Now that I'm living in Hannover, Germany for a while, I'm observing that the quality of life here is very high, especially so in the areas for which this blog is named. I've already posted a little on physics so here's a bit on wine:
As I've mentioned a few times in discussing some of Trader Joe's wine offerings and elsewhere, German wine retailers seem to have a lot of good and reasonably priced Bordeaux---and French wines generally---available that we don't get in the US, possibly because of the lower transportation costs, and the ease of making direct business contacts with producers who may not sell enough to make it worth marketing across the atlantic. (The TJ's connection is that as far as I know the latter is privately held in the same hands as German discount supermarket chain ALDI.) Now that I'm living in Germany, I'm taking advantage of this fact.
Jacques' Wein Depot has stores all over town (and indeed all over Germany), and many bottles always open for tastings. They had an excellent, medium-full-bodied and quite fruity (strawberry especially), but not sloppy and overripe, Côtes du Rhône from the AOC Rasteau, labeled Ortas Cuvée Prestige 2012, and produced by Caves de Rasteau, for around 7 euros. Also has a hint of a typical Côtes du Rhône taste I call "leafy". Excellent deal. My top pick from Jacques' was Chateau La Croix Romane, AOC Lalande de Pomerol 2011, a right-bank Bordeaux of 80% Merlot and 10% each Cabernets Franc and Sauvignon. Elegant but still medium-bodied, with some tannin to suggest an optimal drinking window of 4-8 years from now but delicious now, with definite chocolatey flavors and some complexity. 18 euros and well worth it. 2009 was an excellent year in much of Europe it seems, and two moderately priced 2009 Médocs from Jacques, Chateau Castera and Chateau Chantelys, were both excellent, with the former coming in a bit spicier and fuller bodied, the latter a bit lighter and more elegant. The Castera was about 13 euros on sale (14 normally), the Chantelys I think was less; I think you would have difficulty finding a Médoc of this quality in this price range in the US. There are cheaper ones at TJ's in the US that are OK, and in general among the better values for reasonably priced Bordeaux in the US, but I would much rather spend in the low teens for one of these. Besides the business advantages German distributors have, there may be an additional quality advantage to getting French wine in Europe rather than the US: it has not been shipped by boat across the ocean, a roughing-up that probably does some damage to more elegant, subtle, and ready-to-drink wines.
On a different note, for around 9 or 10 euros a 2014 Riesling "Collection les terroirs" from Jean Geiler (Alsace) started a bit rough and ready, but with some air during the course of a meal got more interesting---the back of the bottle claims flavors of ripe lemon and coriander, but I found it more reminiscent of juicy starfruit. An interesting and tasty bottle in the end; I'll probably get more although not perhaps load up on it.
Departing from the French theme for a moment, a Macedonian wine, STOBI Vranec Veritas (STOBI being the winery, Vranec the grape, Veritas their name for the wine), from the Tikres wine region, was recommended by one of the salespeople at the Kopernikusstrasse branch. It was very good, fuller-bodied than the French reds mentioned above, closer to a "New World" style but not overripe and sloppy. I will definitely go for more of it.
I've found the recommendations of the salespeople at these stores to be reliable, their descriptions accurate.
As I've often said, I don't put much stock in numerical wine ratings, but if you want a rough idea of how these might rate in terms of a Parker-type 100 point scale (as he used it circa the mid-1980s, say, which was the era when I paid some attention), I'd give the La Croix Romane a 90, Castera 88, Chantelys 87, Rasteau 86, Geiler Riesling 85, and the Vranec Veritas 88 or maybe 89. (My impression is that there's been some inflation in Parker and his cohorts' since then: the 85 for the Riesling is still a pretty respectable showing; all of these wines are interesting and worth drinking.)