot of one wine menu

Initially I didn’t recognise a single grape variety but I learnt quickly that Kerner and Müller-Thurgau, followed closely by Grüner Silvaner, were my favourite grape varieties, reminiscent of my perennial favourites Riesling and Gewurztraminer.

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Hand-knitted wine holders – genius!

My friends Bjorn and Antonia were such professionals, they brought their own woollen wine glass holders. I was so jealous. Read More

Cocktail Shenanigans

A first class daiquiri from El Floridita, Havana

My last post was all about drinking food which segues nicely into the topic of drinking itself.

I adore cocktails. Literally love ‘em. It was quite convenient when I worked for a hospitality company that owned a dozen cocktail bars because drinking was technically work. Now it falls squarely back into the self-funded leisure category but that hasn’t dampened my spirits in the slightest.

It’s impossible to highlight all my cocktail shenanigans because there have been so very many. Plus I’m not always in a lucid enough state to remember them all. Thank god for iphones.

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The bar at El Floridita in Havana

Possibly my greatest cocktail memory ever happened in Havana two years ago. After a painful 35 hour journey involving three stop overs and very little sleep, I arrived in Havana on a Saturday evening. En route to my hotel I spotted ‘El Floridita’ out of the corner of my eye and knew instantly my impending plans to sleep would be shafted.

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Abel works his magic

”My mojito in La Bodeguita, my daiquiri in El Floridita”

noted the famous alcoholic, I mean author, Ernest Hemingway and who was I to argue? My new friend Lena and I got comfy at the bar and ended up spending hours there. The daiquiris were sensational – did I mention this is where they were invented?

The signature Floridita Daiquiri blends crushed ice, sugar, rum, lime and maraschino liqueur and the result is an intense frothy delight. They’re served with a bottomless plate of highly addictive plantain chips which create the perfect ballast to support all that rum. Read More

Drinking food that’s so wrong but oh so right

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Cheesy, greasy, salty poutine

I last wrote about lovely Greek Easter family traditions and cooking sessions with my yiayias. Honest, good clean fun.

Which is precisely why I’m now compelled to write about something down and dirty. To keep the balance.

Today it’s all about outrageous, positively indecent (and calorie-defying) drinking food. This idea came to me recently while I was drinking (alcoholic) ginger beer with a Canadian friend in a Canadian bar. There was only one thing to order in that situation.

‘One poutine please’.

If you think poutine sounds French, that’s because it is – or at least it hails from French speaking Quebec. Chunky fries are topped with brown gravy and cheese curds so the whole thing is a greasy, salty, cheesy mess. A pretty tasty mess to be fair.

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Ginger beer to cut through the grease

According to my sidekick Ving, this was not poutine in its true form – partly because we just don’t make cheese curds in the same way the Canadians do. But he felt the sentiment was there. Apparently McDonald’s does a version in Canada – I’m not entirely confident about how that might taste.

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Chips topped with gooey melted cheese

Poutine is pretty closely related to the cheesy chips that you see on pub menus far and wide throughout the UK. My favourite was a version I came across in Tresco (while snacking on scotch eggs naturally). Good old fashioned chips are drowned with melted cheese so there’s nothing sophisticated going on there but they certainly go down well when you’re drinking copious amounts of local cider.

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Crispy, crunchy, chicharrones

While we’re on the topic of fried foods, it doesn’t get much more debaucherous that chicharrónes or fried pork rinds. That’s where they take something already extremely fatty and proceed to deep fry it to really amp up the fat factor. Sounds like something Homer Simpson would eat. Read More