November at the Mosel river

January 21, 2011

It’s beautiful to drive along the Mosel river, even in the month of November. I had this opportunity last year and thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Mosel wine route (Mosel Weinstrasse) is a fine example of a scenic drive along the vineyards and wine villages in this part of Germany which I still call home.

The winding Mosel with the slopes covered in vineyards

Steep slopes promise hard work and exquisite wines

Vines on blue slate soils

Blue slate ideal for Riesling grapes

Every individual vine got one stake

Low lying vineyards at the river bank

As many as you like

Famous terroir: Poelicher Held

Famous terroir: Kluesserather Bruderschaft

The Roman wine route

The country I come from is just beautiful. Visit the Mosel and remember the Romans did this too about 2000 years ago. Spring (and Mosel Riesling) is waiting for you.

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Climate change and the vineyard

February 26, 2010

Two Hills Vineyard

Most of my libertarian friends are avid and passionate non-believers in global warning and climate change. They fiercely contest the validity of many research results. This sometimes reminds me of religious zealotry. However, one has to say that their opponents do not hesitate to falsify data and blackmail the public emotionally and otherwise. But many libertarians live in a constant state of denial when it comes to climate change. Well, so be it. I do not know where to stand in this debate but I would categorize myself as an “unremitting sceptic” in this regard.

Having said that, the changing climate pattern over the last two decades in my own vineyard and observations from vineyards around me cannot be ignored. Recently, Prof. Edward ‘Snow’ Barlow, professor of horticulture and viticulture and head of the School of Land and Environment (Agriculture and Food Systems) at the University of Melbourne and a practising viticulturist (he has a 24 ha vineyard in the Strathbogie Ranges) has published his new research findings about climate change and its effects on Victorian viticulture. An article in The Age by Jeni Port (10 January 2010) alerted me to this research.

One of the main trends in Victoria seems to be that vintage time moved forward considerably since 1982. In one location at the Mornington Peninsula it has come forward by 40 days in 40 years for Pinot Noir and 32 days for Chardonnay. At other locations, for instance at Tahbilk, one of Victoria’s oldest winery, picking days have fast tracked by 20 days.

Since we established our own vineyard (Two Hills Vineyard) in Glenburn in 1996-97 we had a high degree of variations in our growing seasons. But 10-12 growing seasons is not long if you want to see patterns. After all, we are the only vineyard in the location and comparative data are few and far between.

Our grapes

The Cabernet which we pulled out in 2001 might under these changing conditions been able to ripen the fruit after all. Should we have left it in? These and many more questions beg an answer. What will an earlier harvest mean for us? Will our early ripening varieties produce better yields or a higher quality of fruit? In contrast to other production locations we have sufficient water to irrigate if necessary, but is our fruit quality really higher than before?

If the “commercial life” of a vineyard is about 25 years, we are at about half-time. If Prof. Barlow’s predictions of vintage time for Victoria in 2030 and 2050 are realistic, we might be just in the position to make it, so to say. The selection of grape varieties for replanting in about 2025 could be based on a much broader scientific knowledge.

Prof. Barlow thinks that Australian vintners and winemakers are at the forefront of climate change, “the canary in the coal mine”, as he puts it.

Life is full of adventure, especially in the rural hinterland of Melbourne.

The article in The Age closes with the remark, that Prof. Barlow “rarely meets a climate sceptic in the wine industry”. From my conversations with libertarians I cannot confirm this, but libertarians are mostly found in urban centres and hardly in the field.


Dr. Loosen, I presume

May 11, 2008

Last night we went to dinner with our dear old friends Liz and Walter. After nibblies (as we say in Australia) at their home we proceeded to Cork and Screw, the very hip and extremely trendy restaurant in Jakarta.

The food was excellent as always. We had an Australian Shiraz with the meals and moved on to dessert. Three of us had crème brûlé; Liz had some kind of chocolate dessert. There were only three wines to choose from, two “half bottles” and a Riesling Spätlese and can you imagine from where? The Mosel!.

And what was it? I could not believe my eyes, a ‘2006 Dr. Loosen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese’ for only about 33 €. We needed to have this wine. What a bargain. Usually one cannot get any Mosel wine here in Jakarta. I could have kissed the people from Cork and Screw and Vin +, the wine shop associated to the restaurant.

The empty bottle ‘2006 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese’, Dr. Loosen, Bernkastel, Mosel

I must admit that though I come from the Mosel, I have never had a bottle of Dr. Loosen’s wine (www.drloosen.com). He is such a famous vintner, sitting on all kinds of wine juries, all over the world. It had to come to that. I tasted his wine in Jakarta, a couple of thousand miles from home. The major German Riesling portal (www.riesling.de) lists him as the top vintner of their top 10 wineries.

“Wehlener Sonnenuhr” is one of the prime terroirs (about 65 ha) on the Mosel, all on steep slopes. A sundial is to be found right among the vines and that gave the location its name.

Wehlener Sonnenuhr (source: www.drloosen.com)

The wine has only 8% alcohol and was the perfect match with our dessert. Of course we drank it too young, but we had no choice, waiting was just not feasible. The wine displays and expressive nose, shows apple, lemon, almonds and nuts. The acids were well balanced and the full sweetness gives it a round and lingering finish. We all loved the wine.

When the waiter wanted to clear the table I told him my story: that I was from Trier, Mosel , not far away from where this wine came from and that I wanted to take the empty bottle home. “Tidak apa apa”, the kind man said, meaning “no worries” in Australian, and he gave me a Cork and Screw bag to carry the bottle.

How wonderful. If you happen to be in Jakarta one of these days, have a meal there; it’s certainly worth it: great place, great service, great food, great wines.