No particular excuse is needed to open a bottle of excellent Germany Riesling. But when it is Riesling Birthday, it would be particularly rude to not do so, right?
Germany is well known as leading producer in Riesling and the country is celebrating the grapes’ birthday annually on March 13th.
If you want to know how this date came about, read my recent post Kicking of Riesling Birthday with a glass of Reichsrat von Buhl Suez Riesling. Hint, it has something to do with a nobleman planting six vines of Riesling at his local winery.
There is no shortage of excellent Rieslings being made in Germany but I never tire to open another bottle of the excellent Rieslings coming out of Kloster Eberbach.
And since the Riesling grape is turning 586 years this year (at least officially, it is likely just a little bit older already), raising a glass from a winery looking itself at nine centuries of winemaking, and being among one of the earliest planting Riesling just seemed so fitting.
Background: Kloster Eberbach
There is a good chance you have seen a bit of Kloster Eberbach already, even if you have never been in the area.
The former Cistercian monastery, which under the secularization low from 1803 became a private property, has been the filming location for quite a number of films and movies. Including the well-known epos The Name of the Rose starring Sean Connery and Christian Slater. It was also in the trailer of Game of Thrones season 5.
Featuring Romanesque and early Gothic buildings, the site today is considered one of the most important architectural heritage sites in the state of Hesse.
The site is a popular spot for visitors. Nestled in a lovely side valley within the Rheingau region, close to Eltville, Kloster Eberbach is surrounded by thick forests and large vineyards. Activities here are plenty. Take a tour through the historic buildings of the Abbey, hit the historic walking trail the abbey or take part in any of the many events that in normal times (you know what I mean) are taking place in and around the premisses of the Abbey. From music, art, conventions and off course various wine-related happenings, there is something for everybody.
Founded in 1136, Eberbach Abbey quickly became very successful economically thanks to wine production from their own vineyards.
Eberbach Abbey also had a strong connection to the family of the counts of Katzenelnbogen, a noble family highly influential during the 12th and 13th century. Several members of the family are buried in the church of Eberbach Abbey. One of them is Count Johann IV of Katzenelnbogen, the man famously responsible for planting the first known vineyard of Riesling grapes in the nearby village of Rüsselsheim in 1435. At that time the monks at Eberbach continued to mostly cultivate red grapes such as Grobrot, which is the earliest grape variety recorded at the Abbey.
Today, Kloster Eberbach cultivates 252 hectares of vineyards stretching not only across the Rheingau area but extend to Hessische Bergstraße and Assmanshausen in the Rhine Valley – making it the largest German wine estate.
Riesling is the star variety of the winery, with more than half of the vineyards (184 hectares) planted with Riesling grapes.
Tasting notes: Kloster Eberbach ‘Crescentia’ Steinberger Riesling
Steinberg is dubbed having been the favourite vineyard of the Eberbach monks. The vineyard, which is located just 300 metres from the gates of the monastery, as it stands today belongs to the winery since 1239. In the 18th century, the monks built a wall up to five metres high and over three kilometres long around the vineyard to protect it against grape thieves and game roaming in the area. The wall has since surrounded the vineyard like a monastery wall.
Though it wasn’t intended, the wall also protects the vineyard from infiltration of cold air.
A new, modern Riesling wine cellar was opened just alongside the Steinberg vineyard in 2008 and visitors can enjoy a glass of Riesling at the wine stand outside of the cellar open from April to October.
Returning to Eberbach Abbey for wine tasting is definitely on my post-Covid bucket list. In the meantime, it has been an absolute pleasure opening this bottle of the award-winning Crescentia Steinberger Riesling and getting virtually transported to the beautiful Rheingau and its stunning historic wine estates, of which Kloster Eberbach is only one of several.
In the glass, Crescentia Steinberger Riesling is a pale yellow with bright reflections.
On the nose, intense aromas of apples, citrus fruits, dried peaches and a hint of black tea.
On the palate, juicy with notes of yellow fruit, stimulating acidity and fine minerality.
Food pairing: Quiche Lorraine
Riesling is a great wine to be paired to a large range of food from raw, cured and smoked fish, fresh or lightly dressed shellfish, creamy sauces, fatty pork (think pork belly), lightly pickled vegetables, goats cheese and spicy, Asian style dishes.
However, for a wine sourced from one of the most historic vineyards in Germany, there was only one food I was keen pairing it with. Because the story of Riesling and Quiche Lorraine is one that goes back a long way.
The classic Quiche Lorraine is a savoury tart that consists of bacon or lard, cheese and heavy cream.
It originates in the medieval kingdom of Lothringen, under German rule, later renamed Lorraine by the French. Today, the area belongs to Alsace in France, another area well known for producing excellent Riesling. And there you have the connection.
Ingredients (yields 6-8 portions)
For the dough
175 g all-purpose flour
100 g cold butter
1 egg yolk
For the filling
200 g bacon (or alternatively a air-dried ham such as ham like San Daniele)
50 ml white wine
80 g middle aged Gouda
80 g Gruyère
250 ml cooking cream
salt, pepper and nutmeg for seasoning
In a food processor, add flour, cold butter cut into pieces, egg yolk and 4-6 tablespoons cold water. Blend together until obtaining a smooth dough. Add more cold water if needed.
Knead the dough together one more time, gather into a ball, then roll out thinly.
Grease a pie plate, line the plate with the pastry. Trim the edges keeping them sitting slightly above the plate (the pastry will slightly shrink when baked). Pick the pastry lightly with a fork, then put into the fridge for 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 200°C. Line the pie plate with a baking sheet, fill with roughly 500 g of dry beans and blind bake for 15 minutes.
Remove the baking sheet and continue baking for another 5 minutes until the pastry is golden-brown.
Roughly chop the bacon or ham into small pieces. Lightly fry in a saucepan over medium heat for 3-5 minutes then add white wine and reduce the liquid strongly. (If you use ham instead of bacon, add white wine directly with the ham and only fry shortly until the ham starts to take on some colour then take-off the heat immediately).
Set aside and let cool completely. This is important as otherwise it will not mix well with the cheeses.
Preheat oven to 180°C.
In a bowl, add eggs and cooking cream and lightly beat together. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Grate both cheeses and mix with bacon/ham. Distribute the mix into the baked pastry, then pour over the egg mixture.
Bake for 30 minutes using the lower rail. Take out of the oven and let cool for a couple of minutes. Serve while still warm.