Along the banks of the Rhine river lies a stretch of UNESCO protected land, the Rhine Gorge. The Rhine is home to amazing castles, quaint German towns and, of course, some of the finest vineyards in all of Europe. Expat Explore offers a number of tours that visit the beautiful Rhine Valley! The fantastic wine tasting experiences in this region are certainly one of the highlights of these tours.
Three of thirteen wine regions in Germany that are home to wine producers of international reputation are located in the Rhine District. The vineyard area of Germany covers 103,000 hectares! The town of Boppard is right in the middle of the Ahr, Mittelrhein, Mosel, Nahe, Pfalz, Rheingau regions and very close to Rheinhessen. These seven wine regions are essentially the centre of the German wine production area, and produce popular grape varieties such as Riesling, Spätburgunder, Müller-Thurgau and Dornfelder.
Boppard is a historic town and wine-growing centre, as well as a UNESCO protected World Heritage Site. It is here that many of our multi-country tours to Germany stop for travellers to take in the serene landscape, cruise the Rhine River and taste true German wine.
Owned and managed by the Macchaus family, the Vineum Wine Shop offers an impressive variety of wines from the region, as well as one of the lesser-known jewels of Deutschland – ice wine, or eiswein. Eiswein is a traditional dessert wine made with grapes that are frozen naturally on the vine. This only occurs in the coldest German months, at temperatures below -7 degrees celsius.
A family business that is already in its 7th generation, the Machhaus Brand Store is managed by Christian Firnkes, his wife Rocio Machhaus-Firnkes and father in law, Philipp. The Machhaus family business is one of the longest standing family businesses in Boppard. Here, you can purchase German souvenirs such as cuckoo clocks, beer steins, music boxes and hummel figurines. The store even stocks antique pieces from Rocios’ grandfather’s time.
In 1990, Rocio’s father Philip decided to indulge his interest in wine by opening a wine depot to offer fine regional wines to locals and tourists. Vineum became the name of the wine depot which was a first for the region. They started to attract the attention of local wine producers and soon became renowned for selling the finest Rhine valley wines and introducing tourists to the world of German wine production. Christian and his family of wine connoisseurs offer daily wine tastings in their wine shop, which is located in Kronengasse street, Boppard.
Below, Christian shares more about the German wine industry and why German wines are among the most popular wines in the world.
Germany’s most commonly produced and exported wines are Riesling and Pinot Noir. These two varietals truly reflect the soil in which they grow. Every single Riesling and Pinot Noir has a different taste and character. The Rhine hillsides are slate-rich and offer light, fine-grained soil. This soil is best for producing crisp wines with noticeable acidity. That, combined with the perfect mix of sun, rain and some cold German nights give German Riesling the special sharpness that makes it a favourite worldwide.
Vineum wine depot focuses on the wines from the middle of the Rhine as well as the neighbouring regions Rheingau and Mosel. “We always have a wide variety of Riesling and some Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris ready. We have all quality levels available, from QbA [entry-level wine of a defined region] through Kabinett, Spätlese (late harvest), Auslese (selection) to the always popular ice wine. My red wine of choice is the Spätburgunder “M” and if I drink white it has to be Riesling “Felsenspiel”.” says Christian.
Countries such as Canada, the USA and Japan traditionally harvest and commercially produce ice wine. However, German ice wines are always a first for international travellers. Eiswein was first produced in Germany in the 1700s. Today, this wine-making technique extends to other European countries like Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Denmark, Austria and the Czech Republic. Europe is the continent that produces the most ice wine in the world!
“Most ice wines in our region are produced from Silvaner and Riesling grapes which have thicker skins. Therefore, these grapes are better protected against weather conditions that might damage the berries,” explains Christian.
There are three periods of harvesting throughout the year: August to September, September to October, and October to November. The conditions required for making ice wine normally occur between the end of December and mid-January. The grapes are dried to a raisin-like consistency, which then results in a very high relation of natural fruit sugar to water.
Winemakers have a very narrow time frame to harvest grapes for ice wine. In accordance with German wine law, grapes have to freeze naturally on the vine before being picked for the fermentation processes. Winemakers usually have to harvest throughout the night to bring the grapes back to the winery before dawn. The reason for this is that they need to start processing them while they are still frozen. The grapes are handpicked in order to get a selection of the best grapes; both the timing and selection have to be perfect!
The alcohol level in ice wine is not as high as in most other wines. It ranges from 7% to 12% and possesses aromas of apricot and peach, especially in white wine variants. Red ice wine gives more of a sweet and spicy aroma and taste. “There is an art to tasting ice wine and we intend to teach our visitors more about that.” says Christian.
Ice wine must be served chilled. The perfect serving temperature is between 6°C and 8°C. Dessert wine should be enjoyed from small glasses of no more than 100mℓ. “Preferably, a white wine glass with a stem and slightly narrower opening, so the flavours remain condensed when you taste and smell the wine.” recommends Christian.
While Christian feels truly lucky to call the Rhine Valley home, he also loves travelling to quaint towns and villages in bordering countries France, Luxembourg, Belgium and France. “We love travelling! Searching for small vineyards and little towns or villages is how we spend our free time over weekends and school holidays.” explains Christian.
“We specialise in German wines and dedicate all of our energy to finding the best wines from our region. Germany has mainly small-scale wine producers, however, the wine variety is immense. Christian recommends that avid wine drinkers “taste the Silvaner in Franken and the Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris) around Freiburg.”.
At the end of summer, towards autumn, Vineum hosts a “Straußwirtschaften” (seasonal wine tavern). This sees winemakers opening their wineries and pairing their wines with typical German dishes from their respective regions. These are usually cold plates with cheese, ham, cold meat and dark bread.
“We love to work with and meet people from countries all over the world. The best time to spark a conversation with someone is over a glass of wine. We’re lucky to enjoy the best of times with people from around the globe! We often get visitors that are not into wine or aren’t fond of drinking. I love it when even they can learn something and leave our store with a smile on their faces. It’s a new and positive travel experience.” explains Christian.
Join any of our multi-country tours that include Germany to make a stop in the beautiful Rhine Valley for an experience of a lifetime! Tasted German ice wine before? We’d love to hear all about it. Find the Vineum Wine Shop on Facebook here.
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