Buyer’s Trip: Germany – Part 2

It was a busy first day, having visited five wineries. I still had nine more to go but couldn’t wait to see where our favourite Rieslings are produced.

germany 5Day 2:  Mosel

It takes just over two hours to drive from Deidesheim to Thörnich, my first stop of the day. It was the best drive I have had in a long time, taking me over the mountains, up and down small forlorn roads, winding themselves around the hills. It was absolutely freezing at -5C, so I stopped at some remote parking space to find the heating in the car. Looking up there was an impressive castle ruin and I couldn’t believe it when GPS tagging system told me I was staring at Frankenstein Castle!

Gebrüder Ludwig, Thörnich, Mosel

We have been working with Thomas Ludwig for about a year and a half. We had briefly met at the ProWein in Düsseldorf last year but this was my first visit to see where his great wines come from and get a better understanding of their origin and background.

I collected Thomas from his winery to go straight to the vineyard. He had left a note on the door “Ich bin im Keller” (I am in the cellar), I loved it! I am glad I had such a small car, only a millimeter wider and we would have fallen off the cliff.

germany 6View onto the Mosel from the Thörnicher RitschThe Thörnicher Ritsch is a big, grey slate hill along the Mosel river, with ridiculously steep, south-facing slopes. Phylloxera never stood a chance on this pure slate rock. Also, traditional “Flurbereinigung” in terms of uprooting and replanting on more disease resistant rootstocks is impossible, as the rock would risk sliding (“Ritsch”=sliding slope) so most of the vines are 60-100 years old on original rootstock.  The vines have to go through about 20 metres of grey slate before finding any nutrients – the resulting wines are racy and mineral driven.

Thomas is incredibly proud of this heritage, and puts all his energy not only into preserving this stunning site for the future.

Weingut Max Ferd Richter, Mülheim, Mosel

My next stop was at Max Ferd Richter. The family’s winemaking tradition in and around Mülheim stretches back more than three centuries. Constantin Richter became the 10th generation to continue the family business by joining his father, Dr Dirk Richter in October 2012. What a responsibility, I do admire his passion and dedication.

Max Ferd Richter makes traditional off-dry and sweet Mosel Riesling like no other. Their Veldenzer Elisenberg Kabinett is a great favourite of ours. They are tremendous young, fruit driven and full of life. They also age beautifully, in fact, 10-20 years would be considered still quite young. They gain nuttiness, complexity and body with age while maintaining freshness and clean fruit. Every vineyard brings an entirely different flavour profile; the time of harvest varies the levels of sweetness. Stunning stuff.

I was invited to join the family for lunch, we enjoyed a hearty chicken, rice and vegetable stew with a delicious  quark bake with raspberry coulis. I enjoyed watching the two generations together, father and son debating.

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Moselland/ Niersteiner Weingenossenschaft, Bernkastel, Mosel

An altogether different picture of German winemaking hit me at Moselland’s headquarters. Moselland is one of Germany’s biggest cooperatives.

germany 8They have perfected economies of scale and it’s a super-sleek operation. Deciding the new blend for 2013 together with one of the winemakers, Peter, I am relieved somewhat to witness that they are just as focussed on quality winemaking with a remarkable attention to detail, a passion for wine and huge respect for their growers. Most of the growers tend to their vineyards part time and group their best grapes in the local co-operatives to be made into seriously good wine at Moselland’s facilities. Lucky us!

Last stop of the day: Dr Loosen, Bernkastel, Mosel

I cannot help but be very excited and a little bit nervous before visiting the Loosen brothers. In the Riesling world it compares to having a meeting with Elvis. Ernie Loosen’s wines are “DER ABSOLUTE HAMMER”.

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We are met with his team at his family home in Bernkastel. A very pretty, old, traditional, small house on the side of the river, surrounded by vineyards. I was invited to stay for dinner and sleep in their little guest house with Kate, their UK agent.

Matt took us through a speed tour in the dawn of their vineyards. I adore the traditional vine training in the shape of a heart, the famous “Moselherz”.

The new vintage delivers in every way, despite the adverse weather in 2013. In the middle of our tasting two locals who had seen the light in the room and knocked on the door and were invited to join in, exchanging local gossip. “Have you filled your Kabinett, yet?” This is such a small town. Ernie and Thomas are well known and loved locals. International Riesling heroes, but totally down to earth.

Day 3: Rheingau/Franken

.Weingut Reis, Briedel, Mosel

I arrive in a small village, quite high up the mountain. I wonder whether I am at the right address, this looks like a normal family home, not a winery. I ring and Achim opens the door to the garage. He is exuding happiness.

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Immediately it is evident how much of a one-man operation this is. Achim does everything, from the grapevine to the bottle, to the final shelf. He says it is the best job in the world. Tough, hard, manual on these steep slate slopes of the Mosel, certainly. But like his parents and grandparents before, he is on a mission to deliver the best quality with a massive big happy smile. No compromise.

He is very proud of his 2013 vintage. It is very characterful, he says. Tough vintages bring out the best in a wineproducer/grower/maker, he says, and this might be one of his best, so far. Looking forward to that!

Weingut Johannes Leitz, Rüdesheim, Rheingau

Just over an hour’s drive north across the river Rhine is Rüdesheim, home to Johannes Leitz. It is much warmer here, the sun is still shining and the river is covered in mist.

Tobias Fiebrandt, the cellarmaster, welcomed me. Their Leitz Eins, Zwei, Dry Riesling made a big impact last year and I am here to learn more about their range and the winery.

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This picnic spot above just says it all. This is why we love Leitz. They are fun, seriously good, quality-focused and passionate about the region’s Rieslings. I am definitely coming back here for a holiday, to have more time to wander through the vineyards and enjoy the local cuisine and wines.

Weingut Freiherr Langwerth von Simmern, Eltville, Rheingau

The next stop is Eltville, pretty much in the heart of the Rheingau. Freiherr Langwerth von Simmern has a few very exciting vineyards here, so I visited here to discover more about them and their wines. Baroness Andrea Langwerth von Simmern’s family history in the Rheingau goes back to the 15th century when her ancestor was given a parcel of the Hattenheimer Mannberg for his services as a chancellor.

germany 12The estate is as colourful as their wine labels. Red, yellow, green very old buildings kept in tip top shape. I couldn’t help thinking of my colleague Martin who would have nightmares over these übertraditional lables

The wine is tremendous, though. For the past three years they have been converting their viticulture and winemaking back to organic and even biodynamic, something Andrea says is very noticeable in the wines. They are more expressive and individual.

Bickel-Stumpf, Thüngersheim, Frankengermany 13

Matthias’ Bude. The magician’s cabinet, some say. Must be every boy’s dream, a place like this. Arrived nearly 3 hours late, after  being stuck in Frankfurt’s rush hour traffic. On arrival we drove through pitch black rolling mountains, to this rather remote little oasis. “Freezing outside and inside,” Matthias’ comments with a big grin and spark in the eye pointing towards a little hidden, wide open window: saves energy for the cold fermentation!

Well that’s my Germany trip. I hope you enjoyed the read. I am very much looking forward to showing you a few of the above wines which will be hitting our shelves in the coming months. Zum Wohl, Christine.

 

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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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