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Wine of the Day • 6 October 2020

Schloss Johannisberg Spatlese 2001

I visited more than 15 years ago. Schloss Johannisberg has a winemaking history going back 1,200 years. Since 1720, only Riesling has been cultivated on the estate. In their 11th Century cellar, the oldest bottle is 1748. Located in the village of Hessen, nearby is the city of Geisenheim, home to one of the most famous viticulture and wine universities in the Rheingau and the world.  When you visit the winery, you must make sure you also have lunch in the restaurant. The cuisine, tingling wines and dramatic views of the vineyard will have you gasping for air.  It was in Schloss Johannisberg that the first late-harvest or Spatlese wine was discovered in Germany. That was the 1775 vintage. At the time, Schloss Johannisberg was owned by a religious order. Permission to start picking had to be obtained from the Abbot of Fulda which was about 170 kilometres away. For some reason or other, the courier returned two or three weeks (accounts differ) after obtaining permission from the monastery. By this time, a mold had developed on the skin of the grapes. Undeterred, the cellarmaster harvested the “rotting” grapes. After the wine was made and tasted, they fell to their knees and looked to the sky in wonder and gratitude. So was born Spatlese, the wine most identified with Schloss Johannisberg. This was the bottle given to me as a parting gift the summer I visited some two decades ago. I opened it last night in Singapore for three other friends. Still so incorrigibly youthful, the wine mesmerized with appley, citrus, pineappley and minerally fruit so lifted I felt the glass had wings and was going to fly away.

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