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What’s up winos, or should I say Guten Tag! I just got back from Germany on a little trip courtesy of Indigo Wines, and I know you’re dying to hear about it. Don’t die! I’m going to tell you about it!
The trip started, as they always seem to do, with a 4am wake up call to catch the 8.30 flight to Frankfurt. Made fast friends with my fellow winos, hailing from various establishments from The Pig to Claridge’s (an interesting look behind the gastronomy curtain. She was telling me about the coffee bar at their canteen with four alternative milks, and I was like lol, our coffee bar is my jar of Nescafé which people drink and then don’t replace) and we headed off to the winery of Andreas Bender. Andreas has 20 hectares of vines in the Mosel and a further 17 in Pfalz, resulting in a whopping sixty cuvées, which I would soon discover, to my detriment. After a tour of the winery, which had initially been built to handle only 2 hectares (lol) we headed to dinner at what turned out to be a Michelin star restaurant. I tried to play it cool, since I could tell I was in the company of people who had dined at many a Michelin star establishment, but they kept catching me taking pictures of the amuse-bouche. Andreas had brought along a backpack of his wines to pair with each course, starting with a Riesling Sekt, or German sparkling wine, which went wonderfully with the teeny tiny food that arrived alongside it. The next course was ‘the chef’s take on the apple’ (I watched The Menu recently and therefore it was quite difficult to take this seriously, although it was undeniably delicious) and Andreas poured out a beautiful Grauburgunder to go with it… and I’m afraid that’s when I lost track. I can say with authority that everything we drank after that was Riesling (duh) from various vineyards, years and sweetness levels. To think I thought the dinner was confusing. Ha! You just wait.
Some tuna, some sole, some venison, some cherries, seven wines and four hours later, we left the restaurant to head home, or so I thought. Nope. Pulled in to Andreas’ winery, and that’s when the real tasting began. Andreas plopped down a tasting sheet with twenty wines on it and went to town. I’m not complaining (still pinch myself every day that I get to do this as a job) but it was like some kind of incredibly specific Riesling torture chamber. Like, how much Riesling can the human body absorb. Like getting waterboarded with Riesling. Several days passed. Andreas kept bringing out bottles. At around midnight the guy opposite me fell asleep at the table. ‘One down,’ remarked Andreas dispassionately. At around 1am the Indigo rep gently suggested we might need to head off soon. ‘One sweet wine for the road?’ said Andreas. Halfway through the sweet wine I saw him tiptoeing off to the cellar again and returning with three more bottles, at which point I decided to pull the rip cord and gracefully bow out, so I staggered back to the hotel while the others continued into the night. I heard the next morning that the guy who fell asleep during the tasting decided to ‘get some fresh air’ at around 3am and locked himself out of his room, so ended up sleeping in a chair on the terrace. King.
We were back in the winery at 7.30am. (YEP!), sitting around the same table, a brand new tasting sheet in front of us. It was like some kind of time warp. It felt like we had never left, but instead had taken a short nap with our heads on the table while Andreas waited impatiently for us to wake up so we could carry on. There were ten more Rieslings (I actually wrote ‘stopped counting’ in my notes after the first two). If there is such a thing as a ‘breakfast wine’ then I guess you could do worse than Riesling, but having the latest tasting I’ve ever done immediately followed by the earliest tasting I’ve ever done was… tough. Teeth gummed together by the final TBA (Trockenbeerenauslese, aka, liquid sugar) we hopped in the car again and I passed out immediately, waking only when we rolled up at Clemens Busch. Poor guy. It was two carfuls of zombies that greeted him.
Clemens Busch is located on the banks of the Mosel river, and is up there with one of the most peaceful places I’ve ever been, probably because there’s a speed limit on boats on the river and cars are carefully regulated on the roads (a man gave us the finger from his terrace as we were driving up to the vineyards). So peaceful in fact that I fancied lying down in the grass and taking a nap, but that wasn’t on the extremely German itinerary (I checked), so instead I took my seat at the picnic table laid outside and started ploughing through another eleven Rieslings. Just stupidly, stupidly good wine. We went through his entry level cuvées right up to the top drawer stuff, a couple of which are easily some of the best wines I’ve ever tasted (my notes included ‘12/10’, ‘face-puckering acidity!’ and ‘RIDICULOUS’). They were pretty welcome, not least because I managed to smack my head on a low stone ceiling on my way back from the bathroom – while I was still sober, mind you – and they really took the edge off. Clemens even patted my swollen cranium. A real Kodak moment.
Post-tasting, we did a quick whip-round of the vineyards. Clemens owns 60% of the 17.5 hectares of Marienburg, which boasts three different soil types, or slate types, I should say – red, blue and grey. Blue slate is the one, apparently – gives the most unbelievable minerality. As chance would have it, the blue slate wines were my favourite. Aren’t I a good little student?
After another pat on my poor little head, we had to jet off to catch our flight. Just as well. If I never see a Riesling again it’ll be too soon.