Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Wines of Loreley, Germany

Pictures: Lorelei P.F. Schiller with her proud parents Benjamin and Joelle Schiller in front of the Loreley Rock (above) and Loreley Wine (below)

I became a proud grandfather of little Lorelei P. F. Schiller last year. Of course, when in Germany, we had to go to the Lorelei (also spelled Loreley) rock in the Rhine valley. The Loreley rock is located in the middle of one of Germany’s 13 wine regions, the Mittelrhein and there is plenty of Loreley wine.

The Loreley Rock

The Loreley is a rock on the eastern bank of the Rhine River near St. Goarshausen, about 80 km away from Frankfurt, which soars some 120 meters above the waterline. It marks the narrowest part of the river between Switzerland and the North Sea. A very strong current and rocks below the waterline have caused many boat accidents there.

At the southern slope of the rock, a sevenfold echo could once be heard, but nowadays this is drowned out by the noise of traffic. The rock and the echo it creates as well as the boat accidents have inspired various tales.

One of the legends is that Loreley, a beautiful young maiden, committed suicide because of an unfaithful lover. She jumped from the steep rock into the Rhine River, thus killing herself. She then became a siren, distracting shipmen with her hypnotizing voice and creating the boat accidents.

Picture: View of the Rhein Valley from the Loreley Rock

The Loreley rock itself has a visitor's platform on top and an open-air theatre a few hundred meters away. The 65km long Rhine Gorge between Bingen/Ruedesheim in the south and Koblenz in the north, with the Loreley rock in the middle of it, is a Unesco World Heritage area with 40 castles and fortifications, mostly built during the middle-ages, dotted along the precipices above the river.

Loreley in the Literatur

In 1801, German author Clemens Brentano wrote the poem “Zu Bacharach am Rhein”, which first created the story of an enchanting female connected to the rock. In the poem, the beautiful Lore Lay is falsely accused of maliciously bewitching men and driving them to ruin; later pardoned and on the way to a nunnery she passes and climbs the Lorelei rock, watching out for the lover who abandoned her, and falls to her death; the rock still retained an echo of her name afterwards.

Brentano's poem was followed by many other authors who took his story and wrote versions of their own. Most famous is the poem “Die Lore-Ley” by Heinrich Heine. In fact, it was with Heinrich Heine's 1823 poem about a virgin combing her golden hair with a golden comb, while singing a song with a haunting melody and Friedrich Silcher's setting of it to music a year later, that the legend really took off.

Ich weiß nicht was soll es bedeuten
Daß ich so traurig bin;
Ein Märchen aus alten Zeiten,
Das kommt mir nicht aus dem Sinn.
- Heinrich Heine, 1823.

I cannot divine what it meaneth,
This haunting nameless pain:
A tale of the bygone ages
Keeps brooding through my brain.
- translation: Mark Twain, 1880.

Picture: Mark Twain's Translation of the Lore-Ley

Other works about, or referencing, the Lorelei include:

# George and Ida Gershwin wrote the song Lorelei for their musical Pardon My English (1933).
# Mark Twain references the Lorelei in A Tramp Abroad.
# Paul McCartney sings "someone's on a mission to the lonely Lorelei" in his 1998 single Beautiful Night, which can be found on the 1997 Flaming Pie album.
# The Scorpions released an album in 2010 called Sting In The Tail containing a song called "Lorelei".
# Cole Porter wrote a song 'Lorelei', notably sung by Ella Fitzgerald.

The Mittelrhein Wine Region with Loreley, Loreleyfelsen and Loreley Edel

The Loreley rock is part of the Mittelrhein wine region (Anbaugebiet), one of Germany’s 13 wine regions. Mittelrhein is divided into two districts (Bereich), 11 regional sites (Grosslage) and 111 single vineyard sites (Einzellage). At each level, “Loreley” is used to name wine areas.

(1) Bereich Lorelei - One of the 2 districts of the Mittelrhein is called Loreley. It comprises by far the greatest part of Mittelrhein and follows the Rhine River from the town of Unkel in the north, about 17.5km south of Bonn, to Lorch in the south, where the Mittelrhein begins.
(2) Grosslage Loreleyfelsen – One of the 11 regional sites (Grosslage) is called Loreleyfelsen (Loreley rock).
(3) Einzellage Lorey Edel - Finally, at the lowest level, one of the single vineyards of St. Goarshausen, where the Loreley rock is situated, is called Loreley Edel (Loreley Noble).

Picture: Mittelrhein and the other German Wine Regions

Beginning just below Bonn and extending about 100 km south along the banks of the Rhine, the Mittelrhein is a beautiful region of steep, terraced vineyards and some of the wine world's most splendid scenery, medieval castles and ruins clinging to rocky peaks, sites of ancient legends where Siegfried, Hagen and the Loreley seem to spring to life.

Nearly three quarters of the vineyards are planted with Riesling. Viticulture was established in the region by the Romans, once they had established the cities of Cologne (Colonia) and Bonn (Bonna). The region saw its heyday in medieval times, at a time when the Cistercian order built the Kloster Heisterbach abbey above Oberdollendorf. The small town of Bacharach is an ancient centre of the wine trade. The name of the town of Bacharach comes from the Roman "Baccara" = "Altar of Bacchus".

The Mittlerhein below St. Goarshausen is one of the few vineyards in the world where phylloxera has not yet struck. Small, family-run wineries are typical of the region. But winemaking in the Mittelrhein is shrinking at a rapid pace. Today, with 500 hectares vineyard area, it is less than 25% of what it was 100 years ago. The slopes are extremely steep, discouraging young winemakers to continue with the tradition of their fathers, while consumers are flooded with reasonably priced and good quality wines from all over the world.

Winzergenossenschaft Loreley Bornich

We chose to buy our wines for the baptism of Lorelei at the wine cooperative (Winzergenossenschaft) Loreley in Bornich. It has a very good reputation for producing decent wines. The wine cooperative Lorely was founded in 1935 and has 60 members today. It is about 2 km away from the Loreley rock. Its vineyards total 6 hectares in the villages of Bornich, St. Goarshausen und Dörscheid.

Christian G.E. and Annette Schiller tasting Loreley Wines at the Winzergenossenschaft Loreley Bornich

All the vineyards of the wine cooperative Loreley are located in the Bereich Loreley. The wine cooperative’s Großlagen are Loreleyfelsen and Herrenberg. The single vineyards are: St. Goarshaeuser Burg Katz (1.2 ha), St. Goarshäuser Loreley Edel (1,2 ha), Bornicher Rothenack (3,3 ha), Dörscheider Kupferflöz (0,1 ha).

Grape varieties: 77 % Riesling, 7 % Kerner, 7 % Müller-Thurgau, 8 % Spätburgunder and 1 % Regent.

1200 people live today in Bornich, which was first mentioned in 1138 as Bornacho.

The wine cooperative has currently about 30 wines in its portfolio. These range from the entry level sweet-style and dry white wines in the liter bottle for Euro 4,00 to a noble sweet 2003 Bornicher Rothenack Riesling Beerenauslese for Euro 23.50 in the 0.375 bottle.

We bought 6 cases of the 2009 Loreley Riesling trocken (Euro 4.20/ in the 0.75 bottle) and 3 cases of the 2008 Spaetburgunder trocken (Euro 5.50/ in the 0.75 bottle) – both decent, good quality wines, just perfect for the reception and lunch following little Lorelei’s baptism.

Picture: The Loreley Wines we Bought

In addition, the 2009 St. Goarshaeuser Loreley Edel Riesling Auslese for Euro 6.70 in the 0.75 bottle was a steal. Finally, the wine cooperative Loreley also produces a Loreleysekt for Euro 8.80 in the 0.75 bottle, as brut, trocken and lieblich. The Sekt is made in the traditional method, i.e. the process used in the Champagne region of France to produce Champagne. We bought 4 cases of the brut version. It is excellent.

Winzergenossenschaft Loreley Bornich
Winzerweg 1, 56348 Bornich, Telefon 067 71/21 42, Fax : 06771/802730 winzergenossenschaft@bornich.de

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you, kind sir, for a very informative blog post. My sister is a wine enthusiast (I dare not say expert), and we plan to travel to Germany in April, 2017. If we fly into Frankfurt's airport, and rent a car to drive to the Loreley Rock, would we be able to see tour wineries near St. Goar or St. Goarhausen? Would we need to park and ferry across? Could you advise me on the logistics? Thank you. Reply to tracydunnbooks@gmail.com, as your preference.