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Martin Kerpen

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.

About six houses to the left, or up river as you drive down to the Uferallee, is the unmistakable home of Martin Kerpen and his family. It’s a sort of Jugendstil (or what we call Arts and Crafts) gingerbread house, half-timbered with a high pointed roof. It really does stick out in company with the stately, sober, slate homes along the river there. The winery is behind it; there is a nice-sized garden, which is, in the summer, filled with tables and is open as a simple café with a number of goodies to be enjoyed with wine.

The winery is not new – it goes back some 250 years and at least eight generations. The estate is a little larger than many Mosel wineries, but that means about 8 hectares and somewhere between 5000 and 6000 cases of wine per year. Given that they make around 15 different wines per year, this is, in fact, a rather small winery.

Great Mosel lives or dies based upon its relationship with the soil, or rather, the slate rock that the river has carved into over thousands of years. Slate gives the feel of the wine, and to some degree its texture. Martin’s wines are perfect renditions of that odd terroir – after all, when you visit the vineyards or try and walk through them, you are walking through countless smallish stones of slate, at times virtually no soil whatsoever. That is the secret of these wines, and the fascination we have for them. There is a perfect balance of acidity and fruit, as well as comparatively low amounts of alcohol. A Kerpen wine should make the drinker always want more, the mysterious flavors of fruit, acid, and terroir always peeking in and out like a cloudy/clear day.

Martin Kerpen has a regular Spätlese and a special one. He puts artwork on the label, a star next to the name of the wine, and thus we know this is something a bit special. More about the German * system here.

We are extremely happy to now take over the distribution of the Kerpen wines, starting with the 2014 vintage. A few basic facts might help. Holdings are in the Graacher Himmelreich and Domprobst vineyards, also the Bernkasteler Bratenhöfchen and, of course, the Wehlener Sonnenuhr. Fermentation is done almost exclusively in large oak fuder.

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