The largest of Germany’s 13 wine regions, Rheinhessen, lies in a valley of gentle rolling hills. While vines are virtually a monoculture in the Rheingau or along the Mosel, they are but one of many crops that share the fertile soils of Rheinhessen’s vast farmlands.
Wine grapes have been grown there since Roman times, and Charlemagne (a.k.a. Charles The Great) was a big promoter of viticulture in the area.
Steep vineyard sites are confined to small areas near Bingen and south of Mainz along the Rhein Terrasse. Varied soils and the favorable climate make it possible to grow many grape varieties, old and new. In fact, many of Germany’s aromatic, early-ripening new crossings were bred in Rheinhessen by Professor Georg Scheu, after whom the Scheurebe (pronounced “shoy”) grape is named.
The region boasts the world’s largest acreage planted with the ancient variety Silvaner, and is the birthplace of Liebfraumilch, the soft, mellow white wine originally made from grapes grown in vineyards surrounding the Liebfrauenkirche, or Church of Our Lady, in Worms.
Today, Rheinhessen has approximately 3,800 wineries. It’s a big wine exporter and sells around 30 percent of the wine it produces to international markets, with the United States being the No. 1 destination.
Around two-thirds of Rheinhessen vineyards are devoted to white wine varieties, although the area used for producing red wine has doubled in size over the last 10 years, with Dornfelder being the No. 1 variety. Red wine stars such as Pinot Noir and newer discoveries such as Portugieser are producing some really great wines. Even so, Rheinhessen will always be considered a white wine region.
Rheinhessen wines are often characterized as being soft, fragrant, medium-bodied and mild in acidity — pleasant, easy to drink, and extremely food friendly. These also are wines of great class and elegance, with a depth and complexity second to none.
You can try one of these heavenly bottlings from the heart of the region along with other nectarous wines on sale together in this week’s Medal Winning Moscato & More special.