<about a year ago>
Okay, my next destination is going to be Germany, but where in Deutschland?
When it comes to Germany, oktoberfest and beer come up to mind.
What about wine then? Do they have wine festivals?
They produce good white wines, but red wine sounds unfamiliar …
That was the prologue of my trip. I did lots of research trying to find my ‘cup of tea’ in Germany, and in the end, picked up AHR – one of the smallest and least-known of Germany’s 13 wine regions, where red grapes cover 84.2% of its total vineyard surface while in Germany overall, just 35.1% (2014 stats. Source: Deutscher Statistik 2015/2016). More over, unlike Württemberg, another region of which red grape production predominates, Ahr is one of the northernmost wine-growing areas in Germany/Europe. In other words, despite the northern location, four out of five bottles of Ahr wine are red.
Ahr’s red vine varieties are Spätburgunder (63.1% of the vineyard area including white), Frühburgunder (6.6%), Portugieser, Regent, Dornfelder etc (cf. Riesling 8.2%). The name of the dominant red grape is the German synonym for Pinot Noir. ‘Spät’ means ‘late’ in English (I completely mastered the word at the train stations – ’10 minuten später’ – and learnt that DB, or Deutsche Bahn, trains are as unreliable as Virgin in the UK!), and ‘burgunder’ refers to the variety’s Burgundian origins. That is, Spätburgunder is Pinot Noir which ripens relatively late in the season. (Frühburgunder – ‘früh’ means ‘early’ – is an early ripening mutation of Pinot Noir.) You may already know but Germany is the world’s third largest producer of Pinot Noir after France and USA.
About Ahr Spätburgunder:
The classic Ahr Spatburgunder is brick-red in color and smells of red cherries, sweet spices, forest floor, possibly with a hint of smoky bacon fat if barrel-aged. Ahr Pinot Noir is now a much more serious, modern and “international” wine style that it once was. Until 30 years ago, the wines were often slightly sweet and very pale. Today they are invariably dry and deeper in color – although still much paler than the ink-dark Pinots found in, say, Central Otago.
Have you ever tried or heard about Ahr wine, by the way? It is said that most of the wine is consumed locally and by the tourists. Unsurprisingly due to the small acreage (564 ha/1,393 ac), it’s quite difficult to find it in the marketplace outside Germany. Mmmmmm, must be a hidden gem! The peculiarity of the region and the rarity of the wine were attractive enough for the hidden gem hunter to choose Ahr for her holiday!!
Well, I should also mention wine festivals. In Ahr, lots of wine related events are held throughout the year. The festival season starts in May, and September is the heyday. I planned a visit, however, for August as I wanted to see Heimersheim’s historical festival with the proclamation of the new queen of wine and the vintners’ procession, and one in Walporzheim at the following weekend. What is more, I luckily found another one in that same period, not in Ahr though, and added one more to my itinerary: Rüdesheimer Weinfest in Rheingau, one of the most famous German wine regions for its high quality Riesling. Rüdesheim am Rhein is a 2.5 hour journey away by train, so it’s easy to make a day trip. Then I fixed my schedule – 3 German wine festivals in 9 days!! (The stories about those three festivals are to be followed after ‘where to stay in Ahr’ information.)
How to get to Ahr
- From Cologne Bonn Airport (Flughafen Köln/Bonn): approx 1.5 hour by bus and train
1. Airport — Bonn Hbf （Bonn Central Station): bus 35 mins
2. Bonn Hbf (bound for Ahrbrück) — Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler: direct train 35 mins
2. Bonn Hbf (for Koblenz Hbf) — Remagen (for Dernau/Ahrbrück) — Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler: trains 35 mins
- From Dusseldorf Airport (Flughafen Düsseldorf ): approx 2 hours by train
Airport (for Koblenz Hbf) — Remagen — Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler
- From Frankfurt Airport (Flughafen Frankfurt (M)): approx 2.5 – 3 hours by train
Airport — Bonn Hbf — Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler
Airport — Koblenz Hbf — Remagen — Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler
For more details, check with DB Timetable