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Vineyard Site Liebfrauenstift: As far as the Tower's Shadow reaches
Abroad, this used to be the equivalent for German wine in general: the Liebfraumilch. The wine and the name have their origin in the vineyard site with the name Liebfrauenstift which is situated right around the Liebfrauenkirche in Worms.
In Medieval Ages, the monks already cultivated grapevines here. Right in between the vineyards, however, the catholic parish church of "Liebfrauen" rose - a small gothic basilica that seemed to have sprung right from a textbook with its twin tower façade, its portal adorned by stone-carved figures and its beautiful aisle in the choir.
The basilica was built between 1267 and 1465, dedicated mainly as collegiate church for pilgrimages. The pilgrims' destination, however, was the larger-than-life statue of a Madonna from the 13th century, which was said to have performed several miracles and which soon attracted large numbers of pilgrims.
To the pilgrims at the Liebfrauenstift, so legend goes, was served that wine which had grown right around the church – and the wine seemed to the pilgrims so sweet as if they were tasting "the very milk of Our Lady". The vineyard site was therefore, so legend continues, called "the milk of Our Lady" - in German: Liebfraumilch. The first written notation of that name stems from a travel report written by an Englishman in 1687: from that time on, the name Liebfraumilch and the German Rhine wine that came along with it started its victory around the world.
Englandalso used to be the most important export partner for the winemakers in Worms, especially for the wine company J.P. Valckenberg founded in 1786. Valckenberg is proudly calling itself the oldest wine trading company in Germany that is still run by a family, the company still owns about 90 percent of the vineyard site around the Liebfrauenstift. In 1908, Nikolaus Valckenberg created the Liebfraumilch "Madonna" which was the first brand name wine in Germany. The name "Liebfraumilch" itself, however, was not a protected brand. In 1834 the viticultural pioneer Philipp Bronner put in writing the existing rule concerning that name: "…one says, only as far as the church tower's shadow reaches, the original Liebfrauenmilch is growing."
The success of the product Liebfraumilch inspired others to follow the example: More and more winemakers produced wines that were named Liebfraumilch but had nothing in common with the original product. The German viticultural law of 1971 even defined a "Liebfraumilch" simply as a sweet white wine which contains at least 70 percent of Riesling grapes and which comes anywhere from the wine growing areas of Nahe, Palatinate, Rheingau and Rheinhessen. Its residual sugar, the definition continued, was not to be less than 18 gramm per liter.
The original vineyard site around the Liebfrauenkirche today bears the name "Liebfrauenstift-Kirchenstück" and contains 17 hectares of vineyards. It is a classified first class site "Grosses Gewächs Rheinhessen" by the Association of German Quality and Prädikat Wine Estates, the VDP. And the dominant grape variety on this vineyard is still the same: the Riesling.
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