“This summer, I’m going to Germany to drink lots of German wines.”
Say that to any random person and you’ll probably get a number of confused looks, if not outright mockery:
- GERMAN wines?
- I did not know they made wine out there!
- Aren’t they sickly sweet?
To be honest, I was one of those people who thought wine couldn’t be made in Germany.
Or rather, it hadn’t even crossed my mind that it was possible!
Until a birthday dinner in The Clove Club in which we were also having the wine pairing—so we were not choosing wines ourselves.
At some point, the sommelier brought something called “Riesling”:
“This is from Germany”, he said, nonchalantly.
He probably also mentioned the region, or some other details about the wine, but as the person I used to be, all I could think was: “A German wine??”, while trying really hard to parse something that was so unlike any wine I had tasted before.
It had “a strange flavour I could not pinpoint” (mineral, wet stones), and also, it smelled… sweet? (honeysuckle, stone fruit), and yet it did not feel as if it were a sweet drink (because it was a dry wine).
“I’ve no idea of what’s going on in this wine, but I like it”, was my conclusion.
Thus began my interest in “this Riesling thing”.
I had more Rieslings whenever I had a chance. I did not have the vocabulary to describe or understand what was going on with them, but I enjoyed them. Then as I expanded my viticulture knowledge, I learned how the same variety of grape can produce quite markedly different outcomes depending on the agricultural environment it’s grown in. Case in point: Riesling can produce petrol-smelling wines in Australia. How odd! How interesting!
But what about the growing conditions in Germany, I kept wondering? If grapes need sufficient light to ripen, how do they manage to do it so far up north? The answer, as I learned during my wine studies, is slopes that compensate for the land being so up north (so the angle maximises sun exposure, a bit like solar panels being tilted to find the optimum angle); and long days with lots of hours of sunlight during the ripening season, as Riesling is a “late ripening” variety i.e. it takes a long time to ripen. But by virtue of being high in latitude, summer days are long in Germany.
And one of the best places in Germany to grow Riesling, if not the place, is the Mosel Valley, with its plenty of very extremely sloped sites, and the bonus of the extra sunlight reflected from the very wide Mosel for additional warmth and oomph. So if you want to learn about and immerse yourself in Riesling culture, the Mosel Valley is the obvious option.
Although where we actually wanted to go was… Thailand.
Yes, I know, there’s a fair distance between the two countries, which are also quite different, etc… and were we really intending to drink Riesling in Thailand?
But see, what happened is that we wanted to have a relaxed holiday, so first we tried contacting the place we had been to in Thailand a couple times before, and they did not respond to us, and we started wondering if maybe they were going bankrupt and that was the reason for the radio silence.
Then we iterated on our idea and started looking for “spa holidays” in Europe, and the nicest looking places seemed really fixated on subjecting their guests to fasting diets, colon irrigations and blood transfusions…
Err… thanks, but no, thanks 🤔
While mulling over how unpleasant these punitive “holidays” were, we realised some of these spas were really close to the Mosel Valley.
It dawned on us: why pay someone to deprive you and make you feel miserable, when you can spend that money on Riesling, and look at Roman ruins and picturesque castles and be happy instead?
The decision was clear: we would go to Germany. Riesling and chill! 😆
And to make it even more exciting, why not go by train? We would feel somehow ecological by not flying, we could chill even more (airports are NOT precisely oases of peace and relaxation), and we would be able to bring a few souvenirs back too (read: bottles of wine) without even having to check the luggage in and worry about whether the bottles would be smashed or nicked in transit.
So this was roughly our plan:
- 🚅 London – Brussels – 🚂 Luxembourg (sleep in Luxembourg)
- Look at Luxembourg things, then…
- 🚂 Luxembourg – Cochem
- For a few days, look at Cochem and Mosel Valley things (using more trains 🚂)
- 🚂 Cochem – Trier (sleep in Trier)
- Look at Trier things, then…
- 🚂 Trier – Luxembourg – 🚂 Brussels 🚅 – London
Devvers did all the figuring out and sorting out of tickets, of which there were A LOT. So many PDFs (have they not heard of e-wallets!!? no) and so many *&^$*£^$ apps for each train company…
Before I go into details, some highlights:
- We were pleasantly surprised by Luxembourg. We had not formed an idea of what to really expect from it, but it turned out to be a very nice city/country (but we only saw a bit of the city).
- We tasted an impressive 30+ different Riesling wines (at some point we lost track), it was great to compare so many and see in which directions they could be taken.
- We feel we better understand Riesling, and German wine making and drinking in general, after enjoying it in context and speaking to a few winemakers.
- It was nice to go somewhere not so popular as perhaps other “summer destinations”, although there were still a lot of tourists and at times we kept finding the same tourists in different places (it wasn’t a very big place after all).
- You can sort of get by in English almost everywhere, but it is very helpful to speak some German in the more “remote” places.
- Many places have modernised and take cards, but do keep some cash at hand: if they prefer to not speak English, they probably prefer to not take cards either (even when you can see card signs in their menu and a card reader behind them) 😜
- The man in seat 61 website was super useful, as usual (although we tend to refer to it as “the man in the train” website 😂).
- The Deutsche Bahn app is a bit weird, but works, and saves you from having to use the ticket machines (… and more cash).
Now I’m going to detail what we did when in several separate posts because…
- I like referring back to these things
- When we were researching for this trip, we found it useful to see what other people had done, so this is our way of paying back