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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Tasting Wine in the Prince Bishop's Cellar

After touring the massive Residenz complex In Wurzburg, we had worked up a sufficient thirst to join a group headed for a short wine tasting in the basement wine cellar.

Staatlicher Hofkeller Wurzburg is the second largest winery in Germany. The fact that this once served as the Prince Bishop’s Court Cellar gives you an idea of the kind of entertaining that took place upstairs. The fact is that income from wine production helped build Wurzburg and created wealth in the area. The Sun Catcher Ridge that you can see from the rail station is renowned for the quality of its grapes. The massive underground cellar is the kind of place that could inspire a Hollywood epic about knights and princesses. While it is a dark and somewhat foreboding place, happily the cellar has been used for centuries to make wine and not as a dungeon.

We walked down a huge stone staircase, into the underground chamber lighted by hundreds of candles. We passed huge casks, including at least one dating back to the 1500s, to a series of long tables where we sat among a group of mostly retired cruise passengers from the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain.

We were able to try three moderately priced wines. If it felt a little like home it was because root stock from the Finger Lakes in New York was used to rebuild the vineyards after they were destroyed by philoxeria.

Randersackerer Marsberg 2007 Silvaner Kabinett: This dry white has a nice fruit aroma and an extremely crisp taste. This would be the perfect aperitif before a holiday meal.

Hofkeller 2007 Riesling Kabinett: This was a medium dry wine that is fruit forward and lively. The grape offers a nice balance between the sugar and acid content.

Abtswinder Altenberg 2007 Scheurebe Spatlese: This is a sweet and flowery wine. Climate changes mean that local wineries no longer can produce ice wine on a regular basis, but this apple and banana filled wine is clearly designed for the end of the evening.

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