Friday, 15 April 2011

Germany's second most northerly vineyard

In the Ahr Valley, they claim to be Germany's most northerly vineyard but this is not true. Schloss Proschwitz near Zadel in Sachsen is 51° 12" North whereas Dernau, one of the most important villages in the Ahr Valley is only 50° 32" North. On the other hand the Ahr is best known for red wines and Schloss Proschwitz and the rest of the Meissen vineyard is best known for white. The Ahr valley certainly is a remarkable sun trap with an incredible bowl where mostly Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) is planted on the vertiginous slopes.

We have not been convinced by Ahr Spätburgunder, perhaps because we haven't tasted one of the very expensive ones. The others seem to be along the lines of Alsace Pinot Noir but without the lightness and freshness. Pinot Noir does dominate - so much so that even the whites are made of it; 'Blanc de Noir' is a feature of most producers and is rather pleasant. nevertheless, many other grape varieties are to be found in the Ahr. We bought a Cabernet Mitos from Weingut Schlosshof in Dernau

together with a bottle of their Regent. They also do Saint Laurent, Zweigelt, Dornfelder, Dominus, Ortega, Kerner, Huxelrebe, Saphir, Weisser Burgunder (Pinot Blanc) and yes, Riesling.

In the villages strung out along the Ahr, the vineyards and wineries come right down into town.

Indeed it sometimes seems as if these are vineyards containing villages rather than villages containing vineyards - an impression reinforced by actual vineyards every so often in the village centres.

Schlosshof claims to be the winery oldest in Dernau. We were also recommended Kriechel in Ahrweiler where we bought a Frühburgunder, the early ripening clone of Pinot Noir.

Apart from the fact this ripens 2 weeks earlier there is not always a clear difference between the two Pinot Noirs. Some say that due to the smaller berries the Frühburgunder makes a fuller wine and Spatburgunder is characterised by a more aromatic flavour. Be that as it may Frühburgunder is very much the rarer grape.

There was also a recommendation for Weingut Adenauer in Ahrweiler but they were closed. Stoddern in Rech was also closed and we couldn't find the highly recommended Meyer-Näkel in Dernau but fortunately Weingut Deutzerhof in Mayschloss was open

and here we were given three excellent and interesting wines to taste: a Dornfelder, a Frühburgunder and a Portugieser from vines planted in 1927.

This was a revelation and we departed with a bottle for the mystification of friends back home.

Ahrweiler is a jewel. A well kept secret. An ancient and perfectly preserved little town well worth the journey. The Ahr valley is beautiful - and well under an hour from Cologne/Bonn airport. Almost Germany's most northerly vineyard.

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