About two hours north-west of Frankfurt lies arguably Germany’s most picturesque wine region along the Mosel river, lined with postcard-perfect villages and famous rows of vines clinging precariously on its steep banks.
As a massive fanboy of the Granite Belt, I’m absolutely ashamed to admit that I’ve never tried one of the first wines that really put the region on the map decades ago – the Ballandean Estate Sylvaner.
A truly delightful afternoon (where did the light go?!) with Mark Ravenscroft of Ravens Croft Wines chewing the cud over vintage, winemaking, gossiping about the industry and going through his barrel samples, all with the rather alien sound of rain pattering down on the winery roof. Sadly no picturesque vistas this time due to the rain and fading light!
Despite a month in the southern hemisphere, it’s still very much #SummerVibes for me, with mid-20s and clear blue skies here in Brisbane, despite the locals insisting it being called “winter”. So I’m cracking open this new release 2021 Vermentino from Golden Grove Estate – because it’s still warmer here than the British summer.
The sea of green you see in front of you is arguably some of the most prestigious patches of vines in the world, right in the heart of Burgundy.
From left to right:
- La Rominée (far left, near, 0.84ha) and Les Richebourgs (far left, far, 8ha)
- La Rominée-Conti (left-center, near, 1.8ha) and Romanée Saint-Vivant (left-center, far, 9.5ha)
- La Grand Rue (center, near, 1.4ha) and Les Gaudichots and La Tâche (center, far, 6 ha)
- Village of Vosne-Romanée in the background
- Aux Malconsorts (right, near; 1er Cru) and neighbouring Nuits-Saint-Georges (far right)
As you can see, these tiny parcels are all very close together! Also, Nuits-Saint-Georges is but a stone’s throw away and it’ss actually quite hard to spot the border. Though wineries are acutely aware of this and are lightning quick to point out, the Appellations of Les Damodes, Aux Boudots and Au Bas de Combe in Nuits-Saint-Georges border on Vosne-Romanee and offer great Premier Cru wines at a tiny fraction of their rockstar neighbour.
So keep an eye out for these, and pick some up slightly smug in the knowledge that you paid about about 1/5000th of the price of a wine from a few yards away.
Tucked away behind the rustic buildings of Vosne-Romanée lies the most valuable 1.8 hectares of vines in the world. With nothing to give it away apart from a small stone plaque and pristine, bonzai-manacured rows of Pinot Noir vines, Romaneé-Conti is the grandest of Grand Crus in the commune, and produces arguably the finest and most expensive wine in the world.
For us mere mortals who can’t afford the average US$20,000 price tag (at a recent auction, a 1945 sold for over $550,000!), this place has become a bit of a Mecca for wine lovers, with travellers around the world converging on this remarkably unassuming (understandably so), sacred patch of land.
Owned exclusively by Domaine de la Romaneé-Conti, only around 5,600 bottles are made a year, thanks to low yields due to the old vines and aggressive pruning. No chemicals or machinery here, everything is done by hand and horses, to minimise the impact of the precious soil.
Famous children’s author Roald Dahl described it as (appropriately) “an orgasm at once in the mouth and in the nose.” Sadly, I am not worthy enough to have tried the wine, instead having to sip as I write my lowly Nuits-Saint-Georges made just a stone’s throw up the road (literally!), so will humbly take pictures and dream that like these vines, one day I will realise my potential.
PS: The economics of a Romanée-Conti wine
While we’re talking about Romaneé-Conti, the economics of the world’s most expensive wine are mind boggling. Doing some rough maths, with an average price of US$20,000 a bottle, means that this single bunch of grapes ripening nicely at the vineyard in this picture is worth around $2,000. That’s around $33 per grape!
Another special wine smuggled all the way back to the UK from the Granite Belt is the Ravens Croft 2019 Pinotage. With only 8 out of about 6,000 vineyards growing Pinotage in Australia, this has to be one of the rarer Strangebirds (alternative varieties) seen in the Granite Belt.
An absolute honour to hang out all day with Brad Rowe from Boireann Winery. You see, Brad’s got some pretty big shoes to fill, as he’s taken over as winemaker from the original owner, Peter Stark since his retirement in 2017.
Today we’re back in the Granite Belt with Tobin Wines and their new 2018 Elliot Reserve Merlot. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing this one progress from barrel to bottle over the last 18 months, and a beautiful end result.
One of France’s newest wine regions, the Alsace was granted AOC status only in 1962, due to its rich in geopolitical history. The region borders on Germany along the Rhine River, and changed hands between Germany and France several times over the past few centuries.
Really excited about getting into this Grüner Veltliner, one of the Granite Belt’s newest alternative varieties, or “Strangebirds” as they call them here. Once thought to be Riesling’s poorer sibling, Grüner tops many restaurant lists being a very food friendly wine. So Queensland restaurants now have no excuse not to stock local. It’s also got an umlaut in its name, so it’s also instantly cool.