Alongside beer, wine is one of the oldest known existing beverages since time immemorial. The history of wine dates as far back as 8,000 years ago. Archaeological finds have revealed the use of wine in a variety of activities during ancient times, particularly in religious rituals.
In 2007, archaelogists uncovered what could be origins of winemaking: a winery that existed over 6,100 years ago. It is located in Areni-1 complex in a massive cave in Armenia. So far, it is the best example of a well-preserved ancient winery. If it were still operating, it could have maintained its undisputed position as the oldest existing winery in the world.
Here are the top ten oldest operating wineries in the world, all of which are located in Europe.
1) Staffelter Hof, Germany (862)
Although Germany is better known for its beers, it boasts some of the world’s oldest operating wineries. In fact, it holds the title of having the world’s oldest winery in existence – Staffelter Hof.
Staffelter Hof was established in 862 in the small town of Kröv, Germany. Like many old beverage-producing companies, Staffelter Hof existed as an abbey winery. The first recorded document of the winery is on its original document, which is now located in Belgium.
Staffelter Hof produced wines exclusively for consumption and use for the monastery until it was secularized during the French Revolution. In 1805, a vineyard manager named Peter Schneiders purchased the winery and continued its operation that became the reason for its success and longevity.
2) Château de Goulaine, France (1000)
Château de Goulaine is France’s oldest operating winery. It is a manor house located in the Loire Valley, a region known for its picture-perfect landscapes, ancient castles, sprawling vineyards, and wineries.
Château de Goulaine was itself a former castle, which had been home to the family of Marquis Goulaine for many years. Marquis Goulaine was also responsible for founding the first winery in France.
The Goulaine descendants now own and manage the winery, and you can say that it’s largely a private family business. It produces some of the world’s finest Muscadet, Vouvray, and Sancerre wines. Château de Goulaine is also believed to be the first to launch the world’s first commercial Chardonnay.
3) Schloss Johannisberg, Germany (1100)
Another oldest operating winery is also in Germany, the Schloss Johannisberg. It has been making wine for more than 900 years. Initially, Schloss Johannisberg was a monastery, which had been converted over time into a wine-producing company.
The company has made claims to be the first to adopt innovative winemaking techniques. Although their claims are still open to debate, we cannot otherwise argue that Schloss Johannisberg was the first company to grow the world’s first Riesling grapes. Indeed, Schloss Johannisberg was the first in the world to produce the Riesling varietal.
4) Barone Ricasoli, Italy (1141)
The oldest existing winery in Italy is located between Siena and Florence, both of which are equally famous all over the world for its wines.
In 1141, a baron named Bettino Ricasoli established a winery that still bears his name. The world’s first Chianti was produced right here in this winery, which was also one of the major exporters of wine during the Middle Ages. Today, Barone Ricasoli exports its products to many parts of the world, even as far as China and Guatemala.
5) Antinori, Italy (1180)
The second-oldest winery in Italy is located in Florence. Although its establishment as a commercial winery dates back to 1385, the founder Rinuccio di Antinoro had started making wines in 1180.
Like many old wineries, Antinori was initially housed in a castle. The castle’s name was Castello di Combiate, which was located near Tuscany. When the castle was destroyed in 1202, di Antinoro and his family relocated to Florence, where they were still involved in many other trades. In 1385, the winery joined the Guild of Winemakers, and during this period the family now saw winemaking as a primary business.
Initially, Antinori focused on the production of Chianti. But the real revolution came during the 1970s when the winery produced the world’s first Tignanello and Solaia vintages. Tignanello is obtained from a blend of Tignanello, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc grape varieties. Solaia, on the other hand, contains 80% Cabernet Sauvignon.
6) Schloss Vollrads, Germany (1211)
Germany is on this list once again with Schloss Vollrads, a winery in the town of Oestrich-Winkel. Together with Schloss Johannisberg, Schloss Vollrads is located in the wine region of Rheingau, which is one of the 13 designated wine-producing regions in Germany.
Initially, the company was trading wine to the St. Victor monastery in Mainz. It had also started cultivating Riesling grapes for the production of Riesling varietals. Even up to now, Schloss Vollrads grows and uses only Riesling grapes. The winery also offers wine tasting and wine-and-food-pairing courses, as well as winery tours to visitors.
7) Frescobaldi, Italy (1308)
Frescobaldi is Italy’s third-oldest winery and the seventh oldest in the world. It was founded by one of the members of the prominent Florentine noble family, the Frescobaldis.
Frescobaldi was a supplier of wines to prominent figures, such as the artist Michaelangelo and King Henry VIII.
It is also a pioneer in wine production in Tuscany, having launched the first Chardonnay, Cabernet, and Merlot to the region.
8) Karthäuserhof, Germany (1335)
The world’s eighth oldest winery is in Germany again, called Karthäuserhof. It was founded in 1335.
Throughout most of its history, Karthäuserhof has grown and produced only one variety of wine, although recently it has also begun producing Riesling and some Pinot Blanc.
Karthäuserhof still insists on the traditional way of producing wines. It uses only organic fertilizer for growing grape vines, harvests grapes by hand, and follows the ancient techniques of producing wines.
9) Can Bonastre, Spain (1548)
The world’s ninth oldest existing winery is in the region of Catalonia, Spain – Can Bonastre, founded in 1548.
The winery’s surrounding vineyards stretch on over 100 hectares of land. These vineyards count fifty grape varieties, which include Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Cabernet Franc, and many others.
10) Codorníu, Spain (1551)
Codorníu is Spain’s second-oldest winery and the tenth oldest in the world. Like Can Bonastre, Codorníu was founded in the region of Catalonia.
It pioneered wine production in Spain by launching the first Cava, a Spanish sparkling wine. It is typically bottled in hollow bottles. Up to now, Codorníu has kept its traditional methods of producing and bottling wines.
Proper Wine Storage
When you’ve purchased your wine from these classic vineyards, you’ll need to make sure you store it properly, so it ages well and doesn’t go bad. One of the best ways to do this is by building your own wine cellar, including installing a proper cooling unit and wine racking. Click here for a good DIY guide to a wine cellar.
Check out the other helpful tips on proper wine storage at home:
- Keep Storage Temperature Stable: You should prevent wine storage temperature from fluctuating because the cork can expand and contract, causing the air to seep in or the wine to seep out. Never store wine below 25 °F or -4ºC. Otherwise, the wine will freeze. Also, don’t store wine above 68°F or 20°C because it will accelerate the aging process, destroying its volatile compounds.
- Store Wines Horizontally: In a wine rack, arrange the bottles and make sure that they’re positioned horizontally to keep the cork moist. Remember that dried-out cork causes wine to seep out and age prematurely.
- Keep Wines In The Dark: Preserve the flavour and aroma of your wines by keeping them away from sunlight exposure.
Now you know where to find the oldest wineries in the world. The above places are rich in cultural heritage, with famous personalities patronizing their best wines. So, you might want to include visiting these places for a wine tour the next time you have a grand vacation in Spain, Italy, Germany, and France.