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ProWein 2015: Visiting Wineries in Rheingau Region

Posted: Monday, 18 May 2015 12:21

ProWein 2015: Visiting Wineries in Rheingau Region

May 18: The trip to Mittelrhein was followed by a visit to the Riesling region of Rheingau, tasting wines of Scloss Vaux, Baron Knyphausen, August Kesseller, Kloster Eberbach, Peter Jakob Kühn, Rheingauer Leichtsinn at Eltvinum and Künstler, writes Subhash Arora who attended ProWein 2015 earlier and feels high quality wines from Rheingau estates, especially the VDP members, deserve a lot more place on our palates

Rheingau is one of the smallest but important regions of Germany’s 13 classified wine regions. Situated across the River Rhine from the Mittelrhein region we had visited a day earlier, we had checked in at the convenient and comfortable Hotel Nassauer Hof in Kiedrich for a day-and-a half trip exploring this exceptional region for quality wines.

The classic Rheingauer wine is a dry Riesling with crisp acidity and aromas of citrus fruits and slightly smoky minerality. But the region also produces fine sweet botrytised Riesling which constitutes 80% of the crop with Pinot Noir, Spätburgunder being  a distant second. The region constitutes 3% of the total German vine surface area at about 7800 acres, slightly less than that in India. Yet it is extremely well-known for high quality wines that are good value-for-money too. Here are the wineries and several stops we made on the way:

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Sektmanufaktur Schloss Vaux

Contact: Christoph Graf

Kiedricher Strasse 18a, 65343 Eltville

Phone: + 49 6123 62060;

Schloss Vaux was founded in Berlin in 1868 to produce sparkling wine using ‘Methode Champenoise-second fermentation in the bottle’ method. In the 1880s Chateau de Vaux situated at the shore of Mosel, close to the city of Metz was purchased. But when Metz became a part of France again after World War I, the sparkling-wine- producer moved to the current location in Eltville, a late nineteenth century villa that looks like a big residence from outside.

Schloss Vaux is known for high class sparkling wines, produced from grapes grown in the well-known vineyards of the Rheingau. As Christoph Graf, a fellow judge at MundusVini International Wine Competition explains, ‘Sektmanufactur’ means a sparkling wine producer owned by a single family and not a mass manufacturer of Sekt as we might normally infer in the English speaking world. In fact, the winery produces high quality sekts only by using primarily Riesling but also other grapes and cuvee using other grapes.

Every bottle including the entry level Schloss Vaux is put on the lees for at least 2 years. A total of 350,000 bottles are produced and sold at a price of €12 to €30 for a top end cuvee. The company owns about 7 hA and buys grapes for the rest from respectable vineyards.

We tasted 5 different sekts including a Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc and a couple of Rieslings. The Steinberg Riesling Brut 2012 was exceptionally delicious. A much respected sparkling wine label for high quality caterings, bars and restaurants. It would fall under specialty import for discerning restaurants in India with clients who  recognise good Riesling, especially from Rheingau.

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Baron Knyphausen
And August Kesseller

Contact: Heide Hennecken

Draiser Hof – Erbacher Str. 28, 65346 Eltville-Erbach

Phone: + 49 6123 790710,

Baron Knyphausen  is a  winery belonging to a nobility and is also a member of the prestigious VDP since 1972. In synch with the other wineries  of the area, it has 85% Riesling and 10% Pinot Noir with the balance comprising of other grapes including little known varieties that go into making 130,000 bottles a year. Out of the seven wines tasted Hattenheimer Wissenbrunnen Riesling Beerenauslese 2007 and Hattenheimer Wissenbrunnen Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese 2011 were outstanding with the finesse, balance and elegance making them stand apart, and justifying the estate to be a member of the VDP.

The Estate has recently taken over the marketing of another VDP estate-August Kesseller of which 6 wines including 2 Pinot Noirs were tasted.

Kloster Eberbach
Kloster Eberbach, 65343 Eltville

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For anyone planning to visit Rheingau this Abbey of Cistercian monks is a must in your list. You can see the dormitory where the monks used to sleep in the cold and hot weather alike (you would be reminded of our sadhus doing the sadhna in Himalayas). The winery has an interesting history. It was founded in 1136 by St. Bernard of Clairvaux in Burgundy. You may visit the beautiful estate with serene surroundings, an excellent tasting room and a wine shop where you may buy wines at reasonable prices. You would also love to see the old presses on display.

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Weingut Peter Jakob Kühn

Contact: Angela Kühn

Mühlstraße 70, 65375 Oestrich-Winkel

Phone: + 49 6723 2299,

We met Angela Kühn who with her son is very active in the business, producing about 100,000 bottles with 18hA of vines. This is a rather small family-owned winery, also a member of VDP, making a range of high quality wines. The tasting room-cum wine shop is absolutely charming-with chandeliers made of the super-fine Zalto glasses decorating the ceiling as well as the tasting tables. Angela is proud of the special soil in their land. The dry wines are superb, a pure expression of Rheingau with citrus notes and minerality to the fore.

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Rheingauer Leichtsinn at Eltvinum

Contact: Frank Nikolai

Schmittstr. 2, 65343 Eltville

Phone: + 49 6123 62708, +49 177 5375000

A few young winemakers belonging to the winemaking families have gotten together to jointly produce a Riesling labelled as Leichtsinn addressed to the youth. It is an enterprising and creative venture that might excite some young winemakers in India with some interesting ideas. They are welcome to contact Frank Nikolai who is the official spokesman of the group that has four close friends, sons of established wine producers of the region, working together.

Weingut Künstler

Contact: Gregor Breuer

Geheimrat-Hummel-Platz 1a, 65239 Hochheim

Phone: + 49 6146 83860,

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Our last stop going from Mittelrhein to Frankfurt, this  winery is situated in Hochheim, barely about 45 minutes from Frankfurt Airport. This is a family owned estate-one of the premium estates of the region, also a member of the VDP with Gunter Künstler as the winemaker. Owning about 30 hA of vineyards
they produce about 200,000 bottles a year.

We visited the vineyards and tasted 11 wines from their portfolio including Hochheimer Kirchenstück Riesling Grosses Gewä  chs (GG) 2013,  Hochheimer Hölle Riesling GG 2013, really delicious wines characteristic of the true expression of the region.

It’s visit to wineries like Kühn and Künstler and others between that reflect and build one’s confidence in the quality of Rheingau wines. Little wonder that Rheingau is referred to as ‘Kleiner Rhein, Grosser Wein’ (Smaller Rhine, better wine).  

Is it surprising that a hundred years ago, wines from this region commanded better prices than the likes of Margaux and Latours, the First Growths of Bordeaux? Is it the changing fashions or the difficulty in pronouncing some of the names? Take a trip to find out but remember- for many wine enthusiasts Riesling is Rheingau and Rheingau is Riesling.

For the earlier article on my trip to Mittelrhein, please visit Prowein 2015-Visiting Mittelrhein Region

Subhash Arora

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