21 August 2011

A Fine Wine, A Fine Time

The Wine Cellars of the Reigning Prince (or the ‘Hofkellerei’ as they are more casually called) are a point of pride for Liechtensteiners – or at least the ones that write the tourist brochures. The cellars themselves don’t seem to be open to the public, but a tasting room/small shop with wines from the prince’s private vineyards are still worth the visit. Especially if you happen to arrive on a day that was anything like ours.
First of all, the surrounding vineyard is gorgeous. I suppose when you own the whole country, you can get your pick of real estate. Every other time we’ve visited a wine cellar for a tasting, we’ve felt almost delinquent wandering through the vines beforehand. Here, we knew we were welcome. A sign directed us in from the sidewalk and along a walking path through the vineyard.
Each row was bookended by roses, yellow or red, and being as it is almost harvesting time, the grapes were beautifully ripe. Information boards describe each month in the year of a grape grower. Unfortunately, it was all in German. The castle loomed above and the weather was just absolutely perfect.
We were ushered into a room by a friendly carrot-haired woman who apologized for a large group already inside. We followed her to the bar as the group shuffled about in a flurry of throat clearing. Then, all the moving parts fell into place. The women sat around a table, the men stood in a circle; one fellow clinked his glass with a pen and made a short speech. And then the singing began.
In four part harmony, they sang a long, upbeat folk song. They looked around the room at each other and reverently serenaded their glasses, whooping or yelping at crescendos. “I am so sorry! They are crazy!” our guide said, laughing, rolling her eyes and going about her pouring business. She raised her voice over the chorus to describe what we were tasting. This sort of thing must happen all the time for her. I wanted to tell her that the closest thing you’d get to this in America is a particularly good rendition of Happy Birthday with someone going up an octave at the end. In other words, we didn’t mind at all.
On to the pour. The white wines from right there in Vaduz were sold out, but we got to taste some Sauvignon Blanc made from Austrian grapes. The prince has private vineyards there, too. It was delicious and was followed by a Pinot Noir that had been truly born and raised in Liechtenstein. She offered us a dessert wine taste, but we declined. She had a very heavy-handed pour and we had some hiking to do.

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