14 October 2013
In April nine Plumpton College wine students with lecturers, Tony Milanowski and Matthew Hudson, travelled to the Mosel Valley in Western Germany. Considered to be the home of Riesling, the Mosel Valley is also the largest continuous steep slope wine-growing region in the world. The group travelled by minibus and spent 2 nights at Weingut Staffelter Hof in the quaint Mosel riverside town of Krov. Staffelter Hof is a family owned Weingut (German for winery) that has been a site of wine production since 862.
Upon arrival on Sunday evening, we went for a tour of the town with our tour guide, and Plumpton College alumnus, Meeghan Murdoch who was living at and working for Staffelter Hof. On return to the Hof, we enjoyed a welcome tasting of 2 wines on the evening sunbathed backyard terrace. As our hosts were providing the food, the group agreed to organise the drinks. Dinner was accompanied by a selection of English beverages provided by each party member. Real ales dominated the selection which also included South Downs English sparkling wine and Plymouth gin.
We spent Monday morning in the picturesque town of Bernkastel-Kues some 15km upstream from our base. Prior to a light lunch the group visited the VinoThek Mosel Wein, the leading wine education facility on the Mosel. Inside was museum which showcased artefacts and information on the history and culture of wine production in the Mosel valley. Also available in the adjacent cellars was the Mosel’s largest selection of wines available for tasting. Several students worked their way through a selection of the over 150 wines on offer, to better understand the regions wine styles.
In the afternoon we ascended the hillside to the building site of the new highway suspension bridge to be built across the valley. The new construction is not without its controversy. Of course it will take 100's of cars off the single carriageway winding roads of the valley floor however many locals believe that it will be a blot on the landscape. As well as a visual scar, the noise pollution high above the valley is another cause for local concern and dismay.
Afterwards we travelled to Kinheim for our first winery visit at Weingut Rudolf Trossen, proclaimed to be the Mosel's first biodynamic producer. We sampled each wine in the Trossen range whilst Rudolf gave a detailed account of their biodynamic wine growing processes. This provided us many insights into this farming philosophy, which is increasing in popularity throughout UK and the world. We also visited their 2 hectare plot of vineyards across the river on the Mosel's characteristically steep south-facing hillside.
Later on we moved downstream for a tour and tasting at the historic Weingut Immich-Batterieberg in the town of Traben-Trarbach. Once again we sampled a Riesling-dominated range. Here specific vineyards were tasted to better understand the interplay of slope, aspect, soil on both the grape growing and winemaking. This was followed by a quick tour of the winemaking facilities located underneath the historic building. Upon return to Staffelter Hof, we enjoyed a 5 course dinner of local cuisine, deep underground in the historic winery cellars with wine pairings from the Hof's impressive wine range. With an array of new & old vintages, sweet & dry wines, a fuller appreciation of the versatility of the grapes of the Mosel was found.
We departed Staffelter Hof early on Tuesday morning for a tour of their vineyards providing stunning views of the hanging mist over the valley. We experienced the extreme steepness of the vineyards which revealed how truly hazardous and precarious they can be for the wine growers who have the unenviable task of maintaining them. Shortly after, we began are long journey home via Bitburg for a tour of the famous Bitburger brewery.
Our tour to Mosel valley was short but certainly sweet! All students who participated would like to thank Tony Milanowski for organising and executing the tour itinerary, Matthew Hudson, our driver for the tour as well as South of England Agricultural Society for its part funding of this trip. The experience provided an unforgettable insight into the Mosel wine region, with many ideas on how the lesson learnt in grape growing, winemaking and wine business might be applied to the UK.
Since the original 400-acre College farm was bought back in 1919, Plumpton College has certainly seen a lot of changes.