Landmarks and Wineculture Details
Burg Hornberg: Götz von Berlichingen and the second oldest Wine Estate in the World
Landmarks of German Wine Culture: Württemberg
On these slopes, legendary Götz von Berlichingen once cultivated his wine. For 45 years, the famed yet notorious Frankonian knight with the iron hand lived on Burg Hornberg near Neckarzimmern. He became famous because of his fights during the Swabian Peasants War while the man with the cursing habit was made immortal in a play by the famous German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
Not many people know, however, that the knight also cultivated wine at his castle which he had bought in 1517. So big was his success in the wine business that, according to the records, he even sold his "licking sweet" wine from the Neckar to the Emperor's court in Vienna.
The Castle of Hornberg is first mentioned in a document written by Count Palatine of the Rhine Konrad von Hohenstaufen in 1184 – already mentioning the wine estate and vineyards. Experts believe, however, that this was not the beginning of viticulture around the Hornberg: On the area called „Untere Au“ and on the Stockbronner farm, which also belonged to the castle's properties, in 1893 two Roman Villae Rusticae were discovered. The strikingly high amount of broken fragments of ceramic vessels, parts of them enormous in size, has experts suspect a connection of the two Roman farms to viticulture – most likely, wine was cultivated in this area as early as the 2nd century, a thesis backed by the fact that the Limes led through this area.
In any case, the Wine Estate Burg Hornberg is the second oldest still existing wine estate in the world and the oldest in Baden-Württemberg – that at least is proven by the document of 1184. Actually, the estate was considered to be on Baden land up until 1980, but since then, the vineyard site which is located right on the border, has been considered to belong to Württemberg. A variety of grapevines is cultivated on the ten hectares, among them historic varieties like Muscatel and Traminer. Even the steep slopes directly below the Castle are planted, these sites being Hornberger Wallmauer and Burg Hornberger Götzhalde.
More than nine kilometers of natural stone walls provide a thermal balance to the vines as the walls retain the heat of the sun during the day and give off warmth to the grapevines at night. The harvest is still brought to the old wine press house located just below the 400 year-old castle near Neckarzimmern. Vinification takes place in the old castle's cellar with its self-supporting vaulted ceiling - 40 meters long and more than six meters high.
Wine tastings take place in the romantic lower castle which is the biggest historic apartment building from the time of the Stauffer that can be found north of the Alps. The official vinotheque of the wine estate can be found in the old Neckar Mill in Gundelsheim. Baron Dajo von Gemmingen-Hornberg is today's wine maker and lord of the castle, continuing a winemaking tradition of more than 1500 years and continuing the line from the original Baron of Gemmingen, 12 generations earlier, who bought Burg Hornberg in 1612. Götz von Berlichingen-Hornberg died in 1562 at the ripe old age of 82 years, his original armor can still be seen in the castle today.