James the Wine Guy Interviews wine journalist and writer Christian G.E. Schiller

(Photo: me and Christian G.E. Schiller – Schiller-Wine journalist and writer)

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This is my first interview and what a wonderful person to interview.  Through the goodness of social media we met online and also in person at Pinot Days 2011 in San Francisco.  I admire Christian’s very well written blog; his attention and focus to detail and yet he also captures the essence of wine enjoyment.  His travels, wine and winery discoveries are well cataloged with a myriad of stories and great photos often picturing wondrous morsels of food paired with wine.  Christian’s enthusiasm is both evident and contagious.  I look forward to reading many more of his adventures and to once again toast a glass of wine in person with Christian.

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JTWG: What is the story of wine?

Christian G.E. Schiller: My wine story is as follows: I grew up without wine. This changed radically, when I moved to Mainz, with San Francisco and Bordeaux, one of the “wine capitals” of the world. Since then, the days without wine have been rare. As a result of my job at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), I have shuttled back and forth between old and new world wine countries during my professional life and I believe I therefore have a pretty good overview of the wines of the world. My passion, however remains bone-dry Riesling from Germany.

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JTWG: What brought you to wine / how did wine call to you?

Christian G.E. Schiller: I grew up in Frankfurt am Main, a city of apple wine (hard cider), but whilst studying in Mainz, I discovered and fell in love with the wine tavern culture, the wineries surrounding Mainz, and wine itself. My wife and I quickly became involved with wine. We are founding members of the wine brotherhood of Hochheim in the Rheingau. Another founding member is the late Franz Kuenstler of Weingut Franz Kuenstler.

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JTWG: How / when did you become a wine journalist?

Christian G.E. Schiller: I started to write about wine on my wine blog schiller-wine 2 years ago, when I retired. I am a Ph.D. economist, who spent all his professional life with the IMF.

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 JTWG: What has been the best thing about social media and wine?

Christian G.E. Schiller: Social media has allowed me to do what I do now: write about wine.

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JTWG: Why do you think wine has become more popular over time in the United States?

Christian G.E. Schiller: I give a lot of credit to a personal hero of mine, Robert Mondavi.

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 JTWG: What are the undiscovered wine regions in the world today?

Christian G.E. Schiller: I believe Eastern and Central European Countries, such as Hungary, which have a long history of wine making, but were cut off from the world by the iron curtain, are experiencing a renaissance. In addition, China and other Asian countries are developing strongly.

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JTWG: What are you favorite varietals?

Christian G.E. Schiller: Riesling is my favorite varietal, in particular bone-dry Rieslings from Germany.

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JTWG: Your favourite wine moment?

Christian G.E. Schiller: Several moments: A long luncheon with California Pinot Noir Pioneer Walter Schug in Sonoma; an afternoon with Riesling guru Wilhelm Weil at his winery in Kiedrich, Germany and an elaborate tasting with Bourgogne-style wine maker Anthony Hamilton Russell in South Africa.

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JTWG: What is your favorite cuisine and what do you like to pair with your favourite dish?

Christian G.E. Schiller: I like classic French cuisine. Only few people know this, but one of the best places to eat a la Francaise at very reasonable prices is Antananarivo in Madagascar. It is amazing what kind of sophistication you get there for a few dollars. And in Madagascar I only drink Malagasy wine – very good table wine, but not more.

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JTWG: What would you suggest for someone who is beginning to write about wine and what to seek or educate themselves?

Christian G.E. Schiller: Or even techniques or approaches to writing about wine? I went to a community college in the Rheingau region in Germany, where I learnt the basics for 6 semesters (3 years). I think you need some formal training to fully appreciate wine.

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JTWG: Do you have any prized wines in your collection that you have never tasted from that producer before?

Christian G.E. Schiller: I have about 1000 bottles in my two cellars in Frankfurt am Main and Washington DC, but very few expensive wines. I started to buy wines for my cellar in the 1970s, when I was a student. Then I worked as an international civil servant and brought up 4 children. All my life I did not really have the money to buy expensive wines. Thus, I have quite a number of wines from older vintages, but not from expensive producers.

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JTWG: Any particularly favorite wine country(ies) that you visit routinely; if so which ones and why?

Christian G.E. Schiller: When I am in Washington DC, I like to go to the Virginia wine country during weekends. A lot has been happening there in the past 30 years. In Frankfurt am Main, the Rheingau and Rheinhessen regions are 30 minutes away by car and I go there almost every evening ( if I do not go to an apple wine tavern in Frankfurt am Main, which I also love to do) .

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JTWG: What is the most enjoyable thing about wine writing?

Christian G.E. Schiller: I published throughout my professional career (though about economics and not about wine) and I always enjoyed it. I also noticed that I have become more and more interested in the pictures of the postings on schiller-wine.

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JTWG: What wine varietals do you find yourself drinking often currently?

Christian G.E. Schiller: I like to drink local. Also, I drink more white wines in the summer and more red wines in the winter. When I am in Frankfurt am Main, I exclusively drink European wine – German, Austrian and French. When I am in Washington DC, I drink American wines, but also other new world as well as old word wines. The choice in Washington DC is just amazing.

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JTWG: Your blog has a diversity of wine content on nearly every wine subject; you have written a large number articles on German wines.  And what would you recommend someone who wants to learn about German wines—where should they start?

Christian G.E. Schiller: I would like to make 2 recommendations: (1) join the German Wine Society and attend their tastings and (2) follow my facebook page “Drinking German Wine in America” where I repost articles about German wine that I come across and find useful. Many of my postings on schiller-wine are also educational.

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Take a look for yourself to see the plethora of high quality wine content.  Here is Christian’s blog site:  Schiller-Wine: http://schiller-wine.blogspot.com/

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