Picture: Christian G.E.Schiller and Roland Ladendorf at Weinhaus Bluhm in Mainz, Germany
Mainz is, along with Bilbao in Spain, Bordeaux in France, Cape Town in South Africa, Christchurch in New Zealand, Firenza in Italy, Mendoza in Argentina, Porto in Portugal and San Francisco in the US, one of the 9 wine capitals in the world.
There is not a single wine bar in Mainz, as I know them from London, New York City, Berlin or Washington DC. However, there are a large number of traditional wine taverns in Mainz. Typically, wine taverns do not have an elaborated list of wines, nor do they serve fancy and sophisticated food. They tend to serve local wines, at very reasonable prices, from a handful or so of local winemakers that you do not find in the wine guides such as the Gault Millau. In this regard, however, one wine tavern is very different: Weinhaus Bluhm
Picture: The Cathedral of Mainz, which is more than 1000 years old
When you choose a wine tavern, several factors come to play: (1) The setting and atmosphere of the place, (2) the people you might share your table with, (3) the kind of food that is served and (4) the wines that are offered.
Starting with the setting and atmosphere, Weinhaus Bluhm is a dark, a bit smoky, very basic tavern. It looks today the same as it looked when I first set foot into the Weinhaus Bluhm as a student of macro-economics at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz. The furniture is functional, used, a bit worn down. Weinhaus Bluhm offers a feeling of well-being and it has a lot of charm. In the summer, you can sit on the cobble stone road outside the tavern on communal benches. It cannot get better.
Picture: Weinhaus Bluhm in the summer, with Roland Ladendorf
Remember, all tables in wine taverns are communal tables. You sit with strangers at the same table and are expected to communicate with everyone at the table. Therefore, people also choose a wine tavern for the people they expect to meet and talk to in the tavern.
Weinhaus Bluhm used to be a popular hang for young people with little money and the fans of the local football club Mainz 05, not necessarily interested in wine. This has changed over the the past 7 years since Silvia and Roland Ladendorf have taken over and shifted the focus to top class wines. It has become popular with people from the regional government (Rheinland Pfalz), professors of the Mainz University and journalists of the ZDF (one of the two large state channels in Germany). My hunch is that the quota of these people is rather high. The quota of out of town people and tourists appears to run close to zero.
Picture: Food and wines at Weinhaus Bluhm
The food at Weinhaus Bluhm is simple and very good. It does not reach out for some sophistication, as some of the other wine taverns do. It stays at the more basic range, but at the highest quality level. I can recommend the Mainzer Spundekaes for Euro 4.80, with lots of Bretzels. My wife had the Fleischwurst mit Brot for Euro 4.80 and our friend ate the Handkaes mit Musik for Euro 4.90. Only cold food is served, with the exception of the Rippchen mit Kraut for Euro 5.80. All is prepared in the small kitchen and served by Silvia Ladendorf.
Pictures: Fleischwurst mit Brot, Spundekaes and Handkaes mit Musik
This leads us to the wines served at Weinhaus Bluhm. Here it really stands out, it is a class of itself. Nowhere else in a wine tavern in Mainz you can get wines from German wine stars like Weingut Klaus Peter Keller or Weingut Kruger Rumpf or Weingut Teschke. Roland is a wine aficionado and extremely knowledgeable about the wine scene. And what is most important, you can get a fair number of his world class wines by the glass.
Of course, you can have a decent white wine in a typical Mainzer Stange, i.e. in 0.25 liter glass for around Euro 2.50. But you can also have the entry-level wine of Klaus Peter Keller in the 0.2 glass for Euro 4.50. And, you can have, for instance, a Klaus Peter Keller top wine in the 0.1 glass for Euro 4.50.
In addition to the large selection by the glass, Weinhaus Bluhm offers about 150 wines by the bottle. “I have all the wines of Klaus Peter Keller and Philipp Wittmann on my wine list” says Roland Ladendorf.
Silvia and Roland Ladendorf
Roland Ladendorfer is a wine enthusiast. He has put much thought into his selection of wines which includes both famed and lesser know producers. Most of the producers he knows personally. He is very passionate about his wines and this is one of the reasons that make Weinhaus Bluhm a very special place. Before taking over Weinhaus Bluhm, Roland Ladendorf was a a fruit and vegetable importer in the Frankfurt Grossmarkthalle. He was born in Gonsenheim, a suburb of Mainz.
Picture: Weinhaus Bluhm with Roland (right) and Silvia Ladendorf (left).
Roland is really passionate and a loves his wines. He can guide you through the evening or afternoon. When I go there, I just let him choose the wines. He would start at an entry-level wine and then during the course of the evening take me to his high-end wines, all by the 0.1 liter glass, the Piffchen as the people in Mainz say.
Wines Recommended by Roland
My wife started out with a glass of Sekt from Raumland. The 1997 Raumland Dalsheimer Bürgel Pinot Brut Prestige was just nominated best Sekt of the Year (Gault Millau WineGuide Germany 2011). Roland carries this Sekt.
Germany is one of the largest sparkling wine markets in the world, which is not well known around the world. Germans drink lot of sparkling wines. One out of four bottles of sparkling wine produced in the world is consumed in Germany, roughly 500 million bottles. Sekt is made in all German wine regions, both in the méthode traditionnelle and charmat method.
Picture: Christian G.E.Schiller at Weinhaus Bluhm tasting wines
Raumland belongs to the smaller German Sekt producers. Raumland makes a bit of still wine but is clearly focusing on his world class Sekts. The Raumland Sekts are like Champagnes, without copying them, say his fans.
I started out with the entry level wine 2009 Wagner Stempel Riesling trocken 0.2 for Euro 4.90 and later in the afternoon had the 2009 Wagner Stempel Vom Porphyr or Euro 4.50 for 0.1 liter. Wagner Stempel is one of the three 4 Grapes Gault Millau producers in Rheinhessen; it exports to the US via Terry Theise
Picture: Christian G.E.Schiller with Daniel Wagner of Weingut Wagner Stempel in the summer of 2010 in Germany
NOMA in Copenhagen is arguably the world’s best restaurant currently, ahead of El Bulli in Spain and The Fat Duck in London. During the month of November 2010, Noma offered a German Wine dinner. It included a 2008 Scheurebe from Wagner-Stempel. See more here.
During the afternoon, among others, I also had a 2008 Klaus Peter Keller Riesling von der Fels trocken for Euro 4.90 in the 0.1 liter. Klaus Peter Keller is one of the top 16 German wine makers in the Feinschmecker ranking. See here.
I finished off the afternoon with a Michael Teschke Blaufraenkisch trocken 2007 in the 0.2 glass for Euro 4.50. The wines of Michael Teschke are very special. Michael is pushing the autochtone grape varieties of Rheinhessen, in particular the high-yielder Silvaner, and is not following the general trend of planting Riesling or “international’ grape varieties such as Merlot. Michael Teschke is a bit “crazy’ in his pursuit for bringing out the quality of a – in the view of many – mediocre grape variety to its best.
Pictures: Roland in action
With his pony tail, Michael Teschke presents himself like a 68er. He is also a poet and publishes poems on his web site. I not only like his wines very much, but also his poetry. The Teschke Estate is a family business now in the 3rd generation. The Teschke family comes from an area that since the Second World War is no longer Germany . Michael Teschke took over the Estate in 1998 at the age of 30 after the untimely death of his father. The 7 hectares of land are planted partially with vines that are already 50 years old. I have reported about Michael Teschke here.
If you not want to climb up in the heights of wine pleasure you can also stay with the basic Schoppenweine, served in the Mainzer Weinstange for Euro 2.20 for 0.25 liter.
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In the glass: A 2007 Sylvaner trocken "Vom Langen Sterk" from Michael Teschke, Rheinhessen, Germany