Our MD Iris Ellmann recently embarked on the first part of her annual wine tour of Germany where she visited some of the wonderful winemakers that contribute to our portfolio. She shares her experience of the warm hospitality, stunning vineyards and exceptional food & wine.
Day 1: Thursday
This week, myself, my sister and my dog Blu, set off on our first part of our annual wine tour, travelling through Rheinhessen, Baden and Pfalz.
We set off from Cologne, travelling 212 km to Flörsheim-Dalsheim in the Rheinhessen region. Our first stop that afternoon was at Germany's superstar sparkling wine producer Raumland. It felt very strange to walk into a Vinotheque with face masks on, but we were of course able to take them off for the tasting. There, we had the pleasure of meeting Herr Raumland, the owner of Raumland who welcomed us personally.
We tasted Raumland’s Tradition Range from 2013 and 2014. This range is aged for a minimum of three years on the lees. After a delightful start, we moved onto the Prestige Range from 2010 and 2011 where the contact with the lees is for much longer - from 6 to 9 years, giving the wines even more complexity and versatility.
The perlage was extremely fine - creamy with aromas of brioche and nuts - multi-layered with a long finish. They would be excellent accompaniment with food.
K. F. Groebe
After checking into our B&B in Westhofen, we took a stroll to the K. F. Groebe winery, where their house resembles a charming Tuscan villa set in beautiful gardens.
Fritz greeted us in a polo shirt and jeans, as he had come straight from working in the vineyards. He opened 2018 and 2019 Grand Crus wines from Kirchspiel and Aulerde. All were delicious, but the 2019 vintage with a little more acidity will be a welcome new addition to our portfolio as of September.
Claudia Ellmann (left) and Iris Ellmann (right) with Blu the dog
After a very enjoyable tasting with lots of auction anecdotes, we were invited to dine at their house. Fritz’s wife Manuela cooked a superb three-course meal. For starters there was homemade olive tapenade and Zuccini cream soup, followed by a main of stuffed courgettes with mince, pine kernels & nutty rice and fabulous dessert of homemade cherry ice cream & Riesling Beerenauslese! Luckily, we had to walk back to our B&B, as our tummies were extremely full.
Day 2: Friday
After a little run in the rain/sun, we set off from Westhofen around midday, travelling 227km to Ihringen. The sun made an appearance just as we arrived at Dr Heger.
As we rang the bell with masks in hand, we were greeted by Markus Mleinek, who is Dr Heger’s cellar master and shows their wines at our Annual Portfolio Tasting in London every year.
At Dr Heger, they use a horse called Willi to work some of the vineyards.
Later that afternoon, we visited Bercher in Vogtsburg-Burkheim. There we visited Arne Bercher, and were greeted by him, his wife, his mum and his son who live on the traditional estate, which has belonged to their family since 1487.
It was so lovely to see Arne on his home turf, as he took the time to explain his winemaking process in detail. He showed us cask samples of the Grauburgunder and Weissburgunder, as well as some of the 2019 vintages that had already been bottled. In terms of reds, we sampled the 2016 and 2017 Spaetburgunders. A beautiful collection, many of which will be joining our portfolio shortly.
Iris Ellmann (The WineBarn MD), Arne Bercher (Owner of Weingut Bercher) and Blu
After the tasting went on a troll through the most beautiful village of Burkheim where time seemed to have stopped a few hundred years ago.
Iris Ellmann (The WineBarn MD) and Blu the dog in Burkheim, outside the Bercher winery.
That evening, my sister and I visited ‘Gasthaus zum Kaiserstuhl’ restaurant in Vogtsburg-Niederrotweil. The restaurant is run by a passionate chef, Other Koch who creates incredible local cuisine, flavoured with herbs and flowers, that can be found in the vineyards. We took an 'after-dinner walk' back through the vineyard, then settled down to enjoy a cheese selection accompanied by a delightful Pinot Noir, made by Lothar Koch’s nephew.
Day 3: Saturday
I took an early morning run through the vineyards with Blu and the scenery was simply stunning. Blu enjoyed chasing the wildlife and retrieving old vines.
After breakfast, we set off from Vogtsburg-Burkheim, travelling 165km until we reached Ilbesheim in southern Pfalz, an area steeped deep in history.
Blu retrieves an old vine from the vineyards.
Before we met winemakers Kerstin and Boris Kranz, we thought a little culture would not go amiss and we headed to Castle Trifelz. where Richard the Lionheart was held for ransom.
As Richard the Lionheart was returning to Europe from the third Crusade, he was captured by Duke Leopold of Austria (whom he had publically insulted during the Crusade) in 1192. Duke Leopold then turned Richard over to German Emperor Henry VI, who held him at Trifels for almost a year (from 1193-1194) for ransom. His ransom of 150,000 Marks (a huge sum at the time) was paid, and Richard returned to England briefly to regain his crown. Less than a month later, he went to France to try to regain lands in Normandy that he had lost. He died in 1199 from complications from a wound he received during a battle in France.
After a hike up and down the hill on such a hot day, we welcomed the opportunity to sample Kranz’s refreshing Carbernet Sauvignon sparkling wine and will certainly be adding it to our portfolio soon. We also had the pleasure of tasting all of the 2019 Riesling and Spaetburgunder vintages - a stunning selection that I am very excited to be bringing to the UK soon.
Kranz’s Blanc de Noirs Brut Nature 2019 - a refreshing, organic sparkling wine.
That afternoon, Boris took us to various vineyards across their estate and explained about how the different soil, weather and other conditions affect the vines. He elaborated about their organic winemaking methods.
Iris Ellmann (The WineBarn MD) and Boris Kranz (Owner of Weingut Kranz)
In the evening, we went to a local Guesthouse run by a husband and wife team, Ulrike and Wolfgang Reuter von Reuter´s Holzappel. There, we started with a Vermouth aperitif with lime and ice, which was a new and refreshing experience. After that, Boris chose a couple of wines from fellow local producers, as he felt we should try a full spectrum of Pfalz wines. His very liberal attitude was rewarded by us loving the other wines too.
The food at Holzappel was extremely good. Local chanterelles, goats cheese and beetroot made a delicious starter. The chef Wolfgang fell in love with my dog Blu, so he was also rewarded with bits of filet from the kitchen. Saying goodbye was especially hard on the two of them!
Day 4: Sunday
Sunday began with a run with Blu up to the Kalmit just as the sun rose. These kind of moments are priceless as the quiet and the beauty is a soothing start to the day.
The Kalmit is the highest peak in the Palatinate Forest and the second highest (after the Donnersberg) in the Palatinate region of Germany. It is 672 metres above sea level (NHN) and located 5.5 kilometres (3.4 miles) south of the town of Neustadt an der Weinstraße.
Claudia Ellmann at the entrance of Weingut Dr Bassermann-Jordan
If you don’t have any travel plans this summer, I would highly recommend visiting Germany. It is so diverse and beautiful. The food and wine is amazing - and the people very hospitable and proud of their local cuisine, tradition and heritage.
Just don’t forget to keep each other safe!