Tuesday, July 13, 2010

VDP Vineyard Illuminations at Johannisberg Castle

Picture: Schloss Johnnisberg Illuminated

Vineyard Illuminations at Johannisberg Castle

The Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweingüter (VDP, the Association of German Prädikat Wine Estates) is the world’s oldest association of top-quality wine estates. It was founded 100 years ago. To celebrate this, the VDP has organized a series of wine events throughout the year. One of them is the WeinBergLeuchten, a series of spectacular nighttime illuminations in top vineyards – monuments of wine culture – literally placing the origin of fine wines in the spotlight. I was able to participate in the illuminations at Johannisberg Castle in the Rheingau.


Nearly 200 wine estates from all German wine-growing regions belong to the VDP today. Collectively, they cultivate about 4 percent of Germany’s vineyard area, which is about 100.000 hectars.

Membership in the VDP requires voluntary adherence to “in-house” quality criteria that well exceed the minimums prescribed by law. To name but a few: yields are limited to foster quality; the finest grapes are selectively harvested, by hand; and vineyards are planted primarily with traditional grape varieties. Estates and their wines are inspected and certified on a regular basis to ensure ongoing high standards, from vineyard maintenance to cellar technology.

Johannisberg Castle in the Rheingau

Schloss Johannisberg is a Wine Estate in the Rheingau that has been making wine for over 900 years. The winery is most noted for its claim to have "discovered" the Spaetlese wine, late harvest wine. This, however, is contested by the Hungarians; they claim that the late harvest was discovered in the Tokaji region.

Wine making in the Schloss Johannisberg vineyards started long before the castle was build, during the reign of Charlemagne. The hill became known as Johannisberg (John's mountain) in the 1100s, when a Romanesque basilica in honour of John the Baptist was built on the hill. The Chateau that we see today was build in the 1700s by the Prince-Abbot of Fulda. In 1720 he planted Riesling vines, making it the oldest Riesling vineyard in the world.

The estate changed hands several times during the Napoleonic Wars, but in 1816 the Holy Roman Emperor, Francis II, gave it to the Austrian statesman Prince von Metternich to thank him for his great services. The estate is in the hands of the Oetker family today.

Schloss Johannisberg is a single vineyard designation (Einzellage) in its own right. Like the Steinberg, it is one of a handful historic German vineyards which do not have to display a village name on the label. Thus, the vineyard designation on the label is Schloß Johannisberger. There are currently about 35 hectares (86 acres) of vineyard.

Vineyard Illuminations in the Summer of 2010

The VDP had organized a party at the foot of the Johannisberg vineyard, where a selection of VDP wines from the Rheingau were served. I spotted, among other, Wilhelm Weil, from the Robert Weil Estate. I would like to thank Christian Ress from the Balthasar Ress Estate in Hattenheim, Rheingau, for the night pictures.

Pictures: Schloss Johannisberg in the afternoon and illuminated at night; the wine list and view of the VDP party

Weingut Schloss Johannisberg, Germany

Weingut Balthasar Ress, Hattenheim, Germany

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