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Riesling Spätlese Domdechaney | Rheingau Germany

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The Winery

Today, the winery is directed by proprietor, Dr. Franz Werner Michel, who is assisted by his wife and their daughter Catharina Mauritz. Visitors are welcome – by appointment only – to taste and purchase the wines (English, Swedish and Italian are spoken).

The worldwide first documented mention of the Riesling grape – Germany’s premier white grape variety – dates from 1435 in a site not far from Hochheim. The Riesling wines from the Rheingau region are the foundation of the region’s fame. Hochheim’s soils and microclimate afford optimal growing conditions for Riesling. As such, the profile of the Domdechant Werner estate clearly focuses on this varietal, supplemented by a small proportion of Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) – another grape that is traditional in this region. In all, though, the Domdechant Werner estate numbers among the world’s leading, high-quality Riesling producers.

The estate cultivates ca. 14 ha/35 acres of vines, 98% of which are planted with Riesling and 2% Spätburgunder. The vineyards are located on gentle, south-facing slopes. The mineral-rich soils are predominantly chalky, with an excellent capacity to retain underground water. Therefore, the vines are able remain healthy even during hot and dry weather.

The estate has holdings in the single vineyard sites Domdechaney, Kirchenstück, Hölle, Stein, Stielweg and Reichestal – all of which have met the classification criteria of the Rheingau region’s top quality category Erstes Gewächs, or first growth.

The Rheingau classification is based on many years of scientific research carried out by the Geisenheim Research Institute. Their study confirmed that the the microclimate and soil composition of 85% of the estate’s holdings are eligible for Erstes Gewächs status, compared with 33% of the Rheingau’s total vineyard area.

Thanks to optimal growing conditions, the Domdechant Werner estate is able to produce top-quality wines of all styles, ranging from dry to lusciously sweet wines. Regardless of style, elegant fruit and mineral tones are the hallmarks of all the wines. The finest dry Riesling wines are designated Erstes Gewächs, while the finest sweet wines bear the traditional Prädikat Auslese. The red Spätburgunder wines are carefully aged in mature oak casks. They are velvety smooth, fruity, and show only a hint of oak.

Current vintage Domdechant Werner wines are traditionally presented to the trade and press at the Mainzer Weinbörse trade fair in late April, as well as at the most important domestic and international trade forums, such as the traditional auctions of the VDP, or Prädikat Wine Estates. Domestically, the wines are sold to leading hotels and restaurants, as well as upscale wine shops. Some 60-70% of the wines are exported to about 25 countries around the world, making the estate a “global player” on a small scale.


In 1780, the father of Dr. Franz Werner, the renowned Domdechant (dean) of the Cathedral of Mainz, acquired from the Count York the Hochheim wine estate. Domdechant Werner is credited with having saved the Cathedral from being demolished during the French Revolution and was responsible for its reconstruction.

The historical estate is owned by Dr. Franz Werner Michel, the seventh generation of the founding family. The eighth (and possibly ninth) generation is now on the scene, as Dr. Michel’s daughter, Catharina Mauritz, mother of three sons, has also become involved in the estate’s management.

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Weight 1.200 kg


For almost a thousand kilometers (620 miles) the Rhine flows in a northerly direction – with one exception: near Wiesbaden, the Taunus Hills force it to bend at nearly a right angle and flow westward for some 30 km (20 miles) to Rüdesheim, where it bends again to resume its northerly course. Thus arose one of the world’s most beautiful viticultural landscapes, bordered in the north by the Taunus Hills and in the south by the Rhine.

The Rheingau, with a vineyard area of ca. 3,200 ha (not quite 8,000 acres) of primarily south- and south-western-facing slopes, boasts the world’s highest proportion of Riesling grapes, supplemented by the red wine variety Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir). The vineyards lie between 80 and 220 meters above sea level and trace their geological origin to a tertiary sea, upon whose northern shore the Rheingau is situated today. As a result, soil types are varied and include gravel and sand, as well as loamy to clayish soils interspersed with marl and loess. In the lower Rheingau near Rüdesheim and in the sites on heights, such as in Kiedrich and in Rauenthal at the foothills of the Taunus, there are also quartzite and weathered slate soils.

The Romans, and later Charlemagne, recognized that the climatic and geological characteristics of this little stretch of land were well-suited for viticulture and planted vines here. Benedictine and Cistercian monks followed in their footsteps. Their pioneering efforts over the centuries, marked by holistic thinking and doing from the vineyard to the cellar and marketing, helped establish the Rheingau’s leading position in the world of viticulture. It is not for nothing that the concepts of selective and late harvesting (Cabinet, Spätlese and Auslese) as well as the practice of marketing the finest wines in bottle rather than bulk all originated in the Rheingau. And throughout the centuries, the concept of “terroir” – the interplay of all natural factors and uncompromising, quality- oriented work of the growers – was always a focal point of thinking here. As such, today’s “Erstes Gewächs” (first growth) merely represents a return to an old Rheingau tradition. The finest dry wines from top sites bear a vineyard desgination and are labeled “Erstes Gewächs.” Lusciously sweet first growths can be recognized by the Prädikats Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese and Eiswein.

A century ago, the successful Prädikat wine estates set the stage for German “Grand Crus” when they fetched sensational prices around the world for their wines from vineyards such as Marcobrunn and Steinberg, to name but two of the Rheingau’s many top sites. Today, these top growths – also sold at auctions of the Prädikat wine estates – once again number among the internationally most highly-esteemed, and often most expensive, wines of the world.

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