Wild night in Wiesbaden


30 July 2015 Tam's account of her nocturnal adventures while attending the Weinbörse presentation of the latest vintage in Germany at the end of April was too good not to share with everyone. See also Michael's account of some recent tightening up of the VDP rules published yesterday. 

15 June 2015 Links to all of our coverage of Germany's 2014 vintage, including more than 450 tasting notes and vintage overviews, can be found in this guide

Heralded by great clouds of cherry and apple blossom and the first unfurling vine leaves in the countryside around Mainz, the annual VDP Weinbörse is a grand affair designed not only to trumpet the new wine releases of the year, but also to celebrate triumphs, network with old friends and new contacts, and – as I discovered – let the winemaking hair down before the serious business begins.

Due to time constraints, my visit was only the briefest, but the smilingly efficient Simone Zacher of the VDP managed to cram in two producer tastings, an Ortswein tasting (‘Village’ wine, for those getting to grips with the new VDP classification hierarchy), several hours at the Weinbörse itself and, memorably, the Ball des Weines. This is where the luminaries and hoi polloi of the German wine world get together for the seriously big party of the year.

‘Long formal dress’, I was instructed, and thus dusted off my one and only long formal dress hoping desperately that the intervening years had not put a spare tyre between me and a good fit. ‘Lots of good wines and food’, we journalists were told to expect, and so we sallied forth with high expectations in tuxedos and said (less dusty, slightly constricting) ball gown. After a rather confusing exchange with the non-English-speaking taxi driver in which a pink piece of paper was repeatedly waved in the air with plenty of accompanying explanation of which very little was understood by the Danish, Swedish, Norwegian and British journalists present, we arrived at the magnificent Wiesbaden Kurhaus. Still not really the wiser as to the purpose of the pink paper, which I tucked in my purse anyway, we headed up to the towering marbled porticos where hundreds of people milled in their finery (some finery, I might add, more extraordinary than others, most notably a fairy tutu in pink and silver, and a completely see-through dress which had several eyes on stalks and not all of them male).

The Kurhaus alone is worthy of any ballgown. Marbled halls, operatic high ceilings, stained glass: one could wander, a little lost, through the sub halls for quite some time without emerging. It took a bit of time (ok, all the time from our arrival at 8 pm until our departure at 1 am) for us Scandi-Brits to work out exactly what this Ball was all about.

We were swiftly ushered from the door of the banqueting area because we were holding, as it transpired, mere ‘Promenade’ tickets (just worked out who the hoi polloi are?). These allowed us to eat on foot, if we could find the food. We looked for entertainment (vaudeville acts of some sort had been alluded to). A handwritten sign on another door informed us that the disco started at 22:45. Thus far, the tutu was winning on the entertainment front. A giant green elephant, with slightly devilish red eyes, in the centre of the main hall did slightly distract us from the main theme, which turned out to be (as best as we could work out), ‘street market’. We were busied for a few minutes by the conundrum of trying to eat an oyster from a paper plate with a glass of Sekt in the other hand and nowhere to put either down. There is no elegant solution to that, I can tell you, no matter how long or smart the dress.

The wine was, quite frankly, remarkable. There are not many hoi polloi wine events where you can wander up to a bar and opt for a 1970 Auslese. One could not walk 40 metres without bumping into a bar serving generous pours of everything from Spätburgunder to Silvaner, sekt to TBA, Bassermann-Jordan to Tesch (this last presumably a leftover – see VDP minus four, plus three). Liquid heaven for a German wine lover.

The food was equally remarkable. For different reasons. There is something distinctly anti-climactic about sitting in a long black evening gown in a plastic chair faced with a paper plate on which sits a 2 cm slice of chicken wrap. Pass the 1988 Auslese, please.

It transpired, much too late, that we’d missed the cigar room (no great loss, perhaps), the truffle pasta room (a godsend, considering the close fit of the long black dress) and a few other significant food rooms. We also somehow missed the casino, the circus acts and the highly acclaimed Roger Cicero and his jazz band. Perhaps that multitude of bars was rather too distracting. But sitting out on a cold stone bench at midnight, the fountains of the Kurhaus glistening black in the moonlight, glass of Keller Riesling in hand, distant hum of the eighties disco in the air along with the faint smell of cigarette smoke and cold green leaves of spring, was enough to make me stop and breathe in deeply.

Sometimes wine is just about the moment.

PS That pink paper? Was so the driver would recognise us for the trip home. Cinderella, pumpkin-hour transformations and all that…