Vineyard visit

On Sunday 28 April, we visited the  Dominikaner Weingut C. von Nell-Breuning in the Ruwer valley near Trier, where Romans introduced the grape and wine making two centuries ago.
We were hosted by Dr. Carmen von Nell-Breuning, the owner and wine-maker of her family’s vineyard, which was founded in the 17th century. 

Carmen gave us an overview of the different grapes (Riesling and Pinot Noir) and the different vineyards, all of the ‘steep slope’ kind, some held in exclusive ownership. She also explained us how the wine-growing season has changed in the last decades with harvesting periods now starting in September, while only a generation ago, harvests could be as late as December.

In the cellar, we saw the different fermentation vessels and their controls, and also the wooden frames where the sparkling ‘Sekt’ wines were fermenting in their bottles. Carmen explained us, among others, how fermentation can be controlled, the meaning of “bio” in the wine industry, and the manual turning of the Sekt bottles, according to the ‘Méthode Champenoise’. In the ‘Schatzkammer’ (the Treasury) we saw wines made deep in the last century, some worth up to €500 a bottle, that are sparingly sold directly to Michelin Star restaurants.

After visiting the cellar, we proceeded to the ‘Weinzimmer’, where we were treated on a Sekt, and admired the paintings collected by the family’s eleven generations, some of which were acquired by the founders of the dynasty, who it was believed fled Ireland in fear of Cromwell in the ‘Flight of the Earls’.

In the Pauliner Hof restaurant we tasted six more wines, while Carmen provided excellent descriptions and explanations. We also enjoyed a wonderful meal and lively conversations: We were 40 participants, including friends from the Cambridge and Rhineland societies.

The event ended with a delightful walk on the Dominikaner Berg, location of the ‘Monopol’ fields owned by the winery. We had a fantastic view over Kasel in the Ruwer Valley, but also saw the frost damage to the grapes due to the sub-zero temperatures the week before our visit. The vineyard that we saw showed a loss of 40%, but we were told that other fields suffered a 100% loss. All in all we increased our understanding and admiration of the winemaking business, which we will surely recall when we drink Carmen’s wines at home.

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