Herbst is here

5th through 13th October, 2013

Colour-wise, the last week's been boldly saturated; weather wise, damp, dank and cooling but with two-and-a-half months of the year to go, still plenty of time for pleasant surprises. 

Talking of pleasant, the season brings with it lots of 'comforters' in not just clothing but also in abundant colour in the local markets: the smell of roasting chestnuts; seasonal dishes like the onion tart, or Zwiebelkuchen, that goes so well with the glorious, freshly-pressed white grape fermentation known variously as Federweisser (feather-white), Sturm, Junger Wein, Neuer Wein, Bremser, Must  or Vernache, depending on where the uncorked bottles are being offered; baskets of Steinpilz/Ceps; fantastically-shaped marrows or squashes and, seemingly every year now, some new vegetable that you've never seen or heard of before.

Finally, a decent day, Sunday 13th, but would the vines slipping gently down the slopes into the Rhine already be changing colour? Only slightly, but they were well worth the visit, as was a first stop for lunch at the somewhat avant-garde Trenz Winery in the Rheingau's Johannisberg.

It's a short walk from Trenz along the hilltop, through the village and up the drive to Schloss Johannisberg, long-time seat of the Austrian Fuerst von Metternich and home to one of the world's oldest Riesling vineyards. Enjoying  sweeping views both across and along the Rhine in both directions, it costs nothing to walk in, enjoy the vistas, walk through the vineyards and to take in the atmosphere although both restaurant and well-stocked cellar shop can be the cause of a budget crisis if the sandwich box was forgotten or wallet-discipline not exercised.

First mentioned in 817, a Benedictine monastery was raised on Bischofsberg in the 12th Century and after many changes of ownership the site, now owned by the Abbey of Fulda, finally saw the construction in 1716 of a palace over the remains of the old monastery, the whole domain planted out with Riesling in 1720, the late-harvest 'Spaetlese' introduced by Schloss Johannisberg in 1775. Napoleon's administration saw the property transferred to Emperor Franz I of Austria in 1815, in turn ceded to his state chancellor, the Fuerst von Metternich. An emergency bomb disposal destroyed the Schloss in 1942, it's palace and church rebuilt over the years 1945-1964. Under Germany's wine laws, the estate was declared an independent 'appellation' in 1971. The rest, as they say, is history.