Wednesday, October 13, 2010

In the Steinberg, Eberbach Abbey, Rheingau, Germany

Pictures: Christian G.E.Schiller in the Steinberg and a 1979 Steinberger Kabinett


The Steinberg is a 32.4 hectares (80 acres) wall-enclosed vineyard in walking distance of the Eberbach Abbey in the Rheingau. It is one of the most famous German vineyards.

Picture: The Steinberg

The favorite site of the monks, they built a 4 meter (13ft) wall around the vineyard to keep out thieves. This and its Cistercian heritage give Steinberg a distinct similarity to the famed Clos De Vougeot in Bourgogne in neigbouring France. The name Steinberg is German for "stony hill" after Stein = stone and Berg = mountain or hill.

The Steinberg is one of handful single vineyard sites in Germany which for reasons of historical significance have dispensation from having to include a village name together with the vineyard's name, so the wines from the Steinberg are simply labelled Steinberger. Steinberg is classified as an Erste Lage and thus can produce Erstes Gewächs wines.

Eberbach Abbey

The Eberbach Abbey is a former Cistercian monastery. Its Romanesque and Gothic buildings are impressive. It was founded in 1136 by Bernard of Clairvaux as the first Cistercian monastery on the east bank of the Rhine. The vineyards of Eberbach Abbey were, at 300 hectares, the largest in medieval Europe.

Picture: Eberbach Abbey

Hessische Staatsweingueter

The Steinberg is owned by the State of Hessen today. The State of Hessen owns a large number of vineyards, which all come under the umbrella of the Hessische Staatsweingueter Kloster Eberbach. It is Germany’s largest Wine Estate.

Most of the vineyard holdings of the Hessische Staatsweingueter date back to the 12th centuries, when Cistercian monks founded the famous Kloster Eberbach abbey here. The Abbey, including its vineyards, was secularised under Napoleon in 1803. The new owner was the Duke of Nassau, then the Prussian Kingdom from 1866, and finally the Federal State of Hessen since 1945.

The Hessische Staatsweingueter is made up of seven Estates, including three wine producing facilities and cellars.

The Bensheim Estate is the only one located in the Hessische Bergstraße wine-growing region. Grand Duke of Hessen-Darmstadt founded this Estate in 1904, the vineyard holdings total 38 hectares. The main grape variety planted is Riesling (25 ha), as well as Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris.

The red wine Estate Assmannshausen at the western edge of the Rheingau has a vineyard area of 27 hectares in the Höllenberg site, of which 25 hectares are planted with Pinot Noir.

These two Estates do their own bottling, and market the wines under their own names.

The five remaining Estates are

- Hattenheim (50 ha vineyard area in the Engelmannsberg, Siegelsberg and Marcobrunn sites),
- Hochheim (Domdechaney site),
- Rauenthal (48 ha in the Baiken and Wülfen sites),
- Rüdesheim (23 ha in the Berg Roseneck, Berg Rottland and Berg Schlossberg sites) and
- Steinberg (32 ha, a monopole holding).

The total vineyard area of the 7 Estates comes to more than 200 hectares, of which 85% are planted with Riesling, 10% with Pinot Noir and 5% with other varieties.


A few years ago, the Hessische Staatsweingueter built a new winemaking facility and celler just outside the wall of Steinberg, the Steinbergkeller. The Steinbergkeller – a state of the art winery - was a very controversial project. It was constructed for several 100 million Euro.

Pictures: Steinbergkeller

In the Glass: 1979 Steinberger Kabinett halbtrocken

I had the 1979 Steinberger Kabinett halbtrocken in the glass, a few days ago in McLean, Virginia.

Picture: 1979 Steinberger Kabinett

Here are my tasting notes: dark golden in the glass, wave of honey, mellon and pineapple on the nose, good acidity and good structure, elegant, dazzling on the palate, lingering finish, an aged wine that displays a hell of an amount of youthfulness, not even a slight hint of sherry tone.

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1 comment:

  1. In my early 20s I was treated to the current vintage Steinberger Spatlese--it was the 1971 vintage--and I was hooked. Over the years the availability has been spotty on the West Coast, and I think this was due to the near-invisibility of German wine during the past 30 years in general, and the flagging reputation of the state-owned properties in particular. Every time I would ask someone like Wilhelm Haag or Gunderloch's Fritz Hasselbach what happened to the Steinberg they would answer that civil servants are ruled by the clock while good winemaking requires doing whatever it takes in the vineyard. I'm happy to see that the quality of Kloster Eberbach Steinberger has improved in the past few years. I agree that this vineyard is a national treasure and it deserves to make great Riesling like we all know it can.
    Randy Kemner, Proprietor
    The Wine Country, Signal Hill, California