Germany Day One
Anybody that knows me well can tell you how much I detest early mornings (it’s why I quite like Hospitality as a career), and therefore how difficult it was for me to get up before dawn to be at Heathrow Airport for 6am on a Monday Morning. So difficult that I woke up 20 minutes after I was supposed to leave the house. Luckily a very quick drive (not too quick Mum, don’t worry) down the M40 saw me meeting up with a bunch of fellow wine folk at 6.30am to get on a flight to Stuttgart. A matter of hours later I was drinking a German Blanc de Noirs in glorious sunshine, overlooking the Schnaitmann Vineyards of Fellbach. It was at that moment I decided that I was going to enjoy the next few days. And enjoy them I did.
Schnaitmann is run by Rainer who took over his family’s 500 year old vine growing tradition and converted his grandparents’ house into a winery to produce the family’s first estate bottled wines. We tried some seriously good wines here, the Simonroth Lemberger was one of my personal favourites, with dark red forest fruits and that earthy, leafy forest floor character. Maybe it’s because they were the first wines of the trip, maybe it was the candlelit cellar with piano music softly playing, but these wines were already a real step above a lot of German reds I had tried previously.
We sat down to lunch, and I must say Mama Schnaittman had cooked up a real feast. We were fortunate enough to visit just toward the end of the “Asparagus Season” in the area, and that first day I became very, very aware of that. Lunch was beautiful, huge white asparagus, steamed with some of the best potatoes I have every eaten. A gravy boat of hollandaise sauce for every two people and a couple of jugs of pure melted butter on the table as well. Safe to say, as much as this abundance of asparagus began looking fairly healthy, arteries were clogging at the end of a very satisfactory lunch. Personal opinion; more meals should include jugs of butter. Second personal opinion; “Jugs of Butter” is a great band name.
And straight into the second tasting of the day with Patrick Johner (Karl H. Johner Winery) whose wines are from a little area called Baden. Baden is one of the few areas we never got to see although I gather it’s beautiful with a view of the Alps and vineyards overlooking the Rhine Valley. Johner’s wines show a lot of structure and depth and a great potential for ageing well. The highlight of everything Patrick Johner showed us, however, was the music videos he had shot for a friend around the winery. Sometimes you just need to see a European man, in trousers far too tight, standing on a rock and playing the guitar. It gives life perspective.
Another trip through the Vineyards to Franken with Sebastian Furst (Furst Winery) where we were asked if we wanted to walk up, or drive up the steep vineyards to get a better look of the area. The group consensus was to walk, although I don’t remember voting for that option at all. A steep march and a brief reminder that I need to spend far more time in the gym and far less time eating pizza, and we made it to the view point that overlooked Burgstadt. In all fairness, it was very pretty, and very warm, and very almost worth the climb.
We were then greeted by Sebastian’s father Paul where we sat down for dinner in front of the most gorgeous panoramic window overlooking the vineyards. (These winemakers really know how to make the most of a good view). More asparagus and a lot of empty bottles later we staggered walked back to the hotel. The wonderful thing about the German winemakers is how much they want to share their love of it. Just when you think things are wrapping up for the night, there’s a new bottle being passed around. And not just of their own wines, but wines that they like to drink. Of course, so many of these things were tasted blind and “guess the wine” was a big theme of the trip. Which I can tell you is much easier on the first wine than the 6th…7th…8th…
And with that, it was time for bed, dreaming of what was to come tomorrow. How much more asparagus could we eat, what wines would be in store for us, how am I going to start tasting at 8.30am…