Wine economics

Monday, February 07, 2011

The Niersteiner Glöck and the sustainability of grapevine culture

Dan Sumner of UC Davis has asked me to provide some information about the "Niersteiner Glöck", a plot of land where grapes have been grown continuously for 1270 years. Perhaps grapevine monoculture is sustainable.

The Glöck (~ "Glocke" ~ church bell) is a vineyard of 2.1 ha size located at the foot of St. Kilian church at Nierstein in the Rheinhessen wine region of Germany. Nierstein is located on the west bank of the Rhine river, not far from Mainz (20 km) and Frankfurt airport (35 km). The elevation of the Glöck ranges from 90 to 130 m above sea level and its slope is between 5-15% towards the southeast; the soil is Loess on top of "Rotliegendes".

The Glöck produces excellent Riesling wines but is best known for being the vineyard in Germany that can be traced the farthest back in history. It is believed that wine has been grown continuously in this vineyard since the year 742. The belief is based on a document from that year that records the donation by the local ruler to the bishop of Würzbug of the church and the tithe consisting of fruit and wine that was attached to the church (Fuchß 1992). The donation was confirmed in documents from the years 822 and 993. The Glöck reappeared in historical records in the year 1141 under the name "Clegken",  and again in the 16th and 18th century. Today it is owned and operated by the Staatliche Weinbaudomäne Oppenheim which produces a "Grosses Gewächs" from it, i.e. the highest quality level recognized by the VDP.

The Glöck may not actually be the oldest vineyard in Germany. The Romans had introduced grapevine culture as early as 50 B.C. along the Rhine and Mosel valleys. After the Romans had left the area wine grape culture declined but was revived and encouraged by the Franks in the 8th century. It is therefore possible that some of the vineyards that were first planted in Roman times are still in use today but the Glöck is the oldest on record.

Location at Google Earth: 49°52'38.80" N; 8°20'16.59" O (East)



St. Kilian church and "Glöck" in the center, "Roter Hang" in the middle background, river Rhine to the right

More photos at:

Fuchß, P. 1992. Zur Geschichte der Niersteiner Glöck einer berühmten Weinlage am Rhein. Oppenheim: Eingenverlag der Landes- Lehr- und Versuchsanstalt für Landwirtschaft, Weinbau und Gartenbau, Oppenheim.
Deutsches Weininstitut. Niersteiner Glöck: Älteste Weinbergslage Deutschlands.



  • See the exact position here:

    By Anonymous Charlie, at 2:37 PM  

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