Monday, February 18, 2013

The Wines of the Berncasteler Doctor, Bernkastel-Kues in the Mosel Valley, Germany

Picture: Christian G,E. Schiller at the Doctorkeller Weingut Dr. Thanisch

The Bernkasteler Doctor is only 3.3 hectares in size but its place in the wine world is legendary.

In the 13th century, the Archbishop of Trier was in this area of the Mosel Valley when he became very ill.  After countless cures did not work, he was served Riesling from this vineyard and was cured.  From then on, it became known as “The Doctor”.


Bernkastel lies at the heart of the Mittelmosel ('middle Mosel'), between Graach and Wehlen to the north and Piesport to the west. The town of Bernkastel and the village of Kues (on the opposite side of the Mosel river) amalgamated in 1905 to become Bernkastel-Kues. The town's Lay and Doctor vineyards have been classified by the VDP as Erste Lage (to be renamed Grosse Lage).

Pictures: Bernkastel-Kues

As its name suggests, Bernkasteler Lay ('slate') is composed predominantly of blue shale. Weingut Dr. Ernst Loosen and other world class producers source fruit from this 8 ha vineyard, which faces west to south-west, and has an incredibly steep gradient of 50 percent.

Berncasteler Doctor

Berncasteler Doctor is one of the most famous vineyard names in the world, although the wines that are currently made there do not have the reputation any more that they used to have. The Doctor is a small (3.3 hectares) plot – south-facing, and with an extremely steep slope of between 45% and 60%.

The Berncasteler Doctor was owned by Count von der Leyen until 1760, and in 1794, under French rule, declared community property. During most of the 19th century, the Doctor was leased to the Thanisch family and it eventually became the property of Dr. Hugo Thanisch and his wife Katharina.

Pictures: Bercasteler Doctor

As part of the 1971 German Wine Law, the Bernkasteler Doctor’s boundaries were extended. The owners of the original vineyard understandably objected, and the matter was not settled in court until 1984.  As a result, the vineyard boundary remained extended to the west, encompassing what was once part of the adjacent Graben vineyard, but not to the east. By way of appeasement, this land was renamed Alte Badstube am Doctorberg.

The vineyard is planted exclusively with Riesling vines, about 45% of which are ungrafted.

Today, the Bernkasteler Doctor is divided up among the following owners:

Weingüter Geheimrat J. Wegeler - Gutshaus Bernkastel

Weingut Wwe. Dr. H. Thanisch – Erben Thanisch

Weingut Wwe. Dr. H. Thanisch – Erben Müller-Burggraef

In 1988, the Dr. H. Thanisch property was divided in two equal parts after a disagreement amongst the family members on how the business should be managed: Weingut Wwe. Dr. H. Thanisch - Erben Thanisch, now owned by Sophia Thanisch-Spier and Weingut Wwe. Dr. H. Thanisch – Erben Müller-Burggraef, now owned by Barbara Rundquist-Müller. The labels of the two wineries look almost identical.

Picture: Annette Schiller, Ombiasy Wine Tours and Barbara Rundquist-Müller in Washington DC

Patrick Lauerburg

Weingut Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt (0,06 hectare leased from Wegeler)

Heilig-Geist-Stiftung (owns 0,26 hectare, leased for 10 years in 2006 by  Weingüter Wegeler and Weingut Witwe Dr. Thanisch – Erben Müller-Burggraef)

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1 comment:

  1. Maybe the exact position is helpful