Riesling, the Four-Octave Diva + Austrian Wine Revival with Valerie Kathawala

Sep28th

Introduction

Why should we change the way we talk about Riesling? How have Austrian and German wines transformed in recent years? How can you pair German-speaking wines with food?

In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I’m interviewing journalist and co-founder of TRINK magazine, Valerie Kathawala.

You can find the wines we discussed here.

 

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Highlights

  • How is Skinny Pablo recontextualizing Riesling for younger generations?
  • What happened in Austria’s antifreeze scandal in the mid-80s?
  • How has Austria’s wine industry transformed for the better since that scandal?
  • Has the Blue Nun brand hurt or helped the German wine industry?
  • Why do we need to change how we talk about Riesling?
  • What makes Riesling the perfect deserted island wine?
  • Which unique characteristics will you experience from Beuerer wines?
  • How do the qualities of the Beamsville Bench make it particularly well-suited for growing Riesling?
  • What makes Weingut Bianka und Daniel Schmitt’s Frei.Körper.Kultur Rosé the perfect summer sipper?
  • What controversial opinion does Valerie hold on wine experts?
  • Which defining aromas does Valerie associate with her childhood?
  • How would Valerie now pair one of her favourite childhood food with wine?
  • Why are wine glasses Valerie’s favourite wine gadgets?
  • What are Valerie’s favourite wine books?
  • What was the vision behind creating TRINK Magazine?

Key Takeaways

  • I agree with Valerie that we need to change the way we talk about Riesling. It’s so versatile in style, taste, and food pairing potential. It doesn’t deserve to be pigeonholed into outdated stereotypes.
  • I was interested in her insights on how Austrian and German wines have transformed in recent years.
  • I love her tips on how German-speaking wines, especially with their acidity and salinity, give energy to their taste and help them pair well with food.

 

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About Valerie Kathawala

Valerie Kathawala is a freelance journalist focused on the wines of Germany, Austria, South Tyrol, and Switzerland, with a particular interest in biodynamics. She’s a lifelong student of German culture and language and has lived and worked in both Germany and Austria. She crossed over from translation and editorial work at the United Nations to writing about “German-speaking wines” and hasn’t looked back since. Valerie’s work appears in the pages of SevenFifty Daily, Meininger’s Wine Business International, WineFolly, and Grape Collective, among others. In 2020, she co-founded TRINK magazine, which she now edits and contributes to regularly as a writer and translator. She lives in New York City with her husband and three children.

 

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Transcript

Valerie Kathawala 0:00
Riesling can do everything. People need to stop talking about it in a defeatist way and talk about it as one of the world’s great white wine.

Natalie MacLean 0:09
You call it a Four-Octave Diva. Are you referring to the stylistic range from bone dry to sweet to all kinds of textural things and weight?

Valerie Kathawala 0:20
Right. Depending on where it’s grown and how it’s grown, it can be everything. It can be something dancing and lazy and sparkling. It can be something unctuous and serious that needs 30 years of age. You can make an orange wine out of it and you can play with its tannins in various directions. So I am a big believer. It would definitely be my desert island wine.

Natalie MacLean 0:49
Do you have a thirst to learn about wine? Do you love stories about wonderfully obsessive people, hauntingly beautiful places, and amusingly awkward social situations? Oh, that’s the blend here on the unreserved wine talk podcast. I’m your host, Natalie Maclean. And each week, I share with you unfiltered conversations with celebrities in the wine world, as well as confessions from my own tipsy journey as I write my third book on this subject. I’m so glad you’re here. Now pass me that bottle please. And let’s get started. Welcome to Episode 201. Why should we change the way we talk about German Riesling? How have Austrian and German wines transformed in recent years? And how can you pair German speaking wines with food? You’ll hear those tips and stories as we continue our chat with Valerie Kathawala, co founder of the wine magazine TRINK. You don’t need to have listened to Part One from last week first, but I hope you’ll go back if you missed it after you listen to this one. Now on a personal note before we dive into the show with the continuing story of publishing my new wine memoir Wine Witch on Fire: Rising from the Ashes of Divorce, Defamation, and Drinking too Much. The wine writer I admire most is Karen McNeil, author of one of the world’s best selling wine books, The Wine Bible. It’s going into its third edition this fall, and has sold more than a million copies to date. More than the quality of her writing and career success, I admire the brave public stance that Karen has taken against sexism in the wine industry. Her leadership on this issue is part of my inspiration to write my memoir. So I was extremely nervous about asking Karen if she considered reading my memoir, let alone endorsing it if she liked it. Oh, turns out she liked it. Here’s what she said, “Courageous. That’s the first word that comes to mind when reading Natalie MacLean’s new memoir  Wine Witch on Fire. MacLean is an accomplished wine writer. But this deeply personal book takes us behind the scenes, revealing one woman’s journey and extraordinary determination to become herself”. This touches me because it’s not just about the writing, but also about the story. Thank you, Karen. I am incredibly grateful. I’ve posted a link to a blog post called Diary of a Book Launch in the show notes at NatalieMaclean.com/201. This is where I share more stories about the journey of taking this memoir from idea to publication. If you want a more intimate insider seat beside me on this journey, please let me know you’d like to become a beta reader and get a sneak peek at the manuscript. Email me at [email protected] NatalieMacLean.com. Okay, on with the show.

Natalie MacLean 4:05
And then you have Skinny Pablo. What’s that about?

Valerie Kathawala 4:08
Skinny is a fascinating guy. He is a musician. He’s originally from Guam and is now based in LA. A super creative guy. He also designs clothing. He’s a cook. Is really just endlessly creative. And he readily admits that what fuels his creativity is weed. So he’s also real conserve weed. He’s now been introduced to Riesling well. And now he’s bringing Riesling into this mix, and really changing. When I interviewed him and saw him perform in New York, I just saw a totally new way of thinking about Riesling, texturizing Riesling. and making Rieslings appealing to another generation. You know, everybody raises their hands that Millennials and younger will all turn away from wine but I think in the right context, and I do think that in many ways wine needs to be re-contextualize for a new generation. I think in the right context, this is the perfect way to introduce Riesling to a new generation that it’s something new, like energy juice that it transforms your experience of other media, whether it’s music, or fashion, or smoking pot. There are all these different ways to see it. And so that’s my lived experience. But it was fascinating to have a window into that.

Natalie MacLean 5:29
So does he have Riesling up on stage with him while he’s singing or performing?

Valerie Kathawala 5:33
He’s actually, I don’t even know what you call it when you, he’s mixing. So he’s not saying he is not playing an instrument, but he’s mixing different tracks, kind of in hip hop style. And he is drinking Riesling while he’s doing that. Yes.

Natalie MacLean 5:49
Oh wow, I feel so ancient. What are young people listening to today.

Natalie 5:58
So both Austria and Germany have had their PR challenges shall we say. Do you have any take now? I mean, it’s been quite a while. I don’t know if it was the 1980s when Austria had to deal with the anti freeze scandal, which I’m not even sure is correctly determined. But maybe you could tell us what that was about and what they’ve done since or, you know, did it change the industry in any way?

Valerie Kathawala 6:21
Yeah, I think it’s an excellent question. Yes, you have it exactly right. This was in the mid ’80s. And it was an antifreeze scandal. This was a time when wines from Germany and Austria were compensated based on levels of sweetness achieved in the 80s, before climate change was having a fact chasing that ripeness chasing those sugar levels meant everything. And in some tough vintages, as there were in the ’80s, some desperate growers figured out a way to boost the level of sweetness in their wines. And that was adding dye ethylene glycol, which is a component of some anti freezes, that also causes kidney and brain damage. So you shouldn’t ingest it, but they had done it anyway. And you know, it was just a few, it was just a few. But of course millions of gallons of wine had to be tossed because there was the threat of taint, and the scandal just ruined the reputation of Austrian wine. So that was obviously a disaster. It happened a little bit in Germany too, but to a much smaller extent. But it was ultimately I think kind of a zero hour start from a clean slate catalyst for Austrian wanting to really rethink everything. So suddenly the emphasis was on dry wines, then people wouldn’t be chasing the sweetness. Then there was this real scrutiny to what was happening in vineyards and cellars. And I think that’s what’s given rise to Austria being really a true leader in organic and biodynamic farming, natural wines and natural wine styles. And I think it’s overall become a terrific positive.

Natalie MacLean 7:58
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, look at their signature white grape, Gruner Veltliner. I mean, it’s the darling of sommeliers still. I mean, it’s so food friendly, but it’s bone dry, heavy, to at least the styles that I know of. But yeah, it’s true. Someone who used to say, it’s a shame to waste a good crisis. You can always get something out of it and rise again.

Valerie Kathawala 8:20
So true. So true.

Natalie MacLean 8:21
Do you think the Blue Nun brand has hurt or helped the German wine industry?

Valerie Kathawala 8:27
I think it’s kind of analogous to the antifreeze situation in Austria. I mean, I think at the time when it was a big seller, it was it. I shouldn’t really equate Blue Nun to something that was fatally toxic. But at the time, it was a great thing for the German wine industry. They had a vast oversupply of overcrop you know, Muller-Thurgau and other crossings, white crossings and blends that together and keep the residual sweetness are kept alive. And you’ve got something that’s popular the world over and probably lining the pockets of few people really, really handsomely. But long term, it was a disaster because it destroyed the reputation for quality German wine which Germany has always done so well. And everybody loves to talk about how at the turn of the 20th century, German wines were more expensive than top growth Bordeaux’s and that is really true and Blue Nun washed that all away. And it’s taken until the last five years, I’d say, for German wine to recover from that and to reestablish itself. I think part of it relied on generational change. The customer had to change and no longer have that preconception in mind. And I think also German growers had to get that confidence back that they could make these world class wines and both of those things have now happened and you see in the prices of German wine. It’s not cheap by any means anymore. It’s anything but and I think you get some of the greatest quality in the world still at a massive discount to, you know, Burgundy, but of that calibre. And finally the growers are being paid a bit more of a fair price for what they put into it, but still still a significant discount to some of the better known regions.

Natalie MacLean 10:17
It’s true and even Blue Nun itself has undergone a massive makeover. I mean, it’s, I think it’s now clearly Riesling, it was mixed grapes before and they redid a whole lot of things to actually bring up the quality on the brand itself, I believe so.

Valerie Kathawala 10:32
Oh, that’s interesting. I actually wasn’t aware of that. I’ll look into.

Natalie MacLean 10:34
Yeah, well, I was looking at the label is, again, I’m gonna date myself, but she’s more like Julie Andrews now. She’s slimmed down and she was very frumpy before as a nun. Anyway, they underwent a lot of things in terms of the design, but more importantly what’s in the bottle. So And while we’re talking about Riesling and Germany, now you quote Jancis Robinson’s line about, I guess it’s Riesling being the most influential wine critic, right?

Valerie Kathawala 11:05
So her line that I always think of when people ask her what’s it feel like to be the world’s most influential wine critic? She says, Yeah, I’ve been touting the virtues of Riesling for four decades, and where has it gotten Riesling? So, you know, if you tie your fortunes to a grape like Riesling, it’s always going to be a struggle. I think you’ll always hear that from people who’ve been working with Riesling for a very long time that they feel like it’s destined always to be a niche. But I feel differently. I’ve spent enough time around people who have showed me that all it needs is more confidence. I mean Riesling can do everything. And people just need to stop talking about it in a defeatist way and talk about it as worldly, great white wine. And I think that’s what’s going to change that the attitude, that mentality is gonna change the acceptance for it.

Natalie MacLean 11:58
Yeah, you call it a Four Octave Diva. I guess, are you referring there to the stylistic range from bone dry to sweet to all kinds of textural things and weights and so on?

Valerie Kathawala 12:11
All of the above right, depending on where it’s grown, how it’s grown, how it’s been applied. I mean, it can be everything. It can be Chabilisy. And it can be something dancing and lazy and sparkling. It can be something unctuous and serious that needs 30 years of age. It really can do it all and you can even make an orange wine out of it and you can play with its tannins in various directions. So I am a big believer. Definitely be my desert island wine.

Natalie MacLean 12:41
Cool, well, that’s making me thirsty. Do you have a couple of wines to taste there?

Valerie Kathawala 12:45
I do. And of course its Riesling.

Natalie MacLean 12:50
I’ve got Riesling as well. But from Canada, I would say they’re German speaking.

Valerie Kathawala 12:55
I can’t see. What are the labels?

Natalie MacLean 12:58
Okay I will tell you because the podcast listeners can’t see either. Thirty Bench Small Lot Riesling from the Beamsville Bench in Niagara. One is the Steel Post and the other is the Wood Post. They do real small lot Rieslings here and they along with, as I mentioned, a number of other winemakers here have connections to German and Austrian winemakers, either who have been the winemaker or family connections. So there’s quite a bit of influence from German speaking wines here. I’d like to explore that. Yeah, absolutely. I can connect you with folks here if you’re interested in seeing the migratory path of German speaking Riesling in Canada. So what wines do you have?

Valerie Kathawala 13:42
Well I have a Jochen Beurer state level, dry Riesling, and Boyer makes wines in the Remstal in Wurttemburg which is South Western Germany, so not a place that many people associate with wine or Riesling, But I think it’s really an up and coming. Not up and coming, it’s been happening for a couple of decades now. But people are finally beginning to realize that this cool lateral valley with some wonderful older vines and some very thoughtful and in this case, biodynamic farming can produce some really extraordinary Rieslings with a little bit more weight and a little bit more golden fruit to them than you might find in the Mosel but with less extraction than or like dry extract and body then something from the Rangau which is the other probably most famous German Riesling, for German Riesling region.

Natalie MacLean 14:36
And by dry extraction, you mean the concentration of flavours and

Valerie Kathawala 14:40
Yeah and the body and that sense of weight on the palate. Textures as well. So I just find that Beurer wines have this crackling energy to them and a little bit of a saltiness that play really well with the golden fruit character and a little bit of herbaceousness. This is definitely our house wine.

Natalie MacLean 15:04
Oh, that’s great. Crackling? What did you say crackling

Valerie Kathawala 15:07
Crackling energy. I like that. Yeah. Crunchy acidity. Crunchy ripe acidity. I wish I could share.

Unknown Speaker 15:16
Yeah, I wish we could reach across the internet.

Valerie Kathawala 15:19
How about yours?

Natalie MacLean 15:21
Its so good. It’s just a Gusher. You know, it’s not searing acidity but it is just making my mouth water so much. I feel like a bit of salivate over my keyboard here in a minute. But, as you said, like it just that acidity makes these wines so food friendly. And yet, I love it. They’re packed with flavour like apricot, lime, and so on. But it’s got these minuscule alcohol levels which are just amazing. I love it. 8%

Valerie Kathawala 15:50
Wow. 8% Okay, so does that one have a residual dessert?

Natalie 15:54
Yes, exactly. So I’m going to compare the two here. But tell me what you’re getting from yours. You were already starting to describe it. So anything else that’s coming through and we’ll link to these in the show notes though the wines that we’re tasting so that folks might be able to try to get them wherever they live.

Valerie Kathawala 16:12
Now that’d be great. This one that’s pretty widely available. It’s Meyer lemon and kumquat and lemons so these really bright definitely acid driven flavours but there’s also this dried herbaceousness on the on the nose that plays so beautifully with those zesty flavours. It’s just perfectly appetizing and mouth watering even at this time of day.

Natalie MacLean 16:40
Yeah, absolutely. This is the best time of day. We are doing our podcast chat right now at about 1130 in the morning, but your palate is freshest in the morning. And when folks say like, wow, you get to just you know, taste wine. It’s like yeah, I tried 20 Cabernets at 9am and come back to me. Our senses are sharper, more sensitive at this time of day.

Valerie Kathawala 17:06
Yeah, Definitively. Can I make this a breakfast wine. Yes.

Natalie MacLean 17:11
Yeah. Mine could tolerate Fruit Loops like a little bit of sweetness for sure.  I’ll probably get emails on that one. I’m comparing the two from Thirty Bench. The Woodlot is deeper. Has that what I love and some people really find this, I don’t know, controversial is too strong a word but to say petrol or you know that kind of stuff. I love that smell of the eye just reminds me of summer on the lake and the outboard motor and the water and salinity. And you’re getting that? Yeah.

Valerie Kathawala 17:46
Is that from a very sundrenched site? or sub region?

Natalie MacLean 17:50
Yeah, the Beamsville Bench is quite elevated. It’s a beautiful small patch of the planet. And it’s so good for Riesling. I mean, it’s got limestone and I mean it’s just. The winemaker Emma Garner is a rock star literally. And she just does so well with Riesling. I mean, you know Thirty Bench, Cave Spring. Yeah, there’s a number of producers here that are just so good with Riesling. Excellent.

Valerie Kathawala 18:17
Going back to the other one, is the wood breezed wine also with a little residual?

Natalie MacLean 18:25
This is Wood post. I don’t have my glasses on due to vanity. But I don’t think this was aged. If anything, it would have been neutral barrels. But I don’t think it actually definitely wasn’t the intention to have oak age. It’s more reference to the vineyard name Wood Post vineyard. Do you have one or two wines there?

Valerie Kathawala 18:49
I have two. The second one is not a Riesling because not everything Germany is Riesling. I think actually it’s less than a quarter of all grapes planted in Germany are Riesling. So it’s really interesting to talk. I thought it would have been more. I know. What’s there is generally very, very high quality. But yeah, this other one which might look familiar to you if you looked at my Instagram recently, but this is a Rosé from biodynamic growers in Rheinhessen which is another up and coming region. And in Germany was Rosé can only be made from red grapes. So this one is from Portugieser and Dornfelder which are two grapes that you know were high cropping, high yielding and kind of fell into disfavour but of course with the right kind of farming and attention they can make something really special. And I think the combination of these two there’s a low acidity, high acidity ying yang going on and there’s beautiful bright popping cranberry flavours. This is just the ultimate summer sipper and it’s in a litre format leader in screw cap which I love. But there’s nothing simple about it. I think there’s a real complexity to it. There’s a real kind of scale of flavours and textures that you get as you sip it in the glass, but it’s just very compelling to the next step.

Natalie MacLean 20:12
I love this popping cranberry and scale of flavours. I’m getting some new adjectives here. I’ve been tired of my same old, same old.

Valerie Kathawala 20:20
I’m that way.

Natalie MacLean 20:24
Because it’s so hard sometimes describing why and it’s, it seems so repetitive like, okay, lemon,petrol. No, I like the way you’re bringing it to. Bringing some new vocab to it. Very good. And so that Rosé, is it light bodied? Would you say?

Valerie Kathawala 20:41
Very much. I don’t know if you can see the colour on the glass.

Natalie MacLean 20:44
I can see it. It looks it was cloudy. Is it?

Valerie Kathawala 20:46
Yeah, I think my glass is frosting a little bit. But yeah, it is unfined and unfilterted. I think it is super, super light. It’s like pink lemonade without any of the sugar.

Natalie MacLean 20:59
There’s a tasting note they might not want to put on their site.

Valerie Kathawala 21:04
I don’t think that was very articulate.

Natalie MacLean 21:07
No, no, but it’s relatable. People understand what you’re saying for sure.

Valerie Kathawala 21:13
Grown up pink lemonade. Just super dark, super fresh, very light. But you know, for me, there are these certain signatures to wine that keep me coming back. And so I feel like all my tasting notes when I’m writing about wines, I’m really impressed by have this same profile. So it’s the herbaceousness, the salinity, the acidity, and usually some combination of all of those. And that’s definitely what I’m what I’m getting here. And I can see this wine working as well with like, Thanksgiving and American Thanksgiving dinner as with an afternoon by the pool, because there’s just enough stuffing in there to make it work.

Natalie MacLean 21:49
Yeah, absolutely. And when you’re dealing with turkey, which can be dry, it’s nice to have a juicy mouth watering wine. And when you say salinity, I’m just curious, are you tasting like a salty, like flavour? Or is it more the acidity is giving the impression of salinity?

Valerie Kathawala 22:05
Well, excellent question. I mean, I’m not sure that I can pull those two things apart in my mouth, I certainly am getting the impression of a saltiness. But if that’s being caused by the acidity, I’m not sure. I’ve read that sometimes it’s the addition of so to to the wine that can for that impression, obviously, their soil types that are affecting it. Now neither of these one saw any sulphur addition. So I don’t think that’s at play here. I think here it’s much more coming from the soils. But I agree, I think that acidity and salinity are two things that reinforce each other. And I think that’s often what contributes to that sense of energy and a wine when you have the acidity and salinity. It’s you know, it’s like with a great cocktail. It’s like what propels me to keep sipping because there’s this kind of energetic flow.

Natalie MacLean 22:55
Right, like from a squeeze of lime or whatever. It’s not all super sweet in cocktails as in wine. And then I start tying into minerality too. Minerality, salinity, acidity. Ifind they’re like, the trifecta of confusion for me personally. It’s like what is this? But, you know.

Valerie Kathawala 23:15
It so slippery. That’s right. I mean, I think that maybe where I might describe the wine as being mineral in the past, I would describe it as energetic now because I think it’s more like a sense of a charge on the palate than something still or power of the rocks, the kind of thing we might have said five years ago.

Natalie MacLean 23:34
right? Yeah, because that’s what people were saying. It’s okay. So it tastes like a wet stone. Like, you know. I like the charge, the energy. I like that. Cool.

Natalie MacLean 23:44
And what else might you pair this? You mentioned turkey dinner, by the pool as an aperitif. Again, good range. Any other dishes come to mind for either wine that you’ve got there?

Valerie Kathawala 23:56
Well, I think because of the acidity these could really go with any anything from lobster roll to something very traditional in Germany like this Riesling from Wurttenburg. Wurttenberg is a region that’s famous for a dish called Maultaschen, which is basically like German ravioli, but stuffed with any number of meats and herbs. And it’s quite rich. But I mean, this would just pick up on whatever herbs were in the mix and would cut through the fattiness. And it would just lift and bring everything together. And again, for me, the ultimate compliment is when the two are kind of working in a synergy that makes you just want to keep going. And I think that would definitely be a great combination.

Natalie MacLean 24:38
Sounds terrific. Well, fortunately, we’re getting close to lunch so can satisfy those hunger images. This is wonderful. We’ll keep sipping here. But I wanted to turn now to just what I call the lightning round, but it’s just short answers. Whatever comes to mind. But is there anything that you believe about wine, but some people would disagree strongly about that?

Valerie Kathawala 25:01
I think that many people feel like wine has to be a certain way. You have to appreciate it in a certain way. Whenever I talk to people like my neighbours, and they find out that I write about wine. Well, you know, I don’t know anything about wine or, you know, I wouldn’t say what this wine tastes like because I’m not an expert. I’m not an expert either. I’m just a student. Also, I’m just learning and I don’t think anyone would really, very few people would consider themselves expert enough to say what other people should be tasting or getting from a one. I think it’s so individual and personal. And I would hope that people would never let that intimidation factor prevent them from just enjoying the wine for what it is and being super open minded and not to be afraid to love the ones that speak to them.

Natalie MacLean 25:49
Yeah, absolutely. Do you have any memories of childhood smells aromas? Could be food, but it could be something else.

Valerie Kathawala 25:57
Yeah, I’ve thought about this. And funnily enough, my childhood was in New Jersey, where we had a lot of humidity. A lot of books. So one of my primary childhood smells like damp books smells. It can be clearer when you open a book that hasn’t been opened in 10 years. And the kinds of paper has a certain smell to it. A little bit like musty cardboard cork taint now. Yeah, that is, for whatever reason, a defining aroma of childhood.

Natalie MacLean 26:29
Oh, well. What am I most vivid memories of smell in my childhood was my grandfather’s National Geographics, and they were out in the sun porch. So they were baked. And you know, it just opened them. And now if I open it, National Geographic, I’m right back there. I love it.

Valerie Kathawala 26:44
I love that. Does that ink have a very certain smell, or it was more just having been baked?

Natalie MacLean 26:50
Baked, but also the paper was thick and glossy. And it just, it just smelled right back there. Almost want to pair it with a wine.

Valerie Kathawala 27:00
That would be a fascinating, fascinating. Have you ever done that tried to pair memories with wine?

Natalie 27:07
I haven’t tried memories, but I’ve tried books and bottles. So and that’s pretty superficial. But fun. I think you can do both in terms of a light read or a whatever. Something with a bitter finish. Needs an Amarone or whatever. Divorce story, I guess. I’ve done that before, but not memories. That would be fun to pair different, memories are so evocative. And I mean, that’s right out of Proust and Remembrance of Things Past. That’s how his book starts with the Madeleine. So why not. Is there a childhood food that you remember that you would now. How would you pair it with wine today?

Valerie Kathawala 27:49
You know, my childhood and food situation was very much that of growing up in the 70’s. Right. So I would say that food in our house with all due respect to my mom was the cook. It was really like meat and potatoes, what needs to be on the table when my husband comes home from work that kind of thinking about food. And that I did not like that style of eating. However, there was one dish my parents made, which I would never eat now, which was steak tartare. But that is not to have childhood memories. I think because I liked the kind of volcano like form and the little egg in the top all the accoutrements that came with it. That was much fancier than anything else we were eating most nights of the week. And what would I pair it with now? You know, I don’t even know if Riesling could be up to that job. I think I would go for a Rosé or Red. But to be honest, like this Rosé would be up to the job, right. Because it would have the complexity to stand up to capers and whatever else to the salt and the pungent flavours that you flavour tartare with. And I’ve just hoped they’d be very good quality steaks tartare. I don’t think that’s what we’re eating.

Natalie MacLean 29:04
Absolutely, that’s terrific. Do you have a favourite wine gadget that you’d recommend?

Valerie Kathawala 29:10
I do. I hope it’s not too cliche to say but it’s actually wine glasses, a variety of having a variety of wine glasses. I used to be very skeptical about a new pairing certain glasses with certain wines and I still am generally, but I have invested in a few styles that are quite distinctive. Like this is the Josephinenhütte glass this very distinctive shape and this is Jancis Robinson white wine glass. And I am shocked by how different the wines are from the two different stems. So I’ve tried the Josephinenhütte on my father in law and my mom, and even people who are not professional about wine we don’t take a serious interest in wine. You can pour them the same wine in these two different glasses and they will swear it’s two different wines. So I think anybody who’s a wine professional have made this experience. But I think anybody who’s newer to wine and really wants to kind of understand wines from through different lenses, you don’t have to spend $60 a glass to do this. You just need two or three different glasses with different shapes and sizes, a big bowl and a smaller bowl, and then just try whatever you’re going to be drinking anyway. Pour it into two or three and see how that changes your perception of the wine. I think it brings a lot of experience.

Natalie MacLean 30:29
Absolutely. I was using Zalto until recently and I quite love it. But they’re very expensive. And so Spiegelau owned by Riedel is just come out with kind of a knockoff. I mean, in terms of the shape. Oh, very pretty. I’m sure they wouldn’t violate any patents. But what I liked about Zalto and what I like about Spiegelau’s new line now is they’re so light. And just I find it does make a difference, and it’s not snobbery at all. But the thing about this Spiegelau I wish I were on commission, but I’m not there a quarter of the price of the Zalto. So I’ve kind of just bought a case of them. And now I don’t cry so much when I break one. So

Valerie Kathawala 31:08
Yes, that’s a great tip.

Natalie MacLean 31:10
Yeah, yeah, you’re absolutely right. Its always good to stock up.

Valerie Kathawala 31:14
And thickness. Weight and fitness such a difference to your perception of the wine. I think that’s also something people don’t realize until they get something like that Spiegelau glass in their hand. And then suddenly, they’re aware of an element of wine perception that they weren’t before.

Natalie MacLean 31:31
Exactly, yeah, it almost feels like it’s an extension of your hand. It’s not this heavy globular thing. And do you have a favourite wine book that you’d like to recommend?

Valerie Kathawala 31:40
Oh, I’m a big fan of Jancis Robinson. I mean, I would have to say, if I got into wine writing, it’s really because of her. She’s the one who will as a mom of three, not that I’ve become a Master of Wine or done a fraction of what she’s achieved. But you know, she has also had three children somehow just always made this life absolute Professional Achievement look almost effortless, even though I think she’s probably one of the greatest workaholics out there. But everything she does is insightful. And she’s humble. And she’s open and curious and still in her 70s with that mindset, and I admire that so much. So all of her wine books, the Oxford Companion to Wine, Wine Grapes, her memoir books, read them all. And I think they’re a wonderful place to start. And they’re a wonderful place to come back to at any point in your career.

Natalie MacLean 32:31
Great recommendation. Now I wanted to also before we wrap up, you’ve mentioned TRINK magazine, and I kind of skipped over it. But tell us a little bit about that when you founded it and where it’s available now.

Valerie Kathawala 32:45
Thank you, my partner, co-editor, co-founder, Paula Siddor and I launched TRINK in October 2020. It was never meant to be a pandemic project, because we were already planning it in 2019. But certainly lots of things happened that changed the way it all went down. But in many ways, it was a real gift to be stuck at home and being able to work on this. So much focused. It’s a magazine, digital magazine, the world’s first and only English magazine about German speaking wine. So we really just, you know, our Why is Germany, Austria, central and eastern Switzerland. And there is plenty of great writing about these places in German, but there really has been less of it, and certainly not concentrated in one place in English. And because Paula and I are both fluent in German  and we have our ear to the ground in the German media, you know, we knew that there was all this great writing, great podcasts. And we knew how exciting the developments were in these regions. And so we really wanted to break that language barrier and share them with a wider audience that we you have an interest and just didn’t have a way of accessing. So we want to aggregate those. And we also knew there were all these expert voices that were writing about these subjects in other publications. But why wouldn’t it be great to bring them all under one roof so we have people like David Schildknecht and Ann Kriebiehl bringing their talents to bear in our pages. And it was supposed to be sort of a hobby side hustle and turned into a more than full time for both of us jobs, but a true labour of love. Something we love doing and feel so privileged to be working with growers and writers that we admire so much. And we’ve gotten a really great response. I mean, there’s a real thirst for this out there in the world.

Natalie MacLean 34:40
That’s great. Wow. And where can we find TRINK magazine online?

Valerie Kathawala 34:44
It’s at www.trinkmag.com And you’ll find everything there. We also have a pretty active social media presence on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, but this thing is just to go to the website and dig into what you what you see there.

Natalie MacLean 35:00
So it’s trinkmag.com. Yeah. Okay, cool. And where else can we find you online? I don’t know if you have your own website as well. Or if you’re mostly on social, I do have

Valerie Kathawala 35:11
my own website, ValerieKathawala.com. And that’s a place where my collected portfolio writing and other things that I’m up to most currently, and I am pretty active on Instagram. I think the wine community that thrives there is a great place for exchange and learning. So I tried to try pay attention to what’s happening there, and Twitter as well. So all of those are at ValkatNYC,  V A L K A T N Y C.

Natalie MacLean 35:43
And we’ll definitely link to those two in the show notes so that people can find you in the magazine. Valerie, this has been amazing. Thank you so much for all these wonderful stories. I just love listening. I really learned a lot to about German speaking wines. So thank you.

Valerie Kathawala 35:57
Thank you very much. It was really a pleasure. All right.

Natalie MacLean 36:01
I’ll say goodbye for now, but we’ll have to chat again. Many more things to cover.

Valerie Kathawala 36:06
All right, bye. Bye.

Natalie MacLean 36:14
Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed my chat with Valerie. Here are my takeaways. I agree with Valerie that we need to change the way we talk about Riesling. It’s so versatile in style, taste and food pairing potential. It just doesn’t deserve to be pigeonholed in outdated stereotypes. Two, I was interested in her insights on how Austrian and German wines have transformed in recent years. And three, I love her tips on how German speaking wines especially with their acidity and salinity that give energy to their taste also help them pair well with food. In the shownotes, you’ll find my email contact, the full transcript of my conversation with Valerie, links to her magazine and website, and where you’ll find the live stream video version of these conversations on Facebook and YouTube Live every Wednesday at 7pm. You’ll also find a link to my free Ultimate Guide to Wine and Food Pairing. That’s all in the show notes at NatalieMaclean.com/201. Email me if you have a sip, tip, question or would like to be a beta reader of my new memoir at [email protected] You won’t want to miss next week when I chat with Brian Freedman, a contributing editor at Food and Wine Magazine who has just published his first book entitled Crushed: How a Changing Climate is Altering the Way We Drink. In the meantime, if you missed episode 104 go back and take a listen. I chat about tasting Zinfandel with Joel Peterson, a wonderful and witty winemaker. I’ll share a short clip with you now to whet your appetite.

Joel Peterson 37:53
Baby back ribs are a wonderful match. And there are several wines that go really well with baby back ribs in part because Zinfandel has this really pretty sweet fruit, the blend you may be talking about as Beseiged which is a traditional California field blend based on what California did pre-prohibition. Nobody was trying to make varietals wines they were trying to make wines that tasted good and were particular for that location. They’ve planted grapes together called some Zinfandel of course, Petit Syrah, Carignan, and Alicante Bouschet. Sometimes a little Grenache. Sometimes a little Syrah are more than but those were the blending grapes of California and so Beseiged is based on that concept.

Natalie MacLean 38:42
If you liked this episode, please email or tell one friend about it this week, especially someone you know who’d be interested in the wines, tips and stories we discussed. Thank you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your glass this week, perhaps zesty Austrian Grüner Veltliner, a versatile German Riesling.

Natalie MacLean 39:09
You don’t want to miss one juicy episode of this podcast, especially the secret, full body bonus episodes that I don’t announce on social media. So subscribe for free now at NatalieMaclean.com/subscribe. Meet me here next week. Cheers.

 

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