12 October 2010

The Moselle Valley - Wine Country

We arrived in the Moselle Valley yesterday, with just enough daylight to pitch our tent at "Camport" a combination campsite and boat dock, then journey into town for some dinner. This morning, we woke up to a bright, sunny day, perfect for exploring one of the tiniest wine regions in Europe.
We crossed the road from our campsite and down a hill to find this single road into town. The man in the picture, who was walking his dog, wore a Yankees cap and was the only human we saw on our quick walk through the village. Then, up the hill we went to explore some vineyards.
I'm not sure if you can tell from the picture, but it was quite the incline getting up to this walkway. It was amazing, and impressive, to think of the people who pick grapes on these hills. Most of the vines looked harvested already, but we managed to grab one, small, sweet yellow grape each.
Along the trail were buckets and tools and a few tractors like this, which were much narrower than the average tractor. We couldn't tell if we were on private or public property, but every worker we passed smiled or at least nodded at us.
Every so often, we would come across a grape stash like the one above.
We descended a hill towards another town, and turned a corner to find this. The place where all those containers we saw were brought. It was the back of Wollenstein's Cooperative, which processed grapes from vineyards all around the Moselle. Our Lonely Planet had warned us not to expect to find too many mom-and-pop vineyards, but we were astounded to see how large the operation actually was. We went around to see if we could get a taste.
It looked like some sort of tour group had just passed through the Cooperative, because both people working there, a man and a woman, were busy cleaning out used tasting glasses and gift wrapping souvenir bottles. The man put his dishes aside long enough to offer us a taste of two Rieslings, one older than the other, from different parts of the Moselle. While we smelled and swirled and tasted them, two things caught our eye.
These plastic "champagne bottles" were set up on the wall to the right of the tasting counter. They read "Party for Kids" and, I hope, were simply bubble bath. But, hey, it's Europe. You never know.
Against the wall to the left of the counter were these plastic jugs, ranging from 2 liters to 10. We recognized their label from the signs we had seen at every cafe, bar and restaurant. Fiederwaissen. We asked about it and were told "it's not juice, but it's not wine." Well, I bet you can guess which purchase we made.
The packaging was just too enticing! We just thought, this not-wine/not-juice screams "camping." When we poured it into a glass we were even more excited about the purchase. For about a week now, I have been trying to figure out what the cloudy, yellow liquid I saw people drinking was. At first we thought it was Pastis, which Merlin said turned cloudy when water was added to it. Then, this morning, I saw an older couple each having a glass beside their coffee and I thought, 'Lemonade?' Turns out, what everyone has been drinking it Fiederwaissen.

Traditionally, Fiederwaissen is the first wine of the year at every winery in Luxembourg. Their first batch is released ten days after the beginning of the annual harvest, to give people a taste of the new year's product.

It's very sweet and has a pungent fermentation smell. We think it will taste better colder. So, our jug of Fiederwaissen is currently sitting behind the back wheel of our car, cooling down from a warm day's travel through the Moselle Valley in our backpack.

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