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By Gisela Kirschstein
The table says it all: Gunderloch, Gehring, Schätzel, they are all here, right in front of me. The very best of German winemakers of this region of Rheinhessen, enshrined on a table, made of a variety of different woods, a cooling rack in the middle. How apt: The wine bottles literally stand on what this is all about: Winemakers, variety, natural foundations.
Along the walls, wine bottles over wine bottles throng the shelves of this spacy room. "We have wines from around 150 winemakers from Rheinhessen here", says Sigrid Hahn, "three wines from each winery." What sounds like a lot, nevertheless means a small sample: Rheinhessen is the biggest wine growing region in Germany with hundreds of little wine villages, each with dozens of wine makers… "In some villages we had to draw lots", Hahn says.
Sigrid Hahn (Photo credit Gisela Kirschstein)
Thörle, Manz, Kühling-Gillot, Sigrid Hahn knows them all by heart. The Vinothek's manager herself grew up in a winery, situated in Ober-Hilbersheim, one of these tiny villages with beautiful timbered houses out there in the landscape behind Mainz. "I wanted to be a veterinarian", Hahn laughs. Five horses were part of the family's farm, but Hahn ended up studying agriculture and farming. She married a wine maker, today her sons run the "Weinmanufaktur Brummund" in an old smithy. Hahn herself became a wine seller – and discovered a talent.
"Something light, with barrique, or rather more heavy?", Hahn asks, as a customer strolls into the vinothek. The young woman is in search for a wine to accompany her Saturday night dinner with friends, Spanish Quiche is the dish to be served. "There is so much choice here", the customer sighs. "Nothing here is buying a pig in a poke", Hahn reassures, "all the wines are excellent." The shopper ends up buying a light Pinot Noir - and takes a "Lässig Rhoihessisch" along, a light white wine cuvee called "easy-going Rheinhessisch person".
She might as well have taken along a true Spanish wine, or one from South Africa, Chile, Argentine. "From all Great Wine Capitals throughout the world, we offer at least two wines here", Hahn proudly says. Most vinotheques present their own products or the ones from the region, the Rheinhessenvinothek, however, is the true home of the Great Wine Capitals' wines: "We have the whole range", Hahn stresses. No wonder, they won not only the German Best Of Wine Tourism Award for Wine Tourism in 2017 – but also the international one.
The Rheinhessen globe in front of the Rheinhessenvinothek (Photo credit Simone Hill)
It was in 2015 that the restaurant in the old army provisions warehouse was in trouble: The manager had died, the location had proved a bit too roomy with an atmosphere like a train station, as the saying in German goes. "Mainz always wanted a Rheinhessenvinothek", Hahn remembers, "in my boss the city had someone who listened." Her boss, that's Karl Strack, an entrepreneur with an important construction company and a big heart for Rheinhessen and its pleasures.
Strack did not only listen, but acted: A part of the restaurants huge rooms was separated and converted into a shrine for wine, the lamps consist of hanging wine bottles, a huge wooden table at the entrance extends an invitation to stay and enjoy. "Happiness and Joy cannot be bought, but a Bottle of Wine…" says a signboard.
The Rheinhessenvinothek (Photo credit: Gisela Kirschstein)
Riesling and Scheurebe, but also Bacchus, Würzer and Accolon can be found here, or the Red Malmsey which they drank here in the times of Martin Luther – Rheinhessen is the German wine region with the biggest grape variety. "From Worms to Alzey an up to Bingen, you can taste Rheinhessen here", Hahn says, "and not even people from Mainz know all the good ones from the far-off tips."
It's not only tourists but also locals that come for discoveries to her vinotheque, where the wines are sold at the same prices as on the wineries. Authors' readings and wine tastings take place here, even an open air play is to be staged in front of the 150-years-old building next year, Hahn reveals: The theater's general director himself wrote a play uniquely for the vinotheque, she says. What is it about, I ask? "Oh, everything", Hahn responds: "Wine, our culture, the Rheinhessen cuisine, the fun, the life energy here – what Mainz is about."