Saturday, 15/07/2023: Melsheimer Weingut

Our friend Sven lives in Germany and was very excited that we got to visit his country.

He is also excited about wine and trying new things, so he mobilised his network of experts to find interesting wineries in the area, and drove to Bullay, where we also went to by train (with all the bends of the Mosel, it was the best option logistically speaking!).

So we met at the station, and then drove across the Mosel and past a number of terraced slopes that did nothing but fire our anticipation, until we arrived to Reil, a small beautiful village.

As it were to be the theme of the day, we got to meet the grandfather in the family, who exchanged a few words with us, and quickly called the person currently running the winery, Thorsten.

He is really fun and entertaining, and after telling us a bit about the areas where the vines are planted, how he’s growing his grapes and how he’s adapting as the weather becomes different to what it used to be (e.g. starting to plant on sites that are cooler rather than warmer, as otherwise the vines just can’t survive extreme heat like what we’re having nowadays), we quickly entered the actual winemaking areas.

Racks at Melsheimer Weingut
Racks at Melsheimer Weingut

There, he told us about how he had been making his pét-nat (pétillant naturel) even before it was a “fashionable” thing, and how many people thought he was a bit bonkers “risking it” by letting the wine just do its thing, rather than the more controlled classique method (like for champagne).

It was funny that Devvers and me knew what pét-nat was (I really like that style of wine), but our friends weren’t very familiar with it.

Thorsten asked: “do you per chance go drinking in Hackney? as it’s the hipster thing to do now!”

Err… that or even worse…, I thought.

We did a mix of Spanish and English responses. Devvers laughed somewhat nervously, and I smiled and said nothing, following the Spanish saying “la que calla, otorga” (whoever remains silent, agrees) 😎

Fermenting basement at Melsheimer Weingut
Fermenting basement at Melsheimer Weingut

We then went downstairs to a properly dark and damp cave-like basement, which hosted barrels with very slowly fermenting wine.

The must is fermented using wild yeast, which is a process somehow like fermenting a batter using a sourdough starter instead of baker’s yeast, except without a starter, so the must will begin fermenting whenever it and the environment fancy.

And of course, the fermentation will stop (or slow down considerably) during winter, when it gets cold.

So it’s a long process, much, much longer than the commercial-yeast led wine fermentation processes.

From time to time we got to hear a sonorous GLUG which was a bubble of gas emerging from the laboratory-style contraptions installed on top of the barrels (I suppose to let the gas out but to not to expose the wine to too much oxygen—I was so fascinated by the wild yeasts in action that I forgot to ask!). Thorsten was also extremely excited! It meant that the fermentation was alive! Yay!

I could feel his excitement because I feel similarly when my sourdough starters are alive and bubbly!

(The pictures are all blurry because it really was dark down there!)

We also got to see their private cellar, with unopened and opened bottles (this I guess as a memento of good times?)

And then, upstairs and to the patio where we were lucky: the weather gave us a break from the frequent downpours of that day, and we could taste the wines outdoors, which was very nice.

We tried a lot of wines, which were all interesting and quite different from each other. Read on:

1. Rurale

Speaking of pét-nat, we started with Rurale, which was a pét-nat:

Melsheimer Rurale 2020 Pétillant naturel
Melsheimer Rurale 2020 Pétillant naturel

My notes: Bone dry, lemon zest, some herbs.

It was enlightening to hear that as Riesling has such high natural acidity, the wines are normally left with more residual sugar than you would normally find in wines made with other types of grapes—otherwise the wines would just be too acidic; you need some contrast to appreciate the acidity. That’s why even ‘dry’ Rieslings such as this one might contain more sugar, although most of the times you might not even be able to tell.

2. Melsheimer Reiler Mullay-Hofberg Riesling Sekt Brut 2019

Melsheimer Reiler Mullay-Hofberg Riesling Sekt Brut 2019
Melsheimer Reiler Mullay-Hofberg Riesling Sekt Brut 2019

I was very excited to finally try Sekt i.e. sparkling German wine.

I had learned about it in passing while studying for the WSET Level 3, but we never got to try it in the classroom. So I was itching to experience it in person! AT LAST! 👏

Notes: more bubbles, wet stones, petrol hints.

3. Melsheimer Riesling trocken 2022

Melsheimer Riesling trocken 2022
Melsheimer Riesling trocken 2022

Notes: more concentrated flavour (yes that’s all I wrote, I think we picked up the pace here).

4. Melsheimer Lentum 2018

Melsheimer Riesling trocken 2022 and Lentum 2018
Melsheimer Riesling trocken 2022 and Lentum 2018

Lentum is called like that because it’s an extremely slowly fermenting wine (lentum is similar to the word for slow in Latin). Thorsten likes to have fun making wines, and that includes naming them!

Notes: wet stones, burgundy style, creamy, hint oak, lemon, subtle… one of my favourites ⭐️

Picture of the two together because we were going even faster now!

5. Melsheimer Orange 2021

Melsheimer Orange 2021
Melsheimer Orange 2021

Described by Thorsten as “the political wine”.

Notes: Fennel, Liquorice hints (?), Wet stones

6. Melsheimer Feinherb 2022 and 7. Reiler Mullay-Hofberg Kabinett 2022

More fast paced wines! Two in one picture!

Melsheimer Reiler Mullay-Hofberg - Riesling Kabinett 2022
Melsheimer Reiler Mullay-Hofberg – Riesling Kabinett 2022

Notes for the Feinherb: Off dry. Very drinkable.

Notes for the Kabinett: It’s… sweet? Lemon, wet stones.

Also re: the Kabinett, he said it was ‘old style’, and a bit sweeter than the feinherb (which made sense, given what I tasted). Then proceeded to tell us about the success of this style in Berlin and the insider jokes Berlin sommeliers trade. Something about Kabi geht immer (Kabi always works?) and also another joke that was “something something Kabi” (my German listening skills failed me here!).

I also I’m not sure if he mentioned something else sommeliers tell each other such as “it’s fine you like the Kabi but you need to keep some to sell it to the customers”, or if I am mixing it up with something I saw on the internet 😂

In any case, I understand what this Kabi frenzy is about. I’d totally drink this all the time!

Moving on to my predictable favourites (I have a penchant for sweet wines…):

8. Melsheimer Reiler Mullay-Hofberg – Riesling Auslese #66 2018

One of those wines which can only take place when the conditions are right!

Pick the grapes too early and they might not be ripe enough. Pick them too late and they might be way past their best time—destroyed by the weather, animals, mould, you name it…

Melsheimer Reiler Mullay-Hofberg - Riesling Auslese #66 2018
Melsheimer Reiler Mullay-Hofberg – Riesling Auslese #66 2018

Notes: Creamy petrol sweet (another favourite, absolutely not surprising at all) ⭐️

9. Melsheimer 2018

A wine like Port, down to even the label design, but made with Riesling grapes.

It was a fun one! Really well done. I also seem to have stopped taking notes by then as the wines were coming fast at me 😅

2018 from Melsheimer
2018 from Melsheimer

10. Vade Retro

We also tried another funnily named wine, and I don’t seem to have a picture or notes of it. Tut tut!

It was an intriguing take, from what I remember.

This is a wine without added sulphites.

The name of the wine is a play on the Catholic tradition in which the devil is said to be surrounded by a cloud of sulphurous smoke, so you would exclaim Vade Retro! (Step back!) to repel the devil. In this case, Thorsten said vade retro to the additional sulphites!

In this case, the devil is indeed in the detail: sulphites can naturally occur in wines as a fermentation byproduct. So even if the winemaker does not add sulphites at any point in the process, they might still be found in the final wine. Normally the concentrations of naturally occuring sulphites in wine are very low, < 10 mg/litre. EU law requires the label to state “contains sulphites” if the wine goes above this limit. This is to inform people with allergies.

Winery address

Weingut Melsheimer
Dorfstraße 21
56861 Reil an der Mosel

You can buy a selection of their wines from Newcomer wines.

Or, just visit them and buy a lot of things! Thorsten is such a nice person, you will enjoy your visit. And the village is really pretty (and I think you can even stay there). Have a look at their website!

And from here, to our next winery visit of the day

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