Friday, June 15, 2012

Celebrating Riesling, but not only Riesling in the Rheingau: The Grand Rheingau Wine Convention Days 2012, Germany

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller with Rheingau Wine Queen Elena (Elena Benischke) at Eberbach Abbey in the Rheingau

The Grand Rheingau Wine Convention Days (Grosse Konventstage des Rheingauer Weinkonvents), the annual grand gathering of the Rheingau Weinkonvent, a Rheingau Wine Brotherhood, took place on June 7 to 10, 2012. These were 4 interesting and entertaining days in the Rheingau wine region, which is home for great Rieslings, but also for other wines. Although I have been a member of the Rheingau Wine Convention for a number of years now, it was only this year that I was formally introduced to the membership in the Basilica of the Eberbach Abbey. I participated in most of the events, but not in all.

See here for the Grand Rheingau Wine Convention Days 2010: A Wine Feast in the Rheingau, Germany: The Grand Wine Convention 2010

Rheingauer Weinkonvent

The Rheingauer Weinkonvent currently comprises about 800 members, including about 100 winemakers from the Rheingau. It was established in 1971 and is based Eberbach Abbey in the Rheingau.

Most of the 100 or so winemakers who are members of the Rheingauer Weinkonvent, are making wine in the Rheingau. One noteable exception is Walter Schug from California. See more: Lunch with Pinot Noir Giant Walter Schug in Sonoma, California


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.

Picture: Map of Rheingau

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 is dominated by Riesling, accounting for 4/5 of the vineyard area. Pinot Noir accounts for 1/10 and is concentrated around Assmannshausen.

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. Most of them are now the property of the State of Hessen and are run by the Hessische Staatsweingüter.

Pictures: Eberbach Abbey


Worldwide, there are about 34.000 hectares planted with Riesling. Germany – with 22.400 hectares – accounts for 2/3 of the total. The second largest Riesling producer is Australia, with 4500 hectares. But this is only about 1/10 of the total. Alsace follows with 3500 hectares. Austria, the US with Washington State and New York State as well as New Zealand make up the remainder. But overall, Riesling is really a niche wine, accounting for only less than 1 percent of total wine production in the world - but a very special niche wine.

Thursday, June 7

9.30 Uhr: Vineyard walk on the Mariannenaue island

The Grand Rheingau Wine Convention Days 2012 started with an excursion to the Mariannenaue island, an island in the middle of the Rhine river, where excellent wines are made.

I went there last year with the Weinfreundeskreis Hochheim: Rhine Wine – The Weingut Schloss Rheinhartshausen Wines of the Mariannenaue Island in the Rhine River, Germany

15.00 Uhr: Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Grand Rheingau Convention Days at Weingut Theo J. Kreis in Hallgarten.

Picture: Rheingau Weinkonvent Kapitelaelteste (president) Nadine Haas, Rheingau Wine Queen Elena Benischke and Rheingau Wine Princess Nadine

This was followed by a Schlenderweinprobe (Walk Around Tasting) with 15 wine producers from the Rheingau.

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller with winemaker Torsten Dienst, Weingut Dienst, Hochheim, Rheingau. One of the thousands of winemakers in Germany, who are not listed in the Gault Millau wineguide, but who make excellent wine ... at very reasonable prices. Most of his wine is though consumed at the cosy wine tavern at the Weingut. He also produces "grand cru" wines Erstes/Grosses Gewaechs. See here: Hochheim's Erstes Gewaechs Wines of 2008

Friday, June 8

10:00 Uhr: A visit of the cities of Mainz and Wiesbaden, including the Kupferberg Sekt Producer in Mainz and the Neroberg vineyard in Wiesbaden.

17.00 Uhr: Weingut Allendorf in Winkel -Allendorfs Wein Erlebnis Welt (Allendorf’s Magic Wine World), followed by dinner in the wine tavern of Weingut Allendorf.

Weingut Allendorf is situated in Oestrich Winkel in the heart of the Rheingau. Producing wine has a long tradition in the family: Knight Kraft von Allendorf was mentioned in 1222. Today the family owns 58 hectares – and is one of the largest family owned wineries in Germany. The wine estate is led by Ulrich Allendorf and his sister Christel Schönleber. Her husband Josef Schönleber is in charge of winemaking. Weingut Allendorf produces about 50.000 cases annually, of which 75% is accounted by Riesling.

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller and Ulrich Allendorf at Weingut Allendorf

Ulrich Allendorf entertained us personally in the Allendorf “World of Wine Experience”. He first led us to specially designed, windowless tasting room to show us how wine can taste different when you change the color of the room.  We tasted the same wine under 4 different lightening and found it, for example, much fruitier, when we drank it under red light. In blue and green light, the wine tasted spicier than in white light. Blue light made the wine taste more bitter.

We then had a chance to discover the most important aromas that are found in Riesling and Spätburgunder in the Allendorf Aroma Vineyard.

Finally, we spent a couple of hours in the cosy courtyard of the Allendorf Estate, eat regional specialities and tasted Allendorf wines.

Saturday, June 9

9:00 Uhr : Lecture about new wine legislation in Germany at the Eberbach Abbey (Das Weinrecht im Fokus der Anforderungen von EU, des Bundes, des Landes und der Winzerorganisationen. Wie ist dies vereinbar?) - A very interesting and fascinating presentation.

10.30 Uhr: Annual Membership Meeting

16.00 Uhr: Investiture in der Basilique of Eberbach Abbey

I was introduced to the members of the Rheingau Weinkonvent and received the membership chain with a key that we wear during our events.

Picture: In the Eberbach Abbey Basilica

17.00 Uhr: Reception at Eberbach Abbey

18.00 Uhr: Rustic Dinner in the Dormitory of the Eberbach Abbey

19.00 Uhr: Gala wine tasting – 17 wines of member winemakers and from the cellar of the Rheingau Wine Convention. Dr. Franz-Anselm Graf von Ingelheim commented on the wines and spoke about “Health and Wine”. We were also entertained by a Duo that performed opera and other music.

Pictures: Gala wine tasting. Tasting a 2002 Oestricher Doosberg, Riesling Erstes Gewaechs, Weingut Hirschmann, Winkel, with the senior boss of Weingut Hirschmann, Josef Hirschmann

Sunday, June 10

From 10:00 to 15:00 Uhr: Open wine cellars in Geisenheim. We visited 6 wine producers and tasted their wines.

Pictures: My first stop was at Weingut Freimuth (VDP), with Karin Freimuth

15.30 Uhr: Closing at the Geisenheimer Weinstand at the Rhine river banks.

schiller-wine - Related Postings

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Chat Sauvage Versus Peter Querbach – An Impromptu Pinot Noir Wine Tasting with Kai Buhrfeind at His Grand Cru Wine Bar in Frankfurt, Germany

Lunch with Pinot Noir Giant Walter Schug in Sonoma, California

A Wine Feast in the Rheingau, Germany: The Grand Wine Convention 2010

Hochheim's Erstes Gewaechs Wines of 2008

“Hoffest” (Winery Party) at Weingut Heinrich Baison in Hochheim, Rheingau - Best of Riesling 2010 Award Winner

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Phil Bernstein’s Third Annual German Riesling Tasting with the German Wine Society, Washington DC Chapter - Rieslings With a Touch of Sweetness

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Impressions from the Riesling and Co World Tour 2010 in New York

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The Focus on Dry German Riesling – Daniel Hubbard Presents the German DSWE Portfolio to the German Wine Society (Washington DC Chapter)

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