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Sampling the wine at Eberbach

     If the reader has ever made a journey on the Rhine through the sunny Rheingau he must have passed the ancient town of Eltville, formerly the summer residence of the Archbishop of Mainz: on a wooded height to the right behind Hattenheim are the ruins of what was once the rich and famous Cistercian monastery of Eberbach. Many of the visitors to Wiesbaden make excursions to this historic spot. Within these walls which have stood some eight hundred years, many Archbishops of Mainz, many Rhine-grafs,  –  for example those of the Katzenelnbogen family  –  and a large number of monks have found their last resting-place. The cellars, which to-day contain such famed products of the Prussian Domäne as the valuable Steinberger cabinet-wine, were in earlier times filled by the worthy cloister fathers with the wines obtained from the surrounding hills. While stern historical fact seems to prove that the founder, Archbishop Adelbert of Mainz, had Soon to break up the monastery on account of the dissolute habits acquired by the monks, legend at the same time asserts that an essential endowment of the humbler Eberbach brethern was an exquisite palate for wine-tasting.

    On one occasion two of the monks, each with a full can of wine, sat beside a cask of striking rotundity, whose noble contents might have roused the sweet singer of Israel to strike his harp in rapture. It was admittedly wine worth registering as of the very finest quality, but both discovered a peculiar flavour not usually present in the finer wines produced from the vineyards of the monastery. The one brother thought he could detect a slight metallic taste; to the delicate palate of the other it seemed more like that of leather. Shaking their heads both went to the mighty cask, and filled their vessels. Again the one maintained he felt the taste of iron, while the other as stubbornly insisted he felt the taste of leather. Their plodding monkish zeal was now increased by the fire of the wine, and their eagerness induced them to fill another, and yet another can. With increasing stubbornness the one maintained he still felt the flavour of iron, while the other held that this excellent quality of wine had a characteristic flavour of leather. In order to bring the astonishing matter to some conclusion this worthy pair in their intense thirst for knowledge emptied the full-bellied cask to the last drop.

     And behold, there at the bottom of the cask the intoxicated pair could see a tiny key with a small leather thong attached to it. The unsteady hands of the brother who attended to the cellars must have dropped it there  –  how or when it was difficult to make out. Then the worthy pair smiled and leered at each other in a knowing way. With difficulty they staggered towards their cells, muttering the while of 'tashte of iron' and 'tashte of leather,' and both in the highest degree elated over this convincing proof of the exquisite quality of the palates they possessed for sampling wine.

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