When you think of visiting Germany what is the first thing that comes to mind? Beer? Engineering? History? What about wine? Perhaps if you were to book a wine and food trip, you’d immediately consider France or Italy, but I can now assure you that you should move Germany to the top of that list.
After a 9-hour, sleepless flight, I landed in Frankfurt with a 10am appointment to meet my first German winemaker. As I drove down the road, I immediately realized I was somewhere extremely special. I made my way toward Hattenheim in the Rheingau wine region along the picturesque Rhine River and arrived at Wein- und Sektgut Barth.
Sektgut – a sparkling wine house in Germany? I hesitated as we aren’t exactly exposed to the best German Sekt (sparkling) in Ontario, but it took exactly 30 seconds at Barth to change my entire outlook. Mark Barth, proprietor and winemaker, welcomed me to his estate and poured me a glass of traditional method bubbly before heading into the vineyard.
Not only did I stop in my tracks as the bubbles hit my palate, but I soon realized I had no idea the potential was so high for sparkling wine in Germany. The acidity was in perfect balance with the lees and brioche characteristics and ever-so slight dosage sweetness in the Brut. I sit here now realizing I cannot even convey enough how delicious and incredibly made this sparkling wine is. Every bottle is hand-riddled on site and produced with concise precision and care.
In the vineyard – the entire estate has been converted to embrace organic viticulture, a practice that is extremely important to Mark and his family. Barth is a member of the VDp and is incredibly quality focused. The Rhine surface helps reflect sun onto the vines, enhancing ripening opportunity on the steep slopes predominantly growing the noble grape, Riesling.
While sampling a lot of the Barth portfolio, I was especially fond of the range of bubbly from Brut, to Ultra, Spatburgunder Rosé and Red Pinot Noir Brut. The Riesling deserves an entirely separate post as the Grosse Lage vineyard expressions, the Cartha brand and the sweet wines are all absolutely stunning. Mark is even experimenting with more red production and produces a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon.
After spending the evening in Wiesbaden, I re-joined Mark, his family and several of his colleagues to take part in the Riesling Picnic. This event took place on the slopes of Hallgarten in Rheingau and featured local cuisine (including the ‘Green Sauce of Frankfurt’) and local Riesling from several neighbor winemakers, who are all committed to the quality of the region.
Tasting these wines, in this environment, painted the perfect picture of the region and its potential to continually produce top notch wines worthy of showcase around the world.
It all sounds perfect right? Now for the bad news – none of the Barth wines are in the Ontario market. While this may hopefully change in the future, if you have the pleasure of visiting the Rheingau region, add Barth to your itinerary and bring an extra suitcase.