Exploring Germany’s Rheinhessen Region

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There are no designated “Wine Roads” in Germany’s Rheinhessen growing region in the Rhine Valley.

The reason given is that because virtually every village in the region is involved with wine in one way or another, every road is a wine road.

That makes touring the area a challenge for those who like to plan, but a pure delight for those who prefer to explore.

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 just 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, both 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acreage planted with the ancient variety Silvaner, and is the birthplace of Liebfraumilch, the soft, mellow white wine originally made from grapes grown in vineyards surrounding the Liebfrauenkirche, or Church of Our Lady, in Worms.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 a third of the wine it produces to international markets, with the United States being the No. 1 destination. The other two-thirds is happily consumed by the German people, who have no problem pairing specific varieties with specific German dishes.

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 15 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.

If you have an opportunity to try a Rheinhessen wine, don’t hesitate to do so. Wine appreciation requires having an open mind, and an open mind will reward you over and over again when it comes to Germany’s Rheinhessen region.

 

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Posted in Our Wine Travel Log, Wine Region Profiles

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