When people think about handcrafted, precision, old world styled wine, they usually don’t think of Germany, when, in fact, Germany produces some of the most amazing Riesling that you will ever taste.
For a country that has been in the heart of World War 2 and has a reputation for producing somewhat unfriendly and cold people (neither of which is true), they have created some of the most beautiful Riesling in the world. If you are someone who has any sort of passion about wine or just loves a cheeky glass every now and again, I highly recommend that through your European travels, you stop along the Mosel and partake in a serious wine tasting. For me, personally, being able to live in this region for a whole year and have such a hands on experience working in the vineyards and in the cellar of a very well known winery, Weingut Heymann-Löwenstein, was an absolute pleasure. When you taste the wines, you can tell that they are made with so much love by each person that touches the vineyards, the vines and the individual grapes as they are being cared for through out the seasons and hand picked during harvest.
How Did I Get Started?
Well, there are people who love to drink wine and then there are people who really love to drink wine and I would like to say that my passion for drinking wine has gone beyond buying the cheapest bottle at the super market and drinking it right out of the bottle as you do in your first few years at University. While working on my bachelor’s degree at University in North Carolina, I was given the experience to study a bit about wine. As much as the sommelier (tasting) side of it was interesting, the winemaking side really intrigued me. During the summer before my last year of Uni, I got accepted for a month long study abroad sommelier program in Koblenz at the German Wine School. During my study abroad program in Germany, I chatted with a few winemakers and suddenly, a year later, I’m on a flight back to Germany in the same town I studied in previously, to start a career path that I never imagined would take me this far.
What Actually Happened…
So here I was, 22 years old and alone in a country where I didn’t know the language, I had absolutely no idea what to expect from the job or the people and living in a flat with strangers that I had found off the Internet. Needless to say, my mother just about had a heart attack as I was leaving. Showing up on the first day of work was absolutely terrifying since I had cheap hiking boots that I soon found out were a size too big and once you see the size and steepness of these vineyards, you’ll understand why a proper pair of hiking boots are essential for work. On top of that, I wasn’t exactly dressed properly…it was the middle of summer and quite hot. On top of that, I didn’t know a single person and had absolutely no idea what I would even be doing for work; expect I knew that I’d be learning how to make wine.
As I show up to the winery, we all load into the ‘Blue Bus’ and off we go to the vineyards. Once in the vineyards, they announced that today, we will be leaf plucking. For people who have never had to do this, well, you probably never will have to because most vineyards are flat, which means that they can get actual machines in there to do this job. So, the vineyard managers are showing me what leaves to pluck to allow more air to get to the grapes to ensure they don’t mold and which leaves to leave in order to allow photosynthesis to get into the vine and send nutrients to the grapes. Believe it or not, a few hours of this and your head actually hurts from thinking too much and after a few days of this, you’re able to work without having to think about it and after a few weeks, you’re working just as fast as the rest of them without any thought process.
After a year of experiencing all seasons in the vineyards, time spent in the cellar caring for the wines and typical winery duties including bottle, labeling and packaging, my obsession for wine has become a very deep seeded love that will stick with me forever.
Best Time To Experience the Wine Region
The Moselle Wine Festival is a great time to visit the region where all different wineries open their tasting rooms to visitors from all over the world where you can taste all sorts of wines. There is typical German music playing through out the town and plenty of art exhibits to keep you busy for a few days. For such a small village, Winningen really out does it self to make sure that it continues that traditions that have been around for many years, while still attracting new people all the time.
Another great way to see the wine region is to rent a bicycle and cycle through out the vineyards along a path that goes up through the vineyards and along the bottom of them, just make sure you watch out for vehicles because even though those paths seem entirely too small for trucks to drive on, they definitely do! Make sure to pack a picnic because there are some wonderful spots and benches to stop for a snack and absorb the view. The region also provides boat tours along the Mosel to see the vineyards from a different perspective with a tour guide to give you information about the region through out the boat ride.
Germany isn’t somewhere that I ever expected to enjoy visiting as much as I had and the opportunities for travel from Germany are just at your fingertips; the train system takes you so far and if fairly inexpensive, along with being fairly close to an international airport no matter where you are, there’s no reason to not stop by on your adventures around Europe.