We had a free morning on our final full day in Germany. It was nice not to have an early start and to enjoy the huge array of breakfast at the Mercure hotel, and people explored the city, did some shopping, I’m not sure if anyone had a swim in the hotel pool.
At 4pm we assembled in the bar for a glass of sekt and then set off on the coach, for the last time as a full group, for the village of Münster-Sarmsheim and the winery of Kruger-Rumpf.
Stefan Rumpf, the current head of three generations of a family that has been making wine in the Nahe since 1708, met us in the courtyard of the family home/restaurant, and immediately walked us up the hill behind and into the vines. A wonderful panorama of hills covered with vines and woods, the town itself with its old brandy distillery, over-passed by a modern road along which cars zoomed glinting in the evening sunlight.
He explained that we were at the southern end of the ‘Middle Mountain’ range of Germany, which stretched north to Cologne, while to the south beyond the village is the flat land of the Rheinhessen. His 40 hectares of vineyards are one third loess soil (he demonstrated the crumbly characteristics), one third quartzite and one third slate. Riesling is grown on the quartzite and slate, and on the loess he grows a number of varieties including Silvaner, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. Most of the vines are trained down the slopes but he has recently built terraces at the top – more sun, fewer pests, but half the yield!
As in Kettern, we saw how the leaves were removed from the vines although Stefan explained they are trying to keep the grapes small to ensure intensity in the wine. He also explained that the local deer population don’t much like Riesling so they tend to raid the other varieties on the lower slopes. On our way back to the house he showed us some wild grapevines growing over trees which had been infected with phylloxera and we examined the galls on the underside of one of the leaves.
We could have stayed in the vineyards for ages, but dinner called and Stefan led us back to the house, past the unprepossessing village church with its Roman foundations, and into the restaurant, which had originally been part of the family home.
We had a simple, delicious dinner of lightly smoked trout tartare, ox cheeks with chanterelles and cherries with ice-cream. Stefan explained each wine to us as it was poured:
Three varietals (not covered by the VdP system)
2015 Sauvignon Blanc, trocken – the first crop to be vinified, Stefan explained that Germans used to beer find Sauvignon Blanc an easier introduction to wine than the far more acidic Riesling. This had a lovely old world character – more tropical and less herbaceous.
2015 Grauer Burgunder (Pinot Gris), trocken – a sherberty nose, and perfect weight to accompany the trout
2014 Weisser Burgunder (Pinot Blanc), trocken – lovely creamy texture.
2015 Münster Riesling, trocken – a ‘masculine’ expression of riesling, minerally and quite austere.
2014 Binger Riesling, trocken – a more ‘feminine’ wine, more floral and richer and fruitier on the palate.
The 2015 Erste Lage Münsterer Rheinberg Riesling, feinherb – rich with great acidity and a beautiful mouthfeel
A 2014 Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) – lovely with the main course
And finally the 2015 Grosse Lage Münsterer Dautenpflänzer Riesling Spätlese which was absolutely glorious, lively on the palate with great balance of acidity and fruit – Stefan advised 2015 was a great year for sweet wines, with good acidity and low botrytis. This wine should keep for 25 years!
We cheered Stefan for a wonderful exposition of the region and his wines, we cheered the chef for a fabulous meal, and we cheered Tim for hosting a marvellous trip.
And then it was back to Wiesbaden for a final glass of wine or beer (I don’t think anyone managed an ice cream), and started to say our goodbyes (or rather ‘auf wiedersehen’) – some of us were heading on for further German adventures the next day while most of us were flying back from Frankfurt.
We agreed we had had perfect weather, met many witty, kind and passionate people, and enjoyed the most beautiful surroundings. I think most of us felt we had started (or further developed) a wonder at the diversity and complexity of German wines, and that this was an exploration to be continued.