Assmannshausen Hoellenberg Spaetlese – Best Pinot Noir of my summer holidays

August 28, 2012

View of the Rhine from Bingen looking downstream

Well, if you could just see around the bend in the river, you could see Assmannshausen and its steep vineyards. The vineyards you see in the distance on the other side of the Rhine river here in the photo above are in fact the ones of Ruedesheim. However, you will get a good idea how steep these terroirs are and what a hell of a lot of work it is to cultivate the grapes on these steep slopes.

‘Hoellenberg’is the name of the location (terroir) which means in English (freely translated) ‘mountain of hell’, a quite common name for steep slopes in the Rheingau wine region.

In short, the best Pinot Noir (spaetlese, late harvest) I tasted during my five weeks in Germany was a ‘2010 Hoellenberg Pinot Noir Spaetlese’ from Assmannshausen produced by Kloster Eberbach in the Rheingau.

2010 Assmannshausen Hoellenberg Spaetlese – Pinot Noir

I bought the bottle in the wine shop at Kloster Eberbach for about 17-18 Euro, I think and it turned out to be a treasure. Pinot Noir of the finest kind. Pinot Noir the way I like it, full of flavours but well balanced, earthy with a vibrant acidity, a good body, structure and a long finish. A wine with character.

At 12.5. % alcohol, this wine is not overpowering but elegant, regal I would even say. I immediately regretted that I had not bought more bottles. I was to fast, as always, impatient. At the time I did not want to stand in line for the tasting on this busy Sunday afternoon when we had dropped in the cellar door at the monastery in Eberbach.

A selection of cheeses and salads

We had the wine in a very casual way with some summer dishes, salads and typical German dinner cold cuts and an insalata caprese. The wine would have matched almost any food except some spicy Asian dishes. but it is worth being enjoyed as stand alone drink.

My rating: four and a half out of five stars, 19 of 20 points, 90 Parker points. I could not be more subjective, I guess. In hindsight and given my memory lapses, I consider this the best wine I drank during my summer vacation.

The only one exception maybe was the wine tasting at Karthaeuserhof in Eitelsbach which I attended at the last day of the holiday, but then we merely tasted (small amounts of excellent wines in big glasses and without food) and did not drink a bottle of wine.

More about this event, another time. Stay tuned to the Man from Mosel River.


Kloster Eberbach, Rheingau

August 7, 2012

The Rheingau wine region

Because of a flight delay we had a couple of hours on our hands with nothing to do. This provided us with an unexpected but welcome opportunity to visit the Rheingau wine region. So where to go and what to do?

Some years ago I had been to Eltville, one of the many small and pretty settlements with extensive wine culture and history. Last year in November I met a couple of professors from the famous wine institute in Geisenheim, Rheingau at the 3rd International Symposium on Tropical Wine in Chiang Mai, which further nurtured my curiosity in the Rheingau wine region.

So I typed “Kloster Eberbach” into the navigation system of the hired car and off we went to this place near Eltville which I had always wanted to visit. We were looking for some mix of culture and wine. In no time we were cruising the country roads of the Rheingau.

Vineyards and farm buildings

The region on the right side of the Rhein river between Wiesbaden and Assmannshausen is like a Garden Eden of the modern world. The slopes of prime vineyard land descend gently towards the Rhein river. The land is very fertile and the climate very suitable for the production of first class wines, mainly Riesling.

The top of the mountain ridges of the southern Taunus are crowned with deep forests. Many of the villages and settlements are very beautiful. Every year millions of tourist flock to places like Ruedesheim, Geisenheim, Erbach and Eltville.

The Eberbach monastery

Our destination, the Eberbach Monastery, formerly a Cistercian Abbey, is a kind of museum today. We had a look at the old church, the cloister and the various rooms used by its monks from the 12th century until the French revolution and the secularization of church property under Napoleon.

Fortunately, the grape-growing and wine-making tradition of the monks has been preserved. Today the state of Hessia is the owner of the vineyards and winery “Kloster Eberbach”. The monastery offers a range of programs related to wine, special tastings for instance in the historic wine cellar, and has a “vinothek”, a kind of cellar door or wine shop.

The wine shop of Kloster Eberbach

The “vinothek” wine shop does not only offer the wines of Kloster Eberbach but also of vintners and wineries of the surrounding villages and terroirs. The shop was packed with buyers on this Sunday afternoon. I browsed through the various shelves with wines from different locations and of different quality categories. I tried to stick to a certain budget which did not allow for grand cru wines.

My selection

In the end I settled for three wines only, one Riesling and two Pinot Noir wines. The Riesling came from the most famous and oldest terroir called “Steinberg” (stone mountain) right behind the monastery. The Pinot Noir Spaetlese from Assmannshausen was a bit pricier (17.40 EURO). It should turn out to be the best Pinot Noir I drank while holidaying in good old Germany.

Address:
Kloster Eberbach Winery
65346 Eltville am Rhein
Tel.: +49-6723-6046-0
www.kloster-eberbach.de

PS: When I studied agricultural economics at Bonn University, my master thesis was (among others) also dealing with the farming activities of the Cistercian monasteries and how they influenced land markets. I had visited Himmerod Abbey, a Cistercian monastery near Trier, but had never visited the equally famous Eberbach Abbey.