If you are looking for fine German wine and food, consider the Mosel region of central western Germany on the border of Luxembourg. You may find a bargain, and I hope that you’ll have fun on this fact-filled wine education tour in which we review a local red Dornfelder.
The Mosel Valley is considered one of the most beautiful river valleys in the world. This region, once called Mosel-Saar-Ruwer for its three rivers, is known for its Riesling. Some of the greatest Rieslings in Germany and in fact in the entire world come from Mosel. Experts can often identify Mosel Rieslings because of the slate in the local soil, which may impart a taste of flint. The slopes are among the steepest in the wine-producing world, sometimes attaining 70 degrees. The soil is so precious that every spring local workers lug pails of soil up these slopes, reversing the effect of the rains that wash the soil down every winter.
Mosel ranks fifth in Germany for both vineyard acreage and total wine production. Slightly more than three quarters of the wine produced here is QbA and somewhat less than one quarter is higher quality QmP wine. Only one percent is table wine. More than half of Mosel wine is Riesling. The German hybrid Müller-Thurgau represents about 20% of the wine production. In third place is the historic variety Elbing that dates back to Roman times and is the major grape variety in the neighboring country of Luxembourg. Only about 2% of Mosel wine is red, so perhaps we were lucky to find a Dornfelder, reviewed below. Dornfelder is a German variety also grown in the United States and in Burma. It is a cross between two crosses, and was created in 1955. One of Dornfelder’s four “grandparents” is Pinot Noir.
Basically the Mosel Valley runs from Koblenz not far from Germany’s former capital Bonn to the city of Trier that sits very close to the border. These two cities are linked by the Mosel Weinstrasse (Mosel Wine Road) which is about 140 miles (224 kilometers) long on the eastern side of the river and somewhat less on the western side. Of course, you could take the autobahn to get between Koblenz and Trier at breakneck speed. If you do, you’ll miss the interesting little towns and vineyards along the way.
The Trier Valley was first settled about 2400 years ago. The city of Trier itself was founded in 16 BC. Within three hundred years it was destroyed and rebuilt as a Roma secunda (second Rome). A unique aspect of this wine-exporting city is its underground cellars said to have a storage capacity of almost 8 million gallons. Among the sights to see are in Trier the Porta Nigra (Black Gate) dating back to Roman times, the Dom which is the oldest Christian church north of the Alps, the Rheinisches Landesmuseum (Rhenish State Museum) with the largest collection of Ancient Roman artifacts in Germany, an Amphitheater that holds real gladiator games, minus the lions, every summer, other Roman ruins, and the house in which Karl Marx was born.
Before reviewing the Mosel wine and imported cheeses that we were lucky enough to purchase at a local wine store and a local Italian food store, here are a few suggestions of what to eat with indigenous wines when touring this beautiful region. Start with Foie Gras in Ahorn Jus (Foie Gras with Maple Flavored Juices). For your second course enjoy Mosel Trout. As a dessert indulge yourself with Feigenmus (Fig Puree).
OUR WINE REVIEW POLICY All wines that we taste and review are purchased at the full retail price.
Wine Reviewed Wehlener Nonnerberg Dornfelder Trocken 2005 13.0% alcohol about $15.50
Let’s start by quoting the marketing materials. Delightful Dornfelder. Ripe and fruity, this deep-coloured Dornfelder really benefited from the heat of the 2003 vintage. This dry, medium-bodied, well-balanced red is food friendly matching a variety of dishes including pork roast or baked chicken.
My first pairing was with a grilled rib steak that had been marinated, perhaps for too long. The meat was accompanied by potatoes that were roasted in chicken fat and spicy Moroccan carrots. Let’s not mince words; this wine was lousy. It was a sort of alcoholic grape juice, admittedly with a pleasant acidity.
The next meal included spicy meat balls, rice, and once again Moroccan carrots. The wine was somewhat rounder, but still wasn’t good. For some reason I thought of Concord grape wine, although the Dornfelder wasn’t all that sweet.
The final meal consisted of beef stew with roasted potatoes and rice. The wine was moderately better but still tasted grapey. And it was still basically unacceptable.
The initial cheese pairing was with a goat’s milk cheese from the Poitou Charentes region of central-western France. This cheese looked and tasted like a somewhat runny Camembert. The cheese tamed the wine’s grapiness. The Swiss Gruyere did so even more. Every single tasting was “better” than the previous one. And yet the final tasting still didn’t reach the good level.
Final verdict. Even at half its price I would not buy this wine again. Dornfelder is grown in several other areas of Germany. But I don’t see why I should open my wallet to give this grape another chance; there are too many fine German and other wines out there.
Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would
rather just drink fine German or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario
French-language community college. His wine websites are
www.theworldwidewine.com and http://www.theitalianwineconnection.com
Visit his website devoted to Italian travel www.travelitalytravel.com
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