Lovely bubbly in the Rhine: tasting fizzy Sext
Chalkmarks Rhineland

I ALWAYS thought there were just three choices when it came to sparkling wine: Champagne, Prosecco and Cava.

Who knew the Germans had their own version? Guten Tag!

Sekt as its called is unheard of at home in the UK. It’s pronounced as sect as in a religious cult but non-believers are welcome to worship this crisp, fruity, golden, bubbly wine that goes down easily in the afternoon sun especially while watching cruise ships pass along the River Rhine.

And this wine miracle can be found just an hour away from Stansted Airport in the romantic Rhineland – an area of vineyards, castles and river cruises.

While Germany might be famous for its beer, don’t come here just to drink the lager.

I’ve come for a long weekend break to the city of Koblenz where the locals are proud to say they come from the wine making region – the home of the Riesling grape.

Us Brits joke tongue-in-cheek that Riesling is best avoided as its considered too sweet, too acidic and simply untrendy. But in fact Riesling is a popular tipple of superstar Spice Girl Victoria Beckham who famously sent out for two bottles of Blue Nun during a photoshoot in 2004. And before her, Rock and Roll legend Elvis Presley drank and signed a bottle back in 1976 before a concert.

So if it’s good enough for millionaire megastars then I’m determined to give it a go. And luckily I don’t have to be pop idol to enjoy it as Riesling sells for around 5euros a bottle.

After checking in to the GHotel, I head for a wine tasting at the National Garden Show just a few minutes away by shuttle bus.

In exchange for 5euros I get a glass of rose, a white medium dry and a sweet dessert wine all produced family run business Weingut-Hagn that has been growing vines for some 300years.

The names of the wines are difficult to pronounce such as Hochgewach but as soon as they’ve popped the cork, our group of drinkers soon forgets.

We turn into instant connoisseurs as we look at the colour, then swirl, smell and finally knock back the wine.

We learn how Riesling is grown on the steep slopes along the banks of the Rhine in slate rocks, which holds the warmth of the sun into the evening. The grapes are then picked later than usual to enhance their sweetness.

Something about this wine tasting inspires me, so at dinner I ask what’s the best drink on the menu.

The Germans seem to have beverages pretty sussed. Not only do they make their own celebrated beer and great wine but they mix drinks well too.

Who knew the Germans had their own version? Guten Tag!

I find out about Riesling cocktails, spritzers and something called Bull’s Blood? This is half-wine-half Coca-Cola-combo, popular in the bars and clubs.

I feared trying this but it was quite delicious.

I also order a Bellini with a peach puree to accompany my huge meal of schnitzel and chips which all came in around 15euros.

Waking up early the next morning I took a river cruise along to German’s second oldest city Mainz, which is listed as one of the world’s Great Wine Capitals.

The trip takes about five hours and best of all is the backdrop of hundred-or-so medieval castles that play peek-a-boo through the hills and vineyards along the Rhine.

The boat allows passengers to stop off along the way offering the opportunity for a spot of castle hopping.

I jumped ashore in the wine town of Bacharach which Les Miserable author Victor Hugo described as “one of the most beautiful cities in the world.”

The antique houses still stand perfectly preserved some crooked over time, packed down narrow lanes and cobbled streets.

Coach loads of tourists arrive here to trek up to castle ruins before tucking into lunch at a Brauhaus for traditional hearty German fare washed down with a glass of Riesling.

When I arrive in Mainz, I head to the market square where there’s a noisy buzz of people drinking wine and eating sausages for lunch. Everybody here knows some English so it’s easy to join in and buy some salami and preztels to gobble up.

The stallholders were selling mainly strawberries and white asparagus, which are all grown locally.

As in Koblenz people from the cafes, bars and restaurants spill out onto the streets giving a warm atmosphere similar to a southern European piazza.

I am aiming for Kupferberg for my first ever tasting of Sekt. It’s in an elegant building where a huge poster reads “The spirits come out of the sparkling wine”.

For the price of 14euros I join a one-hour tour where we are led through Kupferberg’s deep cellars and museum.

It’s then the moment to do the tasting.

We are taken into a small, white painted room with a large plate of preztels on the table. When we’ve all taken our seats a woman appears for the first serving of a dry rose..

We are then treated to a glass of Kupferberg Gold, a blend of different grapes, and then Nostalgia, which is pure Riesling.

As we quaff away we all wonder what kind of nonsense is it that Sekt isn’t sold in Britain? It’s light, sweet, winey, frothy and tasty.

And as the sun sets late in the evening, sitting out in the main square is the place to be. As I won’t be able to buy this delicacy back home, I turn to the waiter and order a bottle of Riesling with preztels.

Victoria Beckham and I have the last laugh.

Book it

Flights are available to Frankfurt-Hahn from Stansted Airport with Ryanair

A night at the GHotel in Koblenz

A cruise along the River Rhine from Koblenz to Mainz costs around 54.20euros return and lasts 5hours 25minutes

Published in the Daily Star

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