The great wall of vineyards that stretches between Bernkastel and Zeltingen, roughly five miles in length, is surely one of the most impressive group of vineyards in Germany. It includes four villages. In addition to the two mentioned above, the villages of Graach and Wehlen complete the picture. Only Wehlen, which, these days is probably the best known of the villages, is on the other side of the Mosel. The Wehlen Bridge, a graceful suspension bridge, crosses to the middle of town, and if you are driving from the Bernkastel side and cross that bridge, you must make an almost U-Turn to the right, drive down to the little Ufer, or the small road that runs along the river at Wehlen, on which many of the great estates in the Mosel face the river and the magnificent vineyard.
One of these estates, about four houses down from the bridge, is the home of Eduard Hauth-Kerpen, cousin of Martin Kerpen, whose home is two doors farther down. Some years ago, Edward, who is considerably older than Martin, decided to retire and allow Martin to vinify the wines of his estate, which he has now been doing since 2007. Eduard was very talented about making the wines, but not particularly good at selling them. Thus he thought that his well-known younger cousin could do a much better job. The holdings are quite small, and though Martin’s is larger (combined they only total about 7 hectares), these are very small parcels, typical of the Mosel. There has been a slight interruption in the importation of these wines as the importer has switched to Winemonger, but that is now complete and the wines are once again available.
Hauth-Kerpen has vineyards both in Wehlen and Graach as well as a little in Bernkastel. In Wehlen, the holdings are in the sirloin part of the vineyard, just to the right and at the same level or lower than the famous sundial (Sonnenuhr) as you face it from Martin’s home. The hillside is imposingly steep and requires handwork. The soil, such as it is, is all crushed blue (Devonian) slate, the same material which a number of the homes in the area are made of (not Martin’s –it looks like a gingerbread house!) The slate goes quite deep into the mountainside, and the roots must work hard to penetrate the cracks and fissures. Some will go down as far at 75 feet. This is what gives those unique flavors and makes the Mosel so special. In Graach, the Himmelreich is not quite as steep, at least in most of it, and there is a sort of wavering quality to the land. But again, it is all slate and not easy to farm.
Hauth-Kerpen is quite traditional in vinification, though stainless steel has replaced wood fässer, (large oak casks). The winery itself is more or less under the family’s living quarters. It is quite small and simple. Hauth-Kerpen’s wines tend to have a little more body than many Wehleners, a little more ‘juice’, a little more weight. Still, the style of the winery is light, bracing, refreshing, and amazingly long lived. The dry wines retain wonderful balance with good fruit and enough acidity, but not too much which would give them what we call the unripe lemon juice effect. The classy, later harvest and sweeter ones will repay long aging and a good deal of patience to show at their best, though drinking them young is surely no sin.