Ahr Wines

Near to Köln is the confluence of the rivers Ahr and Rhein. Along the steep-sloped Ahr is one the world's most most northern red wine producing regions (Anbaugebiet) producing high-quality wines. About two-thirds of the acreage is dedicated to the Spätburgunder or Pinot Noir grape. Only Württemberg far to the south has a similar predominance of reds. A property schedule from the Benedictine Prüm Abbey (located in the town of Ahrweiler), drawn up in the year 893 AD called the Prümer Urbar, lists vineyards in eight Ahr locations, so at least at this time, winemaking in the Ahr region firmly found in extant documents. The Ahr vineyards thrive in a Mediterranean microclimate. The wine-growing parts of the Ahr valley enjoy protection from the Eifel mountains resulting in this favored meso-climate. Soils vary between slate, basalt and grauwacke clay of volcanic origin. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahr_(wine_region)

Perhaps even before the Romans reached the area (before the birth of Christ), the local inhabitants should have grown grapes and made wine in the Ahr valley; but, no documentation exists to support this supposition until much later. For instance one of the earliest records, the Prümer Urbar, lists the larger vineyards in eight Ahrsiedlungen, including in Ahrweiler, Walporzheim, Dernau and Altenahr (think of Villages in some French wine producing areas). Moreover, apart from the Abbey of Prüm, eleven to twelve other monastery existed, along with some wine-producing manor houses by the year 1200. Indeed, Dernau had 19 landlords, ten monasteries and nine temporal lords controlling about 80% of the vineyards. Today The community of Dernau sits along the popular red wine hiking trail (Rotweinwanderweg).

Ahrweiler passed to the Erzbistum Köln (Archbishopric of Cologne) in 1246. The community had, by the 15th Century, a ruler who was the Elector of Cologne (one of the few entitled to chose the next Holy Roman Emperor). The region yearly was required to deliver 30 cart-loads of wine. Described in a document dated 1417, all the barrels of the community remained sealed until the treasurer representing the Elector chose the 30 that the archbishop would receive.

Red grape varieties, planted after the "Thirty Years' War," were processed into a white Burgundy-like wine. It was pale pink and has sometimes been called Ahrbleichert. In 1794, French troops moved into the area. In the course of the secularization of the property of the Catholic church, the Révolition dissolved (ended) the monasteries and the cathedral chapter, which were generally forfeit to the state. More affordable and richer wines were brought into Germany from France, making it difficult to sell the local produit even in the local market.

After the Congress of Vienna (1815), the Valley of the Ahr became attached to the Kingdom of Prussia. In the next 20 years, viticulture experienced a small flowering. The previously popular imports from France, due to the new protective tariffs, became too expensive to consume. The German domestic market, as consequence, received most of its red wine from grapes grown in the Ahr vineyards. This changed again in 1834 with the accession of Kaiser Wilhelm and the development the German duty-free zone (a customs union called the Zollverein). This broke the trade from the Ahr with the neighboring Belgium. Crop failures then further weakened the economic power of the winemakers. Inadequate wine storage also made for poor sales and profit. The trade outside the region virtually ceased, and many families emigrated to America, now unable put food on the table.

Eventually, out of necessity, the remaining wineries recovered. Eighteen wineries co-founded the Raiffeisen in 1868. Mayschoß became one of the first winegrowers to test the world market. By 1898 a total of 20 wine cooperatives had been established in the Ahr valley. Today the Ahr consists of a single district (Bereich) called Walporzheim-Ahrtal, only one collective vineyard site (Großlage) called Klosterberg, and 43 single-owner vineyards.

Until the 1980's production was mainly a rosé-style, slightly sweet drink from the Spätburgunder. Weingut Meyer-Näkel (Dernau) became the first to craft a darker wine aged in Oak. The top red wines used to be classified as dry (trocken) Auslese, but nowadays they are either called Großes Gewächs or are classified as plain Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete, sold under estate-specific wine names. Ahr Spätburgunder is fragrant and spicy. Its cherry-like flavoring and firm structure supports a lifted acidity (thus a lighter, fresher finish). These wines have a large group of admirers. They can fetch high prices, particularly within the domestic market.

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New: 11/14/10

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