Johannisberg Castle

Johannisberg, Germany

Schloss Johannisberg is a castle and winery in the Rheingau wine-growing region of Germany. It has been making wine for over 900 years. The winery is most noted for its claim to have 'discovered' late harvest wine.

A mountain on the north bank of the River Rhine near Mainz has been associated with the Church and with winemaking since the Dark Ages, when the estate of Ludwig der Fromme ('Louis the Pious') made 6000 litres of wine during the reign of Charlemagne. In 1100, Benedictine monks completed a monastery on the Bischofsberg ('Bishop's') mountain, having identified the site as one of the best places to grow vines. Thirty years later they built a Romanesque basilica in honour of John the Baptist, and the hill became known as Johannisberg ('John's mountain'). It was constructed on floor plans similar to that of its mother house, St. Alban's Abbey, Mainz. The monastery was a prime target for the Anabaptists in the German Peasants' War of 1525, and it was destroyed.

In 1716, Konstantin von Buttlar, Prince-Abbot of Fulda, bought the estate from Lothar Franz von Schönborn, started construction of the baroque palace, and, in 1720, planted Riesling vines, making it the oldest Riesling vineyard in the world. The estate changed hands several times during the Napoleonic Wars, but in 1816 Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor, gave it to the great Austrian statesman Prince von Metternich.

In 1942, the Schloss was bombed and reduced to a shell by the air raids on Mainz in 1942. By the mid-1960s it had been largely rebuilt by Prince Paul Alfons von Metternich and his wife Princess Tatiana, who had fled there on a farm cart in 1945 after the Russians had advanced on their other estates. Prince Paul died in 1992, leaving no heir, but a significant portion of his fortune to his mistress. With his death the House of Metternich became extinct. Although Princess Tatiana was allowed to reside in the Schloss until her death in 2006, the situation had forced her husband to sell the estate to the German Oetker family in 1974.

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