Good wine needs and plenty of rain and plenty of sun. Traben & Trarbach may have looked picturesque in a soft evening light but after a night of heavy rain I woke to a different atmosphere on my second morning in the Mosselle. Cold, wet and atmospheric the valleys high ridges were shrouded in thick mist and the ruins of Grevenburg Castle stood ominously over the grey river.
After a wet mornings ride, past plump vines dripping with fresh rain, the sun began to break through the cloud and burn the mist from the high slopes. The valley was once again bathed in sunlight and those who tend the fruit of this fertile landscape came out to work the steep hillsides. Drying off myself I made good time to Bernkastel ready for a busy morning of wine tasting.
After feeling the sun that ripens the grapes and the rain that feeds the vines it seemed only right that I should taste the wine made from the plants that surrounded me. And what better place to do this than at Weinkulturelles Zentrum where, within vaulted cellars, I could sample the wine from over130 local winemakers.
And sample I did! (and perhaps should have made better use of the spittoon) Two hours of sipping at the finest dry, medium and sweet Rieslings, fresh Spatburgunders and crips Elbling it was time to wobble further up stream for a lunch appointment at a renowned local restaurant 35 km away in the village of Wintrich.
After a morning of mixed weather, liberal wine tasting and 50km of cycling lunch in the small village if Wintrich could not come soon enough and I arrived at the door of Altes Kelterhuas tired and hungry. The raw energy and enthusiasm of head chef and owner Markus Plein snapped me out of my lethargy. His exceptional tasting menu made from strictly local produce was a meal worth every cycled kilometre.
Chef Markus Plein is a passionate man, and food is his passion. He looks like a chef, he behaves like a chef and his food is some of the best I have eaten. Treated to a superb tasting menu that included fillet of venison on a wild mushroom ragout, pungent home made cheese, wild mushroom ravioli, wasabi encrusted pike-perch and home-cured ham, Marcus then took me on a tour of his kitchen, smokers and cheese rooms. This was German food at its most inspirational!
Leaving Marcus and Wintrich buzzing on local flavour, the river Mossle began to narrow. The valley sides became steeper and following the gentle curves of the river I was joined by the slow moving barges ferrying their cargo up and down stream. Life in these parts plays in a different pace and after a refreshing dip in the river I sat back for an hours rest and enjoyed the afternoon sun.
With the cycle -lane moving a few hundred meters inland my views were quickly restricted by a high tunnel of vines, but after following a tight turn in the river, Roman Emperor Valentinian I’s description of the area could not have been more true. I was now cycling in a ‘grapevine – enclosed amphitheatre’ in the centre of which sat the idyllic town of Trittenheim.
After two days in the Mosselle I had tasted my fair share of the wine that surrounded me, but other than seeing men working on the terraced vines I had little idea of the family lives of those involved with this ancient craft. This all changed after a night staying at Weingut Claes Schmitt Erben.. Nicho is a 7th generation Mosselle wine grower and he and his wife invite guests to stay in their home to experience first hand the lives of a Mosselle Valley vintner.
After tasting the trokene weine (sweet) feinherbe (medium) and liebliche weine (dry) Reislings of Claes Weinkarte and taking a tour of their cellar it was time for me to turn in. The next day I had a long ride for the ancient Roman city of Trier.
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