Buyer’s Trip: Germany – Part 1

Our German buyer Christine Weingut returned recently from an interesting buying trip and wanted to share her experience with you all. Look out for some new exciting wines hitting the shelves as a result. Over to Christine:

This was a whistle-stop tour for me around Germany, visiting 14 wineries in just three days and traveling 836 miles. It is always great to meet with some of our best and dearest producers and their families face to face.

It was an eye-opening trip, and fantastic to see how work-intensive the production is and to witness the sleek operation within the wineries. The countryside is just stunning. The landscape is overwhelmingly beautiful and impressive; the charming little towns I visited are well worth a visit if you are thinking of taking a break to Germany.

Germany map

I flew into Frankfurt which is central to Germany’s wine growing regions. From here I travelled clockwise, through Rheinhessen to Pfalz, then all the way up the Moselle river towards Rüdesheim then all the way back along the river towards Frankfurt. The distance travelled altogether is similar to a return trip from London to Edinburgh.

If you do hire a car, a sat nav will guide you safely, although not all roads along the Moselle are mapped. I thought I was lost a few times, but very friendly locals guided me in the right direction. Most Germans speak some English but the most important German vocabulary for travelers will be:

  • Guten Morgen/Tag/Abend = good morning/afternoon/evening
  • Können Sie mir bitte helfen? = Can you help me, please ?
  • Eine Breze, bitte = A pretzl, please (I am addicted to pretzels. Best served with butter – Butterbreze. Most bakeries will not accept card payments, so do keep 0.65 Euro change with you at all times).
  • Danke = Thank you

DAY 1 – Rheinhessen and Pfalz

1st Stop: Guntrum, Nierstein, Rheinhessen

I fell in love with this place. The picturesque town of Nierstein lies at the golden side of the river Rhine, at the foothills of the Roter Hang. An impressive formation of red sandstone, forged by the river over millions of years.

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Konstantin Guntrum, standing on the Roter Hang looking onto the village Nierstein at the river Rhine

Konstantin Guntrum (11th generation winemaker) at the Weingut Louis Guntrum welcomed me and was the best tour guide I could have hoped for.

Konstantin’s wines from around Nierstein are incredibly expressive of this unique terroir: lean, herbaceous, mineral-driven Riesling with a powerful, warm and spicy mid palate and a long, delicate finish. At the other side of the river, near the village of Oppenheim, the wines offer a rather stark contrast. They are powerful, rich, nearly full bodied and spicy thanks to the heavy loam soils. They make the most attractive opposites.

2nd Stop: Karl May, Osthofen, Rheinhessen

About 20 minutes’ drive further south is the little village of Osthofen where you will find the Liebenauer Hof right in the middle of the town. It’s absolutely beautiful. A 7th-generation family winery managed by the two brothers Fritz and Peter.

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Fritz said to me that he could never imagine living anywhere else. This is their heart and soul. Both of them are infectiously passionate about the region Rheinhessen, its beauty, terroir and its wines.

Their wines are seriously good, their Rieslings are delicate with floral notes and citrus fruit on the nose, while on the palate a soft but refreshing acidity with a dominant minerality and creaminess. I really like their bold “Blutsbruder” white and red, their signature wines. Winemakers like Fritz and Peter are the reason why we are so excited about the new generation of Rheinhessen wines. Watch this space …

Koehler Ruprecht, Kallstadt, Pfalz

A very short drive further south is Kallstadt, a very sleepy town. It was lunch time, and everything was closed. My tummy was rumbling, but even the bakeries were honouring their lunch break. Welcome to rural Germany!

I was very excited about this visit, Koehler Ruprecht’s wines are a total steal. They are highly sought after in Germany by the locals and the restaurants. They are unique and expressive, which means that vintages vary greatly. They leave everything to nature and only ferment and age in old wooden barrels, no stainless steel tanks in sight.

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A vintage is only released when they deem it ready. 2012 is currently coming out on the market and will be with us in June.

The winery is situated in the town centre, Weinstraße 84 is in the middle of Pfalz’s famous wine route.  It is named “Platz am Saumagen,” the place at the Saumagen.

A gate leads through to a pretty little courtyard where I was welcomed by Franzi Schmitt and Dominik Sona, the winemaker and manager in chief.  Johannes the cellarmaster  also joined us. It feels like something secret and magical is happening in this place. We love it.

Georg Naegele, Hambach, Pfalz

Next stop was Hambach, at the Bonnet’s. I absolutely adore them and you might have met them last July at the Arch shop, Vinopolis. They are wonderful. Their Naegele Riesling Fass Nr 98 is absolutely brilliant and no wonder it has quickly become everybody’s favourite. It is fruity (peach, apricots) with refreshing ripe citrus and a delicate mineral spice. Absolutely charming! 2013 is also tasting impeccable.They kindly prepared apricot muffins for me. The best muffins I’ve ever tasted and a perfect match with Riesling.

Last stop of the day: Reichsrat von Buhl, Deidesheim, Pfalz

Deidesheim is such a beautiful town, really, if you ever go on a holiday this is a fabulous place. So much has happened at Von Buhl in the last year, I was very excited to meet the new owners, the new winemaker and above all taste the brand new vintage.

Von Buhl has been a family owned business for more than 150 years. It has consistently ranked among the most prestigious estates in Germany since it was founded in 1849 by Franz Peter Buhl.

I tasted the new vintage and it is very good indeed. The wine was fresh from the tank, quite intense, powerful and very tight knit with complex flavours, delicious.

The winemaker: Matthieu Kauffmann

I was starstruck when I met the new winemaker, Matthieu Kauffmann the next day (at 6:15am … well, the early bird catches the worm!)

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He hadn’t slept for two days, working all night through getting the new vintage in tip top shape. This definitely shows his passion and dedication. He moved to Germany from France in October last year, just in time for the 2013 vintage coming into the Buhl’sche cellars.

It was big news in the wine industry, as he is the first ever Chef de Cave who left the famous Champagne house of Bollinger (James Bond’s favourite) before retirement. Although he could have walked into any of the world’s most famous cellars, he wanted to go to Germany to make brilliant Riesling – the grape he thinks is the most exciting to work with. The International Wine World were gasping for air!

This is just the start of Christine’s trip in Germany, catch the conclusion in our next blog when we uncover some more gems. In the meantime we would love to know what your favourite German wine is.

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About Laithwaites Wine

Laithwaite's began in 1969, when Tony Laithwaite took a job washing bottles in Bordeaux... and fell in love with real wine and the people who make it. When he borrowed a van to share these delicious wines with friends and neighbours at home, things went so well that boutique wineries were soon queuing to take part. Today we're the UK's No.1 home-delivery wine merchant, with over 1,500 wines to choose from... including red, white and rosé, plus Champagne and sparkling, beer and cider.

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