• Short Summary

    For the last ten years 300 or so British soldiers have each year taken two weeks leave to help gather the grape harvest of the Middle Mosel, an area centred around the famous wine town of Bernkastel.

  • Description

    For the last ten years 300 or so British soldiers have each year taken two weeks leave to help gather the grape harvest of the Middle Mosel, an area centred around the famous wine town of Bernkastel.

    The soldiers, mainly from units serving in West Germany with the British Army of the Rhine, spend the fortnight living as part of German wine growing families.

    Picking grapes in the steep slate hills is hard work. Full hods, used to take grapes to central collecting points is the vineyards can eight up to a hundredweight. For this the soldiers get paid about four pounds a dy as well as getting free board and lodge -- and, of course, the chance to rink some of the finest Mosel wines.

    Work in the vineyards goes on from dawn to dusk with a short break for lunch and a few glasses of wine. The language barrier is no great problem, as a hungry soldier will always make himself understood whatever country he is in.

    In the evenings the days pickings are pressed and the juice stored in large vats to ferment. Modern technology has done away with the picturesque scene of treading the grapes with bare feet. Stainless-steel hydraulically or electrically powered presses take a fraction of the time of traditional methods, and are far more efficient.

    It takes three years for a vine to grow to maturity when it will produce enough grapes to make about a quart of good quality wine. In poorer years, when there is plenty of rain, the same vine could produce up to a gallon of juice, but the quality will be correspondingly lower.

    The best Ricsling grapes are grown on the steepest slate hills that face south. In good years, long, hot and moderately dry summers, excellent quality wine is produced. The years 1959 and 1971 are two of the best years in recent times.

    Unlike France, German wine law does not classify vineyards, so, in theory, and German vineyard can produce top quality wine. Laws passed in 1971 Specified three basic grades of wine, Tafelwein, an ordinary wine that is not allowed to use a vineyard name; Qualitatswein which comes from particular regions and must have a minimum ??? although sugar can be added to improve quality; and Qualitatswein ???it Pradikat which may not have sugar added to it and can be only made in good years when the grapes are really ripe.

    Within the last category five classifications are made: Kabinett the basic grade; Spatlese; Auslese; Beerenauslese; and Trockenbeerenauslese, a top quality wine which is fairly rare and very expensive. Most wine produced in the ??? area are of the first three types, with vineyard cellar prices ranging from about 50 pence a bottle to two pounds.

    Harvesting starts in the latter half of October and lasts for at last two weeks. This is the culmination of the year which started the previous winter with the pruning o the vines. During the following months the vines are sprayed several times for protection against disease and insects.

    With the lower grade of wines fermentation is complete is four weeks or so. The top grades can take up to a year because of the high sugar content. Government inspectors classify the barrels of wine and register each batch of wins bottled to ensure quality control.

    From the sediment loft in the wine barrels and from the crushed grapes the wine growers make a type of schnapps known to soldiers who have been picking as Mosel whisky.

    In contrast to most French wines, the alcoholic content of Mosel wine is low, about the same as bottled beer, and, according to the experts of the Mosel, better drunk alone, without food, so that the flavour can be appreciated to the full.

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    Reuters - Including Visnews
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