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All Our Yesterdays

Stefan Doktor
Scholl Johannisberg

 Schloss Johannisberg make a Riesling that is the epitome of just what can be done to bring out the best in a legendary grape, and the first time I tasted it was the moment my view of Riesling took a time machine from the seventies and arrived in the present! 

 This is not surprising because they've had just over 300 years to get in right, and the wines they release provide a strong link with the history of German winemaking at its best (read Hugh Johnson's 'THE STORY OF WINE' for a greater insight). I first fell in love with their wines when I was feeling adventurous at Bremen airport and decided to buy a bottle to celebrate an excellent visit. 

 I'd been searching for a wine that represented the art of Riesling making at its best, and as I tasted my first glass of their Gelback Trocken I knew I'd found my Riesling of choice. I've never regretted that decision and if you give me a bottle of Schloss Johannisberg I am indeed a very happy man. 

 Schloss Johannisberg are based in the Rheingau, and are reputed to be the first Riesling estate in the world, and it's this history and tradition that are never far from what the wines of this producer are trying to say. That doesn't mean that they are stuck in the past, it just means that they know what works and use this knowledge to build for the future. Fans of their wines are based all around the world, eagerly looking forward to their next bottle. Is it really no surprise that reviews are seldom far from the best it is possible to acquire. 


 The terroir is so precisely located to achieve maximum sun exposure at an altitude that nurtures the correct acidity in the grapes, and the barrels are made from oak that is native to the area? I'm intrigued to know the secret of success at Schloss Johannisberg, and it is only natural that I turn to the interestingly named Stefan Doktor. He's the Head of Schloss Johannisberg and a man who should know what is what. 

Winefullness Magazine: 'As the Head of Schloss Johannisberg you must carry a lot of responsibilities. When you took over the job what needed the greatest attention?'

Stefan Doktor: 'To overview every one detail of managing such historical estate.'
Winefullness: 'What part of your new job surprised you the most?'
Stefan: 'That the belief in success is contagious.' Winefullness: 'How do you feel that your latest harvest has been, and would the estate ever consider not producing a wine if there was a terrible vintage?'
Stefan: 'We harvested perfectly healthy, golden-yellow ripened berries with enormous potential. 

'I do not want to imagine a year without harvest.' Winefullness: 'Do you still feel that Riesling suffers from the image that dominated people’s thoughts in the 1970’s?' Stefan: 'My experience says not. The world has discovered Riesling anew.' 

Winefullness: 'To what, besides an excellent product, do you attribute the longevity of success at Schloss Johannisberg?'
Stefan Doktor: 'Schloss Johannisberg has always lovingly cared for its roots.' 

Winefullness: 'You have a beautiful cellar that contains many old, and fine bottles of your wine. How often are any of these opened and when was the last time?'
Stefan: 'We re-cork our wines every 25 years. It's an ongoing process.' 

Winefullness: 'Your terroir seems so unlike the traditional ‘steep hills’ that one attributes with German winemaking. 

 'Do you feel that your wines miss something because of this?'
Stefan: Schloss Johannisberg is called a “Berg”, which means a “hill” because it has a slope. In the middle, there is a slope of 45°. This is steep, believe me. There are, of course, vineyards with more steepness, but this does not necessary mean better sunny influence.' 

Winefullness: 'What impact has the recent Covid virus had upon your business, and when do you feel it might return to better days?' Stefan: 'There have been some shifts in the markets. One part has been lost, another part has been rediscovered. Anticipation has always been an attribute that has led to survival.'
Winefullness: 'Schloss Johannisberg have consistently produced wines of class and breeding. Do you find that this creates a certain amount of pressure to maintain those high standards?' 

Stefan: 'No, the task is relatively simple. We just always have to create the best framework conditions to produce excellent wines.'

Winefullness: 'With a business routed in such traditions, how do you innovate without damaging your image?'
Stefan: 'Take small steps over and over and never stop trying to be better.'

Winefullness: 'What is the one thing that would make your life easier at Schloss Johannisberg?' 

Stefan Doktor: 'If a days lasted longer than 24 hours.'
Winefullness Magazine: ' What do you do to relax (if you can)?'
Stefan: 'I love sliding sports, I used to be a professional luger and I still go for luge in my free time.'
Winefullness: 'Do you think that Brexit will cause any problems for the German wine industry, or are you already exploring other markets?'
Stefan: 'Brexit doesn't make the export to U.K. easier, but is still possible. Therefore, we have no fear.' 

Winefullness: 'Germany has the Grosses Gewächs classification system. Do you feel that it is widely recognised amongst the general public, or are they still a little confused by the labelling that takes place? If this is the case, how would you change it?'
Stefan: 'The classification of GG is easy to understand because of its similarity to Burgundy. Our experiences are pretty good.' Winefullness: ' I have never had a bad bottle of Schloss Johannisberg and wonder if there is a food that you would never pair your wines with?' 

Stefan: 'Pickles.'
Winefullness Magazine: 'Are wine journalists a help or a hinderance?'

Stefan Doktor: 'If you're doing honest work, it's help.' 


Until this virus disappears and stops blighting any dreams I actually have of drinking a wonderfully chilled glass of Gelback Trocken, a more in-depth interview with Stefan will have to wait. 

If you've never tried the wines of Schloss Johannisberg because your view of Riesling is still stuck with memories of those nasty efforts from the sixties and seventies you need to do yourselves a favour and order a bottle, because this is everything Riesling can produce at its best. 

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