Each of Germany’s 13 wine regions has its own chapter of Verband Deutscher Prädikats- und Qualitätsweingüter (VDP), formerly Verband Deutscher Naturweinversteigerer, established in 1910. The Mosel region – until 1 August 2007 called Mosel-Saar-Ruwer – has two: Großer Ring VDP Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, comprising 31 estates; and Bernkasteler Ring, comprising 34 estates.
The predecessor of Bernkasteler Ring, Vereinigung der Weinbergbesitzer der Mittelmosel, was established in 1899 in Bernkastel-Kues. In 1978, it merged with Trierer Ring and became Bernkasteler Ring. It is is the oldest wine association of Mosel and indeed Germany. Most of its member-estates are quality-driven family-owned smallholdings, some with as little as 2ha of vineyards. Unlike VDP member-estates, Bernkasteler Ring member-estates overwhelmingly focus on Riesling, some even plant Riesling exclusively.
Bernkasteler Ring began the tradition of wine auction in 1901, and in 1923 stipulated that all wines to be auctioned must have been blind tasted beforehand. In 1924, it pioneered the auction of wine in bottles, as opposed to fuder (1,000L tanks) in the past. Due to war efforts under Nazi rule, Bernkasteler Ring was allowed to continue auctions until only 1942, when in fact 70 percent of its produce was confiscated for military consumption in October 1941, when the German forces were at the gate of Moscow.
Whether those wines were for the officer corps or enlisted men is difficult to ascertain, but the average Vichy French soldier would be drinking just simple reds from Languedoc-Roussillon, which commanded much lower prices than the fine Riesling produced by Bernkasteler Ring member-estates. It was not until 1948 and 1949 that Bernkasteler Ring hosted its first post-war meeting and auction respectively.
In 2005, Bernkasteler Ring created its own Großes Gewächs classification, with such stringent criteria as vineyards must be southeast- to-southwest-facing with minimum 30 degrees gradient, and that all grapes must reach at least 93 degrees Oechsle – i.e. Auslese level – without chaptalisation, a word that causes as much moral outrage as caramel does in brandy and whisky.
Dr. Pauly-Bergweiler is one of the leading member-estates of Bernkasteler Ring. In 1997, along with Markus Molitor, it shattered the previous record of most expensive Germany wine at auction, at 1,400 Deutsche Mark. Some 75 percent of its vineyards are classified as Steillage (literally: steep slope). Its mere 16ha are scattered in 15 different vineyards, each with its unique character, in a list of familiar sounding towns such as Bernkastel, Brauneberg, Erden, Graach, Ürzig, Wehlen and Zeltingen. Dr. Karl Christoffel is a private label by Dr. Pauly-Bergweiler for the regional market.
Glossy citrine with light golden reflex, the aromatic nose offers apricot, custard apple, wet stone and daffodil. With energetic acidity and fresh minerality, the succulent palate delivers mandarin, nectarine, crushed shells and white rose. Off-dry and medium-bodied at 9%, the stony entry carries onto a rich mid-palate, leading to a long finish.
Luminous citrine with clear aureolin reflex, the intense nose presents longan, apricot, seashells and frangipane. With Vibrant acidity and clean minerality, the corpulent palate supplies persimmon, nectarine, crushed rock and jasmine. Off-sweet and medium-full bodied at 8%, the fleshy entry continues through a honeyed mid-palate, leading to an adorable finish.
Radiant citrine with deep golden reflex, the alluring nose effuse guava, pineapple, crystallised tangerine, white clover honey and fragrant minerals. With abundant acidity and structured minerality, the urbane palate emanates mango, rambutan, dried mandarin, lemon custard and fine chalk. Fully sweet and full-bodied at 8%, the rounded entry evolves into a chiselled mid-palate, leading to a persistent finish.
Jacky I.F. Cheong is a legal professional by day and columnist by night. Having spent his formative years in Britain,
France, and Germany, he regularly writes about wine, fine arts, classical music, and politics in several languages