Wine of the Week: Croatian Plavac Mali 2007

Plavac Mali Croatian Red WineYet another East European find in Waitrose, this time a bottle of Croatian red wine!  Croatia is renowned for its wine, particularly its red which is hearty, rich and intense in flavour and colour.

Plavac Mali is produced at the Svirče Winery on the island of Hvar, located on the Adriatic.  The vineyard is noted for its quality wines.  This particular bottle is a ripe, smooth red, from the Plavac Mali grape.  This grape variety, indigenous to Hvar, is closely related to Zinfandel and so the wine has a very similar style.

The Plavac Mali is soft enough to drink one its own but makes an ideal pairing to beef dishes such as cevapi served with ajvar.  Alternatively serve with a delicious Sunday lamb roast.  Packed with notes of punchy berry fruits this bottle is simply delicious and would not be a poor accompaniment to an abundant cheese board.

Plavac Mali Hvar 2007

750 ml

13% vol.


Available at Waitrose

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Spring Events in Slovenia

Picasso Bullfights. Myth. Eros

There are plenty of events taking place to lure you to Slovenia this year! Check out a schedule for this spring:

21st January – 4th April 2010

Pablo Picasso: Bullfights. Myth. Eros
This Ljubljana exhibition of Picasso’s work brings together 11 series of prints, including a selection of prints from the Suite Vollard series that art critics consider to be one of the 20th century’s most important print series. Bullfights, myths and Eros are recurrent themes in these prints. An accompanying programme of workshops, lectures and film screenings will run alongside the exhibition at Mestna Galerija Ljubljana.

6th – 16th February 2010
50th Annual Kurentovanje Festival, Ptuj
This annual takes place in Slovenia’s oldest city, Ptuj, each spring. Kurenti are figures dressed in sheepskin who go around the town wearing masks, a long red tongue, cow bells, multi-coloured ribbons and sometimes feathers and horns. This is one of Slovenia’s most famous carnivals, now in its fiftieth year, which attracts over 100,000 visitors each year. During the festival, Ptuj is alive with music and dancing, competitions and events, plus opportunities to sample local wines and traditional ‘Ptuj chicken’.

12th March 2010
Pruning of the Old Vine

The pruning of the official world’s oldest vine in Maribor is a ceremonious occasion each spring. The town’s vinedresser carries out the pruning and the vine’s scions are then presented by the Mayor of Maribor to selected representatives of other wine growing regions as a sign of friendship and co-operation.

18th – 21st March 2010
Ski Jumping and Ski Flying World Cup Final

Planica, an alpine valley in the northwest of Slovenia is famous for its ski jumping, being the first place for a jump of over 100 metres to be registered and where the current World Record of 239 metres was set in 2005.

From 18th March, spectators can witness some of the world’s top ski jumpers take on the jump at Planica. Traditionally, around 1,500 of the crowd come armed with accordions to play Planica’s famous theme song.
Standing tickets cost from €3 per child / €10 per adult and seated tickets start from €30.
For further information and ticket reservations visit

3rd April 2010
World Book Day

World Book Day marks the official start of Ljubljana’s year-long tenure as the UNESCO World Book Capital. Ljubljana is the tenth city to boast this distinguished title and a series of book-related events will take place in the city throughout the year, marking the honour.

This is just a selection of the events taking place around Slovenia during 2010. For full listings and further event details, see

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Excelsior Hotel Ernst, Cologne, Germany


The Excelsior Hotel Ernst is located in the city centre of Cologne, directly opposite the spectacular cathedral and only two minutes walk from the railway station, local attractions and the Rhine River.  The 142 bedroom hotel is a 5* hotel and a member of ‘The Leading Hotels of the World’.  The hotel boasts two excellent restaurants Hanse Stube and Taku, and tourists interested in sampling some traditional beer and other beverages will find the location ideal for the famous breweries and bars of Cologne.

In 1863, Carl Ernst, “Royal Restorer of the central station”, built the Hotel Ernst.  In 1871, after as few as eight years, he sold the Hotel Ernst to Friedrich Kracht.  Kracht moved from Belgium to Cologne to manage the hotel but he died four years later, at this point his wife and his son, Carl, took over the management of the house.

Wine Cellar
Wine Cellar

It did not take long for the Krachts to successfully integrate into the society of Cologne.  In 1884, the people of Cologne crowned Carl Kracht Prince Carnival.  During this time, the Grand Hotel was already the first choice of prominent guests including the German Emperor William I who observed the completion of Cologne Cathedral from his room in the Hotel Ernst.

In 1889, Carl Kracht went to Zurich where he married Emma Pauline Baur. The Swiss hotelier family Baur possessed both the well-known Baur au Lac and Savoy Baur en Ville in Zurich.  Then, in 1890, one year after his wedding, his mother handed the Hotel Ernst over to him and his sister Hermine Brinkhaus. The siblings founded a limited company but one year later Hermine Brinkhaus withdrew from her position.  Being the only proprietor of Cologne’s Grand Hotel, Carl Kracht and his family lived in Zurich where he managed the Baur au Lac.  In 1905, he appointed Friedrich Reime director of the Hotel Ernst who continued to manage the hotel.

Between 1908 and 1910 the hotel was rapidly pulled down and reopened as five-star Grand Hotel Excelsior Hotel Ernst.  In an era in which running water was the exception, 100 out of 250 rooms were equipped with a bathroom.  In 1918, after the end of the war, the hotel became a headquarter for the British Forces.  During this time the hotel was closed.  After the troops had left in 1926, the Excelsior Hotel Ernst was renovated for a second time.


During World War II, the hotel was closed.  After the war, the Krachts tried to reconstruct the building as soon as possible and never stopped to try to preserve the hotel and its luxurious nature.  In 1986 the hotel was extended by the circular building, Marzellenstrasse/Domprobst Ketzer Strasse. The famous interior designer Count Pilati designed the new rooms, bathrooms and public areas.

In 2000, an exclusive health and spa area for guests was established and the following year, Taku, an Asian restaurant was opened, as was the modern Business Centre.  In 2007, the last renovation took place with 23 new deluxe double rooms, 5 junior suites and 7 executive suites created in the Hanse wing, costing an incredible 7 million Euros.


The hotel currently offers kitchen parties and interactive food demonstrations at Taku.  For those interested in the antiquities in the treasure vaults at the cathedral, the hotel offers exclusive private tours, an opportunity which those staying at other hotels are unable to partake in.  For those visiting Cologne and wishing to indulge a little, the hotel also organises trips by speedboat to the local vineyards on the Rhine, and offsite dinners at local breweries and beer kellers.

The Facts:

142 rooms & suites partially with view of the Cathedral

13 conference rooms with day light
Health and sauna area, Business Center, exclusive antique shop
Rooms: satellite TV, pay TV, price per room includes minibar, safe, wireless-LAN, broadband access, fax connector, air conditioning, bath robes, hair dryer, shaving mirror
Restaurant Hanse Stube: Innovative French cuisine
Restaurant taku: The house of Asian delights
Piano Bar: Premium bar offering a large variety of cigars and live piano music
Service: 24 hour room service, 24 hour reception and concierge, Valet service, luggage service, shoe-cleaning service, conference butler, limousine service, wedding planning

Excelsior Hotel Ernst
Trankgasse 1-5 / Domplatz
D-50667 Köln
Tel +49 (0) 221 270 1
Fax+49 (0) 221 270 3333

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A wine tour you will never forget…

While I was at the International Wine Festival in London, some weeks ago now, I naturally made a beeline for the Central and Eastern European stands.  Of course, I was most excited about the Slovene stand and as every, probably my favourite country in the world, did not disappoint me one bit.  I plan to post about other vineyards in Eastern Europe, but I was given so much information, it will take me a while to get through it all, however, if you are planning on taking a trip to Slovenia, I would recommend a visit to Steyer Vina.


The vineyard area is located in the Plitvica village near Apače.  There, 15 hectares of vineyards, situated on the near-by Plitvički and Aženski Hill are cultivated to produce: Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, Pinot gris, Rheinriesling, Sauvignon, Yellow Muscat, Welschriesling, Pinot blanc and two red wine varieties: Pinot noir and Zweigelt.  The Riesling varieties, normally a grape variety I would shy away from, were surprisingly pleasing and shattered all my dreaded Riesling preconceptions.  All the Steyer Vina wines are full-bodied and rich, as a result of using only the highest quality grapes and aging in oak barrels and subsequently in bottles during the production process,  in order for them to fully mature unlike many young and still fermenting wines reminiscent of some wines I have tasted on my travels.

Read more…

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