Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Wining, Dining, Grooving at the Guntersblum Cellar Lane Festival

Picture: Guntersblum Cellar Lane Festival Wine Glass

The Guntersblum Cellar Lane

The Kellerweg – Cellar Lane - is a Guntersblum peculiarity. For a kilometer or so along the municipality’s raised western edge runs this street where the wine cellars and wine press houses have been set up, safe there from groundwater and flooding from the Rhein river. The oldest cellar bears the date 1600.

Cellar Lane Festival

Yearly since 1964, Guntersblum has been celebrating the Kellerweg Fest - Cellar Lane Festival - on the last two weekends in August. For these two weekends, the winemakers of Guntersblum rearrange their wine cellars and press houses in a way that people can sit down, drink wine, eat hearty food, listen to music or even dance to the music. Most of the wine cellars and wine press houses have a live band at the Kellerweg Fest. The music ranges from traditional wine songs to Rock-N-Roll and today’s techno music - something for every age and taste.

Pictures: Cellar No. 1

The festival starts in the late evening after sunset and runs well beyond midnight. You walk up and down the Kellerweg and sit down where you like the food, the music, the atmosphere and/or the wine. The abundant tables and benches allow for people to settle in for hours of wine enjoyment and catching up with friends. My wife Annette and I started out at cellar 1 (see above picture) and ended at cellar 110e, where we had a very impressive Cabernet Sauvignon and a nice chat with wine maker Ernst Wilhelm Schuppert (see below).


Guntersblum is in the Rheinhessen region, south of Nierstein, on the Rhein river. Rheinhessen is the largest viticultural region in Germany. Every fourth bottle of German wine comes from Rheinhessen. The high-yielder Mueller-Thurgau accounts for about 1/5 of the vineyards. Unlike in other German wine regions, where monoculture of the vine is the norm, here the many rolling hills are host to a wide variety of crops grown alongside the grape. Rheinhessen also has the rather dubious honor of being considered the birthplace of Liebfraumilch. At the same time, Rheinhessen is among Germany’s most interesting wine regions. A lot is happening there. This is not because of the terroir, but because of the people. There is an increasing group of mostly young and ambitious winemakers who want to produce and indeed do produce outstanding wine and not wines in large quantities. I met some of them at the Cellar Lane in Guntersblum.

Guntersblum Wines

The wines offered at the Guntersblum Wine Festival are very affordable. But you won’t find any of the 20 or so winemakers I counted along the Kellerweg among the wineries that appear in the Wine Spectator or other wine guides. But never mind and consider this: The German wine guides, like the Gault and Millau, list about 800 winemakers. The VDP, Germany's elite winemakers association, who account for basically all of the export of premium wines, has 200 members. By contrast, Germany counts about 30.000 winemakers.

Pictures: Music in a Cellar

There are 29000 plus winemakers in Germany that do not appear in any of the wine guides and do not export their wines, but who in their overwhelming majority produce good quality wines. All of the Guntersblum wine makers belong to this group. And, for this kind of social gatherings all you want is a good quality wine at a reasonable price. I saw plenty of those at the Guntersblum Cellar Lane Festival. Moreover, most winemakers in Guntersblum can look back to a long wine making tradition in the family. Here are my favorite winemakers.

Weingut Reineck Baltz

Weingut Reineck Baltz came into being when Christa Reineck married Reinhard Baltz and their parents’ wine estates were merged. The wine portfolio comprises about 20 wines, most of them dry. The prices start at about Euro 3 for the basic wine in the liter bottle and go up to Euro 20 for a 2003 Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese in the 0.5 liter bottle. They even carry a 1992 Riesling/Scheurebe Trockenbeerenauslese on their wine list.

I was in particular intrigued by a 2008 Chardonnay Spaetlese trocken with 6.6 gram remaining sugar per liter and 13.2 percent alcohol for Euro 4.10 ex-winery.

I liked the Eric Clapton songs of the 2-men guitar group that played at Weingut Reineck Baltz.

Picture: The Rheineck Baltz Cellar

Weingut Schwanhof Schuppert

The Schuppert family has been making wine for 300 years. The estate used to include a wine tavern, where Martin Luther reportedly stopped in 1521 on his way to Worms. The wine portfolio comprises about 20 wines, most of them dry. Schwanhof Schuppert does not carry any Literwein. His entry level wines are a Dornfelder and Grauburgunder Kabinett, both for Euro 4 per 0.75 liter.

I tried a 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, Spaetlese trocken, barrique, for Euro 7.30 per 0.75 liter bottle ex-winery. It was ruby red in the glass, wave of cherries and blackberries, with some Madagascar vanilla, good structure, smooth and velvet on the palate, lingering finish, an amazing wine at this price point.

The music was Rock-N-Roll from the 60’s.

Picture: Christian G.E.Schiller with Ernst Wilhelm Schuppert

Weingut Karlheinz Belzer

The vineyard area totals 17 hectares. The Belzers have been making wine for 175 years; this is now the 8th generation. The portfolio comprises about 20 wines, starting with a Sylvaner in the liter bottle for Euro 2.40.

I was impressed by a 2008 Guntersblumer Steinberg Chardonnay for Euro 4.40 ex-winery. This is a dry Spaetlese with 5.8 gram remaining sugar and 7.1% alcohol. A lovely Chardonnay at a very reasonable price.

The music was wine tavern songs.

Picture: Christian G.E.Schiller with Karlheinz Belzer

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1 comment:

  1. Cheers Christian! Seems you had a nice evening. I remember being at this festival many years ago! And it is so correct what you say: so many good wines at good prices in Germany! Good you are out there to spread the message.
    All the best,