Labour of love | Posted: 12 March 2015
Self guided walking holidays in Germany
Self guided walking holidays in Germany
Self guided walking holidays in Germany

Germany’s Moselle Valley is steeped in the traditions of winemaking.

With its intensity of flavour, light body and sharp, delicious tang, German Riesling is uniquely refreshing. The variation in styles is impressive, too, from the delicately dry (trocken) wines, which have a particular affinity with spicy food; to the complex, honeyed sweet varieties that linger long in the mouth.

And it is the Moselle Valley which showcases this noble grape to most spectacular effect. This deeply traditional region (vines were first cultivated here by the Romans back in the 2nd century BC) not only contains Europe’s steepest vineyards, but also features ancient traditions that have been passed down from one generation of winemakers to the next. And although this is 21st-century Germany, with all the forward-thinking creativity you might expect, wine production here has changed little over the years, with vintners still picking their grapes by hand due to the severity of the terrain.

If anything, the latest wave of vintners are even more traditionally minded than those that came before. This is because they are determined to salvage many of the half-forgotten vineyard sites that had long lain neglected, victims of dubious laws and incentives that had been introduced to increase mechanisation and yield quantities, often at the expense of quality. These sites, sometimes scouted out by using old Prussian tax maps, are often the steepest in the area, and must be worked by hand. But although they are more labour-intensive, the grapes they produce are of a much higher quality, capable of delivering wines of great subtlety and finesse.

Related Holidays

Meanders of the Moselle Valley

Our week-long holiday takes you through the vineyards of this remarkable wine region on foot, providing plentiful opportunities for tastings along the way.

More about our self-guided walking
holiday in Germany’s Moselle Valley >

These sites, many of which are family-owned, are also the source of great pride to their owners: there are signs inviting you to taste wine (Weinprobe) or to buy it (Weinverkauf) just about everywhere, and the name of a daughter who has been elected ‘wine queen’ of the village is often proudly displayed by the family home.

As well as tasting and purchasing the wares of the more established winemakers, visitors to the Moselle should also keep an eye out for brooms or wreaths above doorways. These signify the wonderfully informal Straußwirtschaft, where vintners can sell only their own wine, up to a maximum period of four months per year. Quirky and highly individual, the wines you taste here might vary in quality, but you might just bag the bargain of your trip.

One wine you are almost sure to try during your stay, though, is Bikiniblick. This is because its grapes come from a vineyard on the perilously steep-sided Kautenbachtal, which is tended by Olaf Schneider – who also owns the third stop on our walking holiday here, the Trabener Hof. Olaf is an electrician-turned-winemaker who was asked to look after a tiny parcel of land by a friendly vintner. As is so often the case around here, he caught the ‘wine bug’, and expanded and improved to the point where his rose-scented ‘Bikini View’ Riesling (the name is a tongue-in-cheek nod to the thermal baths that are visible from the slopes) has become a great example of the modern Moselle wines that are balanced and profound in ways that are impossible to recreate elsewhere.

So if you stay at the Trabener Hof, the chances are you will get to taste the fruits of his labour for yourself. And while Olaf’s wife Simone is in charge of the hotel, the vineyard is very much a family concern, with their son and daughter – and even Curry the Dachshund – helping out at harvest time.

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