According to legends from the 14th century, the Archbishop of Trier, Bohemond II, fell ill. Try as they might have, his doctors could not cure him of this mysterious ailment. A local winemaker, who swore by the health benefits of his wine, offered some to the sickly Bishop. Alas, Bohemond II was cured and, as a reward, named the vineyard after his clever “doctor.”
Today the vineyard still exists, located in the picturesque town of Bernkastel and planted exclusively with Riesling. Many of the vines are over 100 years old, with roots reaching down 15 meters through the slate soil to the cellars beneath. For most of the 19th century, the Doctor vineyard was leased by the Thanisch family, who today own half of the vineyard (split further into 2 parts for each side of the family). The two Dr. H Thanisch wineries take their name from their ancestor, Dr. Hugo Thanisch, who founded the winery in the 1800s. At some point there was a difference of opinion between family members and so there are two Dr. H Thanisch wines out there with nearly identical labels. One is the Erben Muller-Burgraff winery and the other is the Erben Thanisch. Suffice to say, all wines from this legendary vineyard are worth their weight in gold.
Riesling production from this small vineyard only totals about 10,000 bottles per year. However, it is not difficult to find. Currently available at ABC, there are two Bernkasteler Doctor Rieslings available from Dr. H. Thanisch (Erben Thanisch).
The first is the Kabinet. It is bursting with peach and pear flavors along with floral honey. The bright acidity reminds me of citrus and green apple and it has a long, bittersweet finish.
Second is the Spätlese. This wine has a floral aroma and a creamy texture. The minerality of the wine shows well along with delicious flavors of lime and peach. It has a long, lengthy finish accented by the acidity of the wine.
I’m not sure if these wines will actually keep you healthy. But happy? Definitely! So drink your medicine!
Bill Dahl, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits wine consultant
Follow me on Twitter @abcwineBillD