Perched high up on a hill overlooking the Moselle Valley’s Rheingau region is the imperial-looking Schloss Johannisberg, the oldest Riesling estate in the world, celebrating over 1,200 years of oenology elegance.
Here, one crisp fall day when every leaf seemed full of the Midas touch and every vine slender and svelte without the heft of recently-picked fruit, I wandered through the several hundred acres of Riesling vines, soaking in the history of the former Benedictine monastery, almost hearing Gregorian chants echoing everywhere.
The famous poet Lord Byron visited the estate frequently and as the story goes, “he drank the cellar dry and didn’t pay a dime.”
The estate is the nucleus of a sprawling wine culture that began centuries ago when the Romans first brought vine cuttings to the area. Bottles bear the “Sigellack” (wax seals) and are color coded, almost like a Crayola box. So, choosing the wine according to your taste is child’s play: the red seal is a Kabinett wine (a “cabinet” wine made with fully-ripe grapes); the green seal is a Spätlese (a “late harvest” which means the water content has much evaporated, leading to a sweeter wine—this was discovered by accident in 1775); and the silver seal is the first growth. My favorite, the gold seal (Trocken) is a dry Riesling perfect for just about anything.
An impressive-sized cellar crammed with casks made from oak trees of the Schloss Johannisberger forest means a blend of nature, history and authenticity in every sip.