Tuesday, 11 October 2011

German Wine Trip: Rheingau Day 2

Lady J - Wine critic, photographer and light sleeper
One of the most frustrating things that can happen to a blogger is probably losing a post. After typing out a summary of Day 1 of our German wine trip, Blogger threw up a technical error and I lost an hour of writing. I've since switched back to the old interface, so hopefully I won't lose any more posts. I'm thankful that the in-room WiFi is finally up and running so I don't have to keep running downstairs to use the lobby computer. The first day was so tiring that I knocked out the minute my body hit the bed. Lady J warns me that if I continue snoring tonight, she will have to use physical force to stop me. Apparently I'm louder than the church bells next door.

Our hotel, the Rüdesheimer Schloss, is in the heart of the Rheingau region, so it is easy to visit the wineries. Having a GPS system is a godsend as well, as it means that I only need to focus on driving (Germany uses right hand drive as opposed to Singapore where drivers are on the left side of the road). Thus when we mistook our appointment time for Schloss Johannisberg (it was supposed to be 1000 instead of 1030), we managed to get there speedily and were only slightly behind schedule.

I am pretty sure that the winery takes the breath away from anyone who visits it for the first time. Upon entering, you are greeted with neatly manicured gardens and stunning views of the vineyard. It is the first and oldest Riesling wine estate in the world. The cavernous cellar (lit by candles), houses row upon row of barrels made from forests owned by the winery itself. That they even control the source of the oak used for their barrels gives you an idea of how much attention they pay to every part of the production process.

The wines of Schloss Johannisberg show great finesse and complexity. Lady J calls them "elegant, with layers of fruit that gradually reveal themselves." The winery only produces Riesling, which according to director Christian Witte is a wine lover's dream but a marketing disaster due to the different styles that can be made from that single variety. Schloss Johannisberg uses a unique colour coding system to indicate the style of each wine. The top dry Rieslings are have a silver capsule with the words Silberlack printed on them. In Singapore the wines are distributed by Cool Climate Wines.

A distinct contrast from the lavish castle of Schloss Johannisberg is the house of August Eser, which was so small that we drove by several times without noticing it. Désirée Eser is the 10th generation winemaker there and the first female winemaker. She has been instrumental in modernising the labelling and packaging of the wine. The winery's 10 ha of vineyards are spread across 8 villages and 17 plots, most of which are classified at the Grosses Gewächs (Grand Cru) level. 

Interestingly, the Grosses Gewächs symbol does not appear on most of her bottles. Désirée states that this is because if she were to price all her wines at the Grosses Gewächs level, it would put it out of reach of most people. Another distinction of the wines is that they make extensive use of the Vino-Lok closure, a glass based stopper that has the consistency and reliability of screwcaps. Plus it looks good and makes a satisfying "click" sound when being opened.

August Eser is about as traditional a winery as they come. Careful hand harvesting and slow, controlled fermentations yield wines with great finesse, and a lively acidity that makes the wines almost dance in your mouth. Eschewing foreign markets, most of the wine is sold domestically where they have a reputation for tremendous value for quality.

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