The Court has not travelled to Germany in the 27 years of its tradition of visiting famous wine and spirit regions once per year, so it was time to put that right. Germany’s wine reputation suffered in the 70s as they imported low quality sweet wines and rather destroyed the market position that they had enjoyed in the centuries before – helped by the House of Hanover and then their greatest supporter, Queen Victoria – who loved her Hock from Hocheim am Rhein.
At that time the wines of the Rheingau and the Mosel had similar status and prices as Champagne, Claret and Burgundy. Keen to help the resurgence, we visited some of the top producers in a four day tour conducted in some of the most beautiful weather imaginable and against the backdrop of the vertiginous vineyards that climb up the Rhine Valley. Starting with Robert Weil (whose dessert wines we enjoyed at the April dinner) we steadily expanded our understanding of the king of grapes – Riesling as they would have us believe – moving to the beautiful Schloss Johannisberg, and finishing at Schloss Vollrads where we enjoyed the new vogue of strolling tasting – in the balmy summer evening.
Alongside these mighty vintners there is a new wave of producers such as August Kessler of Assmannshausen whose Pinots are now reaching heady heights of purity and freshness and increasing depth and subtlety. Our own David Hunter lately of the WSET gave us the full presentation of the growth of the Germany industry for these wines (no three in the world) as these events are at their heart, serious study tours. Charles Minoprio the Father of the Court lightened the mood with his resume of the German spirit and a brief run through the last 1000 years of history which was helpful as we were not all as proficient in this subject as perhaps we should be. Then it was time to try the wonderful cuisine which surprised everyone – especially the sublime last night dinner with Carl von Schubert at Maximin Grünhaus in the Ruwer Valley – we were now almost in Luxembourg. By general consent, the Barbary duck was the best we had ever had and the deprived red wine enthusiasts were able to quench their thirst again after several days of Riesling.
One of the pleasures of leading these events is to take Court members to new places and experiences. Having travelled to Germany since I took my O levels, a little while ago, it was very gratifying to introduce many of them to the Rhine and Mosel in some of the most beautiful and romantic stretches, rivers with several knots of stream, high gorges, Schlosser every few hundred meters and then the most famous corner of them all – the Lorelei where the maidens tempted the sailors into the shallows and their boats were destroyed. Nothing prepared us for the most unexpected experience of them all, when after several months of contact, we were invited into the Kiedrich Basilica to sit in the pews decorated with vines, to be surrounded by the music of the 1500 organ – the oldest in Europe and then for the interpreter to break into sublime song – the ancient Gregorian chant unique to that church. He turned out to be the famous counter tenor Andreas Scholl who has performed at Glyndebourne, the Royal Opera House and the New York Met, son of the Kiedrich choir master and his wife, the guide. What a start to the tour and what a memory.
Sadly it was to come to an end all to soon – but not before we had tried some very fashionable new gin from the Black Forest and cruised on the Asbach brandy ship down the Rhine!
I think for most it was the genuinely eye-opening event that as Master I had hoped for. The Mistress and I were helped by the kind weather, the lively conversation and company, the generous support from the vintners we visited, the hotels that catered to our every need, and especially the sterling help received from Bob Howell, the world’s most attentive and accurate Chancellor, as well as the good sense of Honorary Steward Allan Westray and his charming wife Annabel. They came on the recce and put in huge amounts of time to ensure that everything went to plan, in particular the many wonderful meals and excellent wines. We all departed much better informed about this great country and replete with its wonderful produce. Thank you all for your good company and your support.
The Master and Mistress
Video of the Highlights of our Court visit to Rheingau and Mosel Valley 2017.