‘Are there any vineyards in Germany?’ I hear you ponder. The answer is, of course there are. In fact, there are a heck of a lot; we’re talking 102,000 hectares situated mostly in the West of the country. That’s the equivalent of around 68,000 football pitches, but, in my opinion, put to much better use. Of the 13 wine regions in Germany, Mosel is the most renowned in terms of the quality of its white wines. More than that, the region is steeped in wine-making history and has some incredible markets full of festive charm. So, what are we waiting for? It’s time to hit the road and get to know the beautiful region of Rheinland-Pfalz and its gastronomic delights.
A Trick or Two Up Your Sleeve
As the Autobahn fades away in the rear-view mirror and the hills roll in front of us, it begins to feel a lot like Christmas. Daylight fades, and the lights twinkle over every village we pass. We are heading to Zeltinger Hof, a restaurant and hotel that is typical of the regional German style. On arrival, we’re offered a hearty greeting by our host Markus, making us feel most welcome in his humble abode. This isn’t the place to come for sauerkraut and wurst though; the typical setting is home to an exceptional culinary experience where wine has pride of place on every table. In fact, the restaurant has a spectacular wine cellar with over 150 regional wines. You can expect to sample at least nine during dinner alone! We blindly tasted vintages going back to 1971, which were accompanied by Markus’ lively stories of life in Germany has his love for Riesling. Connoisseur or not, Markus loves to seduce you with juicy stories and even juicier wines. While Riesling isn’t the only love in Markus’ life, it helped him discover the other one. Make sure you ask to hear stories of his teenage years, it’s amazing what you can achieve with a bottle of wine up your sleeve!
While you can reach Bernkastel-Kues on a short-ten minute drive along the Mosel river, you’ll be missing out on the scenic route. Give yourself a few hours and get lost in the climbing hills, driving up and down the slopes on a whim. The views from above are truly breathtaking; the perfect way to ease into a Saturday morning.
Bernkastel-Kues is a tiny village where Christmas really is all around. Yes, that is a Love Actually quote, not my usual style, but I can’t help myself when I think about the place. The town breathes festive spirit with wooden stalls scattered around the town square and the smell of Gluhwein and sweet pastries filling the surrounding streets. After a gentle stroll through the small cobble-stoned alleyways you can cross the bridge to the Museum for Mosel Wine. You’ll find more than 150 wines from the Mosel region, with plenty available for tasting. After getting into the Christmas spirit, it’s the perfect way to learn about the region’s wine culture and become accustomed to village life.
On the way back into town we were stopped in our tracks by a big crowd on the Bernkastel Bridge. During the Christmas season, Fackel Swimmers swim down the river around Bernkastel-Kues, and it’s a big thing in the village. By big, we mean the whole town goes berserk. The local diving community jumps into the freezing water with torches trying to keep them alight, while the crowds go wild at shore. Imagine the sight, the river alight with torch-laden swimmers, a festively-clad brass band banging out tunes on a boat, and a thronging crowd of screaming supporters. It’s a tradition the local community are very proud of and who can blame them, it’s pretty brave to throw yourself in the freezing water at Christmas time. While it may all seem a little insane, you can’t help but get into the spirit of it; they sure know how to have fun.
After standing in the cold yelling with the best of them, we were in need of somewhere to warm up, and some warm food in our bellies. The Rathskeller restaurant, with its international style, seemed like the perfect stop-off. And, we weren’t wrong, the host and owner, Stefano, welcomed us with open arms. The interior was refined and elegant with marble tables and blue suede chairs, the perfect match for the restaurant’s history. The Italian-inspired cuisine had lots to offer and all the dishes were prepared with an eye for detail. Moreover, the service was outstanding. Special thanks go out to Michael, he kept us entertained during dinner and it turned out to be a very fun evening.
Oh, before heading back, I need to share one more little secret with you. If you have a bit of time left, don’t hesitate to visit Jan Matthias Klein at Staffelterhof in Kröv. It’s a family-owned vineyard dating back to 862 with wines ranging from classic Rieslings to organic and natural wines. It’s the third time I’ve visited the winery because I’m absolutely in love with their wines. If you have some room left in your luggage, you’d be mad not to stop by.
More information about Mosel & Rheinland-Pfalz can be found here on the website of Mosel Tourism.