Shakespeare, Kids Vineyard and Wine Detective Novels – Culture, history and wine meet at Weingut Wagner in Essenheim in Rheinhessen

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By Gisela Kirschstein

This is where in summer Shakespeare dances, where Grandpa Jean gives his features to the wine bottles and where a male Miss Marple roams the landscape. Books and stories have a home right next to the wine bottles in the sales room, and in summer, the huge yard turns into a stage: "My parents started the theater thing 25 years ago", Andreas Wagner says "That was quite unusual back then."

By now, the Summer Court Theater in the winery Wagner in the village of Essenheim in Rheinhessen draws its faithful visitors from all over the republic – and not only the theatre: Cabaret and culture, history, detective novels and a special Kids Vineyard School are part of the attractions. For all that, Weingut Wagner won the 2018 Best Of Wine Tourism Award in the culture category.

"I always liked to write", Andreas Wagner says, "I noticed that at university in my scientific writing." Andreas, the oldest of three winemaker's sons, left his small hometown of Essenheim to study history, politics and Czech language in Eastern Germany, never dreaming of coming back to the family's winery. When he did come back, nine years later, he had not only a wife and children but also won a view from the outside. "We were newcomers", Andreas remembers, even himself, even more so his wife, a Journalist born in the big city of Dortmund.

In one of the first quiet winters, Andreas started to write, just for fun, he says: A detective novel about a grumpy constable, thrown from a big German city into the social structures of rural city life – and into murders, all sorts of entanglements and a vibrant wine scene. By now, his Detective Paul Kendzierski has lived through his eighth wine adventure, and Andreas Wagner has sold not only more than 150.000 copies of his wine thrillers, but is doing 90 readings per year. The winemaker and his detective novels are famous.

Its by no means the only creative sidekick of a family member. The middle brother, Ulrich, was an industrial clerk first, the youngest brother Christian a studied mineralogist. His wife Chrissy is a biologist and used to work in cancer research, together with Journalist Nina, her sister-in-law, she manages the Kids Vineyard School. At that, the small participants experience for a whole season work in the vineyard and learn to care for their own personal grapevine.  "We work great as a family network", Nina laughs, "someone always has a new idea – and that huge variety would never work without all our different capabilities."

Andreas, Chrissy and Nina

The variety – that is the cabaret evening as well as the gourmet wine diner with six courses, all cooked by the family itself. It is the Puppet Theater and the wine debate, the herbal excursions and the champagne seminar. This summer, there will be a classic concert as well as a Jazz Matinee and, of course, the Wagner's Summer Court Festival in June. Shakespeare's "Hamlet" is the choice for this year's stage, comedy and drama alternate each year.

On the wall of the old barn, two historic portraits draw the visitor's attention. Jean Wagner was Andreas' great-grandfather, his portrait as a hunter gives the wine labels of the deep Pinot Noirs their special features. 15 different grape varieties are on the winery's list, the grey burgundy leading the line, followed by Riesling and Pinot Noir. Crisp, highly mineral wines rich in fruit grow on the chalky slopes of the Selztal valley right behind the boundaries of Great Wine Capital city of Mainz. Even Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz ripen to fullbodied red wines.

Jean’s Great-Grandmother Elisabeth lends her face to the lighter wine wines, quite fitting for the winery's character: "We are a multi-faced winery", Andreas says, "this is no one-man-show." And when evening falls, visitors meet at the tables of the vinotheque's guestroom to listen to the stories of Paul Kendzierski or his counterpart, an eccentric old Miss Marple-like winemaker who spies on his neighbours and has to deal with wine scandals long forgotten…