Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Make Your Way to the Cellar, on the Kellerweg

This post was contributed by Lucia Santoso, an avid wine lover, musician and traveller currently based in Germany.

What would you do on a German Summer's eve? Why, go to a Weinfest, natürlich! How else would you celebrate summer by the Rhein?

Every single weekend from June to September is jam-packed with wine festivals, duly advertised by the public transport networks (read: no driving! :) ). This very one comes well recommended by my friend Sonja John, a native of Hessen and the owner of her own wine shop.

Guntersblum is one village in a nine-village community, sitting smack-bang in the middle of the Rheinhessen (largest wine-growing region in Germany). Legends say that it was named after Gunther king of Burgundy some 1500 years ago, having built a garden there. Having been ruled by Napoleonic France in late 1700s gave the village a Provincial feel in architecture – quaint, colourful villas with flower beds by the windows and cobblestone streets.

Kellerweg is such a street, lined with cellars (Keller). And also Weingute (wineries). Just the setting for such a festival. Starting from the top end of the street, Weingut Heiko Strub was established at the end of the thirty-year war (around the mid 1600s). One can sit in their "Kreuzgewölbe" (cross-shaped vault) dated from mid 1800s while sipping their selection. From there I tried a Blanc de Noir Spätburgunder, which despite the light lemony look bore the mid weight you'd expect from a pinot noir. The grapefruit finish gives that refreshing feeling – just the thing on a summer's day.

In a region where a HUGE range of varietals are planted I naturally ventured upon those of the weird and wonderful kind. Weingut Karlheinz Belzer had a "Bacchus" on the menu – that's a grape? Turns out it is a triple cross of (Silvaner x Riesling) x Müller Thurgau (aka Rivaner), and it's very aromatic, a wee like Muscat on the nose, made "lieblic"“ (sweet) it is a happy-go-lucky-let's-party wine, with a spritzy acidity at the end.

The wafting aroma of whole pig on the spit from Familienweingut Karl-Heinz Frey invited us in, and we duly
complied. Karl-Heinz Frey came from a long-line of bakers, who naturally expected him to be a baker. He begged to differ. Just after the war (in 1946) he bought a small plot of land, planted grapes and made wine. Particularly in such difficult times it was no mean feat. But hard work pays off, now with 25 hectares of vineyard growing 35 different varietals, so the grand-daughter 2011 Rheinhessen wine queen Helgard Frey told me.

For something a little different, I ask for a Schwarzriesling Blanc de Noir feinherb. It has the colour of honey, the smell of honey. Hell, it even tastes like honey! But with a dry twist at the end and a spritzy acidity. Washes down roast pork like a treat! Very different from the Schwarzriesling Weißherbst (German for rosé,means white autumn) from Weingut Schloßgut Schmitt, which looks clear bright orange, smells like summer berries and tastes like cherries, with a refreshing finish.

What on earth is a black Riesling anyhow? Why, it's a Pinot Meunier! In Pfalz and Rheinhessen they like to make it as a single varietal wine. As a red wine, it is typically medium bodied, very dark in colour, with aroma and flavours of black cherries and cocoa finish, and hardly any tannins (at least how it's made here). As a rosé, there're two versions you can get!

To finish up, I tried a wine even Sonja had never heard of – a Findling Auslese edelsüß (gently sweet). Initially we thought it was the name of the product, but no, it's a varietal, a mutation of Müller Thurgau. Subtle on the nose, but full mouthfeel, with a gentle sweetness that washes off with a dry finish.

These Germans just love trying new things! Making wines of any styles out of any grape, and even making new grapes. Just for something "normal" with a twist, I sipped a Chardonnay Spätlese trocken. Ripe stone fruits like you'd expect from a sun-beaten new-world chardy, but restrained citrus flavours and dry finish. Interesting.

I'm going to stop writing now, because after all these, I can't take notes anymore. Germans pour generously (nudge, nudge, hint, hint, Singaporean restaurateurs... ;) ). There are many more Weingute to go, only in this village, and many more in the surrounding villages – come next summer and discover!

To the summer, and to a good harvest – prost!

PS if you are looking for an idea for what to do this summer, here is a list, and don’t be shy to use Google translate. Trust you can book your own way here. ;)

Disclaimer: this article is fully fuelled by the author’s love for wine, festivals and Germany in general. Not a cent did she receive from any winery or tourism board of any sort.

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