Picture: Joelle Schiller at Weingut Kuenstler and Gunter Kuenstler, Christian Schiller, Annette Schiller
Over the past 4 decades the Kuenstler estate has been one of the most successful wine producers in the Rheingau, if not in Germany. I have watched it rising from a small winery to one of the world leaders of German wine. The Kuenstler estate presented their new wine portfolio during two weekends in September 2009 to the interested wine drinker at their new winery in Hochheim.
The wine growing tradition of the Künstler family can be traced back to Southern Moravia in 1648. After the Second World War, the Künstlers had to leave their home in what is now the Czech Republic and the head of the family, Franz Künstler, laid the foundations in Hochheim for what was to become one of the most successful family businesses in the Rheingau. I remember very well the small row house in Hochheim that was the initial home of the Kuenstler winery. And I remember very well the wonderful tastings we had at the Kuenstler estate. All my life I have been buying Kuenstler wines and there is quite a number of Kuenstler bottles in my wine cellar in McLean, Virginia.
His son Gunter Künstler bought the Geheimrat Aschrott'sche Erben wine estate in Hochheim in 1996 and in doing so acquired a major share in the very best vineyard locations in Hochheim.
Recently, as another giant leap, the Kuenstler estate moved into the former Burgeff Sektkellerei, just at the entrance of Hochheim, when you come from Mainz. It is very impressive.
The autumn presentation of his wines was quite an event. We had the opportunity to taste all of his wines. Further, Gunter Kuenstler had invited two other wineries from Franken and the Pfalz to present their wines.
The autumn presentation comprised the following:
(1) About half a dozen sparkling wines, all “brut”, in the range between Euro 10 and 16; I found the 2006 Chardonnay Sekt brut for Euro 15,50 very appealing.
(2) “Unsere Klassiker” --- good table wines for every day consumption, including the 2008 Kuenstler Riesling in the liter bottle for Euro 7.90, which is one of my favorites.
(3) A few sweet wines, up to the Auslese level; clearly, sweet wines are on the back-burner at the Kuenstler estate, accounting for only 10 percent of the wine portfolio. In fact, there was neitherr a Beerenauslese nor a Trockenbeerenauslese on the list.
(4) Kuenstler’s best single vineyard wines; all dry; two were Erstes Gewaechs wines, ranging from Euro 14 to 39 for the 0.75 liter bottle; the most expensive wine was the 2007 Hochheimer Hoelle Riesling Goldkapsel which is available in a doppelmagnum bottle (3 liters) for Euro 170. A very impressive and long list. Kuenstler is clearly focusing on dry wines.
(5) A couple of other wines: two Spaetburgunder rose wines, one Silvaner trocken and a Chardonnay wine.
(6) Finally, 6 red wines, all Spaetburgunder, all dry, including a dry Auslese, ranging from Euro 10 to 42.
The Hochheim wines in general rely largely on the very warm southern location protected from winds. The low terrain of 80 to 130 m above sea level provides a long and stable weather period for the grapes to fully ripen. Yet despite the common southern location, each of the top vineyards, starting in the west with „Reichestal“ then „Stielweg“ and „Domdechaney“ to „Kirchenstück“ and „Hölle“ in the east, has its own very individual character.
Of the three grape varieties cultivated by Künstler, the main one is Riesling. Only the warm location of ‘Reichestal' has the right climatic requirements for a Spätburgunder , and only on a very small plot in the east of the Hochheim area does the soil meet the prerequisites for a Chardonnay.