|The Wines of Germany
The Pinnacle of Riesling
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Rüdesheimer Apostelwein 1727
This label likely dates from the 1950-60's, which is when these particular bottles would have been
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The story of this wine is briefly as follows: The city of Bremen owns the famous Ratskeller or
town hall, underneath which is a legendary cellar known as the Schatzkammer (treasury cellar).
In here are 12 very large elaborately carved casks of wine dating from the 17th and 18th
century, named after the 12 Apostles. The oldest dates from 1653, but the wine is no longer
drinkable. The most famous is the Judas cask, containing Rudesheim wine of the 1727 vintage,
by repute the greatest vintage of the 18th century. Wine from this cask has never been sold,
but periodically very small quantities have been bottled as civic gifts from the Bremen
municipality to important dignitaries, visiting heads of state, royalty etc. When any wine has
been drawn off like this, the cask (about 3000 litres + in capacity) has been topped up with
young Rudesheim wine of the finest quality. In this way the barrel has been refreshed, as the
old wine feeds on the sugars in the younger one. But only a handful of half bottles have ever
been drawn off at one time, and so this top-up wine only constitutes a tiny percentage of the
overall volume, the vast bulk of which is still the original 1727.
This is, quite simply, the oldest drinkable wine in existence.
Here are Michael Broadbent's notes on this wine:
This wine comes from a large cask in the famous ’12 apostles’ cellar beneath the Town Hall or
Ratskeller in Bremen. The first time this appeared in a Christie’s wine catalogue was in 1829 when it
sold for 5 pounds per dozen, a high price at the time. An occasional half bottle has appeared at
auction since that date, mainly over the past 30 years. The wine is drawn from the mother cask
which is then topped up with a young Rudesheimer of appropriate quality. In this way the large
volume of the old wine is kept refreshed. I first tasted the 1727 at Schloss Vollrads in 1973 at a
tasting of wines of the world to celebrate Count Matushka’s 80th birthday. Another memorable
occasion took place at a dinner in Sydney on the evening of my first visit to Australia in February
1977. By way of welcome, my host, the irrepressible Len Evans had invited the Prime Minister and a
group of the best ‘palates’. Among other fine and rare wines was this 250 year old Hock. Just as it
was about to be served, there was a shattering crash followed by an agonized Australian voice ‘Gee
Len, sorry we’ll just have to have the 1928’! (The ‘waiter’ Anders Ousbach, who had dropped a
handful of spoons, was a wine expert and opera singer known for his practical jokes).
On my second visit to Bremen in 1981, I was able to taste the wine from the cask. It had an amber
straw colour, the smell of old apples and a nutty appley taste. Dry, good length. High acidity. More
Rüdesheimer Apostelwein 1727
Excellent levels. One of the
vintages of the century.
Click on the image to see an
recently, from a half bottle ‘Réserve du Bremer Ratskeller’: it was paler than I had previously noted, Secial Madeira-like colour,
bouquet also reminded me of an old Madeira, then more like a raya sherry. After 2 hours in the glass a smell of rich old stables and
an hour after that, an amazing pungency lingered in the empty glass. On the palate medium-dry, lightish weight, a soft, gentler,
slightly toasted old straw flavor, tolerable acidity,and clean finish. *****
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