As you travel along the Mosel River in Germany, it doesn’t take long to realize the importance of a single vineyard. Draped like green-and-gold crocheted blankets on the pitched hillsides that rise above the river, many of the vineyards are announced in bold white letters: ÜRZIGER WÜRZGARTEN, WEHLENER SONNENUHR, or EDIGER FEUERBERG. Each plot has its own distinguishing character: focused sunlight that reflects off the Mosel just right, soil that is particularly expressive, etc. If its a great vineyard, they slap the name on the bottle, which — if you don’t know German — tends to clutter up the label and make selection all the more daunting.
Bremmer Calmont is a name to look for — not only because of the wine it produces, but because its a particularly difficult piece of land. I mean, just look at the thing:
Located above the small town of Bremm and stretching along the northern bank of the Mosel, almost all the way to Ediger-Eller, the Bremmer Calmont is said to be the steepest vineyard in Europe — if not the world. A rugged hiking trail runs its length, taking in views of this particularly majestic bend in the river. On the opposite bank, tucked amongst more modest vines, lies the Klosterstuben, a roofless 17th century monastery that looks haunted. Hours can be spent looking down on the passing barge traffic as they drift their long rigs wide — almost shore to shore — just to navigate Bremm’s tight curve.
We only made it to the trail’s start (traveling with a 3-year-old in the rain made it a definite ‘no go’), but several times we drove underneath the Bremmer Calmont and stared in wonder.
To harvest Riesling from this hardly-seems-worth-it plot of land, grape-pickers ascend on a network of rail chairs … a technique that is used throughout the valley, but is more back-saving here than anywhere else. On the day we visited Klosterstuben, we could see workers in the vineyard, seemingly clinging to a sheer cliff face, just to pick the precious Riesling.
And yet, here is the thing: In Bremm, you can buy a bottle of Bremmer Calmont Riesling for 8 Euros. Again, with a margin like that, it hardly seems worth it … to make the wine, that is.
So how does a Bremmer Calmont stack up to other, more celebrated Mosel Rieslings, like those the Bernkastel Doctor or Wehlener Sonnenuhr? Beats me. Having seen this vineyard — easily the most peculiar and perhaps most photogenic vineyard in Germany — I like its story more. Sometimes, that can influence the tasting experience more than ripeness, acidity and terroir.
Walter J. Oster Bremmer Calmont Riesling (Trocken)
Landwein der Mosel
Grapes: Riesling (100%)
Rating: ★★★★ 1/2 (out of five)
Tasting notes: Highly ripened when compared to other trocken-style Rieslings, due in part to the steepness of the vineyard which allows for extended ripening. I felt this wine was dense — a real thickness on the tongue — yet zesty. Aromas of pineapple and honey. On the palate it expressed pineapple, strawberry and hints of citrus zest. The ripeness overshadowed some of the mineral quality that defines many of the best Mosel Rieslings.