Rheinhessen

Rhineland-Palatinate

Rheinhessen Germany's largest wine region, 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 this region's vast farmlands. 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 grape is named (pronounced "shoy"). 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acreage planted with the ancient variety Silvaner and is the birthplace of Liebfraumilch, the soft, mellow white wine originally made from grapes grown in vineyards surrounding the Liebfrauenkirche, or Church of Our Lady, in Worms. Rheinhessen wines are often characterized as being soft, fragrant, medium-bodied and mild in acidity, pleasant, easy-to-drink wines. There are also wines of great class and elegance, with a depth and complexity second to none.

Müller Thurgau and Dornfelder are the most planted grapes but Riesling plantings are growing each year. The soils are quite varied with the flatter areas heaving composed of loess and clay. Loess, limestone and loam, often mixed with sand or gravel, are the main soil types. Rotliegendes is a red, slaty-sandy clay soil in the steep riverfront vineyards of Nackenheim and Nierstein and near Bingen, there is an outcropping of quartzite-slate.

The Rheinhessen is increasingly seeing younger, more ambitious winemakers dot the landscape making the best out of somewhat benign mediocrity it has been credited with for years. Producers like Keller, Wittman, Dreissigacker, and Gysler are paving the way for more exciting and acclaim garnering wines.