In the press release that is reporting the new membership, it is – seemingly somewhat ashamed – mentioned that the Mumm winery has been in possession of the same family as the Fürst von Metternich-Winneburg’sche Weinbaudomäne Schloss Johannisberg winery, a founding member of the VDP.” The family’s name is Oetker, it stands for a group of companies consisting of about 400 individual enterprises, an annual turnover of 7 billion (2010) and 20,000 employees. Part of the group are the Henkell and Co. company with diverse other sparkling wine brands (among others Deinhard and Metternich), the Radeberger group with all sorts of breweries, and the Selters sparkling water, which has been strongly committed in wine business for some years, - and the two wineries mentioned.
The Mumm winery has much longer been owned by the Oetker family than the Johannisberg estate. In 1958, Rudolf August Oetker purchased the winery including Schwarzenstein castle. In the same year, he incorporated the Söhnlein Rheingold sparkling wine cellar to his company. Mr. Oetker invested much money, purchased many vineyards and, at the end of the 1970ies, he took up negotiations to purchase Johannisberg castle, which was owned by the Princely family of Metternich. He was able to purchase an important number of shares and joined the two wineries together to the Schloss Johannisberger Weingüterverwaltung (literally: Johannisberg castle winery administration), which is now called Johannisberger Weinvertrieb KG (JWG; literally: Johannisberg wine sales, ltd. partnership).
Since a few years, the winery has been run by Christian Witte, who continued the work of Domänerat Wolfgang Schleicher at a high level – while (non-)retiree Mr. Schleicher established the connection between the Selters company and the wine industry and, thus, shows his identification with the Oetker family. Since many years, Hans Kessler, technical director, has been responsible for continuity in vinification. At the G. H. von Mumm winery and its 65 hectares of vineyards, he has got a bigger “playground” than in Johannisberg with its 35 hectares.
A view into history is interesting; it shows that the connection between the two wineries is age-old, in fact. It was in 1811, when Peter Arnold Mumm, banker and wine trader, had – some weeks before the harvesting – the courage to purchase the complete wine harvest of Johannisberg castle at 32,000 guilder; at the time, several years after the secularization, the estate belonged to a certain Marshall Kellermann (as late as five years later, the estate was donated to the Princely family of Metternich). The purchase can be called courageous because the vintages before were not particularly glorious for the tradition-steeped estate. The 1811 vintage, however, became a century wine, which Goethe praised as the “big eleven”.
Mumm achieved to resell the complete harvest (50 barriques, each containing 1,200 liters) at 150,000 guilders, a sensational price at that time – making a profit of 370 percent. He laughed up his sleeve, and ten years later, in 1822, he purchased vineyards on the Kahlenberg and, thus, he step by step expanded the estate near Johannisberg, which brought good fortune to him. The necessary means he had left from the 1811 deal. The company further developed positively, and twenty years later, it was one of the biggest wine estates in what was the duchy of Nassau at the time. Even a champagne cellar in Reims was part of the estate (it was, however, seized after World War I by the French government). After 1945, the winery was no longer successful despite good approaches – until Rudolf August Oetker, who was 42 years old at that time, decided to invest in viticulture.
Later, he hired Wolfgang Schleicher, a marketing expert, and made him responsible for both wineries; this turned out to be of benefit for the Mumm winery, too. Mr. Schleicher achieved to place the winery with dry Riesling in shops and in high-level restaurants. At the time – when the market was dominated by sweet wines – he was one of the few people who believed to be successful with dry wines from Germany. Today we know that he was right. Since a few years, the Mumm winery has also been successful with the “Premier Crus” (which will probably soon be called “Grand Crus” in the Rheingau region), so it was indeed at eye-level with the Johannisberg castle. (r.knoll)