When Gut Hermannsberg’s general manager and oenologist Karsten Peter opened a bottle of the Schlossböckelheimer Kupfergrube Trockenbeerenauslese 1921 vintage in 2017 to replace the cork he was astonished by the concentration, complexity and freshness of the wine. He was heard exclaiming ‘the wine is as fresh at the new morning’.
This was the last bottle of the wine that remains in the Rarities Cellar of Hut Hermannsberg, a bottle that that is not only historical but also comes from a phenomenal vintage. The neck of the bottle is decorated with a banderol, where one can read the ornamental script: Presented as a celebratory libation to honour the President of Germany, General Field Marshall von Hindenburg, at the liberation festivities in Cologne, on 21 March 1926.
This last wine bottle is being put on auction. The couple who own Gut Hermannsberg, Dr Christine Dinse and Jens Reidel, along with the general manager Karsten Peter, made the decision to auction the 1921er for this reason because while they believe that Rieslings are made for maturity and only in maturity they can show their full potential they are beginning to suspect “the time is ripe to drink this wine. Give the Rieslings more time!”
When Peter tried the 1921 Schlossböckelheimer Kupfergrube Trockenbeerenauslese in 2017, he wrote: “The visual impression: dignified and elegant. This nearly 100-year-old wine shimmers bronze in colour with golden yellow highlights. The nose: extraordinarily fresh and phenomenally complex. A whiff of orange rind sails out among the aromas of Spanish chestnuts and honey. I can smell cracknel and fine notes of tobacco. There’s only a bit of raisin on the nose. On the palate: once more I am impressed with the freshness and vigour of the wine. One might almost call it youthful. The dynamic tension is clearly perceptible – sweetness and acidity have found their balance. The structure of the wine is tightly woven, elegant like the finest silk. And the finish is simply endless.”
The Trockenbeerenauslese Kupfergrube from the vintage 1921 is a unique specimen: historically, qualitatively and emotionally. It is therefore anticipated that Gut Hermannsberg will reach a new auction record with this bottle – after a 2015er TBA last year recorded the highest figure since the beginning of the VDP Auctions in 1910, a net hammer-price of 10,600€.
The Auction of the VDP Nahe & VDP Ahr will take place on Sunday 23 September 2018 from 11.00–13.00 at the Römerhalle in Bad Kreuznach.
The 1921 vintage ranks as one of the best of the 20th century all over Europe. And in Germany’s winegrowing regions, 1921 could very well have been the vintage of the century. Anybody who comes across a wine from this vintage does not hesitate to get his hands on it. However, not many bottles from 1921 remain on the market and this is also because of the historical significance apart from the age of the wines.
After the World War years 1914–1918, Germany was ruined. Like many other economic sectors, the wine industry was depressed. Vineyards and cellars, distribution and markets had to be restored under extremely difficult conditions. Furthermore, the victorious allies imposed crippling demands for reparations upon defeated Germany – which was hardly in any condition to pay. As security, the Allied Powers occupied the left bank of the Rhine River, along with four ‘bridgeheads’ on the right bank, including Cologne and Mainz.
The Nahe Valley was also occupied by the French. The wines of the Prussian State Viticultural Domain Niederhausen Schlossböckelheim (today Gut Hermannsberg) from the exceptional 1921 vintage would thus have fallen under French administration. But the directors of the estate were able to sell the precious wines into unoccupied Frankfurt am Main before the French were able to take control, so they remained in Germany.
When, after protracted and tedious negotiations, the German government was able to bring about the departure of occupying forces, the country’s President von Hindenburg figured as one of the heroes of the success. He was singled out for honours at gala festivities in Cologne celebrating the liberation. And it was no accident that Hindenburg was poured a wine from the Prussian State Domain: folks were aware of his preference for this particular producer. At this commemorative fête, on 31 March 1926, a 1921er Trockenbeerenauslese Kupfergrube was served.
Originally known as the Königlich-Preussische Weinbaudomäne, the estate was laid out and constructed in 1902 by the Prussian government – as a ‘model’ Riesling winery. It is quite impressive for its picturesque location above the Nahe River (ninety minutes southwest by car from Frankfurt am Main).
The thirty hectares of the historic estate are all classified as Grosse Lage by the VDP. In 2009 Jens Reidel and Dr Christine Dinse discovered the estate and recognised its great potential. They acquired the property and decided upon the name Gut Hermannsberg and it has one of the best vineyards on the Nahe.
The estate’s general managers are Achim Kirchner and Karsten Peter, who also serves as cellarmaster; together and with their team they concentrate fully upon the rich Riesling tradition of the estate, and thanks to the geologic characteristics and orientation of the outstanding vineyards, are able to vinify the finest, extremely impressive Rieslings. These steeply sloped sites – such as the legendary Kupfergrube, the monopole Hermannsberg and the unique Traiser Bastei – figure among the best Riesling sites
in Germany and in the world. Achim Kirchner and Tobias Frick, in cooperation with Smart-Wines, are responsible for marketing the wines, both in Germany and internationally.
Gut Hermannsberg currently owns twelve hectares of the total 14ha under vines in the site, where the vines root themselves deep into a volcanic stone called melaphyre. The extremely mineral-driven wines from this site present themselves a bit reticent initially, but the excellence shows consistently with age.
Celebrities and politicians decorate their banquets and receptions with the estate’s noble wines. For example, the 1959er Kupfergrube Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese was served in 1981 at the wedding reception of Diana Spencer and heir to the British throne Charles Prince of Wales.
Karsten Peter does not really want to let the bottle go but at the same time he is proud of this treasure. He will personally present the bottle at the auction: ”I feel deep humility with respect to this wine, and am very thankful that I was able to experience it in top form. And you might ask: would I advise the buyer to drink the wine? Absolutely!”