There's more to Germany than Riesling
How does the VDP classification work? Do the Germans drink as much sweet Riesling as we think they do? German Cabernet Sauvignon… WHAT!?
Bibendum’s training team wanted answers. So last September our resident gang of wine geeks hopped on a flight to Frankfurt for a 3-day whirlwind excursion. On their quest for knowledge they travelled from the meandering Mosel to the edge of the Black Forest, dropping in to pick our producers' brains along the way. Bibendum Wine Educator, Jamie Barrow, tells us more.
Day one: Getting to grips with Riesling in the Mosel
So where to start? Well, in order to get our bearings it had to be with Riesling, the great grape of Germany. And if you’re looking for great Riesling, there’s no better place to find it than at Markus Molitor in the Middle Mosel.
Setting up shop in their immaculately renovated tasting room, we were treated to a dazzling array of wines which revealed several surprises. Oxidation in the winemaking process is a friend at Molitor, adding a level of stability beyond anything we believed possible. Some of the wines we tried had been opened and kept in the fridge for months prior to our arrival!
Riesling was front-and-centre here, but Molitor is far from a one-trick pony. I was particularly blown away by a trio of dry Pinot Blancs, which were delightfully fresh and aromatic, with a lovely textural quality from time spent in oak.
In answer to one of our pressing questions, we were told that the German market prefers drier wines and so most of Molitor’s sweeter styles are destined for export. Who’d have thought it!
Day two: Catching up with Rheinhessen’s non-conformists
The following day we travelled South and East to the Rheinhessen, where dramatic riverside slopes were replaced with gently undulating countryside. At Peth-Wetz, we were greeted by Christian and Maja Luise Peth in their discreet and charming winery.
The shift in focus from Molitor was arresting, with non-native varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot being a unique selling point for this non-conformist producer.
We sampled their Sauvignon Blanc, which had a lovely Bacchus-esque nose of hedgerow flowers and white pepper. Apparently Sauvignon has been grown historically in Germany under the name Muscat Sylvaner, which was news to us! The Bordeaux-style reds were also a revelation. Full-bodied, dense, and chock-full of spicy dark fruit and toasty oak nuances.
Our next destination was Weingut Kopp, on the edge of the Black Forest in Baden, where (first things first) we drank in the glorious views from the top of the Fegenwaldchen vineyard, glass of Sekt in hand. That evening, we were treated to a marvellous spread of bread, cheeses and the obligatory cured meats to accompany our wine tasting. Fabulous Pinot Blancs and Rieslings soon moved on to the more experimental aspects of Kopp’s portfolio, including an oily, fragrant amphora-fermented Viognier and a Pinot Gris with enough skin contact to turn it a luminescent salmon-pink. Finally we moved onto the Spatburgunders for which Baden is famed, which were every bit as silky, elegant and complex as we’d hoped.
Day three: Wine nerd heaven!
Our final destination took us back north to Nahe, and the family-run winery of Joh. Bapt. Schafer.
Our tasting here was possibly the most academic of our trip, but every bit as enjoyable for a bunch of wine nerds like us! The Pradikat system was revealed in all its logical glory, as we tasted wines from the same vineyards and vintage, but with varying degrees of ripeness.
We also grilled Sebastian Schafer on the classifications of the Association of German Pradikat Wine Estates (VDP). Think of the Burgundian premier cruand grand cru classifications, and you’ve basically got it!