|Christian G.E. Schiller and the former General Manager of Weingut Schloss Reinhartshausen, Dr. Karl-Heinz Zerbe|
|The Rhine River and its Wines|
The wines of Mariannenaue – an island in the middle of the Rhine river in the Rheingau area – are the only wines – as far as I know – that meet the criterion of the most narrow definition: wine from an island in the Rhine river. I visited Mariannenaue with the Weinfreundeskreis Hochheim.
|Insel Wein from Mariannenaue Island|
The Mariannenaue island is owned and operated by the Weingut Schloss Rheinhartshausen.
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 – unlike any other region of the world – is associated with Riesling and nearly 80% of the Rheingau’s cultivated vineyards are planted with Riesling. The Rheingau is home to about 7% of the world’s Riesling vineyards. Pinot Noir accounts for 1/10 and is concentrated around Assmannshausen.
Weingut Schloss Reinhartshausen
The full name of the Weingut is „Administration Friedrich Prinz von Preussen Schloss Reinhartshausen”. It is located in Erbach in the Rheingau. A 5-star hotel is also operated on the premises. Wine has been produced at Weingut Schloss Reinhartshausen since medieval times.
At Schloss Reinhartshausen, over the following centuries, various aristocratic owners came and went. There, were today is Schloss Reinhartshausen, was in the 12th century the Castle of the Ritter von Erbach. For many centuries, Schloss Reinhartshausen belonged to the Knight of Allendorf. In 1800, the counts of Westphalia purchased the property from Freiherr Langwerth von Simmern and built the „Alte Schloss” (old palace). In 1855, Princess Marianne von Preussen, of the house of Nassau-Orange, purchased the property, and added a museum building, used to make her collection of art accessible to the public. Her son Albrecht von Preussen inherited the palace and wine estate in 1883, and it continued to be passed on to the next generation in the Prussian royal house. In 1957, ownership passed to Prince Friedrich von Preussen, son of the last German crown prince. The palace was re-created as a hotel, and expanded until 1991. In 1998, Willi Leibrand, founder of the large REWE supermarket chain, bought the run-down Schloss Rheinhartshausen with the vision to bring it back to previous hights. August Kesseler, one of the fathers of the German red wine revolution – with Chef Joachim Wissler – was hired to implement his vision. Under August Kesseler’s leadership, Schloss Reinhartshausen was transformed into an enchanting 5-star-hotel. When Willi Leibrand died, in 1999, entrepreneur Dieter Bock, together with a group called the „Freunde von Reinhartshausen” (Friends of Reinhartshausen) purchased Schloss Reinhartshausen from the Leibbrand estate.
The vineyard area totals 100 hectares, with holdings in: Erbach (Hohenrain, Marcobrunn, Rheinhell, Schlossberg = monopole, Siegelsberg sites), Hattenheim (Nussbrunnen, Rheingarten, Wisselbrunnen), Kiedrich (Sandgrub), Rauenthal (Wülfen) and Rüdesheim (Bischofsberg). Schloss Rheinhartshausen is the largest privately owned winery in the Rheingau.
More than 80% of the vineyard area is planted with Riesling. The remainder is planted with Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Kerner, Müller-Thurgau, Sauvignon Blanc, Silvaner, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc.
The estate is a member of the VDP association.
The Wines of the Mariannenaue Island
The Mariannenaue island in the middle of the Rhine river, with its two vineyard sites Erbacher Rheinhell and Hattenheimer Rheingarten, is located right in front of Schloss Reinhartshausen, and stretches out to the west as far as the neighboring village of Hattenheim. With an area of 89 hectares it is the largest island in the Rhine river.
Touring Mariannenaue Island with Dr. Karl-Heinz Zerbe
We were welcomed by the former General Manager of Weingut Schloss Reinhartshausen, Dr. Karl-Heinz Zerbe, in the courtyard of Schloss Reinhartshausen with a Secco sparkler from the Mariannenaue. We then went over by boat - "Prussia's Gloria," the last of the Prussian gunboat fleet – to the island and toured the island.
The vineyard area totals 23 hectares. With 8.5, the pH value is high on the island (normal is 7). “Because of the high ph values, coupled with the specific micro-climate, Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc do very well here” said Dr. Karl-Heinz Zerbe.
The Weingut Schloss Reinhartshausen Portfolio
The wines of Schloss Reinhartshausen are offered in 7 groups.
(1) Trockene Weine – Dry Wines: About 12 wines. The entry level wine costs Euro 8.90.
(2) Erstes Gewaechs – Premier Growth: 2 Erstes Gewaechs wines for Euro 25 and Euro 33.
(3) Feinherbe Weine – Off-dry Wines: 4 wines.
(4) Weine mit dezenter Suesse – Sweet-style Wines: 4 sweet-style Kabinett and Spaetlese wines.
(5) Rotwein & Weissherbst – Red Wine and Rose – 4 Spaetburgunder wines, with one aged in barrique, for Euro 14,50.
(6) Sekt – 4 Sparkers including a Secco from the Mariannenaue island for Euro 7.50.
(7) Edelsuesse Raritaeten – Noble-sweet specialties: 12 noble sweet wines from the 2001 to 2009 vintages. The 2003 Erbacher Schlossberg Trockenbeerenauslese in the 0.375 liter bottle for Euro 192 is the most expensive one.
The Wine Tasting
The afternoon ended with a wine tasting.
2010 Von der Insel Mariannenaue, Weissburgunder & Chardonnay Qualitaetswein trocken
2010 Hattenheimer Nussbrunnen, Riesling, Qualitaetswein trocken
2010 Schloss Reinhartshausen, Riesling Classic feinherb (13.3 g. remaining sugar)
2007 Erbacher Schlossberg, Riesling Erstes Gewaechs
2005 Erbacher Schlossberg Riesling Auslese fruchtig (65.4 g. remaining sugar)
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