Outstanding Vinotheks Details
Viniversum der Bergsträßer Winzer
Outstanding Vinothek on the Hessische Bergstraße
The later sections of the interpretive "Wine and Stone" hiking path meander past well-known landmarks such as the Steinkopf, Centgericht, Stemmler and, just before the terminus, the Bensheim Paulus. Yet one of the brightest highlights comes right at the start of the circuit in and around Heppenheim: Viniversum, the new vinothek from the Bergsträßer Winegrowers, a cooperative first founded in 1904 as the Starkenburger Winzerverein. Today it is home to 399 winegrower families along the Hessen and Baden Bergstraßen, with 264 hectares under vine in 16 individual vineyard sites.
Starkenburg Castle, which towers above the town on the Schlossberg, is visible from the autobahn and has long been the biggest attraction in Heppenheim beyond its market square and lovely half-timbered homes. In 2015 this county seat gained another visitor magnet: the Viniversum.
The ultra-modern vinothek, appointed with high-quality light oak furniture, features 480 square meters of retail space, a separate lounge, a tasting room and two event rooms capable of hosting wine tastings and events for 30 or 80 people respectively. Two rooftop terraces also tantalize with a picturesque view of the city and the surrounding mountains.
As with the hiking trail, the dominant theme for the building is the combination of wine and stone, especially the yellow sandstone typical for the region. The vinothek's wine list includes roughly 100 different wines from members of the cooperative, which in 2002 was certified as Germany's first winegrowing cooperative to satisfy the guidelines of the German Agricultural Society. Almost half of the cooperative's vines are Riesling (48 percent), followed by Spätburgunder as a distant second (17 percent), then Grauburgunder (9 percent) and Müller-Thurgau (8 percent).
Among the cooperative's greatest hallmarks are its whites from the "Terra Starkeburg" premium line, as well as "Primasecco" sparkling wines in white, rosé and red. Another notable entry is the "Red Riesling," which produces white wines of greater concentration, richness and body than its more prevalent "White Riesling" sibling. Each year the cooperative earns a flurry of medals at the State Wine Awards, with 17 golds, 31 silver and 6 bronze in 2015; at the Federal Wine Awards the cooperative also earned the "Gold Prize Extra" for the 2013 Heppenheimer Schloßberg Riesling Sekt b.A. trocken.
While white breads are offered to all tasting room visitors as palate cleansers, there are also cheese cubes, meat-and-cheese boards and finger foods available to accompany full tastings.
To promote good postprandial digestion, the "Wine and Stone" trail (weinundstein.net) beckons with 70 stations across seven kilometers dedicated to all things wine. Best of all, the circuit starts and ends again at the Viniversum. An excellent opportunity to stop back in for Round 2.