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Schloss Johannisberg

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Schloss Johannisberg
Location Johannisberg, Germany <tr><th style="text-align:right; padding-right:0.75em;">Founded</th><td>1100</td></tr><tr><th style="text-align:right; padding-right:0.75em;">Parent company</th><td>Dr. Oetker</td></tr><tr><th style="text-align:right; padding-right:0.75em;">Known for</th><td>Schloss Johannisberg Riesling</td></tr><tr><th style="text-align:right; padding-right:0.75em;">Varietal</th><td>Riesling</td></tr><tr><th style="text-align:right; padding-right:0.75em;">Website</th><td></td></tr><tr><th style="text-align:right; padding-right:0.75em;">Distribution</th><td>international</td></tr><tr><th style="text-align:right; padding-right:0.75em;"> Tasting</th><td>open to the public</td></tr>
Johannisberg Rheingau

Schloss Johannisberg within its vineyards

Schloss Johannisberg fg02

Aerial photo, 2006

Johannisberg Klosterkirche

Church of the ancient monastery on the Johannisberg

Tombleson Johannisberg

Schloss Johannisberg around 1832 engraving by William Tombleson

Schloss Johannisberg is a winery in the Rheingau wine-growing region in Germany, that has been making wine for over 900 years.[1] The winery is most noted for its claim to have "discovered" late harvest wine.[2]


A mountain on the north bank of the River Rhine near Mainz has been associated with the Church and with winemaking since the Dark Ages, when Ludwig der Fromme ("Louis the Pious") made 6000 litres of wine during the reign of Charlemagne. In 1100, Benedictine monks completed a monastery on the Bischofsberg ("Bishop's") mountain, having identified the site as one of the best places to grow vines.[3] 30 years later they built a Romanesque basilica in honour of John the Baptist, and the hill became known as Johannisberg (John's mountain). It was constructed according to similar floor plans as its mother house,St. Alban's Abbey, Mainz. As such the monastery was a prime target for the Anabaptists in the Peasants' War of 1525, and it was destroyed.

In 1716 Konstantin von Buttlar, Prince-Abbot of Fulda, bought the estate from Lothar Franz von Schönborn, started construction of the baroque palace, and in 1720 planted Riesling vines, making it the oldest Riesling vineyard in the world.[1] The estate changed hands several times during the Napoleonic Wars, but in 1816 the Holy Roman Emperor, Francis II, gifted it to the great Austrian statesman Prince von Metternich.[1]

The estate remains in the hands of the Oetker family today. The buildings were almost completely destroyed by air raids on Mainz in 1942, and after the war took twenty years to reconstruct.[1] There are currently about 35 hectares (86 acres) of vineyard.

Late harvest wines

Tradition has that a messenger from the Heinrich von Bibra, Prince-Bishop and Abbot of Fulda, was 14 days late in bringing the papers to give the cellar master permission to start harvesting the grapes. At least two alternative stories exist to explain the delay. One is that the Prince-Bishop was away hunting and was not available to sign the permission to harvest, and the other is that he was intercepted and held by highwaymen.[4] By this time the grapes had become affected with the "noble rot" Botrytis cinerea. The rotted grapes were then given to the local peasants who ended up making wine of high quality.[5] In 1775, Schloss Johannisberg made the first Spätlese level Riesling followed by an Auslese level wine in 1787[6] and an Eiswein in 1858.[1] Unfortunately for the Germans, the Tokay classification of 1730 relied in part on an area's propensity to noble rot, which suggests that the Hungarians got there first.

Historically the estate used different colour seals for different ripenesses of grapes. These classifications were used as the basis for the new German wine classification of 1971, thus :

Gelblack Yellow Qualitätswein
Rotlack Red Kabinett
Grünlack Green Spätlese
Silberlack Silver "Erstes Gewächs"
Rosalack Pink Auslese
Rosa-Goldlack   Pink-gold   Beerenauslese
Goldlack Gold Trockenbeerenauslese  
Blaulack Blue Eiswein

Schloss Johannisberg is a single vineyard designation (Einzellage) in its own right, and one of a handful historic German vineyards which do not have to display a village name on the label. Thus, the vineyard designation on the label is Schloß Johannisberger.


The 35ha of vineyards consist of a loam-loess topsoil lying on a Taunus quartzite. The soils are quite stony and gravelly, enabling them to retain the day's temperature and to buffer temperature differences.


The estate offers guided tours with tastings, a wine bar, shop, and various special events.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 A History of Schloss Johannisberg
  2. The Oxford Companion to Wine. "Schloss Johannisberg". 
  3. Wine Spectator (September 30, 2006). "Wine in Northern Europe". pp.124
  4. Wein-Plus Glossar: Spätlesereiter, accessed on June 14, 2009 (German)
  5. A Short History of Riesling
  6. MacNeil, Karen (2001). The Wine Bible. Workman Publishing, pp.540. ISBN 1-56305-434-5

Coordinates: 50°00′00″N 7°59′02″E / 50.0°N 7.98378°E / 50.0; 7.98378

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