It isn’t often you hear of a winery’s 800th vintage. That’s one of the reasons I perked up my ears when I heard of Schloss Vollrad’s 800th; the other reason was Schloss Vollrads itself. The first recorded wine sale from this famous castle was a.d. 1211, 800 years ago.
Were he still alive, I’m sure Count Ernwein Matuschka-Greiffenclau would be quite proud and throw a big party. I haven’t been back to Schloss Vollrads since Ernwein took his own life in 1997, but I still drink his wines, though they are no longer priced within my daily-use budget. My wife and I were occasional guests in his private dining room, as he was in ours. Our paths crossed frequently in the late 1970s and early 1980s, so I had good occasion to pay attention when I heard of the 800th.
The Count told me it was Charlemagne himself who launched viticulture in the Rhine Valley at the end of the eighth century, but the Greiffenclaus didn’t plant their vineyards till a.d. 1096. The current Schloss (castle) was completed in a.d. 1330, and Count Ernwein lived in it until his death.
The Matuschkas came to the Rhine Valley from Hungary, the Greiffenclaus from the Rhineland. Their families merged in 1862 when Count Huga von Matuschka married Sophie von Greiffenclau and sired Ernwein’s parents. Erwein became a powerful advocate for German wines, especially Rheingau wines, those in the region of his castle and whose vineyards extend from near Wiesbaden in the east to Lorchausen in the west. He traveled the world preaching the joy of German wine with food. He was also a missionary for simplifying German wine labels. Fifteen years after his passing, Schloss Vollrads wines now bear English words on their labels, such as “dry,” “medium-dry,” etc.
So effective was he, that German wine authorities have decreed Schloss Vollrads to be both a wine estate and a vineyard as well as a heritage site. I am told the 2011 harvest is of very high quality and that the wines should be very good. They should be; the soils have had 800 years to get things right.