Spring in the vineyards of Palatinate/Pfalz, Germany

May 1, 2012

The border region in Schweigen-Rechtenbach, just north of Wissembourg, Alsace

Spring is a beautiful time in the vineyard. The other day, when we visited the Southern Palatinate wine region, just north of the French border, I was able to witness the spring awakening of the vines.

It was a beautiful day; the sun was out. It was fresh and crisp, but the warmth of the earth was tangible. Needless to say, the birds were singing.

The vineyards were ready to “burst the buds” of the leaves among the fields of yellow rape seed flowers and the willow trees clad in their fresh new green.

The grass in the vineyards was already high, lush and full of vigour. Soon the first tractor will come along and mulch it.

The cane-pruned older vines looked very good, healthy and ready to go.

And the leaves were “breaking out” in full force. One could almost watch them grow with the bare eye. What a time, what a beautiful time.

Visit vineyards in spring; visit Germany now.

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German Riesling: Weingut Robert Weil

October 21, 2010

2008 Robert Weil Estate Riesling dry

A friend of mine made me taste this wine some time ago in Berlin. I brought a bottle of the 2008 vintage back to Bangkok. During the visit of a wine-maker friend from Australia, I opened my treasure trove, and the Robert Weil Riesling, from Rheingau, Germany was one of the many bottles of fine wine which we sampled.

The winery Robert Weil is a well known household name among Riesling producers and wine connoisseurs in Germany. As many of the German wineries, Robert Weil goes back a fair bit. The winery was founded in 1875. Although vineyards were among the family properties in the village of Kiedrich, Rheingau for some time.

The founder of the winery, Dr. Robert Weil, was a professor of German language at the Sorbonne University in Paris. The change in career turned out to be very beneficial for the professor and his descendants as well as the wine fraternity.

With about 3,100 ha under vines, the Rheingau is one of the smaller German wine regions. Robert Weil bought some of the best locations (terroir) and vineyards in the vicinity of Kiedrich and thereby consolidated his winery. Today, the total area under vines is about 75 ha. This is more than just a small family vintner.

Many of the vines are 50 and more years old. Plant density is between 5,000 and 6,000 vines per hectare (quite dense in comparison with the 2,700 vines on my own vineyard). The operation is characterized by the use of organic fertilizers and the minimization of the use of industrial pesticides.

The wines of Robert Weil are regular award winners. The winery is among the top 10 of the German Riesling Forum.

Beautiful colour of the Robert Weil Estate Riesling

The colour of the wine is pale straw (12% alcohol). The 2008 vintage is still a young wine; it is fresh and spritzy with lemon and lime aromas and some mineral notes. The residual sugar is about 8 grams. The wine is fruity with a well balanced acidity; it has a good structure and a long finish.

The pity was: I had only one bottle. Wine is just not suitable for air travel.

The Rheingau is a beautiful place and just a stone throw away from Frankfurt airport. if you have the chance just go and check it out yourself. Cheers mate

Address:
Weingut Robert Weil
Mühlberg 5
D-65399 Kiedrich / Rheingau

Tel.: +49-6123 2308 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              +49-6123 2308      end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              +49-6123 2308      end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              +49-6123 2308      end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              +49-6123 2308      end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Fax: +49-6123 1546

info@weingut-robert-weil.com
www.weingut-robert-weil.de

Opening hours:
Monday to Friday 8.00 – 17.30 h
Saturday 10.00 – 17.00 h
Sunday 11.00 – 17.00 h


German wine regions: the Nahe

September 17, 2009

Nahe2

The Nahe wine region has a great significance for me and my family. It was here that I got first into contact with vine cultivation and wine appreciation at a rather tender age.

Why you might ask? Were you not from Trier, Mosel?
Well, my maternal grandfather, Hans Heinrich Schüssler, a native of Reichenberg, a village near Würzburg, used to live in Martinstein. Being from Franconia, another famous German wine region, he was the only wine drinker in the immediate family (my father preferred beer). He used to be the station master in Martinstein (today 322 inhabitants), a hamlet along the left bank of the Nahe river. The village was founded in the middle ages at a ford crossing the Nahe river. In 1340 it got a castle and even market (city) rights.

My brother and I, we used to spend the long summer holidays (and many other holidays) at my grandparents house in Martinstein. My grandfather used to take us on long walks in the forest and villages nearby. During these walks we always found a country inn where we could refresh ourselves, enjoy a drink or a “Brotzeit” (a typical German snack). He would drink a “Schoppen” (0.25 litre glass) of the local Nahe wine. He loved dry white wines. We would have a lemonade.

He was associated with a “hiking brotherhood” (called “Hunsrückhöhenverein”) whose members would walk in large groups on weekends to various destinations. Usually a country inn was the designated object of the hikers. Here the group converged for a hearty meal and some drinks. Shortly after vintage, “Federweisser” (freshly made but still half-fermented wine) was a popular drink.

But boys being boys, we would sip at his glass from time to time. He being deeply involved in conversation with fellow hikers, did not notice. Neither did we. The sweetness of the fresh wine veiled its dangers. To cut a long story short, we had the experience of a first inebriation of our young lives and could hardly walk strait on our long way home.

After my grandfathers retirement he moved out of the train station into a newly built home right in the middle of vineyards at the outskirts of the village towards the east. Vineyards stretched right to the door. Just a short walk up the hill and endless vineyards lay at your footsteps. Occasionally we would help during vintage time (more play than serious helping). But we would often taste fully ripened grapes and enjoy the fruit. I treasure these wonderful memories of my youth at my grandfathers house in Martinstein.

Map Nahe wine region

The Nahe wine region (photo source: wikipedia)

As you can see from the above map, the Nahe wine region stretches from Martinstein to the West along the river eastward, later north towards the estuary at Bingen where it flows into the Rhine river. The largest city in the region is Bad Kreuznach, a small town of about 45,000 inhabitants.

Nahe1

With about 4,200 ha under vines, the Nahe region is one of the smaller wine growing areas in Germany. It is still larger than, for instance the Yarra Valley in Victoria (with about 3,800 ha, about 2% of Australia’s total). The Nahe region is dominated by white grape varieties (about 74% of the total area under vines). The main variety is Riesling (26%) followed by Mueller-Thurgau (14%) and Dornfelder (13%).

Fifty years ago the variety distribution was very different. Silvaner used to be the most planted variety with about 50% of the total area but has ever since been replaced by the Burgundy varieties (Pinot White, Gris and Noir) as well as by Riesling, Dornfelder, Blauer Portugieser and Müller-Thurgau plantings.

The Nahe is divided into seven collective sites (Grosslagen) and 328 individual sites (Einzellagen). Due to its volcanic origins, the soils of the nahe show a great diversity. The wines reflect this. Only in 1971, the German wine law defined the nahe region. before that time, its wines were sold as “Rhine wines”. However, some of the best Riesling wines of germany originate from the Nahe and today Nahe wine can rival the best from Mosel and Rheingau or any other German wine region.

Nahe3

The Nahe can be divided into the upper (west) and lower (north-east) Nahe and the region around Bad Kreuznach. In Martinstein and the neighbouring village of Monzingen (first mentioned in 778) the oldest vineyards of the Upper Nahe are to be found. The soils of the Nahe range from sandstone to quartzite and slate. The region shows a temperate climate and some of the southern slopes enjoy a micro climate comparable to the Mediterranean. Elevations range from 100 to 300 meters altitude.

Nahe4

Who are the top producers of the Nahe wine region?

Well, the name Herrmann Doenhoff comes to mind. He is the leading vintner of the Nahe and his wines are ranked among the top Rieslings in Germany. Herrmann Dönnhoff has about 20 ha under vines and produces about 140,000 bottles a year. His winery is located in Oberhausen/Nahe. The 2007 vintage produced outstanding wines; the 2008 Riesling wines did not quite reach that quality level during recent tastings. But his ‘2008 Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle Riesling Gran Cru’ earned 93 Parker points.

Other top producers are Emrich-Schönleber in Monzingen (about 15 ha under vines, yearly production about 110,000 bottles), Schlossgut Diel (17.5 ha and 120,000 bottles) in Rümmelsheim and Schäfer-Fröhlich (14 ha under vines and 75,000 bottles annually) in Bockenau.

Wines and vintners I like very much are Sascha Montigny in Laubenheim and Weingut Edelberg at Gonratherhof 3 in Weiler just on the other side of Martinstein. The former I like because of the high quality of his red wines, especially the 2006 vintage; the latter produces solid country wines which remind me of my youth in Martinstein and the long hikes with my grandfather. The country inn at Gonratherhof was often our destination when the three of us set out from our little house in the vineyards.


The best German vintners and wine makers

June 1, 2009

Threewinegods

The wine gods (photo taken from a building in Berlin)

Its certainly a great honour to be called “vintner of the year”. Since 1994 Gault Millau, Germany’s wine guide and major authority regarding wine, wine business and the wine sector, is awarding the “vintner of the year” award.

Today the total number of vintners of the year is 16, seven of which come from the Mosel wine region. The current one, however, comes from the Pfalz (Knipser brothers).

But in the years 2007 (Theo Haart, Mosel), 2005 (Kartaeuserhof, Ruwer), 2001 (Loosen, Mosel), 1998 (Mueller-Scharzhof, Saar), 1996 (Joh. Jos. Pruem, Mosel), 1995 (von Schubert, Ruwer) and 1994 (Fritz Haag, Mosel) the vintner of the year came from my home, the Mosel river and its tributaries.

(Remark: the Mosel wine region was originally called: Mosel-Saar-Ruwer)

No other German wine region has provided that many “champions”. So far the Nahe and Pfalz wine regions had two vintners of the year; and Rheinhessen, Rheingau, Frankonia, Ahr and Baden had one each (for the names of the vintners of the year: Gault Millau).

I came about this fact only by accident while researching a story, I was going to write. I have to find more Mosel wines here in Bangkok, I guess. Wish me luck.