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Copyright © 2018
Forkmedia LLC


by Fred McMillin
for September 19, 2000


Don't Shoot the Messenger


Where on earth is the messenger? The grapes need to be picked; They are starting to rot!

...J.M. Engert, Winemaker, Schloss Johannisberg on the Rhine, 1775.

So why wait for the messenger??

The Rest of the Story

The owner of the famous Schloss (castle) vineyard was the Abbot of Fulda. He lived a seven-day ride away. Each year the harvest was not to start until the owner approved. Some historians say the charms of a lady were involved, but in any case the messenger sent to obtain the approval returned too late. The grapes had shriveled. Even worse, there had been some rain, producing a mold that caused the bunches to rot! I'm sure the 47-year-old Johann Engert would have liked to shoot the messenger.

While all other vineyards had been harvested weeks earlier, nevertheless, the ruined grapes were picked and pressed. There was very little juice to ferment. Gloom city!

February 1776—Wait a minute. Johann is not sure what's going on. His cellar notes are preserved. "The new wine is mostly still cloudy and has stopped fermenting with a spicy sweetness...extraordinary."

April 1776—"This 1775 wine is so extraordinary that from the eight tasters no word was heard other than—I have never had such a wine in my mouth before."

Gary Hogue & Mike Hogue

Gary Hogue (left) and
Mike Hogue (right).

The messenger had done them some favor. They had made the first "noble-rot" Riesling. That noble rot would later be identified as due to the mold Botrytis Cinerea (bow-try-tiss sin-eh-RAY-ah).

September 2000—Let's see what Gary and Mike Hogue, (pictured), have to say about their Riesling from the State of Washington: "The grapes for this wine were lightly coated with a clean Botrytis mold." of course, it is our...

Wine of the Day

1999 Late Harvest Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington
The Hogue Cellars, Prosser, Washington
Composition—100% Riesling
Sugar Content—4.4% (the threshold for detecting sweetness is about 0.6%)
Acid Content— It is important to have plenty of grape acids to balance the sugar. This 1999 has a solid level of about 0.7%.
Food Affinities—Feature the wine, supported by a low-intensity dessert such as pears poached in wine with pound cake.
Rating—Half the panel gave it GOOD, half VERY GOOD. No panelist rated it lower than GOOD.
Price—BEST BUY of the tasting at only $9 for a full 750 ml. bottle.
Contact—(5O9) 786-4557, FAX (509) 786-4580


Riesling's origins? There's general agreement that it first appeared wild in southern Germany in the Dark Ages. Benedictine monks nursed it into prominence. In fact, that cellar where Johann wrote his notes was created by German Benedictines.

Hugh Johnson's Vintage
Research Assistance—Judith Lorentz


About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers. For information about the wine courses he teaches every month at either San Francisco State University or San Francisco City College (Fort Mason Division), please fax him at (415) 567-4468.


This page created September 2000