And now farewell Annegret Reh-Gartner

Annegret Reh-Gartner and husband

See also below the farewell letter Annegret wrote a few days ago, and some lovely observations from Chris Davey of O W Loeb. 

My fellow Master of Wine Lynne Sherriff contacted me yesterday to pass on this sad news: ‘Annegret Reh-Gartner battled a very aggressive form of cancer and gave in on Monday in the early hours. She was one of my oldest and most treasured friends and a bright light has gone out in the wine industry. This will be my third funeral in the wine industry this year.’ (I assume she is referring to the equally untimely losses earlier this year of Paul Pontallier and Etienne Hugel.) 

Members of the Magnum group of prominent women in wine were circulated with this sad news later in the day and tributes have been pouring into my inbox. 

Annegret, just 61, was most unusual in that she was extremely fortunate and well cushioned from financial vicissitudes but she was also very humble and utterly engaged in her work running the magnificent, historic vineyards of Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt.

Her grandfather founded the big-volume wine company Carl Reh in the 1920s and it was her father Günther who acquired Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt in 1978. This was the Mosel jewel, incorporating the vineyards of no fewer than four ancient abbeys so that today its holdings include Josephshöfer (a four-hectare monopole), Bernkasteler Doctor, Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr, Piesporter Goldtröpfchen, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Scharzhofberger and Kaseler Nies’chen.

She took over as head of Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt in 1983 and married the celebrated Aachen chef and restaurateur Gerhard Gartner five years later. Together they have played an active part in the food and, especially, wine scene.

Annegret was utterly committed to wine quality, rationalising the vineyard holdings, and lowering yields, so as to concentrate on the best. In 2005 the estate joined the Grosser Ring, Mosel wine royalty. She was an early enthusiast of spontaneous fermentation and for her, terroir was all. I found her an efficient, enthusiastic and thoroughly honest source of information. We will miss her a great deal, but not nearly as much as her shell-shocked colleagues and family. 

Our thanks to Purple Pager and professional photographer Jon Wyand for this image of Annegret and Gerhard.

Chris Davey adds  If you have any interest in fine Mosel Riesling, the name of Annegret Reh-Gartner of Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt will mean something to you. It is my very sad mission this morning to inform you of her death at the age of 61, from pancreatic cancer. I exchanged jaunty emails with her only last Thursday, promising to meet in 2017. Life can be so cruel.

Annegret was one of the most energetic, passionate, committed, charming, and just darn right nice people in the whole, extensive world of fine wine (where there is no shortage of lovely people). I first met Annegret in 1996, the year that I took over at O W Loeb, and 13 years after she took over the reins of Kesselstatt from her vinously entrepreneurial father Günther Reh. My visit that year to taste at the imposing Palais Kesselstatt (no longer the company's HQ) in the heart of beautiful Trier was my first proper foray into tasting and buying fine German Riesling – and I was the new MD of one of the (probably the) UK's acknowledged market leaders in the wines. To say that I was nervous was a massive understatement (I also felt something of a fraud!). However, Annegret immediately put me at my ease with her relaxed and friendly approach.

Kesselstatt has, for more than a century, been a leading producer in all three valleys of the wider Mosel region, but Annegret, through shrewd business and common sense, and tireless work (she was a veritable Riesling evangelist throughout the world), was engaged in a very long-term process of improving yet further the standing of this historic and extensive estate. Below you will find her final letter, received by us via email this morning. It is incredibly touching and poignant, but also very remarkable in that it shows that her drive and determination remained totally undimmed until the very end. Quite extraordinary.

Annegret and Michelin-starred chef husband Gerhard Gartner sadly never had children – I’m not sure Annegret ever had the time! Her siblings and devoted team at Schloss Marienlay (HQ for the past 15 years or so) will no doubt carry on her work. Matching her sense of fun, however, will be a challenge.