A revolution of excellence in Wine & Architecture at Kühling-Gillot in Rheinhessen

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by Gisela Kirschstein

"You want to be in or out?" asks the host, very laid-back. In, of course, is the right answer in this case – although it's June, it's pouring outside. What a shame – the garden is one of the highlights of this vinery, a treasure made of beautiful lawns and old trees, surrounding an Art Nouveau villa from 1913. The winery of Kühling-Gillot is famous for this garden – and for what the Juniors set right on the side of it: a radically modern vinothèque. No wonder they won the Great Wine Capital Tourism Award 2016 in the category of Architecture, Parks & Gardens.

"Tomorrow, it's been ten years", says Carolin Spanier-Gillot, the hostess, sounding surprised. "We were young", she laughs, "I just started in the winery here in Bodenheim – when you don't start things then, then when?" And how they started: Carolin Gillot, one of the first notable female winemakers in the winemaking region of Rheinhessen, graduated from the famous wine-university of Geisenheim, and her husband, Hans Oliver Spanier, rebel and radical winemaker from the winery Battenfeld-Spanier.

Carolin Spanier-Gillot - "Save Water, Drink Wine"

Together, the pair revolutionized how Rheinhessen perceived their wines, making crystal clear white wines full of mineral velvet and rich bouquets of flavor. "My husband revolutionized the wine style", Spanier-Gillot says, and it's no exaggeration. Consequently biodynamic, radical unto the extreme, supreme focus on quality – ten years ago, the duo Spanier-Gillot was something people gawp at. "There's hardly a winery that went through such a metamorphosis", reminisces Spanier-Gillot.

It was the strict focus onto excelllence that drove the two young winemakers to new horizons – and that included the wrapping as well: Into the old park with its villa, they set a vinothèque of exposed concrete with huge windows and highly modern interior decoration. It was one of the first truly modern vinothèques in Rheinhessen, and it stood for a new start as much as the claim to grandness. "If you want to sell wine for 130 Euro, you can't open the garage door and play it as garage winery", say Spanier-Gillot.

And yet, the modern style is far from chilliness: Warm colors dominate, deep brown alternates with bright red and soft beige. The walls inside are made from grounded lime, the floor is a beautiful timber flooring – organic materials are all over the place. The golden colour comes from hammered aluminium, the walls are lined with pictures made from the terroir of Rheinhessen.

"It was a rocky road to travel", says Spanier-Gillot, the temptation to take the easy way out was immense at times. "You can't imagine how often we had offers from discounter markets", she laughs, yet they declined – the brand was not to be diluted. Today, the Spanier-Gillot-Team are among the leading wineries of Rheinhessen, their wines are Champions League and are exported into 28 countries throughout the world. The food magazine Feinschmecker choose their wines as collection of the year in 2015, Spanier-Gillot herself was elected winemaker of the year at the renowned magazine Falstaff.

And their riesling was nominated as best riesling of Germany by the wine guide Gault Millau. "We succeeded in being defined by our vineyard sites", says Spanier-Gillot, "when you think of Pettenthal, you think of Kühling-Gillot very fast." Pettenthal is one part of the highly famous red clay slope which drops right into the Rhine valley and has been the source of world famous rieslings for centuries. This is historic soil, and yet they stay rooted in Rheinhessen. In the vinothèque, Spanier-Gillot herself seats the guests on this gourmet evening, answering to every small need with warm-hearted ease. "Liquid Life" is the name of the gourmet concept that fuses wine, exquisite food and the beautiful surroundings. "I love to be a host", laughs Spanier-Gillot, "the most important thing are happy guests."