On Safari between the vines in Rheinhessen

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Andreas Mohr offers visitors a unique “Winesafari” in an old Land Rover in Lonsheim, Rheinhessen

By Gisela Kirschstein

 

When you think of going on Safari, you think of lions and giraffes, of desert and of Africa. "On the horizon, you can see Frankfurt, and to the left, there's the Rochusberg of Bingen", says Andreas Mohr. We are sitting in a landrover, an open off-road vehicle, complete with huge spare tire on the front. Our view from the roomy plateau in the hills of Rheinhessen reaches hills and small dips, all covered with grape vines. There are hares and hawks to discover, picturesque vineyard huts and a cliff of the primordial sea – but the foremost aim of our chase is the vineyards and wines of Rheinhessen.

Andreas Mohr calls his tours into the vineyards “Winesafari”, his vehicle: a 1988 Land Rover Defender 110. "The car once belonged to the British army, 30 years ago", he recalls. Today, Mohr drives happy tourists through his homeland, giving them a unique approach to the world of winemaking. "It's not really a seminar, and not a true wine tasting either", Mohr reflects: "Initially, I just wanted to show people the beauties of this area."

Andreas Mohr in his Land Rover - photo Kirschstein

In Germany, open trailers, drawn by a tractor, are a favorite vehicle for vineyard tours. "There's no real conversation possible between winemaker and winedrinker in that", says Mohr – let alone the rather old-fashioned image. Mohr’s car is open to the sides and to the top, allowing a wide view. "My comfort zone", he calls the Land Rover, and indeed: In the sheltered room of the car, we chat without hesitation and with true openness. "Here, people dare to ask questions about wine they would never ask in the outside", Mohr reports: "The small room creates trust – in me as a winemaker, but also in the product of wine in general."

Wine teaching, the 38 year old winemaker believes, is much too much scientific, especially in Germany. The technical language creates distance, whereas Mohr wants to reach out to the guest. "In my car, people truly take a new turn into wine knowledge", he says, "every bend offers a new perspective." Meanwhile, we curve through the vine hills and dip into small, hollow ways between.

It was in 2009 that Mohr first had the idea of the Winesafari, yet the way to realization was long – Mohr needed to find his way in winemaking first. His father fell ill with multiple sclerosis when the son was 25 years old, the fate of the winery suddenly on his shoulders. Mohr dropped out of this enology studies and took a master craftsman course instead. After the exam, he treated himself with a trip to California – it turned into an eye opener in terms of wine tourism.

"The winemakers there are so close to the needs of their guests", says Mohr, thoroughly thrilled, "everybody is sincerely welcome, and the region profits from each." Winetourism in Germany, Mohr thinks, has yet to catch up with that: "It has to be thought from the point of view of the guest", Mohr stresses, "I have to stop thinking as a winemaker."

A guest tries cream cheese and paprika in a glass - photo Mohrenhof

In 2015 Mohr finally started the first Safaris, 20 tours added up fast, this year, the number will double, at least. Four wines are served along the 60-kilometer-trip, twice there's local food to go along: a cream cheese with paprika and a ham roasted in barrique barrels, the last comes with a Domina red wine, a specialty of Mohr. His Winesafaris, however, are no sales events, they create experiences in the surroundings of wine – cellar, soil, vineyards and above all landscape. "The drive, that's like a movie turned real, with the guest as movie star", Mohr says, "those pictures, they remain." No wine tasting between walls”, he adds, "can do that."

In the Lonsheim vineyards