Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Glorious Rheingau, Ravishing Rieslings.

Last week, on the way back from 'Holidays - the Sequel', we spent a few days at the river Rhine, in Germany's second oldest hotel: Hotel Krone near Rüdesheim-am-Rhein.

Over the past few years, we've developed a taste for Riesling wines, and after visiting the French Alsace last year, we wanted to continue our discovery of this wonderful grape, in the Rheingau this time.

The Rheingau ...

The Rheingau is one of Germany's smaller wine regions but an important one, especially for Riesling wines. The oldest documented references about Riesling come from this area, and the first vineyards have allegedly been planted as early as the 8th or 9th Century.

Schloß Johannisberg in Geisenheim is supposedly one of the places where it was discovered that grapes affected by Botrytis cinerea (pourriture noble or noble rot) made delicious sweet wines.

For these and many other reasons, the Rheingau had been on my to-visit list for a while, so when the opportunity arose, I couldn't let it pass.

The Hotel ...

Hotel Krone is a charming, old-world boutique hotel, a bit outdated maybe but that only added to its character.

We stayed in one of their suites, with a wide balcony overlooking the Rhine and a huge marble bathroom, complete with private sauna and jacuzzi.

If we hadn't had all this wine-tasting and gastronomic dining on the agenda, we wouldn't have left the room.

I was glad we did venture out, though, because we discovered great wines in the Rheingau, in different price ranges, but nearly all of them of decent quality and fair value for money.

The Wine ...

We started our exploration with a visit to Schloß Johannisberg and a tour of the ultramodern Steinberg cellars at Kloster Eberbach. Afterwards we visited independent winemakers in the nearby towns.

It was interesting to see how in an area that's quite renowned for its wines, many of the local wine growers seemed to have little interest in actually selling their wines. One of them, when we asked if we could sample his wines, looked so surprised one would think he'd never had that request. He even had to check with his wife first, who wasn't home at the time.

When we came back a few hours later, he had recovered from the shock and sat down at the table with a couple of bottles. We ended up having a good chat and bought several of his wines: a lovely dry white, and his personal favourite: a medium dry weißherbst (a rosé made from one type of grape – pinot noir in this case – and harvested from one location). So everything worked out fine, but if we hadn't spoken German, we wouldn't have made it past the doorstep.

Now, my favourite discovery of the entire trip was Weingut Josef Leitz.

Not only were they incredibly accommodating by organising a short-notice private tasting for us; the guy who lead the tasting - Tobias, if I recall his name correctly - was friendly, welcoming, knowledgeable and clearly passionate about wine. He took the time to explain (in English, even) the individual characteristics of the vineyard's winemaking style and the different soils and 'Lagen' they worked with.

The Leitz tasting was one of the most enjoyable ones I've ever experienced. I can honestly say there wasn't a single wine I didn't like, even though they were all quite distinct. Leitz' wines are a perfect illustration of what a difference terroir makes in the final result.

Deciding which ones to buy became a true ordeal. Each of them unique, they all had an irresistible vigour and vibrance, intensely fragrant yet elegant, with a beautiful balance of acidity, minerality and luscious fruit.

After careful deliberation, we settled on one of his more modest dry ones for everyday consumption, and - for more special occasions - my favourite: the 2010 Rüdesheimer Berg Roseneck Spätlese, a sweeter wine with a delicate aroma of rose petals.

But before I get lost in lyrical outpourings, let me share a few photographs of:

The Rhine ...

Auf Wiedersehen!
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  1. Absolutely fantastic blog!!! Glad I found it! Love it!!!

    Lola x

  2. Great photos! And that is one nice hotel. Totally first class.

  3. Alex: deliciously decadent. Ahh, the memories. :-)


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