Speaking of monastic influence on viticulture and winemaking, Burgundy is probably the most obvious example, but it is not the only one. Germany’s historic wine regions have their fair share of monastic heritage, often punctuated by aristocratic traditions. Weingut von Racknitz of the Nahe region is one prime example. More than sensual delights, wine is also an intellectual quest.
Centred around the historic ruins of Kloster Disibodenberg, the estate’s viticultural and winemaking history can be traced back to Roman times, when the first vines were planted. In the 5th century, St Patrick introduced Christianity to a new frontier never before reached, that is Ireland. Less than 200 years later, in the 7th century, the Irish monk and hermit St Disibod embarked on his missionary journey to modern day France and Germany. At the confluence of Nahe and Glan near Odernheim in modern day Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany, he settled and established a base for preaching.
Following his death, St Disibod’s tomb became a pilgrimage site, and a monastery named after him – Kloster Disibodenberg – was built. In the 12th century, the pre-eminent medieval polymath and Benedictine abbess St Hildegard of Bingen lived there for almost 40 years, during which she complete many of her most important buildings. From the mid-13th to mid-16th centuries, Kloster Disibodenberg as a Cistercian abbey was affiliated with its mother abbey Kloster Eberbach, still one of the leading wine estates of the Rheingau region, whose mother abbey was Abbaye de Clairvaux in central-northeastern France, whose mother abbey, in turn, was Abbaye de Cîteaux, the spiritual home of the Cistercian Order.
Successive wars from the 15th to 17th centuries left Kloster Disibodenberg in ruins, but viticulture and winemaking persisted. In 1753, the estate was acquired by the baronial family of von Racknitz, whose roots can be traced back to the 12th-century Steiermark (Styria) of southern Austria. Over the centuries, numerous members of the von Racknitz family had served at the courts of various southern German states, including Austria and Bavaria.
Now at the helm of Kloster Disibodenberg, Luise Freifrau von Racknitz-Adams – Freifrau is the Germanic equivalent of Baroness – has dedicated herself since 2003 to restoring the former glory of this historic estate. Adjoining but by no means overshadowed by its illustrious neighbours, Kloster Disibodenberg boasts six premium vineyards, mostly planted with 40+ year old vines, including Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle, Niederhäuser Klamm, Oberhäuser Kieselberg, Odernheimer Kloster Disibodenberg, Schloßböckelheimer Königsfels and Traiser Rotenfels.
Radiant citrine with light golden reflex, the adorable nose presents lime peel, green apple, guava, wet stone and lily. With bounteous acidity and stern minerality, the melodious palate supplies lemon peel, pomelo, pineapple, crushed rock and garden herbs. Medium-
bodied at 12.5 percent, the clear entry persist through a chiselled mid-palate, leading to a lingering finish.
Luminous citrine with bright sunshine reflex, the fragrant nose offers grapefruit, greengage, crushed shells, mint and jasmine. With vivacious acidity and saline minerality, the focused palate delivers pomelo, starfruit, rock salt, verbena and lemon blossom. Medium-full bodied at 12.5 percent, the arresting entry continues through an expressive mid-palate, leading to a pure finish.
Jacky I.F. Cheong is a legal professional by day and columnist by night. Having spent his formative years in Britain, France,
and Germany, he regularly writes about wine, fine arts, classical music, and politics in several languages