On a blistering Saturday morning, I stood before the Klosterhof winery in Brauneberg along the Moselle. The sky gleamed in a profound shade of blue, the sun beat down relentlessly on the vineyards, and the grapes matured in the scorching summer heat. This day held the promise of an unforgettable wine adventure – and it delivered. Join me on this journey and find out why the Klosterhof winery in Brauneberg is a captivating discovery along the Moselle, potentially blossoming into a jewel among German wineries.

Max Kaindl, 01. October 2023
Reading time about 8 minutes

Weingut Klosterhof:
shaping captivating narratives in every sip

Unveiling Brauneberg’s Hidden Jewel – Klosterhof

The fruity-sweet Rieslings from Dominique and Benjamin have been accompanying me since their 2019 vintage, often bringing a smile to my face. So, it was high time to visit the duo at their family estate, the venerable Klosterhof in Brauneberg. With the weather forecast predicting temperatures well above 30 degrees Celsius, we set out early in the morning – when the thermometer scales were still bearable – into the vineyards.

A One-of-a-Kind Vineyard Tour

Our first destination was the Klostergarten, Domi and Benni’s flagship vineyard. The soil in the Brauneberger Klostergarten is a blend of clay and blue Devonian slate. The steep parcels, stretching into a side valley, boast a higher slate content. Because of the slightly cooler temperatures in the Klostergarten, the ripening period is consistently longer compared to the other vineyards in Brauneberg. Thanks to some plots that are more than 70 years old, with sporadic ungrafted vines, Benni and Domi produce vibrant and highly mineral Rieslings from the Klosterberg.

The duo swiftly presented evidence upon our arrival in the vineyard, in the form of a Brauneberger Klostergarten Riesling Alte Reben from the current vintage of 2022. Luscious stone fruit, green apple, and subtle meadow herb notes are accompanied by a compelling acidity and a lightly tangy texture, leading to a characteristically Mosel-style, finely juicy finish. It marked a robust beginning to a morning filled with exceptional wines along the Moselle.
Sidenote: The actual kickoff was made by the Brauneberger Riesling 2022. A genuine delight. Cool, herbaceous, finely citrusy, and juicy with ample tension and a finely marbled texture. The dark spiciness and the hinted red-berry core unmistakably hint at the typicity of the Brauneberger vineyards.

That the guys also craft excellent (and, in my opinion, at times exceptional) Kabinetts was immediately evident with the Klostergarten Riesling Kabinett 2022. Incredibly juicy, crisp, precise, and refreshing – simply unbelievably easy to savor. It served as both a promise and the initial highlight of the upcoming sweet Rieslings from the historically renowned Brauneberger Juffer vineyard, our next stop.
Sidenote: Alongside their devotion to Riesling, Domi and Benni also nurture a quiet affection for Pinot Noir. This led them to plant a small parcel with the finest Pinot clones in the Klostergarten. However, the yield was notably low in the first few years. So, the anticipation remains for the unveiling of the first single-vineyard Pinot from Klosterhof.

Domi and Benni’s divergent journey to wine

During our journey to the Juffer vineyard, Domi and Benni shared their fascinating life stories that brought them to producing their own wines from the family estate. After Domi completed his winemaking education and a brief stint with an internship in New Zealand, he began working as an estate manager at Fritz Haag. Today, he oversees the operations at Max. Ferd. Richter. In contrast, Benni took a non-wine-related path at the start of his career. Initially trained as an industrial mechanic and later as a mechanical engineering technician, he currently works as a designer.

Since 2015, both have been expanding the Klosterhof’s own wine line, taking paths distinct from the family business. In the vineyard, their focus is on a highly natural approach, with the ultimate goal of transitioning to biodynamics. This is a courageous endeavor in the Moselle region, given that the often exclusively manually cultivated steep slopes entail significantly more effort for biodynamics than the flat hillsides of Rheinhessen, to cite just one example.

In the cellar, the duo employs both stainless steel and the traditional Mosel fuders (approximately 1000 liter barrels). All wines undergo spontaneous fermentation and are minimally sulfured and filtered before being bottled. The result is a collection of wines characterized by their structural richness, finesse, and distinctive character.

Brauneberger Juffer – a truely historic vineyard

Now, let’s return to our vineyard tour. About 2,000 years ago, the Romans called the Juffer vineyard “dulcis mons,” which means “sweet mountain“. The term “Juffer” is dialectic, signifying “virgin”. Its origin could be traced back to the former church property, as this vineyard was once under the ownership of a nunnery. Another explanation for the name’s origin suggests that significant portions of the vineyard belonged to the daughters of a Palatine chamberlain in the past. It’s said that, during that era, the majority of the wines originated from the cellars of the “Juffern.”

Above this southern slope stands a protective forest, and certain areas boast gradients of up to 80 percent. The slate content is equally impressive, reaching up to 80 percent. This blue-gray slate carries a high iron content, facilitating robust water storage without an increased risk of waterlogging.

The unique microclimate and soil composition contribute to wines with distinct aromas of tropical and pome fruits. The slate’s iron content imparts a particular flavor, while an elegant minerality becomes apparent on the finish.

Philosophy and Discussion Session – accompanied by Kabinett and a fascinating trilogy of Auslesen

Arriving at a bench in Juffer, not extensively described in this account but offering a breathtaking view of Brauneberg and the Moselle Valley stretching westward, we engaged in contemplation about the future of viticulture in the Moselle and agriculture in general. Despite being on the cutting edge with their organic-biodynamic approach, Domi and Benni find themselves in a relatively small, elite wine bubble. It’s uncertain how swiftly viticulture will re-embrace a more natural cultivation approach and how judiciously policies will guide, rather than, as is unfortunately common now, ambitiously dictate, leading to guidelines that may not serve the greater good.
Hopefully, both sides can swiftly find a modus vivendi. The Klosterhof appears to have already found its own.

As delving so deeply into philosophy can make one quite thirsty, there was always plenty of liquid Riesling from the Brauneberger Juffer to quench that thirst. We kicked things off with a 2022 Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Kabinett, a collaborative project with Christian Hermann from the Dr. Hermann winery in Erden, a close friend of the brothers. What can I say about this wine? Perhaps it suffices to mention that at the end of my visit, I left the winery with a 3L Jeroboam of this wine. Juicy, citrusy, with a touch of crushed rock dust, fresh, invigorating, cool, and equipped with an enlivening interplay of sweetness and acidity. This wine truly has all the characteristics of a fantastic Kabinett.

To conclude our vineyard tour – it was already nearing noon – Domi and Benni proudly presented their trilogy of Auslesen from the Juffer, harvested in 2022. For the “regular” Auslese, only healthy grape material was used. In the two Goldkapsel selections (normal and extended GK), they contain 70% and 100% botrytis-infected grapes, respectively. Any concerns I had about encountering three overly sweet, somewhat lackluster, and creamy wines without tension and juiciness dissipated after the first sip of the “regular” Auslese. Through meticulous vineyard management and rigorous grape selection, the guys managed to produce Auslesen with very good acidity levels in 2022.

I seldom inquire about analytical values from winemakers, as they can be somewhat meaningless without context related to sugar and pH levels. However, when Auslesen with sugar levels ranging from 90-130 Oechsle exhibit acidity values of 8.5-9 in a vintage plagued by drought like 2022, it’s noteworthy. This promises juicy, fresh, finely creamy, and crystal-clear sweet wines full of vibrancy and concentration, a distinctive characteristic found only here along the Moselle. The Klosterhof accomplished this masterfully with its trilogy of Auslesen in 2022.

So invigorated by the multitude of impressions and enriching conversations with two passionate, grounded young individuals propelled by their vision, I made my way back to the Klosterhof in Brauneberg. There, Domi spontaneously invited me on a brief tour through the wine cellars of the two brothers, as the originally planned vineyard work was definitively ruled out due to the scorching heat.

Without hesitation, I found myself moments later in a damp, dimly lit Moselle cellar, imbued with the aroma of aged wood and permeated by the earthiness of old Mosel fuder barrels. Here, I had the privilege of sampling wines still in fermentation or resting on the lees, including a few playful creations by the brothers, details of which I won’t delve into here.

In conclusion, I find myself equally captivated by the people behind Klosterhof as I am by their wines. Dominique and Benjamin are two composed, unpretentious, and grounded individuals, both propelled by a distinct idea and a profound internal vision for their wines. What particularly impressed me was the coherence and philosophy evident across their entire collection, from the dry to the noble sweet Rieslings. This level of clarity is not something to be taken for granted, especially for such a young project. The journey in Brauneberg unfolds, and I am certain that the story of Klosterhof and its wines will continue to resonate with acclaim in the future.

Pictures: © The Art of Riesling – Maximilian Kaindl

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