Goethe’s wine on the Lahn

The great German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe believed that wine is good for the body, the spirit and the soul, and wrote all about it in his journals and letters. As a small child, he enjoyed visiting the family vineyard and wine cellars with his grandfather, who was a wine dealer in Frankfurt.

His father sent him to Wetzlar for a legal internship, which is where he fell in love with the beautiful Charlotte Buff. But Lotte was already engaged and this unrequited love forced Goethe, then 23, to leave Wetzlar. He sought to mend his broken heart by walking along the Lahn, a tributary of the Rhine, from Wetzlar via Obernhof to Bad Ems.

In September 1772, having climbed up from the half-timbered village of Obernhof, he described the rocky outcrop above, with its sweeping views over the Taunus and the Westerwald into the Lahn valley, as ‘to die for’.

View of Obernhof from the viewpoint "Goethepunkt", Lahn valley

View of Obernhof from the viewpoint "Goethepunkt", Lahn valley

There are now steps, ladders and ropes to make the climb from Obernhof to the rocky ridge above the Lahn safe. But there was no help of this kind in Goethe’s time, when the man who was to become the prince of poets is said to have climbed to the top of this then nameless hill. Today, the steep path ends at the ‘Goethepunkt’ viewing tower, which affords wonderful views over the hills of the Lahn valley that form a boundary between the Westerwald forest and the Taunus region. Down below, you can see the rooftops of Obernhof in the steep valley around the bend in the river.

Sign to the viewpoint Goethepunkt, Lahn valley

Sign to the viewpoint Goethepunkt, Lahn valley

Vintner Norbert Massengeil-Beck likes to lead his guests along the rocky paths to the Goethepunkt to enjoy a wine tasting at a heady height of 275 metres. His wines are rare. In the late 17th century, the vineyards covered 220 acres, stretching along the Lahn all the way to Marburg. Only 15 acres remain today. The vineyards in Obernhof are directly below the Goethepunkt. The gradient and soil composition combined produce wines that have won multiple awards.

Norbert Massengeil-Beck has been running the estate in Obernhof since 1996, the third generation of his family to do so. His grandfather Wilhelm Massengeil planted the first vines on the slopes of the Goetheberg mountain. The wine-maker has constantly improved his skills with the help of the expert padres at the nearby Arnstein Abbey and a real love of wine. The little bar in the half-timbered building on Borngasse was a popular destination in the summer months. But back in the 1960s when his son Paul and his wife Irene took over the estate, it had become too small for the many visitors attracted by the excellent wines. So a new wine bar was built next door to the half-timbered building, allowing wines to be served and enjoyed all year round.

The river Lahn near Obernhof, Lahn valley

The picturesque river Lahn near Obernhof, Lahn valley

Trained viticulturist Norbert Massengeil-Beck continued with the family tradition of fine wines, but was also the first wine-maker on the Lahn to produce a sparkling wine, known as ‘Oberhofer Goetheberg brut’. He extended the range of white, rosé and red wines and also added fruit brandies produced by the estate and home-made specialities such as Pinot noir jelly.

The man after whom the Goetheberg was named could also have enjoyed this sparkling Riesling as he surveyed the views. He may have already had the idea for his novel ‘The Sorrows of Young Werther’ in his head. He was a genius who turned his heartbreak into a literary masterpiece with his beloved Lotte in the starring role. A visit to the Massengeil-Beck estate is an excellent opportunity to taste a rare Lahn wine and climb to the Goethepunkt. After all, as Goethe himself said, “You haven’t really been somewhere unless you’ve been there on foot.”

More leisure tips in the Lahn valley:

More information about holidays in the Lahn valley

Find out everything you need to know on events, attractions and other destinations in the Lahn valley at the Lahntal Tourismus Verband e.V.

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