The Strange and Wonderful Story of Gut Hermannsberg’s 10th Anniversary Book – Part 2

There’s so much I learnt from working on Gut Hermannsberg’s 10th anniversary book, like the Salvador Dali quote on the inside of the front cover: “Whoever drinks with real enjoyment doesn’t drink just wine, they drink secrets.” Our designer and printer Steffen Fickinger found those words that so perfectly fit the estate’s wines.

For many people writing and editing a book sounds like a lot of fun, but the truth is that it’s also a strict discipline driven by technical processes and deadlines. If you can adapt to that discipline, as I did long ago, then each book becomes a journey of discovery that takes you places you didn’t realize were there; a special and addictive form of excitement.

Research literally means looking again and for any serious book project you have to do that many times. Then, when writing, you have to ask yourself again and again if this is really the right selection of facts, stories and observations. And is the sequence right, or is your text actually just a row of anecdotes that don’t add up to anything? Hard questions! My new book was no exception.    

10 years of passion for RIESLING & TERROIR / 10 Jahre RIESLING & TERROIR aus Leidenschaft is the hot off the press story of the last decade at the Gut Hermannsberg (GHB) wine estate in the Nahe. It may only be 32 pages long, but it has an unusual over-sized format with a sophisticated interplay of image and text, and it’s available in both English and German language editions.

On the purely technical side, there was the challenge of finding photographs good enough that they would take been blown up to 28 cm/11 inches wide and still look great. 300 dpi is the publishing industry standard for the sharpness of photos, but as GHB director Jasper Reidel and I quickly discovered, it’s woefully inadequate for this format. Those huge double-page spreads really make the photographs we picked shine, but as we also discovered without enough text those wide-screen pages look empty. However, writing stuff just to fill empty space was no solution either.   

It helped a lot that we had a good story to tell with a really interesting cast of characters, and that some of them spoke for themselves in a way that reads very differently from the material I wrote. The contributions of GHB’s owners Jens Reidel & Christine Dines, winemaker Karsten Peter and of our neighbor and colleague Helmut Dönnhoff of the Dönnhoff estate in Oberhausen, are all compelling. Their texts alone make the book worth reading!

So, you are probably asking yourselves, what exactly did I discover through the months of work on this project, apart from the fact that the number of pages doesn’t begin to tell you how substantial a book’s content is? Most importantly, although the book’s focus is on what happened at GHB between summer 2009 and autumn 2019, again and again I bumped into the long shadow of the estate’s Prussian founders. Only a couple of short guest commentaries failed to mention them directly or indirectly, and these were from the writers farthest removed from our history.

The fact is, GHB’s Prussian founders continue to exert a major influence on the estate. Their combination of perfectionism and the determination to implement that regardless of the effort required remains our guiding spirit. The first products of that spirit are still clearly visible to every visitor. The establishment of GHB’s core vineyard sites in 1902 was an engineering feat comparable with the construction of the Eifel Tower and they still look much as they do in the oldest photographs.

Our unique winery architecture followed in 1910, and when these buildings were carefully renovated by the Reidels in 2010-11 (creating our guest house) they augmented them with a single new element. The copper cladding of the new press house entrance with the massive terraces of the Kupfergrube GG/”Grand Cru” site behind it is now the defining image of GHB. That’s why we put it on the cover.

The other thing I discovered through this book is how the chasm between current events and the kind of unique terroir and tradition wines we strive to make at GHB becomes ever wider. Karsten Peter is in the process of refining a winemaking style inspired by our special history that has nothing to do with mainstream wine fashion, what just went viral on the social media or other 21st century fluff that will all be forgotten tomorrow. In an increasingly rootless world GHB’s wines have very deep roots indeed!

10 years of passion for RIESLING & TERROIR / 10 Jahre RIESLING & TERROIR aus Leidenschaft is available in both English and German language editions through for €9,95 including packing and postage.

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