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Saturday, 25 September 2010

Kirchengut Wolf in the Mosel Valley

A few years ago, I took a driving holiday through Alsace and Germany; the best wines from that trip came from Paul Schneider in Alsace (detailed here) and Kirchengut Wolf in the Mosel valley.

The general itinerary for the trip was Cambridge, Calais, Belgium, Alsace, the Black Forest, Heidelberg, the Mosel valley and back to Cambridge; Heidelberg is Cambridge's twin city which gave me one reason to visit it - the other is its beautiful castle overlooking the old town and river.

Starting out from Heidelberg, we first drove along the Rhine valley before a cross-country dash to Traben Trarbach in the Mosel. The rolling countryside we drove through felt less stereotypically Germanic than the big industrial or Hanseatic cities one associates with the Bundesrepublik Deutschland - it was agricultural and neatly, gently rural.

The wine-producing area of the Mosel valley winds constantly and meanderingly between Bernkastel-Kues at one end and Traben Trarbach at the other, spinning out a journey of 25km as the crow flies to 40km. The vines grow on impossibly steep, slatey terraces and produce crisp, steely, minerally wines.

We stopped at Kirchengut Wolf in the village of Wolf more by chance than design - pulling up by the side of the house and shortly finding someone to allow us to taste a few wines. We were the only people there at the time but our host had a great command of English and a very personable manner.

We tried a Riesling, a Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc) and a Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris) and they all showed the kind of body, excellent structure and finesse one associates with much more expensive wines and a full-bodied crispness I associate with Austrian wines where off-dry fell out of favour as a style some time ago. I do not remember exactly what we bought, except that one was from the "Wolfer Goldgrube" (Goldmine) vineyard and had a gold medal from somewhere. Cost was around €6 per bottle.

According the winery's website, the vineyard was founded by monks who moved into the monastery in Wolf in 1478. The wine cellar for producing and storing the wine was built in the village instead of the surroundings of the church. The construction of the cellar began in 1488 and in 1557 during the reformation the confraternity was broken down and the protestant church founded. They continued the vineyard from that moment on. The current church of Wolf was built on the old cellar in 1685 and now the Kirchengut Wolf possesses the only wine cellar under a church.

Having lived in Austria for a number of years, I have something of an unfashionably soft spot for their wines and also for German speakers in general; I rather like the precision and formality of both and find that below an apparently brusque exterior often lies a personable charm.

We stayed the night in the Mosel valley and experienced the steepness of the vineyards for ourselves at first hand during an afternoon stroll through Kinheim - however, it must be admitted that the food we had here and also further south in Heidelberg and the Black Forest was not quite up to the level of what we had experienced across the border in La Republique Francaise. For, Germany is more a beer country than a wine one, and its food traditions suit drinking with beer - one of the most satisfying meals we had was a picnic lunch in Heidelberg consisting of delicious seeded brown bread rolls, speck some cheese and tomatoes and a bottle strong malty lager.


Kirchengut Wolf - http://www.kirchengut-wolf.de/

Paul Schneider - http://www.vins-paul-schneider.fr/

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