Söhnlein Rheingold Sektkellerei GmbH
"No wine is too precious and no work too laborious for creating my sparkling wine."
Founder uses the best wines from the very beginning
To this day, Söhnlein Rheingold Sektkellerei KG remains faithful to its founder’s original promise of quality. Born in 1827, Johann Jacob Söhnlein was apprenticed to a wine wholesaler in Frankfurt when he was just 15 years old, and it is here that he learned the secret of making sparkling wine. Armed with this valuable knowledge and supported by six business partners, he opens Rheingauer Schaumweinfabrik 1864, in what is now the Schierstein suburb of Wiesbaden. Söhnlein eventually becomes sole owner of the company, and his business acumen leads him to concentrate on sparkling wine. In 1877, he signs a contract with the famous Fürst von Metternich-Winneburg’sche Domain Schloss Johannisberg, securing the finest base wines for his sparkling wine cellars. The Johannisberg name, well known to wine connoisseurs already then, can now be displayed on the labels of Söhnlein’s products, and it remains there to this day.
Richard Wagner is Rheingold’s godfather
Söhnlein is an ardent admirer of Richard Wagner and names his best sparkling wine Rheingold in honour of Wagner’s Nibelungen Ring. At Söhnlein’s request, the famous composer agrees to allow the sparkling wine to make its debut on stage in Bayreuth. On 28 March 1876, Rheingold becomes the first German sparkling wine to be included on the national trademark register, which protects it from being copied. In the same year, it wins a gold medal at the World’s Fair in Philadelphia, and in an era when national sentiment was all-important, the highest honour came when emperor Wilhelm I decreed the following: "Today and from now on, whenever a German warship is christened at its launch, only the Rheingold brand shall be used." Shipping line Norddeutscher Lloyd in Bremen selects Rheingold as its first and only German sparkling wine on its menus. Other lines follow suit and spread the reputation of Rheingold around the world. In the 1890s, the brand’s tremendous success makes it necessary for the company to build new headquarters, and architect Alfred Schellenberg takes the monastery at Eberbach as his inspiration for the expansive building in Schierstein.
Scandal during ship’s launch generates ideal publicity
A bizarre legal battle only serves to further enhance the brand’s international reputation. The German royal family’s yacht Meteor is christened with a bottle of Rheingold in New York by Alice Roosevelt, the daughter of President Teddy Roosevelt. It is claimed, however, that another company had swapped the bottle of Rheingold with its own sparkling wine. Is it true, or just a legend? Both companies lock horns in a flurry of claims and counterclaims, accusations and retractions. Söhnlein eventually wins the case and benefits greatly from the media attention it generates. Similarly, the company recognises the power of advertising early on, and at the start of the 20th century, it commissions artistic ads which appear in the magazine “Jugend“ and become famous examples of the new Art Nouveau style.
Contract ensures high-quality base wines
After the death of Johann Jacob Söhnlein in 1912, his son Friedrich Wilhelm takes over the reins of the company, which is now wholly owned by the family. The company goes through several changes of name, ultimately adopting Söhnlein Rheingold AG in 1922. Emma Söhnlein-Pabst, wife of Friedrich Wilhelm, brings her family fortune to the company and as of 1922 has a seat and vote on the supervisory board. Eight years later she becomes owner. In 1934, the company renews its contract with Fürst von Metternich-Winneburg so it has access to base wines of even higher quality. Simultaneously, it acquires the right to use the wine label Schloss Johannisberger Cabinet and the ribbon with the coat of arms of the aristocratic von Metternich-Winneburg family, the origin of today’s Fürst von Metternich brand.
Ready for the future: wider range, corporate merger
After World War II, more and more people start enjoying sparkling wine during the 1950s and 60s. Söhnlein recognises this quickly and has a product to suit every budget and taste. Its traditional brand Rheingold and premium sparkling wine Fürst von Metternich are joined by consumer brand Söhnlein Brillant, which uses clever wordplay based on its name ("Söhnlein vom Söhnlein"*) to raise its profile in Germany and goes on to enjoy unparalleled success. In 1987, former competitors Söhnlein Rheingold KG and Henkell & Co. announce a merger. By joining forces, they can better adapt to the challenges they face on the market.
In 2004, the Söhnlein Brillant brand marks its 40th anniversary by selling a record 900 million bottles. The new millennium begins with new sparkling wine products that reflect changing tastes and which secure the continued success of Söhnlein Brillant. Launched in 2009, non-alcoholic sparkling wine Söhnlein Brillant Alkoholfrei Rosé also wins the approval of consumers, who instantly make it their product of the year. With the launch of Söhnlein Brillant Mild in 2011 the brand successfully broadened its product line: In the same year Söhnlein Brillant was also awarded "product of the year".