The Romans brought the art of the vigneron to what are now Germany and France. In cooler climates they favoured the hillsides along the banks of the large rivers. The steep slopes allowed for maximum sunlight, and the rivers provided water for the grapes in dry times. But you had to be fit and agile to make it all work. It’s high maintenance farming, difficult to automate, so the region aims at premium wines. They can’t compete with cheaper imports from Spain, Italy – or overseas.
On the high slopes they use little trolleys with engines, attached to a rail, to bring up tools, and send grapes down for pressing in the Autumn. The Romans, it seems, invented a wine press way back in the early years of the current age. Grapes were tipped into a container with holes. A lid with a heavy rock was lowered onto the grapes, and that pressed the wine. When the Romans left, the locals went back to using their feet for many centuries. See how knowledge is lost?
Scenic Jade glided through a light mist past the little towns and precipitous vineyards, the pruned vines beginning to put on leaf with the advent of the spring. The soil is built on slate, which they use as a mulch to keep the moisture and the warmth in. Mostly they grow Riesling, but with climate change, they’ve started experimenting with chardonnay and even some reds like merlot.
We tied up at the small town of Bernkastel–Kue, once again small and picturesque, with the obligatory ruined castle high on the hill. We’ll be here overnight.