Monday, September 1, 2014
Extraordinary Views of the Rheingau Vineyards - A Spectecular Helicopter Flight over the Rheingau with Rheingau Winemakers, Germany
A group of VDP winemakers – the association of German elite winemakers – from the Rheingau invited me and Annette Schiller, ombiasy PR and WineTours, to an extraordinary afternoon and evening event at Weingut Robert Weil in Kiedrich. At the center was a 20 minutes helicopter flight over the vineyards of the Rheingau, from and to the Turmberg vineyard, during the afternoon. While 4 of us were in the helicopter, the others were tasting the GG’s (Grosses Gewachs) - the ultra-premium dry wines - of the new 2013 vintage of the Rheingau VDP winemakers.
In the evening, we gathered at Weingut Robert Weil for dinner and an informal tasting of older GG’s. As usual, when Wilhelm Weil is hosting, the party went on until the morning hours; we talked, tasted other wines that Wilhelm Weil brought from his cellar, and some of us even played cards for an hour or so (some of us: Mark "Sam" Hofschuster, Dirk Würtz, Andy Spreitzer and Christian Schiller).
We were about 40 people, 20 wine writers and 20 Rheingau winemakers. The following Rheingau producers were there and showed their wines:
Diefenhardt'sches Weingut - Peter Seyffardt
Weingut Künstler - Gregor Breuer
Weingut Toni Jost - Cecilia Jost
Weingut Robert Weil - Wilhelm Weil
Weingut Oetinger - Achim von Oetinger
Weingut Jakob Jung - Ludwig Jung
Weingut Baron Knyphausen - Wolfgang E. Frank
Weingut Prinz - Fred Prinz
Wein- und Sektgut Barth - Mark Barth
Weingut Kühn - Peter Jakob Kühn
Wein- und Sektgut FB Schönleber -Bernd Schönleber
Weingut Josef Spreitzer - Andreas Spreitzer
Weingüter Wegeler - Tom Drieseberg
Weingut August Kesseler - August Kesseler
Weingut Balthasar Ress - Dirk Würtz
Weingut Allendorf - Ulrich Allendorf
All photos are from Christian G.E.Schiller or Weingut Robert Weil.
It is remarkable: For its entire length of nearly 560 miles, the Rhine flows north with one exception – a 28-mile stretch where the river changes its course. Here, it flows to the west, thereby enabling both the river and the vineyards facing it to bask in the warmth of the sun all day long. This is the Rheingau, one of the medium-size German wine regions. It is a quietly beautiful region, rich in tradition. Queen Victoria's enthusiasm for Hochheim's wines contributed to their popularity in England, where they, and ultimately, Rhine wines in general, were referred to as Hock.
The third President of the USA - and notable bon viveur - Thomas Jefferson visited the Rheingau in 1788 and wrote that the wine of the "Abbaye of Johnsberg is the best made on the Rhine without comparison … That of the year 1775 is the best." He also referred to the Rheingau’s Riesling as the "small and delicate Rhysslin which grows only from Hochheim to Rudesheim". Impressed by the quality of the Rheingau Riesling wines, he bought 100 grapevines to take back to his estate in Virginia.
Although the Rheingau is one of Germany’s smaller wine-growing regions, its 3,100 ha (7,660 acres) of vineyards are vastly diverse in their geological makeup. The soil varies from stony slate at the western part near the villages of Assmannshausen and Rudesheim to loess, sand and marl in the lower central villages of Geisenheim, Johannisberg, Winkel, Oestrich and Hattenheim. Soil reverts to stony phyllite in the higher central and eastern villages of Hallgarten, Kiedrich and Hochheim. Generally, wines from the lower slopes where the soil is heavier—sandy loam and loess—produce fuller wines, while at the higher slopes where it is more stony and slatey, the wines reflect more minerality, elegance and concentration.
The Rheingau enjoys a distinctly continental climate with cold winters and warm, but not hot, summers. The Rheingau is dominated by Riesling, accounting for 4/5 of the vineyard area. Pinot Noir accounts for 1/10 and is concentrated around Assmannshausen.
Weingut Robert Weil
Founded in 1875, Weingut Robert Weil in Kiedrich is the Rheingau’s #1 estate and one of Germany’s best. Four generations and over a century ago Dr. Robert Weil, who was a Professor of German at the Sorbonne, was forced to leave Paris because of the Franco-Prussian War (1870/1871). He subsequently joined his brother August in Kiedrich in the Rheingau and established the Robert Weil winery.
Dr. Robert Weil purchased his first vineyards in Kiedrich and moved there in 1875, when he bought the estate manor from the heirs of Sir John Sutton, an English baronet. A man of vision, he built up the estate by purchasing 2 local wine estates and the vineyards of Count von Fürstenberg. Contacts throughout the world and the production of great wines brought rapid growth to the Weingut Robert Weil.
ombiasy PR and Wine Tours, flew with Ursula Haslauer, Falstaff Deutschland, and her husband, and Wolfgang E. Frank, Weingut Baron Knyphausen and Grape Vault Investment.
Today, Weingut Robert Weil is managed by Wilhelm Weil, who owns the winery jointly with Suntory from Japan. With 75 hectares under vine, it is one of the largest estates in the Rheingau. The historical manor house, the ultra-modern cellars and the vinothek stand side by side in a beautiful park – the same synthesis of old and new that is reflected in the estate’s philosophy of winemaking.
The vineyards are planted 100% with Riesling. The estate’s dedication to Riesling since 1875 has led numerous observers of the international wine world to regard Weingut Robert Weil as a worldwide symbol of German Riesling culture. A Riesling wine of the 1893 vintage, grown on the Gräfenberg site, made the estate famous. The imperial Habsburg court in Vienna purchased 800 bottles of this wine at a price of 16 gold Marks per bottle in 1900.
The 1920 vintage of the Kiedricher Gräfenberg Trockenbeerenauslese is described as a Zeppelin wine, as it was served on board the LZ 127 „Graf Zeppelin” dirigible on its circumnavigation of the world in 1929. Robert Weil’s top botrytis wines are sold today at extremely high prices - they are among the most expensive in the world. The current world record (in 2006) is held by a 1999 Weil Trockenbeerenauslese, at DM 5.000 (EUR 2500).
Weingut Robert Weil’s top vineyards all belong to the group of the highlying sites of the Rheingau: Kiedricher Klosterberg, Kiedricher Turmberg and Kiedricher Gräfenberg. Inclination (up to 60 %), exposure (southwest) and the ability of the barren stony soils to absorb heat are the factors that make for three perfect Riesling sites. These conditions, as well as ideal circulation, enable the grapes to remain on the vine for a long time, ripening well into November.
Thank you very much Wilhelm Weil and all the other winemakers from the Rheingau for an amazing afternoon and evening.
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