The history of wine is the history of the world, you can’t speak about one, without the other coming up. The Romans are well known for cultivating their vast empire – 5 million km (just under 3.2 million acres) of territory, encompassing most of Europe, and parts of North Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and Egypt. And what they left behind was…well, wine everywhere.
So, we decided to list the top ten oldest wine companies still in operation today, some of which were around when the Roman Empire still existed – depending on whether you consider its final throes The East Roman Empire, or the Byzantine Empire that is.
#10: Codorníu Winery – Penedes, Spain (Est. 1551) Known for: First to produce Cava (serving temp 43°F)
Our tenth entry on the list barely even breaks out of the first half of the 16th century! Codorníu Winery got its start in 1551, and finally began producing bottles for consumption outside the family, in the 17th century. The quality of the wine as well as the family was noticed by another family of winemakers – the Raventós’. In 1659 Ann Codorníu married Miquel Raventós and, a couple centuries or so later, Josep Raventós produced the first ever Cava in Spain. Raventos is still producing fine sparking wines, which are adored the world over.
#9: Can Bonastre – Anoia, Spain (Est. 1548) Known for: Syrah-based blends (serving temp 62°F)
Can Bonastre de Santa Magdalena estate opened the doors of its winery in 1548, since then it has become one of the most luxurious Wine Resort destinations in the world, with 124 acres of vines planted, growing most major worldwide varietals. The vineyards are its biggest draw, offering guests library vintages that date back over a hundred years.
#8 Antinori Winery – Tuscany, Italy (Est. 1385)
While technically the family began winemaking in 1180AD at the Castello di Combiate near Calenzano in Tuscany, the Castello was destroyed in 1202, and production didn’t pick up in earnest until 1385 in Florence. There reputation is as far reaching as one can attain in the wine industry, or in any industry for that matter. Almost thirty generations of winemakers have produced some of the finest wines ever made by the hands of man, blending winemakeing styles steeped in tradition and modern business sensibility.
#7: Karthäuserhof Winery – Mosel, Germany (Est. 1335) Known for: Dry Riesling (serving temp 45°F)
Named after the Carthusian monks of Eitelsbach, to which Prince-Elector Balduin of Luxembourg gifted the estate in 1335. Karthäuserhof winery is known for its exceptional Rieslings, beginning with the monks, and enduring even after changing hands several times over the past 700 years. If you are lucky enough come across one of their labels, don’t be afraid to lay it down for a few decades – they can certainly handle it.
#6: Frescobaldi Winery – Tuscany, Italy (Est. 1308) Known for: Bordeaux Blends (serving temp 62°F)
A thousand years ago, at the high point of medieval Florence, the Frescobaldi’s spread their influence as bankers, earning the title of treasures to the English crown. Soon after, the family found themselves, in exchange for paintings, trading their wines with the Italian Renaissance painter Michelangelo! In modern times, Frescobaldi has cultivated the true diversity of Tuscany and its six estates in, Nipozzano, CastelGiocondo, Pomino, Ammiraglia, Castiglioni and Remole. The latest generation of Frescobaldi's (Lamberto, Tiziana, Stefano and Diana Frescobaldi) are taking over their family’s heritage as the newcomers that have chosen to follow in the footsteps of their family, to lead the business toward renewed success
#5: Schloss Vollrads – Rheingau, Germany (Est. 1211) Known for: Riesling (serving temp 40°F)
With a history dating back 800 years, Schloss Vollrads has one of the oldest operating wineries in the world. By the end of the 18th century, the company became a founding member of the Verband Deutscher Pradikats (VDP) high quality classification of German wine. The 1900’s witnessed a major upheaval for the winery as a bank took over the property after owner Erwin Greiffenclau died in 1997. The bank Nassauische Sparkasse still runs the business to this day.
#4: Barone Ricasoli Winery – Tuscany, Italy (Est. 1141) Known for Chianti Blends (serving temp 56°F)
The oldest winery in Italy. In 1872 Baron Bettino Ricasoli aka the ‘Iron Baron’ produced, after more than thirty years of research, the first modern iteration of wine from Chianti Classico, using mostly Sangiovese and small amounts of local grape varieties. Today the winery is still the largest in Chianti Classico, with over 240 acres of dedicated land. Wine production tops 3 million bottles each year, as well as respectable amounts of Vin Santo, grappa, and olive oil.
#3: Schloss Johannisberg – Rheingau, Germany (Est. 1100) Known for: Riesling (serving temp 40°F)
A winery filled with a ridiculous amount of history. 817 AD saw the first documented mention of the vineyards by Louis the Pious 817 AD, 1100 the property turned into a monastery (wine follows of course), 1716 turned the monastery ino Prince Abbot Konstantin Von Butlar’s palace, 1720 The entire domain is planted with Riesling, the first vineyard in the world planted exclusively with Riesling, 1748 produced a bottle still in the palace’s treasure chamber today, Spätlese production fist occurs with their Rieslings in 1775, as well as the first pressing ever of Eiswein. We haven’t even touched the 20th century, and so much has happened in between the above events. The word ‘legendary ‘comes to mind.
#2: Château de Goulaine – Loire, France (Est. 1000) Known for: Melon de Bourgogne (serving temp 43°F)
The third oldest commercial enterprise in the world. Owned by the same family since the middle ages (with the exception of 69 years from 1788 to 1857). The first Château (then a castle) was part of the ‘Marche de Bretagne’, the frontier between the Dutchy of Brittany and the Kingdom of France. Jean de Goulaine, the first of the genealogy, was Captain of the city of Nantes for the Duke of Brittany. At the end of the 15th century, Christophe 2 de Goulaine travelled to Italy where he discovered a new architecture. At his comeback, he decided to replace his medieval castle by a beautiful Renaissance Château. Located in the Loire Valley, the family produces a fantastic Melon du Bourgogne, as well as wines in Sancerre and Vouvray.
#1: Staffelter Hof – Mosel, Germany (Est. 862) Known for: Riesling (serving temp 40°F)
And now for number one on our list. One of the oldest companies in history, Staffelter Hof accomplished their legendary status with only 10 hectares (about 25 acres) of land spread throughout several locations. Producing mostly Riesling (of course) and Pinot Noir, they are also known for their small – and incredibly delicious – amounts of Muller Thurgau, Sauvignon Blanc, Gelber Muskateller, Regent, and Frühburgunder. They sell wines through three tiers of quality - the Wappenwein (Heraldic Wines), Signatureweine (Signature Wines), and Motivweine (Wolf Wines). If you’re lucky enough to come across one of these gems, buy immediately.
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