April 6th, 1659 meant an important date for Castell as well as the Franconian and German Wine Industry with the first planting of the Silvaner grape!
Two events enabled the success of the Silvaner grape in Castell and German vineyards: the destruction and depopulation during the War of 'Thirty Years' (1618-1648) led to a 75% decrease of the 40,000 hectares of vineyards in Franconia. At the same time a climate change called the ‘short ice age’ negatively impacted on the grape harvest. The destruction of vineyards during the war provided the opportunity to plant new grape varieties, while the new climate resulted in a need for grape varieties which could resist winter frosts, missed the spring frosts due to late blossoming and still produced a good harvest due to a quicker ripening time. Criteria, which are met by the Silvaner variety.
The Silvaner was then called Österreicher (Austrian) and it is assumend that it was brought to Franconia by Cistercian monks who have convents in Ebrach (near Castell) but also in Austria. The Cistercian owned properties in the small village of Obereisenheim, which belonged to Castell. It was there that the Count of Castell’s bailiff, Johann Georg Körner, became familiar with the new grape at the Publican and tanner Georg Kraus. This is where the Silvaner pioneers of Franconia, Castell and Ebrach, came together.
On April 5th, 1659 a messenger of the Count of Castell brought 25 Silvaner vines from Obereisenheim to Castell. These were planted on April the 6th, 1659 in the Reitsteig vineyard at the bottom of the Schlossberg.
The recognition of the Silvaner has grown throughout the centuries. In his book “Der Fränkische Weinbau auf dem Felde und im Keller” (Franconian viticulture in the countryside and in the cellar), Johann Christian Fischer advised to plant a Silvaner plant as every tenth vine on mixed variety vineyards. The success of the Silvaner grape as finishing touch for mixed variety wines, which were commonly produced at the time, was noted by Johann Philipp Bronner in 1833, who described the Silvaner as “the salt in the soup”. With the development of single grape vineyards in the 19th Century, the Silvaner became the ambassador for Franconian wine as it is only here, in Franconia, where it was and is still planted in the best vineyards, ripened and turned into truly ‘Great wines’.
We, in Castell, are not surprised that the Silvaner found its home here. It allows us to use the interplay between soil, climate and vineyards to produce wines, which are unique and truly authentic.
We believe that the Silvaner is our future.