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By Gisela Kirschstein
In an old "Kuhkappelle", a former cow stable, Christine Spiess runs a unique Wine Restaurant in Osthofen in Rheinhessen
It all began just because Christine and her husband Burkhard Spiess love to go out for dinner. Living on the southern border of Rheinhessen, they used to drive down south into the Palatinate region with its famous restaurants. One evening, they sat in a beautiful location underneath a cross-vault stone ceiling. "We looked at each other and said: well, actually, we do have one of those at home", Christine remembers.
At home, that is an old winery from the early 19th century, situated right in the middle of the small village of Osthofen, near Worms. Today, it's a thriving wine community, and the Vis-à-Vis one of the leading restaurants here. For their combination of regionally inspired gourmet food, an extensive wine menu from Rheinhessen and the beautiful setting within an old cow chapel, the Spiess family won the Great Wine Capital Best Of Award 2017 in the category Wine Restaurants.
This is, where wine has been made for centuries: Osthofen, a small village near the city of the Nibelungen, Worms, has always been living from and with wine. For centuries, the armies of Europe came and went through the region, sometimes loitering, sometimes staying. It was the French under Emperor Napoleon who stayed for the longest time, founding the province Rheinhessen and bringing peace, wealth – and a distinct liking for good food.
"My parents used to have a chicken shed in there", Christine Spiess gestures, "there was all type of junk in there, my father's old workshop and the garbage bins." The vinery's yard was a typical Rheinhessen building: The house on the street front, a large yard to the back with a huge barn and a low stable building on the side. "The house was built before 1830", Christine tells me, "the stable was added until 1870."
Inside, the red ceiling draws attention immediately: The cross vault-structure is made from red clay, the arches built from small tiles, one laid next to the other. "When we started renovating, the plastering came off the ceiling", Christine remembers, "and we asked: who is going to fix that?" No one, it turned out: they blast cleaned the ceiling and left the beautiful tile-structure open, now the warm red clay gives the room a feeling of eternal sunset.
The furniture repeats and echoes the colors, creating a landscape of brown, orange and sandstones. 65 seats fit the restaurant, the bar on the entrance side cerates a launch atmosphere and sets the wine bottles as if on a stage. Only five years ago, the Spiess' started their own vinery, along with the restaurant. Burkhard Spiess comes from the Vinery Spiess in Bechtheim, an estate of high renown. After helping his brother for years, Burkhard decided to start his own winery in Osthofen – with the opening of the restaurant they served their first homemade wines themselves.
Today, there are 23 hectares of vineyards, half of which are stocked with Pinot Noir. "This is the region of blissfulness, the Wonnegau", Christine says, "we are blessed with fantastic weather." In our glasses, a fantastic light-golden Riesling sparkles, a highly mineral, yet still fruity and fresh white wine. Burkhard Spiess decided to make only dry wines, thus the wine list holds also products of other winemakers like the vinery Karl May in order to cater to the needs of all guests. "It's more open", Christine says, "our guests like that."
The people from Rheinhessen, they have grown more self-confident, Christine says, and thus they can open their doors and gates now more than ever before. The anniversary 200 years Rheinhessen in 2016 has helped, "it made people even proud of the region", the 50-Year-Old says. Thus, they proudly serve Teriyaki-salmon and truffles pasta and filet-Schnitzel from Ambri-pork. But why Vis-à-Vis? "Oh, here that means sitting face to face, enjoying wine and food together", Christine laughs: "It comes from Napoleon, but we still use it quite often."