Grapes, Goulash, and a Glass of Wine

Would you get your hands dirty in the name of goulash and a good glass of wine?

One October day in a village along the Rhine River in Germany, this question was presented to me. I looked up at the steep hillsides, full of ripened Riesling grapes just waiting to be picked. Wondering when I would again be in Germany at precisely the day of harvest, I agreed to set my alarm for sunrise and join the local workers on their annual task of hand-picking the Riesling grapes. All I asked in return was a bowl (or two) of homemade goulash and a glass of last year’s Riesling to wash it all down.

The village of Bacharach, Germany and the Rhine River

The story of this Riesling harvest experience was published last weekend in the travel section of the Toronto Star under the title ‘Getting Your Hands Dirty’. Many people travel to Germany for its beer – but few plan a trip to Deutschland solely to drink wine or take part in the harvest. While I didn’t step foot in Bacharach, Germany looking for an adventure, I certainly found one. Here’s a preview of the opening of the article:

BACHARACH, GERMANY—My dirt-covered boots hit the hiking trail in investigation of an unusual aroma. Despite my perch on a hilltop overlooking the Rhine River snaking through the mountains near this lovely town, all I could think about was this curious smell. Discovering its origins began to consume me and like a resilient search dog, I kept following the scent, hoping it would grow stronger. Towards the village, it began to intensify, saturating my nostrils. I couldn’t identify the unfamiliar scent, but its luster drew me straight to an open door.

Vines of Riesling grapes

This is how I met Hans, a friendly wine maker who also owns a charming guesthouse in the village of Bacharach. If you aren’t interested in participating in the harvest, there are plenty of restaurants here to sample the wine without doing the grunt work. I also enjoyed the fragrant hiking trails, the beautiful architecture, and spending a couple nights in the castle hostel that is perched on top of a hill overlooking the entire village.

The time I spent in Bacharach is a perfect example of how travel changes you. Not only do I now look at Riesling wine in a new way — and chuckle to myself about being yelled at by the big German foreman when I missed a few bunches of grapes — but I also gained a new way of traveling in this small town in the Rhine Valley.

In trips past, a scent may have drawn me to the door of a winemaker like Hans, but I wouldn’t have crossed the threshold. Ever since the rich results of this experience, I hesitate less to walk right in.


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