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By Gisela Kirschstein
There is a garden where they used to roll wine barrels. Oranges and lemons hang in the trees; the air is full of brightness and light. This is from where Charlemagne – also known as Charles the Great – ruled the world. His palace stood only a few hundred meters from here. Ever since then, they have been growing those vines here in Ingelheim from which they press the deep red wines for which the city is famous to this day. Around 50 wines can be tasted here, whether in the vinotheque or in the restaurant right next to the indoor garden – the Best Of Wine Tourism-Award for Architecture, Parks and Gardens could not have gone to a better place.
“They built the winery in 1904 in only a year’s time,” Katharina Ferch says. There are still the old tiles along the walls and old photographs show how once winemakers pressed the grapes here. Proud men in old-fashioned suits and simple working clothes pose for the photographer in order to document what they achieved. We stand in the old vinification hall, once home to up to 300 local winegrowers - today a beautifully designed garden.
The Ingelheimer Winzerkeller used to be a winegrower’s cooperative, founded in 1904 when many a winemaker around the small city owned only a few hectares of vineyards. The cooperative provided working material and ways to sell the wine; this ensured income and survival for the small vineyard-owners. “Many of them were ‘winemakers on the side,’” Ferch says. At the time of its heyday the cooperative counted up to 300 winemakers within its ranks.
After the Second World War membership numbers dropped as more and more part-time winegrowers gave up their vineyards to work in the industrial sector in the Rhine-Main area – especially at the pharmaceutical company Boehringer.
In 2011, the cooperative dissolved, with only three or four active winegrowers having remained. The many privately owned wineries had long since turned into wine-hotspots where innovative individuals create highly modern, mineral and fruity wines from the chalky hillsides around Ingelheim. The city of Ingelheim decided to buy the estate in the heart of the city and to make it into a central presentation room for the wine of Ingelheim. “There has always been a restaurant here, and a dance floor,” Ferch explains, “many Ingelheim residents had their first dancing nights in this building.”
Ferch grew up in Ingelheim; today the cultural studies graduate is director of marketing communications for the city’s marketing company. “The idea for a central vinotheque had been around for a long time,” Ferch says. A place where to meet the local winemakers, taste their products, experience wine culture – the Ingelheimer Winzerkeller became all of that. Right at the entrance, the tourist information meets visitors with tips and brochures; the room opens up to the vinotheque where bottles are stored in modern iron shelves along the old stone walls. 24 winegrowers and a distillery became partners here in order to jointly manage the vinotheque.
It took three years and about ten million Euros to transform the old vinification building into a beautiful space for wine and culture. The indoor garden within the former hall makes up the center, on the left hand side, a stylish modern restaurant serves delicacies. The deep violet chairs and sofas look ultimately inviting. Along the walls wine safes keep special treasures of wine, deposited here by the winemakers themselves for their own use.
Downstairs, there is an old vaulted cellar – a beautiful space set up for meetings, marriages and wine events. In the far corner, there are old cement vats built into the walls, remnants of the former wine cellars. “We are in the process of renovating this part for guided tours under the topic of wine history,” Ferch explains. It was only in Mai 2019 that the Winzerkeller was re-opened, the restaurant started in November – things are still in the making. A film festival is set to take place in fall, the first wine meetings are scheduled – the Ingelheimer Winzerkeller is about to become a new hotspot for culture and wine in Rheinhessen.
Learn more about Ingelheimer Winzerkeller: www.ingelheimer-winzerkeller.de