There are many great vineyard sites dotting the landscapes of today’s diverse wine world. Virtually every wine producing nation lays claim to having its own viticultural Holy of Holies. But how many of these sites transcend the mere aspiration to greatness and touch upon the realm of the truly legendary? After all, many a good terroir can routinely produce a well-made, highly rated gem, especially if Mother Nature deigns it. But to be the stuff of legend, one could argue there must be great history (or at least a fanciful tale or two) to accompany first-class soil, winemaking and fruit.
Surely more than a few of the Grand Crus of Burgundy rank high on the legend meter. Romanee Conti? Corton-Charlemagne? The former a monopole of DRC and the world’s most highly sought Pinot Noir, the latter a climat owned by the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne himself.
But perhaps the world’s costliest vineyard resides outside of Burgundy in the Mittelmosel. The famed Doctor vineyard in Bernkastel-Kues is considered a national treasure in Germany. As 14th century legends go, the elixir derived from this small 3.25 acre vineyard cured a deathly-ill Beomund II, Archbishop of Trier, during his visit to the region. When the doctors of his time were incapable of conquering his malady, a few bottles of Riesling ended up the being real “doctor.” More legend: when parcels of this vineyard were last up for sale back in 1900, it was deemed the most expensive in the world at a cost of one hundred Deutsch Goldmarks per vine.
Okay, my fact checker informs me that with a recent price tag of 101M euros, the Clos des Lambrays Grand Cru in Burgundy may be worth a little more in terms of today’s economy.
Certainly the most expensive vineyard in present-day Germany, the Berncasteler Doctor is classified a Grosse Lage (Great Growth) and planted solely to Riesling, much of it old-vine and ungrafted on original rootstock. It’s a steep hillside with a gradient reaching sixty-five percent and has an ideal position facing due SSW, continually catching the sun’s rays. The Devonian slate soil gives the wines their unique character, often displaying delicate fruit, elegance and lightness.
The Thanisch family has cultivated wine continuously since the year 1636. The estate of Wwe Dr H Thanisch, Erben Thanisch – VDP is now managed by the 11th generation. Sofia Thanisch and her daughters Christina and Juliane oversee 16 acres of Riesling in Bernkastel-Kues including significant holdings in the Berncasteler Doctor, Bernkasteler Badstube, Bernkasteler Lay and Bernkasteler Graben vineyards.
VDP Thanisch Berncasteler Doctor Riesling Kabinett ($30) is expressive with spicy scents, golden apple, peach pie and apricot skin wrapped in a tense core of zesty acidity. It’s approachable now with schnitzel and potato pancakes, but will undoubtedly stand the test of time and cellar for a decade or more.
Jim Greeley, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits Wine & Spirits Supervisor
Follow me on Twitter @ABCWineJimG