wijninfo.nl Yea – wijnenwijn.nl Nay!

Over the last few weeks several wine-related posts on smaak.blogo.nl have mentioned and linked to wijnenwijn.nl, a recently launched portal for online wine shops.

smaak.blogo.nl is one of the food blogs I follow regularly. It’s the food channel of blogo.nl, a Dutch blog network, and written by professional food enthusiasts.

6 wine-related articles were posted over the course of the last 2 months on topics including Dutch wine and Christmas wine. All posts were written by new blogo contributor Karel Hoenderdos, wine lover, writer and also founder of wijnenwijn.nl. Karel did not fail to link to wijnenwijn.nl in any of his articles – so I was curious on what it had to offer.

wijnenwijn has three features – wine news, a wine agenda and search. The news and agenda features are basically empty. The last news article dates from 13 November and there is only a single event – a wine tasting scheduled for 14 December.

Then there is the main feature, wine search. There is full-text as well as an advanced search tab where you can filter by country, region, price and other data. wijnenwijn.nl also has some predefined search queries such as “champagne for EUR 30 or more” and a search service where you can ask a question and leave your email address.

I decided to test search using two of my favorite and somewhat unusual wines as examples. The first test was searching for Ripasso, a red Italian Valpolicella that is pressed a second time on Amarone grapes. The second term was Pacherenc, a spicy French white wine that I discovered recently and have enjoyed a few times since.

wijnenwijn.nl came back with 8 Ripasso wines including well-known Ripasso Tommasi. There was only one result for Pacherenc. For comparison, Dutch wine import database wijninfo.nl contains 23 Ripasso entries and 26 for Pacherenc wines.

wijnenwijn.nl - 1 result for pacherenc

There is no information such as reviews or descriptions of the wines on wijnenwijn.nl. Also the search parameters are spotty – information about the year was missing on about half the wines, the color was specified sometimes as “red”, sometimes as “red wine” and also often missing, and the price of the Tommasi Ripasso turned out to be EUR 22,95 instead of the EUR 21,95 listed on wijnenwijn.nl.

wijnenwijn.nl currently aggregates 13 online wine shops with a total of 4.111 wines. The database of wijninfo.nl that I use frequently contains 38.197 wines from 513 wine importers.

wijninfo.nl - search screen

In summary, it would be great to have a wine portal where you could find wines, get information and compare prices. However, wijnenwijn.nl currently falls short. There are too few wines and shops and the necessary information such as independent reviews is missing. I will continue to use wijninfo.nl, which has a very complete database, good descriptions and lists shop that sell the wines, although it does not link to them.

Torus Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh

Last night we had a great bottle of Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh for the second time! Pacherenc is a dry, white wine with a very characteristic herby flavor, not unlike Viognier.

label chateau viella pacherencWe had Pacherenc for the first time at De Witte Uyl a few months ago. That night we had decided to order a bottle of Viognier which they had run out of. As always, sommelier Annemieke came up with an alternative suggestion that was spot on – a bottle of Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh. It was a 2006 Château de Viella and we loved it.

Pacherenc is not very popular yet in Amsterdam so we had pretty much forgotten about it – until last night when we were looking for a good and somewhat different white wine to bring along to a dinner party. At – of all places – Gall & Gall that was pretty much the only place left open…

label torus pacherencThe Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh we got last night was a 2006 Torus, made by Alain Brumont. Everybody loved it! It’s a light white wine with surprising depth and flavor. The nose is pleasant and subtle. The first taste is light and fruity which later develops into a surprisingly spicy and floral aroma.

Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh is an AOC region in the Madiran, in the very south-west of France, below the Armagnac. The Manseng grape gives the Pacherenc wines their characteristic, spicy flavors. Like Viognier, Manseng is quickly becoming popular again, its revival being led by Californian and Australian winemakers.

Rediscovering an old favorite and – as he states himself – “thumbing a nose at New World wine” Alain Brumont and other south-west winemakers will surely produce some great Manseng and Viognier wines in the near future.

Red Bergerac 2005 at Tromp Winkel

I have always liked red Bergerac wines – strong, aromatic wines from the region east of Bordeaux, along the Dordogne river.  Bergerac wines are usually made mainly from Cabernet and Merlot grapes. They are tannin-rich and fruity with red fruit, black fruit and vanilla aromas.

Bergerac wines are not as dry as Bordeaux wines and much more easily combined with many sorts of dishes. They are great for meat and cheese and also go very well with pastas or risottos with cream sauce. Some people will even combine a red Bergerac with fish in a buttery sauce.

Another advantage is that – as a region – Bergerac is a lot less famous and renowned as Bordeaux. So while you pay for the reputation of a Bordeaux, you mainly pay for the quality of a Bergerac. My price range for buying an everyday wine is usually between 5 and 10 euros. Anything below 5 euros is too risky – there might be some great finds but the majority is just plain bad. And spending more than 10 euros is not only a lot of money for drinks. But also not many people have a fine enough palette to taste the difference every day.

So I was quite pleased to find a great Bergerac at the Tromp Winkel – a cheese store on Beethovenstraat – the other day. It’s a 2005 Chevalier de la Rogère, made by a Dutch couple who emigrated to the south of France to make wine:

Red Bergerac 2005

The Tromp winkel on Beethovenstraat frequently has some great wines next to its great selection of cheeses. The Chevalier de la Rogère will set you back 9,95 euros per bottle. During the special offer in October you can get 24 bottles for the price of 15.

The wine has a dark red color and is full of fruity aromas. I find that it still has a rather alcoholic nose, so I might leave it in the cellar for another one or two years. It’s made almost 100% from Merlot grapes.

One of my favorite restaurants, De Witte Uyl, used to have a great Bergerac, the Château Grinou 1999, which was 100% Merlot. Guess I was not the only one who liked it – they ran out.

If you like red wine and cheese, head over to Tromp for some Epoisse and a bottle of 2005 Bergerac before they run out, too!

Weihenstephan in Amsterdam

What a nice day! Sunshine, warm temperatures and blue sky. Such a pleasant surprise after this year’s wet summer and the arctic temperatures of the last few days.

To me, warm weather is weissbier weather and I am currently enjoying a cool Weihenstephan Hefeweizen!

weihenstephan ad

For all of you who have never tried Weihenstephan, I encourage you to go out and have one. Like many other German “Weizenbier”, it’s very different from Belgian “witbeer”. It has a much fuller and smoother flavor. It has a wonderful cloudy appearance when poured into the typical tall half liter glasses and will charm you with its herbal and yeasty fragrance.

If you are craving a “Weizen” now, here are some suggestions where to get one:

  • Hesp on Weesperzijde has Hefeweizen on tap! Great! Just make sure you ask them for a proper Weihenstephan glass rather than a terribly unfitting Grolsch pint.
  • Restaurant As by the Beatrixpark has Hefeweizen in bottles and a great terrace to go with it.
  • Grungy cafe Soundgarden on Marnixstraat (do they have a web site?!?) has a dark Weihenstephan for you to enjoy on its secret terrace.
  • Then there are brown cafe Westers (no web site either!?!) on 1e C Huygensstr near the Vondelpark, Jordaan institution De Tuin on 2e Tuindwarsstraat (nope, no web site either…) and Cafe Bax on Ten Katestraat.
  • And cafe Gollem on the Spui not only has a web site and over 200 beers on offer, including Weihenstephan, but even an image of the good stuff on its home page!

Of course you can also buy a few bottles or crate. Here are two suggestions:


Hotel bars in Amsterdam

Just read the September issue of nl20, which has a great feature on hotel bars in Amsterdam. Hotel bars are a nice change from brown cafes and trendy scene hang-outs. They are more quiet and less smokey; you get more space; and often there are good wines and cocktails.

nl20 felt that hotel bars in Amsterdam do not get the attention that comparable bars get in other major cities. Unjustifiably as nl20 does a good job of explaining.

The article provides a good overview of the five star hotel bars and manages to give the reader an impression of the atmosphere, specialty drinks and bar tenders.

The Okura Hotel bar on the 23rd floor is worth a visit because of its great view. I would only go to the Hilton bar on a nice summer day to sit in the terraced back yard and enjoy a long drink. And I agree with nl20 that the risk of being overcrowded by drunk or stoned tourists at the Bar Americain on Leidsekade is simply too great.

One bar that I like and that was not covered by nl20 is the Golden Tulip Apollo (formerly Le Meridien). It’s spacious and has a great view out over the water behind the hotel. The bar personnel is very professional and quickly remembers the preferences of regular guests. I like to hang out there on one of the lounge chairs, by the window, with a glass of Pinot Noir from Bourgogne.