It was raining when we woke in the Mosel, and the rain continued most of the way on our journey to the Ahr Valley. It had mostly cleared by the time we reached this beautiful, but tiny wine region – Germany’s most northerly, and, surprisingly perhaps, one devoted to Pinot Noir. The day before the river had swelled to 4 m, and had taken with it some trees, vegetation, and low-lying vineyard rows. It looked quite scary.
Our visit was with Alexander Stodden, of Jean Stodden, one of the top producers in the region. We walked for a bit in the vineyards around his village of Rech, and then tasted through and incredible line-up of Pinots. Elegance, focus, purity and freshness are the hallmarks here.
From here, it was off to the Rheingau. We were to visit Leitz, and fortunately the rather ominous-looking clouds began to clear as we arrived in Rudesheim. This is where we took a ferry across the Rhine, which gave us a great chance to view the Rudesheim mountain, a big bump sticking out above the town, home to a lot of interesting looking vineyards.
At Leitz we had a spot of lunch and then headed out into the vineyards. In places, these are as terrifyingly steep as some of the Mosel ones, with interesting looking soils. We had a look at the amphitheatre that is at the end of the Roseneck, and then at the Schlossberg, with its castle. Back at the winery we tasted through the wines, with the Gross Gewachs – dry wines from privileged vineyard sites- being a particular highlight.
After another drive, we arrived at Dönnhoff in the sleepy village of Oberhausen in the Nahe. We were taken on a vineyard tour by Anna, wife of Helmut’s son Cornelius, including a stop at a scenic spot high up on top of a hill that affords panoramic views of the region. Then we went back down, and a few of us clambered up one of the steep porphyry-clad slopes of Felsenberg to have a look at the tower at the top of the vineyard.
Dinner was a mellow affair, with Helmut, who is a complete legend. The following day I woke early and went for a walk over the bridge on the Nahe, to inspect the tiny but fabulous Brücke vineyard. This was followed with an extensive tasting focusing on the 2015 vintage, which is truly spectacular. Dönnhoff’s wines are brilliant: pure, concentrated, focused.
Then it was time to drive again: to the Rheinhessen, where we were to visit two producers. First, Guntrum, with the charismatic Konstantin Guntrum. There’s a bit more volume here than at other producers we’d so far visited, but the wines are consistently good. We lunched on quiche high up in the Hippinger vineyard, looking over the Rhine and down towards Nierstein. The red slate here is a very distinctive soil type that makes focused, ageworthy Rieslings.
Our last visit was with another master of the red slate: Gunderloch. A few years back Fritz Hasselbach handed over to his son Johannes, and the winery seems to be in very good hands. Rothenberg is their key vineyard, and it has a talent for both dry and fruity wines, and both are made here. It was a lovely end to a really great trip.\