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The Wine Crane of Oestrich: Where the Wine went on a Journey
It is the landmark of the wine city of Oestrich-Winkel: The crane for loading wine onto ships on the Rhine is the only surviving witness for the technique for loading ships in former times. From this spot, many a wine cask started its journey, here, the new barrels arrived.
Until 1926, the crane which was driven by manpower was still working every day to ship the wine from the Rheingau onto the Rhine barges. The crane was built between April 1744 and February 1745. No less than 170 cubic meters of sand stone were needed for the foundation – a truly enormous monument of viticulture on the borders of the Rhine.
It was the archbishop's privilege to operate such wine cranes in those times. The fees for its usage, collected by the master of the crane, were exactly defined. Thus, there were only a few cities in the Rheingau who owned the right to operate such a crane. In the 15th century, only Eltville, Rüdesheim and later on Lorch owned such a privilege.
The construction of the wine crane of Oestrich-Winkel was based onto a 2000 years old technique, used already by the Romans on their construction sites: Two enormous milling wheels were set in motion by two laborers who tread forward on the inside of the wheels. The wheels then lifted the loads with the help of huge chains from the ship. The crane's upper part featured a movable crane arm which could be turned to deposit the loads onto the ship or onto the land. The load in Oestrich consisted at that time mainly of tree trunks - and of course of wine casks. Oestrich-Winkel has good reasons to claim the title of the biggest wine city in the state of Hessen: for centuries, wine played the leading role in this city. Countless wine taverns and wine services give witness to that tradition.
City rights, however, were only awarded in 1972 when the communities of Oestrich, Winkel and Mittelheim were fused to become one city. The city's viticulture is, of course, much older: In Winkel, a Roman pruning knife was found – the name Winkel might well be derived from the Latin word "Vini cella" which means wine cellar. Its first historic notation took place in 850 when the famous abbot Rhabanus Maurus became archbishop of Mainz and gave out food and wine to the poor in his diocese of Winkel celebrating the day. The so-called "Grey House" is said to have been Maurus' residence, today, it is said to be the oldest stone house in Germany.
Oestrich, however, took its name probably from its position in the east. Here, a range of wealthy families built their mansions along the bank of the Rhine throughout the 17th and 18th century. The famous Castles of Vollrads anf of Reichartshausen bear witness ot that time, the latter being the seat of the European Business School in our days. The wine crane, however, has remained the landmark of Oestrich-Winkel, its simple, boarded façade hiding the ingenious technique from the eye of the tourists. The old technique on the inner floor can be visited on weekends and in the summer months, the entry is free. The wine to go along with the history is served right next door – in one of the many wine bars right on the banks of the river Rhine.