Bernkasteler Badstube, 1983. Riesling Spatlese. H. Thaprich| Vintage Wine History and Information

by Paul Kalemkiarian Sr | July 1984

Bernkastel is a jewel of a town on a sharp bend of the Mosel river. The area is known as the Mittelmosel or middle mosel, and is part of the greater Mosel-Saar-Ruhr wine producing region.

It is a jewel in many ways.

First, it is picture-book old German town, historical, quaint, and charming. I was taken by its intimate market square surrounded by timber-framed houses and a Renaissance town hall. If you ever visit, be sure and stop at the charming wine shop around the cor­ner from the square.

Second, it is the home of Germany’s most famous wine: Bernkastel Coktor. Barely twelve and a half acres now, and much smaller previously, the wines from this hillside vineyard in Bernkastel have became famous because of “the amusing and easy to remember name” according to Peter Sichel. The vineyards are protected like the Crown Jewels. A high wall and big padlocked gates was the reception our class from the German Wine Academy received in the summer of 1975. We were late and everybody had gone home I guess!

Third, it is considered by many as the most celebrated single name on the Mosel. Its wines vie for top honors with those of Piesport, Wehlen, and Zeltingen. I vote for Bernkastel after having this month’s import white wine. I discovered it at a special trade tasting held in San Francisco.

Hermann Thaprich is one of the main and reputable growers in Bernkastel. He is viticulturist, winemaker, cellarmaster, and his wife Johanna is president and marketing director it seems. She delivered a charming, home spun speech at the gathering. Later, at an interview, she reassured me that the title of president was truly titular. She was worried if all the chores at home were getting done, while she was out selling wine!

The Thaprich estate only grows Johannisberg Riesling grapes, and has several key vineyards in the Bernkastel area. Members of the Thaprich family have been active in viticulture since 1758.

The 1983 vintage has been touted as a great year for German wines. The harvest produced high quantities of “mit pradikat” wines (quality wine with special designa­tion, according to the German wine quality classifications). This was particularly so in the Mosel region. Our wine is a “Riesling-Spatlese”. This says that the wine is made from the riesling grape exclusively, and that it has a certain amount of sweetness and grape extractive. These standards are by the German wine laws.

The riesling grape is the premier grape of Germany. As a general rule, the best riesling wines come from Germany. They have mastered the grape, and make a variety of styles. A Mosel riesling wine can have a honeyed fragrance, like a bunch of spring flowers. It will have lightness (low alcohol) and fruity acidity that makes it unique.

Our wine is faintly yellow in color, with a tint of green. It has a honey nose, with a dominant ries­ling aroma of the fruit. Exquisite. The taste is slightly sweet, fol­lowed by a very varietal young character of the grape. It finishes with a crisp acidity that balances the sweetness. Medium body. Serve well chilled as an aperitif wine; goes great with smoked salmon. Serve with entrees of smoked trout, or various seafood mousse dishes.

Cellaring Notes: Will develop for 3 to 4 years.

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