And so it begins. The focus of this German Wine Institute trip to the Franken and Rheingau was Landmarks of Culture. Thus our visits were designed to highlight "locations which document the history and tradition of viniculture, the achievements of the wine industry and the cultural artifacts hereto. At these locations one can find entire villages and wineries with exceptional traditions of wine making, extensive cellars, gigantic wine barrels for decorative purposes and everyday tools, all of which are well worth inspecting."
Most of day one was spent on the plane. After arriving at the Frankfurt airport and finding the designated meeting spot (conveniently labeled as "meeting spot" on the airport signage), we boarded our bus and headed toward the Franken (Franconia).
As few Franken wines are imported into the US, it was a region I did not know well. So, I did a bit of research. Before the reunification in Germany, the Franken was the easternmost of Germany's wine-growing regions, with most of its vineyards planted on hilly slopes of the Main River and its tributaries. Würzburg is the principal city of Franken and home of the famed vineyard, Stein. Traditionally, most Franken wines are bottled in a squat bottle called a "Bocksbeutel." Silvaner and Müller-Thurgau are the main varieties planted. 2010 was a difficult vintage for this region and many others in Germany. Crops were small with most down 30%. Sadly, some growers also reported that due to frosts, they expect their 2011 crops to be reduced as well, some up to 50%.
Friday morning we were up early for breakfast and in my case a walk before heading out to a visit at the winegrowers’ cooperative Divino Nordheim. Established in 1951, this cooperative has 220 members with 270 hectares of vineyards. Their newly redesigned headquarters is clearly designed to attract the many tourists who come and camp in their caravans along the river. My favorite part of this visit was their aroma bar. Featuring scents in black glasses, it allows the public a chance to smell the scents so often used to describe wine: from green apple to vanilla and more.
Next up was a visit at Horst Sauer, German Wine Producer of the Year in 2010. They produce 140,000 bottles annually of primarily Silvaner, Müller-Thurgau, and Riesling. They also have one of the highest export numbers of all Fanconian wineries, with 20% of their production exported. Horst Sauer makes the estate's noble sweet wines, while his daughter, Sandra, makes the dry ones. Their most famous vineyard is the Escherndorfer Lump., which has a steep slope to the south. Sauer spoke at length about his desire to make wines that satisfy his many fans and his hope that they feel the wine, not just drink it. To quote "If someone is asking me, how to make big wines, I do not tell him about acidity, ingredients and sugar. I tell him about the nice hours you can share with people while drinking it." Given the high-acid year, it is not surprising that I found the 2010s we tasted young and needing some time to integrate.
|Cellar images from their website: http://www.hofkeller.de/|
After lunch nearby in Eschendorf, with more white asparagus(!), we made a quick stop at the hotel to change before heading to Wurzburg. There we began with a visit at Staatlicher Hofkeller, which is ono of the DWI's landmarks. The cellars there have record proportions: they extend beneath the Würzburg Residence over an area of some 4,557 sq. meters. The building above is one of the most exceptional of all baroque palaces in Europe, and particularly renowned for its cabinet of mirrors and magnificent, self-supporting staircase with ceiling frescoes by the Venetian artist Giovanni Tiepolo.
|Ceiling fresco-iphone photo|
With 120 hectares of vineyard holdings throughout Franken
After a quick dinner, we walked across the courtyard for the highly anticipated, at least by me, Mozart Festival Würzburg: Mozart-Night with Prager Kammerorchester. For 90 years Germany’s oldest Mozart festival has taken place in the Würzburg Residence. For four weeks thousands of visitors from Germany and all over the world enjoy the music and the stunning architecture of the Würzburg Residenz in 50 concerts.The Mozart was simply wonderful. After an intermission we were offered the choice of two additional performances. Our choice, featured the glass harmonica. Yes, I had never heard of it.