On the vine
Riesling grapes in the Urziger Wurzgarten. Many vines in this Mosel vineyard are planted on their own roots and range between 30 and 100 years old, and some are up to 150 years. Markus Berres told us that the ungrafted vines can handle the dry soil (and very thin topsoil) more easily than grafted vines, but it's now illegal to plant vines that aren't grafted onto phylloxera-resistant rootstock, even though the area has never suffered from phylloxera.
Looking down at the Mosel
The steep slopes of the Urziger Wurzgarten.
They weren't joking when they said the slate was red at Urziger Wurzgarten.
Not all the vineyards are super-steep. This sweet spot in the Nahe is the smallest classified vineyard in the region, and the soils are a mix of slate, volcanic, and river sediments that change every few meters. The vineyard can get hot during the daytime, but at night, the cool air from the mountains tends to rest in this valley. This large temperature differential helps to retain acidity in the grapes in Oberhäuser Brücke, and Donnhoff takes advantage of this acidity to make incredible sweet wines. The 2011 Donnhoff Oberhäuser Brücke Spatlese is concentrated and mineral, intense but luminous, with hints of powdered sugar, marzipan, and lime.
The super-small production icewine from this vineyard is wildly delicious. It's harvested between Christmas and late January. (The family wasn't thrilled about having to pick the frozen grapes one year on New Year's Day: "Everyone had a headache," Cornelius recalled.)
These vines from Donnhoff's holdings in Hermannshöhle were planted in 1949.
We arrived on chardonnay harvest day at Raumland, a producer of sparkling wines in the Rheinhessen.
At the Coop
Moselland is the result of a merger of small village coops in the Mosel, which combined with coops from a few other regions. They produce wine from the grapes of 2700 growers, many of whom are very small landholders. The coop has 16 pressing stations along the Mosel to press the fresh grapes quickly after harvest, and then transports the must to the winemaking facility. The bottling line processes 12 thousand bottles an hour.
Another famous vineyard
From the Moselland bottling plant, we had a terrific view of the southwest-facing slopes of Graacher Himmelreich.
Georg Rumpf, 28, makes some delicious riesling (especially the electric '11 Munsterer Rheinberg Kabinett and the zingy '11 Binger Scharlachberg Riesling Spatlese), but I fell hard for his earthy-tropical Scheurebe, especially the Auslese from 2011, which had a scent like candied pineapple wrapped in a little smoke. Try it with a cheese plate, and die happy.
Barrels at Kruger-Rumpf
1200-liter barrels in the cellar at Kruger-Rumpf; they're adding some 2000 liter barrels soon too, but will use them with pinot blanc before ever letting them touch riesling. Georg Rumpf and Jakob Schneider bought a bottling line together which they share, which is much easier than relying on the schedule of a mobile bottling operation.
This partially fermented sweet grape juice is a harvest-time tradition in Germany, usually served with an onion tart called Zwiebelkuchen.
29-year-old Jakob has been the winemaker at his family estate since 2007. He spoke to us about the dazzling array of soils in his vineyard holdings in the Nahe "Every ten meters the soil sometimes changes—in 5 kilometers of vineyards, you can have 52 different soil types," he said. His entry level riesling (available in a liter) is juicy and easy drinking, though I especially loved his 2011 Niederhauser Hermannshöhle Riesling Spatlese, which seemed to have deep veins of herbal flavor; bay leaf, cardamom, and fennel, as well as the Hermannshöhle Auslese, a gorgeous mineral honeycomb of a wine.
Rather than dropping whole clusters to lower yields and concentrate the fruit, Dreissigacker's pinot noir clusters are individually trimmed, so just parts of each cluster are removed.