Schloss Johannisberg

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


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. 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 monsatery 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. 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.

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. There are currently about 80 acres of vineyard.

Late harvest wines

Tradition has that a messenger from the Abbey of Fulda was late in bringing papers to give the workers permission to harvest the grapes. One story is that he was robbed en route. 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. In 1775, Schloss Johannisberg made the first Spätlese level Riesling followed by an Auslese level wine in 1787 and an Eiswein in 1858. 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 :

Seal Classification
Yellow Qualitätswein
Red Kabinett
Green Spätlese
Pink Auslese
Pink-gold Beerenauslese
Gold Trockenbeerenauslese
Blue Eiswein


The 35ha of vineyards consist of a loam-loess topsoil lying on a Taunus quartzite.


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


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