Rheinhessen is the largest wine-producing region in Germany with more than 25000 hectares of land dedicated to the production of selected wines. Winemaking in the Rheinhessen region has been carried out since the time of Roman occupation; that is why this area is home to the oldest German vineyards. The best vineyards in the area are along the steep banks of the Rhine River, which is called the Rheinterrasse. Rheinhessen is also considered an area of luscious landscapes, which on can experience in many unique ways such a hiking the wild trails, biking along the river, or taking a guided tour through beautiful gardens.
Rheinhessen wine region is located in the south of Rheingau, north of Pfalz and east of Nahe, within the Rhineland-Palatinate federal state.
The land of Rheinhessen is particularly fertile thanks to the hilly landscape, bordered to the west by the Nahe River and to the northeast by the Rhine River. Local winemakers are known for experimenting with various grape varieties and wine production methods.
The region produces a significantly higher amount of white wines and uses a diverse variety of grapes. Müller-Thurgau and Riesling are however the most planted varieties in this region accounting for more than 30 percent of the total vineyard. The most widely planted red variety is Dornfelder. Other important grape varieties grown here are Silvaner, Grauburgunder, and Spätburgunder.
Unlike in other wine regions of Germany where most of the vines planted are monoculture vines, in Rheinhessen, many different crops share the soil of the area. The steeper vineyards are mostly found in the Bingen area and south of Mainz along the Rheinterrasse. Varied soils and the favourable climate make it possible to grow many grape varieties. Many of the best-known viticulture areas are close to the Rhine River, which form a steeply embanked valley that is able to trap heat, while the river moderate’s temperature and reflects sunlight.
The Main Winemaking Districts of Rheinhessen
The Rheinhessen wine region can be divided into three main winemaking districts: Nierstein, Roter Hang, and Nackenheim. Nierstein is considered to be the one that produces the highest quality wine due to its proximity to the Rhine River, therefore its soil are rich in mineral deposits.
White wine constitutes the highest percentage of varieties grown in the Rheinhessen wine region. In-line with the majority of the German wine regions, Riesling is the most planted variety, followed by Müller-Thurgau. The region is also home to the world’s largest planting of Silvaner grapes and the birthplace of the famous Liebfraumilch semi-sweet white wine, produced from Silvaner, Riesling and other white varieties. Originally, Liebfrauenmilch, given to the wine produced from the vineyards of the Liebfrauenkirche or “Church of Our Lady” in the city of Worms.
On the left bank of the Rhine River, at the entrance of every village, there is a sign informing visitors is the village is a part of the Rheinhessen wine region and what is the main grape grown in the area. Differently from other regions, there is no official “wine road”, but wineries and vineyards are scattered all around the vast region.
White Varieties: Riesling, Müller-Thurgau, Silvaner
Red Varieties: Dornfelder, Portugieser, Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir)
Style of Rheinhessen Wines
Rheinhessen wines are described by some as being soft, fragrant, medium-bodied and mild in acidity which makes them very pleasant and easy to drink. But the region also produces wines of great class and elegance, with a depth and complexity that can compare to other wines both in Germany and internationally.
Wines from the Rheinhessen wine region tend to be dry because of the low level of rainfalls during the year.
Wineries to Visit
Weingut Ernst Bretz
The family-run winery Weingut Ernst Bretz is located in the heart of the Rheinhessen wine region and was first opened in 1721. Nowadays, the 10th generation of wine-producers works with respect to the traditions established by their ancestors as well as incorporating modern winemaking techniques. Weingut Ernst Bretz produces white, red, dessert, and sparkling wines on the estate. Most of their vineyards are present on the slopes of Petersberg from where one can enjoy magnificent views of the Taunus or Donnersberg.
The Schmitt Family began their viticulture tradition in 1672 and with two members of the family running the winery today. Amongst their grape cultivation, their top varieties are Riesling, Pinot, Muskatel and Merlot; all vineyards are harvested manually to maintain the complexity of their organic wines. The wines ferment in the winery’s 19th-century vaulted wine cellar that consists of 50 oak barrels.
The Hauk Family Winery is located in a small village in the centre of the Rheinhessen wine region. The family owns an estate where famous visionary, writer, and polymath – St. Hildegard of Bingen was born. The winemaking tradition began in 1727 and is currently carried on by two generations of the Hauk Family. In 2019, the Weingut Hauk Winery was awarded the third place at the FOCUS Wine Test contest.
The city of Mainz is widely acknowledged as Germany’s wine capital as it is north of the largest wine region in Germany, Rheinhessen. The city was founded by the Romans more than 2,000 years ago to be a military fortress. Mainz is also the city of Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press, to which a museum has been founded in his honour.
The main landmark to visit in Mainz is the Cathedral, dedicated to Saint Stephen and Saint Martin. The enormous red-bricked Cathedral features three architectural styles: Romanesque from the first Middle-Aged church, as well as Gothic, and Baroque. Inside, various Prince-Archbishops of the Holy Roman Empire are buried and during the Middle Ages, six German monarchs were crowned here.
An iconic and perfectly instagrammable square in Mainz is the Kirschgarten. The oldest half-timbered house called Zum Aschaffenberg, was built around the year 1500.
Oppenheim – A Wine Heaven Along the Rhine River
Oppenheim is located on the Rhine River, 22km south of Mainz. This town was quite an important place during the Holy Roman Empire and the Middle Ages but was heavily destroyed during the Thirty Years War. After these damages, Oppenheim never quite returned to its previous status of importance and wealth but remained a charming small city proud of its history and its wine.
To further mark the importance of Oppenheim for the Rheinhessen wine region, the German Wine Museum opened here in 1980. Ever since its opening, the museum gained international recognition and is now considered a cultural institution for wine lovers and enthusiasts. The main exhibition is dedicated to the history of the development of wine-growing techniques. Rare wine bottles, fine tools, and wine glasses make the collection of the museum enviable.
Alzey – The City of Winemakers
Alzey, a small town in the middle of the Rheinhessen wine region, is fully based on winemaking. This process started in 1916 when a vineyard was donated to the municipality, that became the first to run a vineyard in Germany. A visit to Alzey during the third week of September for the Winemaker’s Festival is a must for all of those passionate about wine, when the Winemaker’s Festival happens in town.
Alzey also has philological and literary importance, as it is associated with the Niebelungenlied, as it is described by one of the main characters, Volker von Alzey.
Worms – One of the Oldest Cities in Northern Europe
Located on the eastern border between Rhineland-Palatinate and Hessen, the city of Worms is one of the oldest in northern Europe, as its foundation came before the Roman period. Worms have also philological and literary importance because it is the setting of the first part of the epic poem Niebelungenlied. During the Medieval Ages, the city hosted several Imperial Diets (a form of assembly) and it was here that Martin Luther was declared to be a heretic.
The main attraction of the city is St. Peter’s Cathedral. This majestic Romanesque cathedral was built during the 12th century on the already existing foundations of an older church. The north portal, called “The Emperor’s Portal”, appears in the Niebelungenlied.
If you are willing to learn more about the importance of Worms for European and German history, be sure to visit the City of Worms Museum. The museum is inside a former Romanesque church and its cloister.
Discover Nature around Rheinhessen
Hiwweltour Aulheim Valley – Discover Rheinhessen from its Core
This 13km-long trail is like no other in the Rheinhessen region. As you hike, you will encounter meadows, green forests, and endless vineyards. The trail also offers some great viewpoints, from where you can witness the expanse of the vineyards in the region. A peculiarity on this trail is the Flonheimer Trullo, a tiny house that is very similar to those in Alberobello, Apulia.
What to Eat in Rheinhessen
Himmel und Ärd – Between Heaven and Earth
This dish can be found in various areas along the Rhine River, mainly Rheinhessen and Mittelrhein. This dish with a heavenly name consists of black pudding, mashed potatoes or kartoffelsalat, fried onions, and apple syrup. The peculiar name of the dish describes the juxtaposition of the apples that grow on trees, to the potatoes that grow on the earth.
Sometimes würst or pork ribs are served instead of the black pudding. This dish is mainly served in winter and the chef suggests accompanying it with a local Pinot Noir.
Asparagus – A Perfect Match with White Wine
In a region as fertile as Rheinhessen, fruits, herbs, and vegetables are the focus of the local cuisine.
Rheinhessen is the biggest asparagus producer in the entire Rhineland-Palatinate state and it offers both white and green asparagus. Compared to other varieties of asparagus that grow around Germany, the Rheinhessen varieties take a bit less time to grow, which gives them a stronger taste and makes them richer in vitamins.
Organic asparagus from Rheinhessen are perfect with a good glass of regional Silvaner or a light Pinot Blanc.
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Soil: Loess, limestone and loam, often mixed with sand or gravel
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Map of Wineries in Rheinhessen wine region
Discover the long wine tradition of Rheinhessen and discover some of the best wineries in this region
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