Good Vibrations in the Rheingau: Peter Jakob Kuhn

8/24/23 -

The last day of my Germany trip in April was spent visiting the famed Rheingau wine region on the north side of the Rhine river where it breaks from it's South/ North flow to an East/West one. Historically, the Rheingau was always considered one of Germany's top appellations as it's southern facing vineyards were able to achieve greater ripeness than elsewhere. As I mentioned about a year ago in my Rheingau Royalty article about Leitz, many of the great aristocratic estates that built the Rheingau’s reputation from the late 18th century closed down, were sold off and/or broken up. It wasn't until the 80s that the top producers banded together and decided to revive the Burgundy-style vineyard classification that existed from 1867 for a century that improvements began. Another winery key in the Rheingau's renaissance is that of Peter Jakob Kuhn.

Although the estate has been a cornerstone of Rheingau winemaking for around 230 years, it wasn't until the 11th generation that a sea change was introduced: the conversion to organic  and then biodynamic viticulture helmed by Peter Jakob and Angela who took over in 1979. One of the few estates in Germany to be certified biodynamic, the conversion was gradual and started at home: unhealthy food was banned – no white sugar, white flour or processed foods of any kind. Then, they abandoned herbicides and insecticides, anti-fungal sprays, and cultured yeasts; in 2001 they took the plunge and became biodynamically certified. The wines are now made by son Peter Bernhardt and wife Viktoria, although as witnessed during my visit, the winery is still very much a family affair with all hands on deck. Expecting to meet with son Peter-Bernhardt, I was greeted by Mama Angela who proceeded to run the wine tasting with me and then drive me around to visit  the vineyards. I briefly saw Peter-Bernhardt during the tasting as he was leaving with his two small children to take them to a nearby petting zoo!  Angela said delightedly : "Viktoria is busy with a newborn and as we are a family winery, everyone pitches in. So today, Peter Bernhardt is on babysitting duty!"

Angela Kuhn in a Hallgarten vineyard with town of Oestrich and Rhein river below in the distance

The visit to the vineyards was nothing short of revelatory. After Angela regaled me with tales of historical village rivalries (she's from Hallgarten and Peter Jakob is from Oestrich), she shared with me her and her husband's immense passion and creed for biodynamics, showing me sites for making compost and their cosmic energy stone pyramids with triangle of poplars at each vineyard.

Pyramid, poplars and bench
Hallgarten Hendelberg vineyard

She said that her and husband Peter Jakob love ending the day siting on the bench at these pyramids looking out across the valley and Rhine river in the distance. Having tasted their wines first and seeing the vineyards after, I realized that their wines's crystaline vibrancy and energy were completely driven by the "good vibrations" from this exemplary terroir and custodianship. We are honored to offer five of them today: their extremely limited Blanc de Blancs Sekt, a village blend of three sites using older vines, two 1er Cru single vineyards and their Doosberg GG Grand Cru. I hope you will enjoy them as much as I did!  Best consumed whilst listening to the Beach Boys! Giselle Hamburg

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