When all 194-cm of Johannes Deppisch looms before you, complete with his warm, spontaneous smile, you’re inclined to think that his wines must be as powerful as he is. In fact, they’re light, dry and fruity, and as refreshing as a visit to Josef Deppisch Weingut. Founded in 1872 in Marktheidenfeld, the winery is about an hour by car from Frankfurt in one of Germany’s smaller exclusive wine-producing regions, at a point where a little part of Baden reaches up into the Rhein River near Franconia, in northern Bavaria.
Germany is one of the many countries I always enjoy visiting for its wine and other gustatory pleasures. The Federal Republic has 13 official wine-producing regions extending across from Meissen (near Dresden) in the east to Trier, Germany’s historic oldest city, in the west, and from as far north as Ahr to as far south as southernmost Baden, home of the Black Forest.
Wines produced in northerly climes tend to be light, fresh, dry and not very alcoholic. Deppisch wines typify the breed, with a consistent excellence honed by five dedicated generations. Make a firm note of this winery and this region, nestled in the fabled Spessart Forest where Franconia and Baden converge.
From the forest come edible mushrooms and abundant wild game, mainly bear and deer, and from the Main river come eel and various freshwater fish such as pike and perch. With all these bounties flowing from field and stream it should come as no surprise that this area is as beautiful as it is bounteous, and part of the scenic mosaic is meticulously tended vineyards producing a variety of white grapes such as Muller-Thurgau, Sylvaner, Rivaner and Riesling.
Above all, Franconia and Baden are wine country, and Josef Deppisch Weingut lies near their juncture, producing a highly regarded line of white wines of which several are imported into Japan.
If Deppisch wines go well with local cuisine, proof is ample that they also fit in with sushi. Last July, at Schlossgass 16 Weinstrube restaurant in Aschaffenburg, Deppisch arranged a sell-out “sushi and Frankenwein” dinner catered by Toshiaki Kitahara, owner of Daitokai restaurant in Takadanobaba, with his sushi chefs Kazuyuki Shimada and Keiichi Matsumiya.
Wine and sushi really get around together. Deppisch dry white wines made from the Sylvaner, Rivaner and Muller-Thurgau grapes are very good choices with sushi and Deppisch Golf-Rivaner is just fine as is or even with patisserie such as cakes made in this very gastronomic area.
I love this wine, with its touch of apricots and peach, lively fruit and low acidity. Deppisch wines are very flexible with dishes of all kinds. As I’ve noted before, in white wine producing regions local white wines are enjoyed with just about anything. Don’t get tied down to the old saw: “Red wines with meat, whites with fish.” White wines are compatible with a great variety of dishes.
Often wineries in Germany and Austria have guest-houses (gasthaus) complete with restaurants where you can stay and dine at modest prices with the local wines.
Deppisch took a big step beyond the gasthaus in 1994, taking over the 40-room four-star Hotel Anker with conference facilities in the town center. The strong yen makes the rates even more reasonable than they were intended to be (e.g., 7,000 yen for a standard single). Bordering the hotel’s court are various buildings belonging to its ensemble, bordered on one side by the ancient city wall.
Lying under Hotel Anker is a 400-year-old vault with wooden barrels dating back to the time when the Deppisch family were already landlords and grape-growers in this historic region.
In fact, this winery had guest rooms that developed into a hotel garni (breakfast only) in 1971. In 1970 the winery’s Weinhaus was taken in lease by one of its cooks, Hermann Kerscher, who managed it with his wife for 30 years, making Weinhaus Anker restaurant a regular stopover for celebrities from all over Germany and earning it a Michelin star that it has held onto for over 20 years. One floor down is the wine-cellar pub Schopple, a warm, enfolding atmosphere in brick and wood. You’ll love it.
When the original winery got too small the estate moved in 1976 to Erlenbach, the site of its modern winery (Check out their Web site at www.deppisch.com). By all means visit it, for both wine tasting and wine history. Throughout the property you’ll find connected cellars, historic wine-producing tools and other artifacts. The big cellar with wood barrels dating back some 400 years is one of the area’s oldest sandstone vaults. Above all, enjoy Deppisch wines in the famous bocksbeutel, the circle-shaped bottle used for centuries to hold Franconia’s famous wine.