Obituary to a name: Mosel-Saar-Ruwer

July 5, 2007

Decisions have been made to rename the wine region where I come from. Soon it will not be called any more by the familiar name of Mosel-Saar-Ruwer but only Mosel. The two tributaries, Saar and Ruwer, where some of the best Rieslings of the world are grown, will not feature any more in the name of the wine region. Personally I find this a pity. I love the two tiny wine producing areas with their distinct character. They are the most charming and lovely destinations for wine lovers and other tourists alike.

The Mosel-Saar-Ruwer wine region

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Source: http://www.die-mosel.de


Country Inns in Germany: Asparagus and river perch

May 18, 2007

While travelling in Germany recently, I had a lot of fish and seafood dishes, the reason for this being that I accompanied a group of visiting Indonesians to a number of coastal towns on the East and the North Sea. Since Germany had a splendid spring, this was the more enjoyable.

Later, together with my brother and my old folks in Trier, I visited one of the traditional German country inns so prevalent in my home area, the Mosel River Valley, the Landgasthof Kopp (www.landgasthofkopp.com) in Hentern, a small village between the Mosel tributaries Ruwer and Saar.

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Landgasthof Kopp main entrance

Springtime in Germany is ‘asparagus time’. Everywhere the lush white sticks can be purchased or consumed. All four of us ordered some kind of an asparagus dish. I had asparagus with perch (German: Zander).

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River perch with asparagus

With this delicious meal, I drank the house wine, Ockfener Scharzberg Riesling, a local product from a small village on the Saar river called Ockfen (www.ockfen-home.de). Ockfen has about 700 inhabitants and of the agricultural used land of 246 ha about 90 ha are under vines on very steep slopes. The most famous terroir is ‘Ockfener Bockstein’ which is among the best wines from the Saar. The wines from this location are very dry, minerally and fruity with a good structure.

From the Middle Ages onwards it was the monasteries along the Saar river that cultivated vines and promoted the wine industry. The wealth and prosperity of Ockfen was almost exclusively based on its wine industry. The many small villages and towns along the Saar river are worth visiting (among them Saarburg, Ayl, Kanzem, Oberemmel, Serrig, Wiltingen to name only a few. I highly recommend this very beautiful part of Germany.

As regards the inn, the Landgasthof Kopp, this place is a must, not only because of the superb quality of the food and the service. The price too was a pleasant surprise, unbeatable, I must say. For the four of us, including drinks, we spent a total of only 60 Euro for a memorable family lunch.


Sunday Lunch with Riesling from the Saar River

January 29, 2007

What a wonderful weekend this was. It goes without saying that I had “to weber” some of our food; to be precise it was my task to barbecue Sunday’s lunch. As our house guest David is vegetarian it meant that I had a lot of “veggies” (as Australians commonly call vegetables) to prepare. But we had also fresh fish, a Pomfret as it is commonly known. There are two varieties, the white and the black pomfret. The Indonesians call the former “Bawal Putih”. White pomfret has an excellent flavour and is commonly used for a dish called Ikan Asam Manis (sweat & sour fish); needless to say that it is very delicious either steamed or grilled.

The White Pomfret

The White Pomfret (from Kaarin Wall “A Jakarta Market”, page 53)

First, I grilled the vegetables: potatoes (after they were boiled), onions, capsicum, green peppers, and zucchini. The fish was marinated with black olives and capers and wrapped in aluminum foil to keep it moist. I put it on for only about 20 minutes. The food was delicious and we had the right wine to go with it.

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My Weber with the vegetables

We drank one of my last two bottles of Van Volxem Saar Riesling 2003. This wine estate is located in Wiltingen (www.wiltingen.de), a village about 20 km south of Trier at the Saar River, a cool climate region belonging to the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer area. The lower Saar is a very small winegrowing region but has some of the best Grand-Cru locations for Riesling (for instance Schwarzhofberg) on which its reputation is based.

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The 2003 Van Volxem Riesling

Van Volxem is the oldest estate in the Saar. Formerly a monastery, the estate belonged to the Van Volxem family for four generations. In 1999 it was purchased by Roman Niewodniczanski of the beer brewing Bitburger family. Based on old tax records, many excellent and sometimes forgotten vineyard sites were newly acquired when the estate was expanded. Most of the more than 20 ha are planted with Riesling vines. The first vintage was bottled in 2000 and ever since elegant wines with excellent ratings were produced under a system that avoids the German “Praedikat system”. Unfortunately, the estate’s internet presentation is still under construction. Therefore, we have to wait a while longer until you can visit www.vanvolxem.de.

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A typical Saar vineyard

The soils of the Saar are based on blue-black slates and very stony. The vineyards are located at steep southerly slopes. The key for the Van Volxem Estate’s success are late harvests and low yields, environmental friendly practices (no pesticides) and low input cultivation techniques (no chemical fertilizers), relying in the cellar on natural yeasts fermentations and maturation in oak barrels. The 2003 dry Riesling blend has 12% alcohol. It was the first vintage producing dryer wines. 2003 was a ripper year as regards the weather and this might explain the higher than usual alcohol content of the 2003 vintage. Some of the wines are produced from more than 100 years old vines. The 2003 Riesling is medium bodied, had a buttery aroma and displayed some sweetness. It showed some mineral characteristics, had a fruity nose and a long finish. It is terrible that I have only one more bottle left of this excellent vintage (www.riesling.de). Wines do not age well in the tropics, even if you keep them properly refrigerated. There is always the odd power failure which destroys your well thought through cellaring program.

The drinking of Saar wine reminds me of my youth when my father and his friends used to go hunting in Schoden, a village further upriver. Often groups of hunters would descend on the Saar villages after successful campaigns and dine in one of the old rural inns (Gasthoefe). When at home with my mother in Trier, we often set out for long walks in the forests covering the hills above the Saar. From there one has a magnificent view of the lovely countryside.

From Schoden

Vineyards in a distance

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The Saar Valley, the village of Biebelhausen in front on the left side of the Saar, behind the terroir “Ayler Kupp”, and to the left further back the famous village of Ayl.