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German Grape Time: London Embraces 31 Days of Riesling by LO:PA
Despite being Germany’s most famous grape variety, the noble Riesling grape (pronounced REEZ-ling) is probably the world’s most misunderstood, with the majority of people dismissing it as a light, sweet wine of little substance. However, these wine philistines are missing out. Read more on LO:PA's blog here
As a mother,
I used to think that there were two types of people on the planet; those who have children and those who don’t. We
all live in the same parallel universe but our lives are so very fundamentally
different. But perhaps it’s even simpler
than that? Perhaps the divide is just those
who love Riesling and those who are yet to be converted.
Riesling inspires a slavish devotion in people which I find fascinating, and The Riesling Fellowship hosted by Wines of Germany UK held last week at Vintners’ Hall is all about celebrating Riesling in its many guises. To my knowledge, I actually don’t think that any other grape variety has its own fellowship. Which should tell you all you need to know. There is simply no other grape that can touch it for its beguiling charm, its ethereal sublimity and its downright versatility.
For Wines of Germany UK, it is the grape variety of the mind, body and soul, and what better way to spend a Thursday night than hosting an event that saw ‘Generation Riesling’ producers and members of the wine trade join together for an evening of tasting, fine dining, seminars and celebration.
‘Generation Riesling’ is a group of over 500 dynamic young producers who work together to promote their wines on the global stage www.generationriesling.de. Eleven of them flew over to join in the fun and show their wines to a highly appreciative and receptive UK trade. ‘Generation Riesling’ producers are the future of German Wine; of that there is no doubt. Their wines are graceful, powerful, thoughtful and bold. So thank you guys for coming over and bringing your wines – we hope you had a good time!
And of course throughout the evening two new Riesling Fellows were appointed; Paul Grieco from NYC for converting thousands of US citizens to the joys of Riesling, and journalist Albert de Jong from The Netherlands whose self-declared mission in life is to reveal Riesling to those who are ‘blind’.
I feel a Damascene Riesling conversion coming on.
Now what on earth does the title refer to…well in a nutshell the fabulous assets of Württemberg a region in south-west Germany which was where I spent a few days last week – let me elaborate! The region is Germany’s third largest state in terms of size and population, with an area of 35,742 square kilometres (13,800 sq mi) and home to 10.7 million Swabians (find out more here). The region is famed for its hilly countryside peppered with vineyards, forests and fields on which grows vine after vine of Trollinger grapes (often only found in this region, it has a pale red, fruity light and fresh) and Lemberger (the German Blaufränkisch – dark with black fruit) as well as several other varieties including of course Riesling (which accounts for nearly a quarter of the vineyards) and Spätburgunder. But whilst some wine enthusiast may already know this what they may not know is that the bra or brassiere was in fact invented in Württemberg!
The region produces more red wine that white in fact with a 30:70 ratio, more than half of the vineyards are planted with red wines. Its location is nothing short of breath-taking with the dramatic back drop of the black forest and the sparkling scenic curves of the Neckar River into which its beautiful vines and ‘cliff gardens’ run.
We had four days of back to back appointments in wine schools, sensoriums, wineries, tractor rides, vineyards and at some of the best German restaurants I’ve ever visited – it truly was a fantastic region. I wish I could blog about every minute but instead here are a few highlights from the trip!
When on a wine trip I have to talk about what I slurped, spat, drank and ate – of course! Trollinger, being the national pour of Württemberg along with Lemberger was often drank and I really was impressed by those we sampled at nearly every stop. They have such interesting flavours and truly reflect the region and the people who make them who choose to stick to their indigenous varieties even though the ‘export’ market for them only stretches as far as Bavaria.
For a food and wine (or rather wine and food) extravaganza a visit to the Stuttgart Wine festival is a must! This is where you can really can experience the Swabian way of life – a local told me that there was a time where Stuttgart had more wine than water… Seems as though this is still the case here! It was here, in a beautiful little wooden shack decorated with vines and twinkling fairy lights I sampled Schillerwein for the first time. This is a blend of red and white grapes and looks like a beautiful apricot hued Provençale rosé. It is a very popular drink among the locals and especially so during the wine festival where copious amounts are drunk to wash down the delicious Spätzle, Rostbraten (roast beef with delicious rustic cheesy pasta slithers) or Swabian Raviolis.
It was at this dinner one of the group informed me of these fantastic wine taverns called Besenwirtschaften or broom taverns where locals open up their own personal dining rooms to the public and serve home cooked food and home-made wine – a true pop up!
Coined broom taverns for when the home owner has finished sweeping the floors in preparation for opening to the public they hang their broom up above the door to let others know they’re ready to entertain! Great idea and I did spot a few on our visit around the vineyards – I was of course too full of Spätzle to stop off at any!
I would love to write about each and every place we visited but my brief (being the operative word) was to keep it short! But I wish to thank all of the fantastically generous people, wine queens, wine makers and organisers we met along the way – so a huge thank you to the team at Staatweingut Weinsberg, Württemberg’s current Wine Queen Stefanie Schwarz, wine queen from 2011/2012 Petra Hammer, the brilliant chaps and tractor driver at Felsengartenkellerei Besigheim, the Fischer brothers at Weingut Sonnenhof, Romana Echensperger MW, the hospitality of Weingut Wöhrwag, the chaps at Weinmanufaktur Untertürkheim, the innovative and super friendly bunch from Wein.Im.Puls hosted at Weingut Maier and the brilliant Californian lover Christian at Hirsch Privatekellerei and of course the team at the Deutsche Weininstitut. Danke Schoen!