April 25, 2007

Making wine

As part of our tour of Durbach, Jack took us on a visit to the Schwörer winery, where he first worked after moving to Germany. Although he hadn’t worked there in almost a year, everyone remembered him fondly, and the vintner was generous enough to give us a private tour and a free wine tasting. (Although I’m not sure how fond Jack’s memories were; it looks like pretty backbreaking work.)

First off, the vintner showed us the wine cellar, where they store the wine in new aluminum barrels as well as the traditional wooden wine casks, some of which are a hundred years old. On his first day on the job, Jack had clean these wooden casks, which involved crawling through a little hole no bigger than a cat door and scrubbing the inside by hand -- with nothing but a flashlight to see by. I cannot believe he went back for a second day of this.

We also saw the bottling room where a couple of brawny guys were busy feeding the bottling machine, an insatiable Rube-Goldberg-like contraption that fills a thousand bottles an hour. Jack also used to have this job and explained that during a typical bottling day, he had to work non-stop for 10-15 hours – he even had to eat his lunch at the machine. Here’s a short (15 second) video of how it works: (Unfortunately, I didn't record the moment when the machine went all wonky and started spitting half-filled wine bottles everywhere.)

Finally we tasted some of the wines that Jack’s hard labor helped produce: Kabinett, Rotling, Spätburgunder, Rosé. This was particularly educational for me since my earlier wine vocabulary consisted little more than “Cabernet” and “Pinot Noir.” Anyhow, they all turned out to be wonderfully light, dry, fragrant wines, which would pair nicely with most summer dishes, especially grilled ones. Unfortunately, Schwörer doesn’t export, and as we were on bicycles, I could hardly take a case with me. As it was I had to drink my fill in the winery, which I must confess made the rest of the bike tour a little, um … interesting.

P.S. I apologize for the dryness of this post (no pun intended). I can only plead cultural assimilation, as the Germans are obsessed with documentaries about "how stuff gets made." I swear, Kevin and I have seen dozens of these documentaries in the past few months, and they are always on the most boring topics imaginable: making sausage, making maple syrup, making a stool, making shoelaces, etc. Usually though, if you watch them long enough, you can work up a fair amount of enthusiasm for even the most mundane details. However recently, an episode about tree mold had us completely stumped.

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