Thursday, July 8, 2010

5 Top Wine Makers at Premier Cru Wein Bistro in Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Picture: Christian G.E.Schiller and Peter Querbach at the Premier Cru Event

Kai Buhrfeindt, owner of the exciting wine places Premier Cru and Grand Cru in Sachsenhausen in Frankfurt am Main, Germany,had invited 5 top wineries from the Pfalz and Rheingau regions to the Premier Cru to present their wines. The wine tasting was followed by a dinner prepared by the new Grand Cru Chef Farrokh Okhovat-Esfehani. It was quite an event and I was happy to be part of it.

The Wineries

5 world class wineries from the Rheingau and Pfalz regions participated in the event.

Weingut Robert Weil

Weingut Robert Weil is located in Kiedrich in the Rheingau. The Estate cultivates 73 ha (182 acres) of vineyards planted with Riesling (98%) and Spätburgunder (2%) grapes.

Weingut Robert Weil was founded in 1875 amidst fortuitous circumstances. The founder, Dr. Robert Weil, was a professor of German at the Sorbonne but was forced to leave Paris because of the pending Franco-Prussian War (1870-71). His decision to work as a journalist in Wiesbaden in the Rheingau, was doubtlessly influenced by the fact that his brother August was the minister and choir director of the parish church in Kiedrich. Dr. Weil purchased his first vineyards in Kiedrich, and he moved there in 1875, when he bought the estate manor from the heirs of Sir John Sutton, an English baronet.

Wilhelm Weil, the great-grandson of the Estate’s founder, carries on the tradition of uncompromising, quality-oriented practices in the vineyards and in the cellars. Today, the Wilhelm Weil Estate is the Rheingau's only winemaker in the (top) 5 Grapes Gault and Millau category.

See a posting on Wilhelm Weil here.

Weingut Franz Kuenstler

Weingut Franz Kuenstler is another leading winemaker from the Rheingau. I know Franz Kuenstler, the founder of the Weingut Franz Kuenstler, very well from the Weinfreundeskreis Hochheim, Germany. Franz Kuenstler is one of the dozen or so founding members, along with my wife and me.

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 has 5 F’s (out of 5) in the FEINSCHMECKER ranking. The Estate is currently owned and managed by Gunter Kuenstler, who took over from his father Franz a number of years ago. The vineyard area totals about 26 hectares with 85% Riesling and 15% Spätburgunder.

Here is an interview with Gunter Kuenstler: Germany's Top Wine Maker Gunter Kuenstler interviewed by Hendrik Thoma

Picture: Joelle Palma Schiller in front of the Franz Kuenstler Estate, 2009

Weingut Friedrich Becker

The Gault and Millau 2010 Best Red Wine of the Year is a Friedrich Becker Pinot Noir. Friedrich Becker and his family own around 14.5 ha of vineyards in the Southern part of the Pfalz region. He was the first of his family to distanze himself from delivering the grapes to the local co-operative and decided to make his own wine. Right from the start he turned out as one of the best producers in the Pfalz and one of the best Pinot Noir producers in Germany. 60% of his production is Pinot Noir which is gown primarily on stony, chalky soil on the Alsatian side of the border and his wines are made "by instinct". The same instincts seem to have been transferred to his son Friedrich Junior, who has taken over more and more responsibilities with his sister Helena. The latter was at the event and poured the wines.

German Pinot Noirs are increasingly coming to the US. At a recent tasting in New York City, the Friedrich Becker Wines featured prominently. See here.

Picture: Christian G.E.Schiller and Helena Becker at the Premier Cru Event

Weingut Peter Querbach

The Querbach Estate is located in Oestrich-Winkel in the Rheingau. It is run by Wilfried Querbach and his son Peter. The vineyard area totals 9 hectares, with holdings in the Doosberg and Lenchen (Oestrich), Schönhell (Hallgarten), as well as the Hasensprung (Winkel) sites. The area is planted with Riesling (7,5 ha) and Pinot Noir (1,5 ha).

In terms of Querbach’s wine making philosophy, only natural yeasts are used for fermentation, the wines are then matured in stainless steel tanks, and kept on the lees for an extended period. Since the 1999 vintage, the bottles have been closed with a special stainless steel closure system, a type of crown cork, developed by Peter Querbach.

Weingut Domdechant Werner

The Domdechant Werner Estate is the other leading wine producer in Hochheim, Rheingau.

Even though it belongs to the Rheingau, Hochheim is actually situated along the Main river, 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 Franz Kuenstler and Domdechant Werner Estates at the village entrance.

The Domdechant Werner Estate cultivates about 14 ha/35 acres of vines, 98% of which are planted with Riesling and 2% Spätburgunder. It produces wines of all styles, ranging from dry to lusciously sweet wines. The finest dry Riesling wines are designated Erstes Gewächs, while the finest sweet wines bear the traditional Prädikat Auslese. The red Spätburgunder wines are carefully aged in mature oak casks. Some 60-70% of the wines are exported to about 25 countries around the world, making the estate a "global player" on a small scale. Domestically, the wines are sold to leading hotels and restaurants, as well as upscale wine shops.

In 1780, the father of Dr. Franz Werner, the renowned Domdechant (dean) of the Cathedral of Mainz, acquired from the Count York the Hochheim wine estate.

Domdechant Werner is credited with having saved the Cathedral from being demolished during the French Revolution and was responsible for its reconstruction. The Estate is now owned by Dr. Franz Werner Michel, the seventh generation of the founding family. The eighth (and possibly ninth) generation is now on the scene, as Dr. Michel's daughter, Catharina Mauritz, mother of three sons, has also become involved in the Estate's management. Both Dr. Franz Werner Michel and Catharina Mauritz were present at the tasting.

Weingut Geheimer Rat von Bassermann Jordan

Bassermann Jordan, Buerklin Wolf and Geheimrat von Buhl – the so called 3 “B's” of the Pfalz - have long been considered the top winemakers in the region. They are certainly up there, but others have joined them, such as the Friedrich Becker Weingut, also present at the tasting.

The Geheimer Rat von Bassermann Jordan Estate was established in 1700 by Andreas Jordan, who had immigrated to the Pfalz from the Savoy region. In his footsteps came a long series of respected men: Ludwig Andreas Jordan (1811-1883), Representative of the Frankfurt Parliament and the Federal Parliament; Dr. Ludwig Bassermann-Jordan (1869 - 1914), who greatly influenced the first German wine regulations and who co-founded the Association of Natural Wine Producers (later VDP); Dr. Friedrich von Bassermann-Jordan (1872 - 1959) author of one of the most fundamental works on the history of wine; finally Dr. Ludwig von Bassermann-Jordan (1924-1995), who secured a firm position at the pinnacle of the international wine market for the Bassermann-Jordan wines.

Today, the estate is managed and owned by the entrepreneur Achim Niederberger, who also holds other significant business interests in the wine industry.

Picture: The Bassermann-Jordan Estate, 2010


The tasting was followed by an exciting dinner, prepared by the new Grand Cru Chef Farrokh Okhovat-Esfehani. One had two choices: either pay Euro 20 for the wine tasting and leave, or stay, have dinner also and pay Euro 44,50 for the combined wine tasting plus dinner. I stayed. Here is the dinner, in German – wines had to be ordered separately.

Lachstatar auf Radieschencarpaccio mit Gurken-Dill-Schaum
Rucola-Chilli Kaltschale mit Balsamico Erdbeeren
Maispoulardenbrust mit Pfifferlingen und Tomatenrisotto
Zitronengras Creme Brûlée

I was lucky to be seated at the winemakers’ table; we finished the open bottles, drank other wine and had a very lively conversation, before being joined by the Chef himself.

Premier Cru Weinbistro

Premier Cru is a new undertaking of Kai Buhrfeindt. Chef and Sommelier Kai Buhrfeind also owns and manages the Grand Cru Wine Restaurant, a few blogs away from the Premier Cru (Textorstrasse 56). The Grand Cru has been around now for a couple of years and has established itself as one of the prime spots in Frankfurt am Main for fine wining and dining. Wine enthusiasts definitely love this place.

Premier Cru is more a Wine Bar and Bistro, with a comfortable terrace. It is more casual than the Grand Cru. The wine list is also excellent, with a strong focus on German and other old world wines, perhaps a 100 wines, with about 20 by the glass. The menu is playful and inventive. The service is attentive. Premier Cru is open the whole day and serves also breakfast. Thanks to the close-lying U-Bahn station (U1, U2, U3 "Schweizer Platz"), access is quite easy.

Picture: Premier Cru Wine Bistro and Bar

Premier Cru Wein Bistro, Frankfurt am Main

Grand Cru Weinrestaurant, Frankfurt am Main

Schiller Wine - Related Postings

In the glass: Hugel et Fils wines at the cuisine des emotions de Jean Luc Brendel at Riquewihr in Alsace

Wine bar: Gruener Baum in Frankfurt am Main

Wine Bar: Paris Bar and Cafe in Frankfurt am Main

In the Glass: 2007 Rheinhessen with Oysters at the Ten Bells in the Lower East Side in Manhattan

German Wine Basics: Sugar in the Grape - Alcohol and Sweetness in the Wine

In the Glass: Pinot Noir from France, Germany and California

Wine Bar: Paris, Berlin, New York, London

Wine Bars in London: Vats Wine Bar, the Cork and Bottle, the Providores and Tapa Room

A Cult Paris Wine Bar - Juveniles


  1. Have you been at the 'Freundstueck' Restaurant at B&J's estate in Deidesheim? My favorite place.... Also the winebar is phantastic. The newly opened hotel certainly worth a stayover!

  2. Yes, I was there just a few weeks ago and took the picture. Very nice indeed. Greetings from London. I am on my way to the US. Cheers. Christian

  3. wat a high rated wine Blog i got it !! Superb such a Wonderful Blogging Site !!

    Super Tuscan Wine

  4. Dr. Schiller, thanks a lot for enlightening us about the wines of the Pfalz. I live in Sydney where it's just about impossible to buy these wines, but my brother lives in Colorado Springs - do you have any ideas where he might get hold of some good Pfalz Chardonnays?

  5. If I am not mistaken, Rudi Wiest from the West Coast brings these wines to the US. Perhaps he can tell you. Cheers. Christian