The winemaking history of the Leitz family from Rüdesheim dates back to 1744. It was Josef Leitz who re-built his family’s original winery site after a bombing raid on the area during World War II. Josef’s son Antonius had briefly taken ownership of the winery before his premature death in 1966, which then passed to Antonius’ wife, who ran the winery until her son Johannes was able to take over in 1985.
Under the direction of Johannes Leitz, Weingut Josef Leitz has earned the reputation of being one of Rheingau’s top wineries, producing some of the finest wines in all of Germany. Since taking over, Johannes has grown his holdings from 2.6 hectares to over 130, most of which are Grand Cru sites on the slopes of the Rüdesheimer Berg hill. Once the home of some of the world’s most sought after and expensive wines, the region fell to mediocrity in the years following World War II. “Josi” as his friends call him, has made it his life’s work to reclaim the intrinsic quality of his native terroir and re-introduce the world to the true potential of the Rheingau.
The Rheingau is a small, dynamic region. During its flow north from the Swiss Alps, the Rhine River turns west at the village of Mainz, and the 20 mile stretch from there to Rudesheim represents the majority of the Rheingau. Even though the region is further north than the middle Mosel, its south facing slopes get hotter than the narrow Mosel Valley which therefore provides important diurnal temperature variation.
Leitz’s estate vineyards lie entirely on the westernmost part of the Rheingau on the Rüdesheimer Berg—a steep, south-facing hillside of extremely old slate and quartzite; planted entirely to Riesling, they encompass the Grand Crus of Schlossberg, Rottland, and Roseneck. Leitz is a firm believer that the crucial work of the vigneron takes place in the vineyards. Focused on farming as sustainably as possible and working by hand, the grueling hours of labor on the ultra-steep slopes allow these ancient vineyards to reach their maximum potential.
After harvest, Josi is equally focused on working gently in the press house and ageing the wines on their gross lees. Johannes selects bottle closures to reflect, and more crucially serve, the individual cellar practices employed for each wine; Stelvin closures are used for wines raised in stainless steel to preserve freshness while wines raised in cask are bottled under cork to allow for a long development in the cellar.
With the 2011 vintage, Leitz began to designate the pre-1971 parcel names on select bottlings, reviving the individual voices of “Hinterhaus” (Rottland), “Ehrenfels” (Schlossberg), and “Katerloch” (Roseneck) of these historical sites. He has also resurrected the once neglected site of Kaisersteinfels, which has become one of the most sought-after wines of the Rheingau. “Der Kaiser” sits high, just beneath the forest line of the Rüdesheimer-Berg, with a spectacular view overlooking the confluence of the Nahe and Rhein Rivers. The singular terroir on the westernmost point of the Rheingau is composed of quartzite, very old grey slate, as well as some iron-rich red slate and produces wines with incredible complexity and length.
In 2011 Johannes was recognized by the esteemed Gault Millau as “Winemaker of the Year.” His wines are featured in some of the top restaurants in the world and his frequent travels to the United States for festivals and wine dinners have made Josi’s visits a hot ticket for wine collectors around the country.
It is my life’s work to revitalize the steep slope vineyards of the westernmost Rheingau. I work these vineyards sustainably to protect their unique voices for the future and to respect their distinguished past.