THE BERNKASTELER DOCTOR VINEYARD –
ARGUABLY GERMANY’S BEST
Unquestionably, one of the most beautiful scenic drives in Germany is along the winding Mosel River that flows through the lovely city of Trier and then takes in both the Saar and Ruwer Rivers to join at Koblenz the mighty Rhine River. Driving from Trier towards Koblenz one starts to see the names of towns – Leiwen, Trittenheim, Piesport, Lieser, Bernkastel, Graach, Wehlen, Zeltingen, Uerzig, Erden and Kroew, just to name a few. All evoke memories of fine wines in the minds of wine enthusiasts.
Most Mosel vineyards are on steep slopes and face southeast or east, never north, as every ray of sunshine is crucial for the ripening of grapes.
In this incomparably beautiful region, each vine is supported by a stake and vineyards planted to fit the contour of the landscape. Many are terraced and require a minimum of 3000 hours of labour per hectare, whereas most vineyards on plains in other regions or countries vignerons get by with as little as 1200 – 1500 hours.
Mosel Rieslings, the predominant grape, display a vibrancy and racy acidity along with a little sparkle (Germans call it spritz). In addition, they age very well due to their acidity. Off-dry Mosel Rieslings are excellent with local dishes, like trout a la Meuniere, or trout bleu, veal schnitzel in cream sauce, grilled veal sausages, and quiches of all sorts.
Mosel vintners display a very vivid imagination in naming their vineyards. Think of Kroever Nackt Arsch (The Bare Bottom of Kroew).
On traditional German wine labels the first word refers to the village and the second to the name of the vineyard, Piesporter Goltroepchen (The Godlen Drop of Piesport), Trittenheimer Apotheke (The Pharmacy of Trittenheim) and Bernkasteler Doctor (The Doctor of Bernkastel), which arguably is the best of all Mosel wines, and some even claim of Germany. Regardless of claims, one thing is for sure; it is the best known (along with Liebrfraumilch) all over the world.
The town of Bernkastel located half way between Trier ad Koblenz on the right bank is a tourist attraction because of its beauty and viticultural fame. This medieval town (founded 1291) of 15,000 souls offer tourists well maintained half-timbered houses, many fountains which flow with wine during the annual festival the first weekend of September, in a movie-set-like atmosphere.
The town has nine single vineyard sites: Lay, Riesenberg, Bratehoefchen, Matheisbildchen, Schlossberg, Kurfuerstlay, Johannisbruenchen, Rosengaertchen, Sephaus and Doctor, which is the most famous of all.
* Today this vineyard measures a little over one hectare, and is owned by two families, Dr Hugo Thanisch and Wegeler of Deinhard fame.
There are many stories of this famous vineyard. The most credible and documented version is that in the 14th century Prince-Bishop Boemund II o Trier was cured from a terminal illness overnight after consuming two bottles of the wines of the vineyard; hence the name Doctor.
The slope faces south, the vines profit from the reflection of the roofs of residences nearby and the drainage is outstanding.
The Wegeler side of the vineyard has a cellar under it where important visitors are regaled with the wines. It is truly impressive and romantic to taste incomparably fragrant, light and elegant Bernkasteler Doctor wines below the vineyard itself. It is so treasured that Dr K. Adenauer, the Chancellor of Germany offered 50 bottles of the best Bernkasteler Doctor to President Eisenhower during his visit to Germany in the 1950’s.
Bernkasteler Doctor wines tend to be expensive because of the small quantity produced (annual production rarely exceeds 10,000 bottles) and its worldwide fame. If you happen to be visiting the town, the local wine shop may have a few bottles at a cost many people can afford and are willing to pay.
German vineyards produce a range of quality from table wine to Qualitaetswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete (QbA), to Qualitaetswein mit Praedikat which is further subdivided into Kabinett, Spaetlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese. Study the label and vintage of any German wine well before making a purchase decision.
Article contributed by Hrayr Berberoglu, a Professor Emeritus of Hospitality and Tourism Management specializing in Food and Beverage. Books by H. Berberoglu
* Email received 1/31/04 from Kerry B.
The report on the Mosel, specifically – Bernkasteler Doctor – fails to mention one of the three original owners of this site: J. Lauerburg -- which still owns and cultivates their holdings in this site. The site is about 3 ha. today and there are other owners in addition to the original three, Wegeler, Dr. Thanisch, and Lauerburg. The Lauerburg family has a wonderful wine shop just off market square -- their wines are well worth discovering.