Along the river Ahr, north of the Mosel, wine has been cultivated since Roman times. Documentary evidence dates from the 8th century. With its 550 ha under vines it is one of the smaller German wine regions (with 40 single locations). The most known wine locations are the settlements of Altenahr, Dernau, Heimersheim, Marienthal, Mayschoss, Walporzheim, Sinzig and Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler. The dominant soils are of deep vulcanic origin or blue slates. The climate is mild but in order to ripen the grapes the vineyard locations consist mostly of steep to very steep slopes, difficult to work and to manage (and costly as well).
The village of Dernau (or in latin Dagernova) and its vineyards
The Ahr is known as “the red wine paradise” and in contrast to other German wine regions red varieties dominate the production structure. About 85% of the area is planted with Pinot Noir, Blue Portugese and some Dornfelder. Among the whites we find Riesling but also some Müller-Thurgau and Kerner. This was not always so. It was only after the 30 years war that the growing pattern changed to red wines. The Catholic church and its many monastries were the pioneers in vine cultivation and wine production and, I may add, consumption. Today, the Ahr is one of the most popular destinations for wine tourism. Thousands of people from the big cities of the Rhineland north of the Ahr (Düsseldorf, Köln, Bonn, etc.) visit each year, especially during vintage in September and October. I had the great fortune to be one of them.
Pinot Noir grapes shortly before vintage
During the the last couple of weeks I had the opportunity to visit the Ahr wine region twice. My first visit was to attend the seventieth birthday celebration of my old friend Hans-Joachim Krekeler. Together with a dozen others, he invited me to a dinner at the famous winery, Meyer-Näkel in Dernau. The wines of this producer are renowned for their high quality. The restaurant is very good too. I had a fish dish, which was excellent, and tried some Riesling as well as their Pinot Noir wines. The fact that I could sit on a wooden bench which, given its design and making, must have come from Indonesia, added to the feeling of being right at home.
The restaurant cum cellar door of the winery Meyer-Näkel in Dernau
Steep slopes with new plantings
My second visit occured about one week later. Together with friends I walked from the village of Dernau to Resch. Needless to say we ventured into quite a few wineries, and what the Germans call “Strausswirtschaften”, a kind of outdoor cellar door, open during summer until vintage time. We also visited the wine co-operative in Dernau. We tasted some Pinot Grigio (in Germany also knows as Ruländer), and lots of red wines, Blue Portugese and most delicious Pinot Noir.
The Ahr “vineyard walking team”