Base members assist with harvesting Eifel gold

  • Published
  • By Iris Reiff
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
A group of approximately 50 Sabers, most of them assigned to the 52nd Medical Group, the 52nd Fighter Wing Chapel and the 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs Office, visited a local vintner's estate Oct. 17 in the Mosel community of Osann-Monzel to offer their assistance with the ongoing harvest there.

The invitation was extended by Staff Sgt. Joseph Cipolla, 52nd Medical Support Squadron, who is married to the daughter of the "Sailors" wine estate in Osann-Monzel.

According to Sergeant Cipolla, the plan was to have 10 colleagues visit. Surprisingly, the group amassed to more than 50 people. The volunteers brought both their assistance and interest in finding out more about the Mosel wine culture to the vineyard.

Sergeant Cipolla welcomed his helpers, provided a short tour of the estate and invited them to wine tasting. He also explained the mechanics of crafting a tasty wine.

The reason that grapes are growing on a hill is because of the nearby water, the slope's draining qualities and the sun, he said. Growing at an angle, the grapes sit in the sun all day. The Mosel provides an extra benefit and acts as a mirror; they receive sunlight twofold as the vines sunbathe directly and in the reflection.

Higher quantities of rain can dilute the amount of sugar in the fruit. It takes 120 days of sunshine to make an outstanding German wine, and this summer had been particularly sunny.

Large amounts slate and stone can be seen on the hillside. The slate, a rocky soil, is one of the most important factors of producing the right wine. It retains the water when it rains, shields the roots and retains the daytime heat.

Chaplain (Capt.) Dondi Costin, 52nd Fighter Wing chaplain, opened the event with a prayer.

Then, members were able to cut the grapes in steep vineyards. Children helped pour small buckets into a trailer that was later transported to the processing estate. Base members were able to see some of these processes before they moved on to wine tasting set up in appreciation of their help.

2009 Local Wines

According to German wine experts, the 2009 crop is expected to be good. There was plenty of sunshine this summer, a local wine grower said. The harvest, however, will be relatively small. Hopefully, for the wine consumer, prices will remain affordable.

The popular Riesling grape is presently being harvested, and local vintners are eager to start the process. It is possible that periods of rain may force them to harvest grapes earlier than expected. The Mueller Thurgau grapes have already been harvested and show a good concentration of sugar, more than compared to previous years. The same applies to the red wine grapes, such as Dornfelder and Spaetburgunder, which have become more and more popular on the Mosel.

"(Give us) more sunny days in October, and we'll be very happy," the wine grower added.

What makes a good wine? Along with the soil, climate and landscape, harvesting practices for the grapes at various degrees or ripeness will determine the properties of the wine. Grapes need the right amount of sun and rain to ripen. Germany has nearly 100,000 hectares (240,000 acres) of vineyards. About 88 percent of this area is planted in white and 12 percent in the red grape variety.
Spangdahlem people are fortunate to be located at the doorstep of a delightful wine region where some of the finest if not the best white wines in the world originate.

The wine growing area of this region adds up to more than 25,000 acres, 75 percent of which are covered with Riesling vines, the rest cultivated with Mueller-Thurgau, Elbling and other varieties. The average annual yield is about 22,000,000 gallons of wine.

On the Upper Mosel, Elbling grapes grow and yield rich flavors on the shell-lime soil. Burgundy types, such as Auxerrois and Rulaender are also found there, as well as the Mueller-Thurgau grape. According to wine geography, the Upper Mosel is limited to the land on the German side of the river, from Perl to Konz, where the Aar River flows into the Mosel. Light, volatile wines are grown in this location, enjoyed as table wines or used for basic wines in the production of "Sekt" or sparkling wine.

The Saar wines of outstanding reputation are distinguished by their fine bouquet and piquant taste, a typical characteristic of the Riesling-grape. The light-clay slate soil is responsible for the fine breeding shown in the wines in addition to their delicate and refreshing acidity.

Best known vineyards in the local area

Among the best-known vineyard sites of the Saar are Scharzhofberg, Wiltingen, Kanzem, Ockfen, Ayl, Serrig, Oberemmel and Niedermennig. The city of Trier, metropolis of the Mosel wine trade and scene of important wine auctions, is also a large center of wine growing. Its vineyards have a good reputation.

On the banks of the Ruwer, a small tributary of the Mosel, wines famous among connoisseurs are cultivated in vineyards that stretch for about four miles. They're distinguished from Mosel wines by their peculiarly earthy and spicy taste.

The vast area from Trier to Koblenz, where the Mosel joins the Rhine, has too many wine-growing villages to list. Each town and village has very fine vineyards, many with a world-wide reputation for top-quality wines.

Official harvesting times

For the earlier grapes, such as the Mueller-Thurgau or Elbling, the Weinlese, or grape harvest, began in September and recently ended. Grapes that need a little longer to ripen, such as those of the popular Riesling vines, are harvested from mid-October until mid-November.

Starting times for the harvest in a geographic area are always decided by the local government. Then it's up to a commission of wine growers within that area to determine individual harvesting times, which may vary from village to village.

Mosel Wines

Mosel wines are characterized by their fine bouquets, golden color and aromatic, piquant taste. Some Mosel wines are robust and lively with high acidity; others are stimulating with a fruity taste, and there are even light wines.

Although Mosel wines have much in common, they differ from village to village and vineyard to vineyard depending on the soil. Famous names include Wehlen, Bernkastel, Uerzig, Zeltingen, Piesport, Graach and Trittenheim. Wines from the Saar and the Ruwer closely resemble those of the Mosel family.

A distinctive product of this region is wine from the Riesling vine. The grapes of the Riesling vine stock are small and contain a large number of seeds. They need a longer time to ripen, are harvested in late October, November and even December, and do not produce as much juice as other types of grapes.

Riesling juice is very concentrated and produces a full and rich wine taste. Consequently, wines made from Riesling vines are more expensive.

Wines are divided into quality categories. They're continually controlled and must pass a critical examination before they can be sold. Quality wines with special attributes are top wines and bear a special name or domination, exactly defined by law.

Since 1971, the label clearly indicates the quality category. Denominations and their characteristics are:

Kabinett: The elegant nature wine harvested during the general vintage time; usually in October.
Spaetlese: Wine made from grapes picked after the completion of the normal harvest, giving special bouquet and fruit flavor.
Auslese: The ripest bunches of grapes are individually selected, picked and pressed. These grapes produce noble wines for special occasions.
Beerenauslese: Wine made from over ripened but sound berries selected from each bunch of grapes.
Trockenbeerenauslese: The most precious wine made from a special selection of over-ripe almost raisin grapes. The richest, sweetest and finest wine.
Eiswein: Ice wine is made from vintage grapes harvested in a special way. The wine is made from grapes picked and pressed while frozen. Consequently, the pressing produces highly concentrated "must" or sugar to water content, retaining the frozen water as ice particles with the husks of grapes. Eiswein is a fascinating wine because of its very special characteristics.

One thing to remember is the region where the grapes are grown. In the case of Mosel wines, labels read "Mosel-Saar-Ruwer," indicating the grapes were grown on the Mosel or in the smaller valley regions of the Saar and Ruwer rivers where the Riesling wine flourishes. Also, the bottle corks must be kept moist and air-tight. For this reason wine should be stored horizontally. If the word "Natur" appears on the label, it indicates no sugar was added to the wine.