Rheingau winemaker Christian Ress talks Riesling
Food & Drink, Culture
13 October 2020
Renowned for its Riesling, the Rheingau is a bountiful wine region within easy reach of Frankfurt. Villa Kennedy has long collaborated with one of its most successful wineries, Balthasar Ress, to introduce guests to the delights of Riesling—the Rheingau’s most famous product. Following the release of our collaborative third edition, the Balthasar Ress Riesling Villa Kennedy Cuvée Edition III, we spoke to 5th generation winemaker Christian Ress about his family business, the region and our latest Riesling.
Can you please share a little about the history of your family's business?
“Founded in 1870, our company celebrates its 150th anniversary this year. The winery was set up by my ancestor and our namesake Balthasar Ress, who was originally a butcher but discovered hosting was his true skill, so at a young age he opened an inn. This was a huge success and he acquired several more hospitality businesses before running the Grand Hotel in the Rheingau — the Hotel Ress. From there, his interest in the wine trade and wine production developed in parallel. One of his sons then devoted himself entirely to wine and we continue his legacy today.”
How does a day in the life of Christian Ress look?
“I see myself more as an entrepreneur in the wine industry than as a winemaker. As General Manager of the various family companies (the winery, wineBANK, etc...), I guide them safely through daily challenges—of which we all have many at the moment—and to prepare them for the future.”
What makes the Rheingau such an exemplary location for growing grapes?
“With its 30km of almost perfectly south-facing slopes, the Rheingau offers the ideal conditions for Riesling, especially at latitude 50 degrees north. The Riesling is a cool-climate grape variety, which is why it produces the best results so far from the Equator (most of the wine-growing areas are located between latitude 35 and 45 degrees). The Rheingau is one of the smaller growing areas in Germany with a total of 3,000 hectares of vines, yet the region is home to about 6% of all Riesling worldwide.”
You were certified organic in 2016. How important is sustainability and eco-friendliness to you?
“From my point of view, this is the only responsible way to produce a luxury agricultural product. Today, it is no longer viable to produce a high-end wine for people who have the financial means to make environmentally friendly decisions at the expense of nature and thus the general public. Just as importantly it is also good for the wines, which will come as no surprise when you see life in an ecologically cultivated vineyard. And, it is certainly no coincidence that some of the world's great wines are produced organically...”
How did your relationship with Villa Kennedy begin?
“I’ve always loved the hotel—it’s a wonderful oasis of calm among the hecticness of Frankfurt. I always enjoy being a guest there, and the sophisticated atmosphere makes it the perfect place for a business meeting. Sadly, because I live so close by, I rarely get the opportunity to stay the night, but the few times I have stayed, I’ve enjoyed it very much.”
Can you share a little about the wine-making process of the Balthasar Ress Riesling Villa Kennedy Cuvée Edition III?
“The wine is a cuvée from two Rheingau sites: Hattenheimer Engelmannsberg and Hallgartener Würzgarten – both classified VDP.Erste Lage® (similar to a French Grand Cru). The wine was matured in temperature-regulated, stainless-steel tanks to preserve its freshness. The cuvée remained on full yeast for quite a long time, until April. This full yeast characterises the creamy character of the wine and ensures a beautiful interplay between fruit and freshness. The wine is then bottled in May.”
How would you describe it in your own words? What would your tasting notes say?
“The "Balthasar Ress Riesling Villa Kennedy Cuvée Edition III" presents itself in the glass with a light straw-yellow colour with light green reflexes. The nose reveals very fresh aromas of yellow apple, peach, lychee and spring herbs. On the palate, the strong mineral freshness, notes of citrus fruits and a light touch of pears stand out. A classic, straightforward Rheingau Riesling.”
Get a taste of the Balthasar Ress Riesling Villa Kennedy Cuvée Edition III and visit the ravishing Rheingau on your visit to Villa Kennedy. Our Riesling may also be purchased at €36/750ml bottle and makes an excellent gift for wine-lovers.
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