German history: Viticulture’s Importance in the Middle Ages

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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From the foundation of the Carolingian empire, the history of German wine can be traced with greater confidence. charlemagne’s numerous capitularies (law codes, relating particularly to landholding) contain instructions to his officials to plant vines. His true significance, however, lay in the support he gave to the spread of Christianity, for churches and convents were the principal cultivators and consumers of quality wine (see monks and monasteries).

Many vineyards still famous today originate in monastic settlements of the High Middle Ages. In the rheingau, Archbishop Ruthard of Mainz (1088–1109) founded a Benedictine abbey on the slopes above Geisenheim, the Johannisberg, later known as schloss johannisberg. In 1135, his successor, Archbishop Adalbert, gave the Steinberg vineyard above Hattenheim to the Cistercians, whose kloster eberbach remains the informal headquarters of the German wine trade to the present. On the River mosel, Archbishop Baldwin of Trier founded the Carthusian priory of St Alban in 1335, which was endowed with vineyards at Eitelsbach on the Ruwer, the Karthäuser Hofberg. In franken (Franconia), too, the bishops of Würzburg actively encouraged viticulture along the River Main.