By Damian Hartner, Contributing Writer

Get to know me and my love for Wine…

A long time ago in a galaxy far away, I started working in New York City.

It was a magical time when money was flowing like water and my expenses were never questioned by my employer or the clients who eventually got the bill. It was then that I started drinking wine and I mean REALLY drinking wine.

Tasting wine – good wine – to me – was an experience similar to when a puppy, which has been eating dog food his whole life, gets his first taste of table scraps. You can see the look on his face saying, “Wait! You mean you guys eat stuff like that ALL THE TIME?!?”

Wine comes with its own attitude; people are called wine snobs or wine divas.

I’ve been called both. I deny neither.

Wine goes with things – steak, cheese, parties, summer and concerts.

Wine lets you achieve a drunken state without being undignified.

Wine has its own background and can trap the dabbler into learning way too much about grapes, aeration, cuvee’s, cru, decanting, estates, tannins, brix, terrior and corkscrews.

Wine has its own taste descriptors. Some things we might say about our food, others we would never want to hear about our food. Fruity, dry, tannic, earthy, tobacco, chocolate, raspberry, bubbly, cherry, oaky, and the list goes on…

So, I find myself, thousands of bottles later and an interest in wine that runs deep enough to at least attempt to make sense of the world of wine, writing this column for To27.

I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it or maybe I’m just getting drunk.

Now that I’ve sort-of introduced myself, I’ll tell you about a recent wine experience.

Last week, I was in Freiburg, Germany, which is the south west corner of Germany at the foothills of the Black Forest. It sits on the Rhine River and is in the heart of a major German wine growing region called Baden. Right across the river, conveniently enough, is the Alsace wine growing region of France. Both regions are known for their outstanding white wines. The famous varietals from the regions include Riesling, Gewurztraminer (say “gah-vertz-tra-mean-er”), Muller-Thurgau, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Blanc.

We began our travels at New York’s LaGuardia airport at around 3pm and arrived in Freiburg at around noon THE NEXT DAY! Now, the major rule of travel is that when you arrive at your destination – no matter what time it is and no matter how long you’ve been awake – continue the day/night/etc as if you are a local. Otherwise, you’ll never get over the jet lag in time to enjoy your visit.

So, we dropped our things at the hotel and headed for the center of Freiburg where we toured the awe-inspiring Freiburg Muenster Cathedral. A bit overwhelmed, we exited the cathedral and to our great luck, spotted a wine tasting house. Americans would just call this a “wine bar” except, it didn’t have any food. No problem though – there were plenty of merchants selling breads, cheeses, and if you can imagine sausages on the streets.

Germany's best, Fritz Wassmer Spatburgunder...

I walked up to the counter and I asked the wine pourer for a recommendation. To my surprise, her strongest recommendation was not a white wine – but a RED wine. Something she was calling “Rotburgunder” (Say “wrote-bur-gun-der”). I asked her what that was and she said, “Red Burgundy”. Well, yeah, kind of obvious I guess. She went on to say that Burgundy, by definition, was Pinot Noir. I disagreed with her “by definition” as Chardonnay, Gamay and Aligote are also burgundy grapes. But, I was in Germany and she was of very typical German stock, rather large, and likely easily provoked and so I wasn’t going to argue – just drink the wine.

The wine was FANTASTIC! The bottle we had was “M”. It was silky smooth, plenty of tannins so you could keep it for a long while, fruity up front, and an earthy finish.
So, the next time you feel like having an adventure – see if you can find a nice Rotburgunder from Baden. Might as well pick up a Muller-Thurgau while you’re at it.

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