24 Aug 2011

Glorious Rheingau, Ravishing Rieslings.

Last week, on the way back from 'Holidays - the Sequel', we spent a few days at the river Rhine, in Germany's second oldest hotel: Hotel Krone near Rüdesheim-am-Rhein.

Over the past few years, we've developed a taste for Riesling wines, and after visiting the French Alsace last year, we wanted to continue our discovery of this wonderful grape, in the Rheingau this time.

The Rheingau ...

The Rheingau is one of Germany's smaller wine regions but an important one, especially for Riesling wines. The oldest documented references about Riesling come from this area, and the first vineyards have allegedly been planted as early as the 8th or 9th Century.

Schloß Johannisberg in Geisenheim is supposedly one of the places where it was discovered that grapes affected by Botrytis cinerea (pourriture noble or noble rot) made delicious sweet wines.

For these and many other reasons, the Rheingau had been on my to-visit list for a while, so when the opportunity arose, I couldn't let it pass.

The Hotel ...

Hotel Krone is a charming, old-world boutique hotel, a bit outdated maybe but that only added to its character.

We stayed in one of their suites, with a wide balcony overlooking the Rhine and a huge marble bathroom, complete with private sauna and jacuzzi.

If we hadn't had all this wine-tasting and gastronomic dining on the agenda, we wouldn't have left the room.

I was glad we did venture out, though, because we discovered great wines in the Rheingau, in different price ranges, but nearly all of them of decent quality and fair value for money.

The Wine ...

We started our exploration with a visit to Schloß Johannisberg and a tour of the ultramodern Steinberg cellars at Kloster Eberbach. Afterwards we visited independent winemakers in the nearby towns.

It was interesting to see how in an area that's quite renowned for its wines, many of the local wine growers seemed to have little interest in actually selling their wines. One of them, when we asked if we could sample his wines, looked so surprised one would think he'd never had that request. He even had to check with his wife first, who wasn't home at the time.

When we came back a few hours later, he had recovered from the shock and sat down at the table with a couple of bottles. We ended up having a good chat and bought several of his wines: a lovely dry white, and his personal favourite: a medium dry weißherbst (a rosé made from one type of grape – pinot noir in this case – and harvested from one location). So everything worked out fine, but if we hadn't spoken German, we wouldn't have made it past the doorstep.

Now, my favourite discovery of the entire trip was Weingut Josef Leitz.

Not only were they incredibly accommodating by organising a short-notice private tasting for us; the guy who lead the tasting - Tobias, if I recall his name correctly - was friendly, welcoming, knowledgeable and clearly passionate about wine. He took the time to explain (in English, even) the individual characteristics of the vineyard's winemaking style and the different soils and 'Lagen' they worked with.

The Leitz tasting was one of the most enjoyable ones I've ever experienced. I can honestly say there wasn't a single wine I didn't like, even though they were all quite distinct. Leitz' wines are a perfect illustration of what a difference terroir makes in the final result.

Deciding which ones to buy became a true ordeal. Each of them unique, they all had an irresistible vigour and vibrance, intensely fragrant yet elegant, with a beautiful balance of acidity, minerality and luscious fruit.

After careful deliberation, we settled on one of his more modest dry ones for everyday consumption, and - for more special occasions - my favourite: the 2010 Rüdesheimer Berg Roseneck Spätlese, a sweeter wine with a delicate aroma of rose petals.

But before I get lost in lyrical outpourings, let me share a few photographs of:

The Rhine ...

The Wine Cellar ...

Zum Wohl!
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  1. That's quite the wine cellar.

  2. So next time I'm in your neck of the woods I know who to visit for a wine and cheese evening.

    The interior of those rooms is... extravagant. Love the marble.

  3. Delores: best-organised place in the house! (actually, the only organised place)

    ratatoskr: always welcome :-) Yes, the hotel was a bit over the top. Great role-playing setting, though. ;-)

  4. Fun! Okay, the bathroom is incredible. Hope you drank at least one glass of wine in the tub. ;)

    I was supposed to go to San Francisco this month and do the wine country around there, but plans got cancelled. :( I do love a good pinot noir.

  5. EcoGrrl: indeed. :-) The shower was even nicer, but I forgot to take a picture so you'll have to take my word for it. :-)

    L.G.: *blush* - actually I didn't. With all the tasting and gourmet dinners, it would have been too decadent. We can't have that. =)
    Too bad the SF plans got cancelled. I'd have loved a vicarious trip to the Napa Valley!

  6. Rieslings are amazing. Too cool!

  7. Yes, that bathroom is incredible!
    I really have no experience with Rieslings. Before I lived here I was in Marin County and so had easy access to the California wines and they are really all I know. Not that California doesn't make a decent Riesling.
    What I wouldn't give for a nice Pinot Noir right now. I should check out mail order. :)

  8. Alleged Author: I wholeheartedly agree. One of the most interesting white wine grapes IMO.

    Linda: I don't think I've ever tasted a Californian Riesling. Something I'll have to remedy for sure. :-)
    Germany's mainly known for its white wines, but coincidentally the town where our hotel was located is quite unique in the sense that it has good growing conditions for pinot noir (or Spätburgunder as they call it). They even make a sparkling red wine that was served as an aperitif.

  9. Wonderful photos - that's an area we've never visited. Love the old-world hotel!

  10. That looks to be an amazing, amazing time. What savor!

    Did you see the 'Lorelei?' The singing rock on the river Rhine?

  11. I got hooked on fantastic German wines years back when I dated a man born in Germany. The man is gone(well, he is still a friend), but the wine stays. :-)

  12. Rosemary: a perfect setting. I'd love to go back there for a longer period to write. :-)

    Suze: we were quite close to the Lorelei. The Rhine's current was impressive with all the rain we've been having, and there was a lot of wind, which added to the atmosphere. :-)

    FrankandMary: great example of how each relationship helps us grow and discover new parts of the world - and flavours! =)

  13. those landscape pictures are really something special. You can almost smell the green!

  14. I love the Rhineland, been there many times. Once stayed at a hotel in Boppard where they had their own vineyards, and had a cellar full of wine. I was a teacher with a school group, and when they gave us a tour of the cellars, they also gave us all a small glass of wine. The kids turned up their noses, so guess what? The teachers helped themselves to the kids' glasses of wine! Happy days!

  15. WOW...... I'm impressed with the size of the rooms. In that LR, you could push the furniture to the wall and dance. Ditto for the BR.
    Although I don't drink wine, I'm always interested in learning about it. I liked the story about the man who had to ask his wife first, if you could taste it. :)Thank you for sharing your wonderful photos.

  16. DEZZY: ... and the wine those vines are about to produce. :-)

    Paula: brilliant. :-) I can so imagine. Happy days indeed! :-)

    Manzanita: the hotel suite was a pleasant surprise. :-) I like the little stories of a trip as well. It's a nice side effect of not overpreparing when travelling – there's plenty of room to be surprised. :-)

  17. I don't drink wine. :(

    But the country is beautiful, and I envy your hotel because the one time I went to Europe I bounced from one Youth Hostile to another. Nothing glamorous.

  18. Wow, that bathroom is something else! Love the photos, looks like had a fantastic holiday. I'm so clueless when it comes to wine, but just reading this made me wish I was there for these tastings too. Sounds fabulous. :)

  19. Angela: that's okay, I don't drink beer (which is probably a bit shameful for a Belgian ...) ;-)

    Julie: it was a short stay, but a very good one. :-) Wine was an acquired taste for me, but after a couple of wine tasting sessions, I got hooked on scents and flavours and food pairing possibilities. Then after a proper wine tasting course it got worse, and now I'd love to do the full sommelier training. It'll happen, one of these years. :-)

  20. Fabulous place. Loved the photos especially of your accommodation. Only problem for me is that wine makes me sick. It's sad but true. Mr A would have loved the holiday though.

  21. Rosalind: ow, poor you. I only get sick from too much wine, but I've learnt where my limits are. It would have been a nice stay without the wine too; that was just a great bonus. :-)


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