AT A GLANCE:
Position: No 21
Name of wine estate: Schloss Johannisberg
Wine region: Rheingau
Standout points: A millennium of viticultural history; almost-immortal single-vineyard Rheingau Rieslings
Winemaker: Gerd Ritter
Wine style: Single-vineyard Riesling
The many ages of Riesling
There’s wine history, then there’s WINE HISTORY. The legend goes that Charlemagne decided to plant the first vines after noticing from his palace in Ingelheim that the snow on the hill beneath Schloss Johannisberg melted before it did anywhere else. Documentary evidence actually shows that Charlemagne’s son, Louis the Pious, certified this monopoly vineyard on August 4, 817 (Schloss Johannisberg was designated as its own, independent appellation in 1971). Skip on a few centuries to 1720 and the whole 40ha vineyard was replanted with Germany’s noblest of grape varieties, Riesling – making Schloss Johannisberg the first vineyard in the world planted exclusively with Riesling.
Sweet, sweet wine
One of Schloss Johannisberg’s biggest claims to fame is that it was the first estate to produce late harvest (spatlese) wine: the year 1775 marked the beginning of the practice of deliberately allowing grapes to develop botrytis, or noble rot, which led to the first lusciously sweet Rieslings that have become so highly prized throughout the world today.
Experience for yourself this millennium-old story and winemaker Hans Kessler’s mesmerising Rieslings with a visit to Rheingau. The surrounding area is perfect for walking and cycling tours, with the impressive Eberbach and Abtei St Hildegard monasteries within easy reach. The nuns who live at St Hildegard are actually a dab hand at winemaking themselves!
To the castle!
When alighting at Schloss Johannisberg, a pleasant lunch at the estate restaurant is very much recommended. Also, be sure to drop in at the Wein-Cabinet, housed in the estate’s former pressing house in the middle of the estate grounds. Here you can see the original wine press where Germany’s first sweet wines were produced. Sample the wines of Schloss Johannisberg and sister estate, GH von Mumm, which is located little more than a stone’s throw away. The castle is a venue of the Rheingau Musik Festival, held from June to August each year.