Tag Archives: monorack

Monthly Wine Challenge #1: Transportation

My fellow blogger The Drunken Cyclist has put up a nice challenge on his blog the other day. In it, he pretty much encourages us other bloggers to write a themed post to be published by the first week of July around the topic of “transportation”. And, naturally, the post has to be somewhat connected to wine…duh.

The first thing that popped to my mind was the Mosel valley. I have told you many times (and trust me, those who have met me in person suffer even more from that!) how, at times, insanely steep the vineyards at the Mosel can be. How steep, you ask? Well, the Mosel vineyard Bremmer Calmont, which Wikipedia names as one of the steepest vineyards in the world (yes, and that actually means the world and not just America because it is not the “World Series”…), has up to a 68 degrees incline (for the record: 45 degrees is 100% for those who measure it that way). Just sayin’. An article on About.com speaks of “typical inclines between 40 and 60 degrees” along the Mosel. Are you beginning to understand why I am telling you that Mosel wines are seriously under priced? Think of all the hard work that goes into maintainng a vineyard like this…

So how do winemakers transport themselves into these hills to do pruning, and assessing grape quality? And even more importantly, how do they transport the grapes out?

Well, this guy has found the answer:

When you drive down the Mosel on your bike, in your car or on a train, you will notice these metal lines sloping up into the steepest parts. They are necessary to power a piece of machinery that was – I believe – invented in Switzerland: A so called monorack train. The monorack’s track is made of a steel square tube to which a tooth bar is attached on the bottom. The tubes are firmly attached to the ground on poles. The winemakers then hook a monorack train to these rails, complementing the tooth bar. The train is powered by either Diesel, gasoline or even electricity. The tracks use extremely little space and can climb inclines of up to 100%; they even can perform horizontal or vertical curves in a radius of up to four meters. Besides the engine, the train is comprised of a seat or more and a cart-like space to put tools in – or even boxes of grapes at harvest time.

Many steep vineyards still are not using the monorack, or cannot be reached by it because they are too steep. But even with the monorack, harvesting is extremely hard work, getting the grapes from grape pickers and getting them to the waiting monorack tractors. If there are no monoracks, that is even more work. Transportation and labor therefore form very high cost factors in producing these wines – monorack or not.

And what if I tell you that you can still find wines from these winemakers that sell for around $20 to $25. You would call that insane? Well, that is one way. Others call it buyer’s luck…

The monorack is a unique feature in unique landscapes. Keep your eyes open next time you wander the vineyards along Mosel or Neckar in Germany. And admire the guts of the winemakers riding these, or imagine how much fun it would be sitting on one…Monoracks have made transportation in an almost impossible world a tiny bit easier, and at least some more fun.

To me, my love for these wines has in part stemmed from an appreciation for what these vineyards demand from a dedicated winemaker. You can’t use harvesting machinery really, you have to climb slatey soil to reach the steepest outreaches. The prize is clear: Producing some of the proudest, most beautiful and deepest white wines this world knows. I wish we wine drinkers could merit that a bit more…

Please, please watch at least parts of these two videos to see what I mean by gutsy and fun…

First it’s uphill…

And then it’s downhill…

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