Picture: Franz Kuenstler accepting the Honorary Lifetime Membership of the Weinfreundeskreis Hochheim
Franz Kuenstler, the founder of the Weingut Franz Kuenstler, was awarded an Honorary Lifetime Membership of the Weinfreundeskreis Hochheim, Germany
The Weinfreundeskreis Hochheim is a group of wine enthusiasts that was founded in Hochheim in 1979. Franz Kuenstler is one of the dozen or so founding members, along with my wife and me. As somebody from the wine industry, he was in particular helpful, to get the project off the ground and running. He was awarded an Honorary Lifetime Membership of the Weinfreundeskreis Hochheim on January 29, 2010 in Hochheim. For an article on the evening, see here, in German. For postings on Hochheim and the Weinfreundeskreis Hochheim, see here.
Picture: Annette Schiller and Franz Kuenstler
Hochheim is at the eastern edge of the Rheingau, well know around the world for its Riesling wines. Moving from Hochheim to the west, the fairly flat, dimpled landscape evolves into progressively steep slopes. 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 in Hochheim to take back to his estate in Virginia.
The Franz Kuenstler Estate is one of Germany’s world class wine producers. It has 5F’s (out of 5) in the FEINSCHMECKER ranking. The Wine Estate is currently run by Gunther Kuenstler, who took over from his father Franz a number of years ago.
The Künstler’s wine tradition goes back to the end of the Thirty Years War when in 1648 they first planted grapes along the river Thaya in South Moravia, an area then in the domain of the Hapsburgs. Franz Künstler, born 1926 in Unter¬ Tannowitz, was forced to take charge of the estate at age 13 while his father was fighting in World War II. After the war, South Moravia reverted back to Czechoslovakia and the Künstlers became refugees in then West Germany.
Picture: Gunter Kuenstler, Annette Schiller and Christian G.E. Schiller
Franz completed his formal education at the wine institute in Württemberg and upon graduation went to work in several wineries. In 1951 he was appointed cellar master and administrator at the Domdechant Werner Estate in Hochheim. He stayed at Werner for 11 years and then started to formulate plans to produce his own wine again. In 1965, he started his own winery in Hochheim. In the following years Franz slowly and diligently worked to build the reputation of his estate. I still have his outstanding 1976er in the wine cellar. After completing his studies, son Gunter joined his father in 1988 and assumed full control of the estate in 1992.
After the aquisition of the Aschrott estate, Künstler estate is currently comprised of about 26 hectares with 85% planted to Riesling and 15% to Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) all in Hochheim. A tiny bit of Chardonnay is planted to be used in the estate sparkling wine. Even though it belongs to the Rheingau, Hochheim is actually situated along the Main river. Its vineyards have amongst the best exposure and climate in all of the Rheingau. It is located in Hochheim, Rheingau, just 30 Minutes away by S-Bahn from Frankfurt am Main central railway station. Coming from Frankfurt, you arrive in vineyards and it is a beautiful walk up the vineyards to the village and the Kuenstler Estate at the village entrance.
Weingut Künstler is a member of the Rheingau Charta group and since April of 1994 a member of the Rheingau V.D.P. Gunter Kuenstler is one of the two winemakers of Hochheim who have ventured out to the American market (the other one is Weingut Domchechant Werner), benefiting from the increasing popularity of Rieslings in the US and in general in the world.
Picture: Joelle Palma Schiller in front of the Kuenstler Estate in Hochheim
I have watched it rising from a small winery to one of the world leaders of German wine. See my posting on the recent Kuenstler autumn tasting here. I recently posted an video interview of Hendrik Thoma with Gunter Kuenstler here. Gunter speaks about the new concept of German Grand Cru wines.
Franz Künstler Estate
Freiherr vom Stein Ring 3 - 65239 Hochheim / Germany
ph +49 (0) 6146-82570
Rudi Wiest Selections by Cellars International
1780 La Costa Meadows Drive, Suite # 100
San Marcos, CA 92078
ph 760.566.0499 - fax 760.566.0533
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