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Wine Estate Burg Hornberg: Götz von Berlichingen and the second oldest Wine Estate in the World
On these slopes, legendary Götz von Berlichingen once cultivated his wine: For 45 years, the famed yet notorious Frankonian chevalier 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 by a play of the famous German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
Not many people know, however, that the chevalier also cultivated wine on his castle which he had bought in 1517. So big was his success in the wine business – as annals tell us – that 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 Kunrad von Hohenstaufen in 1184 – mentioning as well the wine estate and the vineyards already back then. 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 lead through his area.
In any case, the Wine Estate Burg Hornberg is the second oldest still existing wine estate of the world and the oldest in Baden-Württemberg – that at least is proven by the document of 1184. Actually, the estate is located on the land of Baden and was considered an Baden estate up to 1980. Since then, however, the vineyard site – laying right on the border - is considered as belonging to Württemberg. On an area of ten hectares of vineyards, a variety of grapevines is cultivated, among them historic varieties like Muscatel and Traminer – even on the steep slopes right below the Castle of Hornberg, on the vineyard sites of Hornberger Wallmauer and Burg Hornberger Götzhalde.
More than nine kilometers of natural stone walls provide a thermic balance since the walls retain the heat of the sun during the day giving off the warmth to the grapevines at night. The harvest is still brought to the old wine press house laying right below the 400 years old castle near Neckarzimmern. Vinification takes place in the old castle's cellar with its self-supporting vaulted ceiling of 40 meters of length and more than six meters of height.
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 Alpes. 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 master of the castle continuing a winemaking tradition of more than 1500 years and being successor in the 12th generation of that baron of Gemmingen who bought Castle Hornberg in 1612. Götz von Berlichingen-Hornberg died in 1562, 82 years old – his original armor can still be seen in the castle to the present day.