The reputation of the German white wine community has largely been based on the wine production in Rheingau. The Rheingau is one of the most distinguished wine regions on the planet, an area best known for its small viticulture sites, amazing landscape and perfect microclimate for the delicate Riesling and Pinot Noir grape varietals.
To truly appreciate the intricacy of a Rheingau Riesling or a German Pinot Noir, you must try them first hand. The Rheingau Riesling yields elegant wine with a refined, often prickly, fruity aroma and pronounced acidity; it is extremely distinct in flavor. Pinot Noir (or Spätburgunder, as the Germans call it) wines have a velvety rich medium body, with a soft round nose and smooth texture, as if spun silk meets wild berries.
The Rheingau is situated along a small stretch of the Rhine River between the mouth of the Wisper River at Lorch and the mouth of the Main River at Hochheim. Although the Rhine runs south to north through most of its course, the Taunus Mountains force the river to turn west for about 28 miles creating an ideal sunward-facing slope that is sheltered by the mountains.
Moving from east to west, the dimpled landscape of the Taunus Mountains evolves into progressively steep slopes along the banks of the Rhine River. The river intensifies the sunlight like a mirror during the day and mediates temperature changes between night and day, making the Rheingau an ideal environment for growing grapes. .
It is a quiet, beautiful region, rich in tradition, aristocracy and viticulture. Early on, it was the medieval religious and aristocratic winegrowers, who first produced the noble Riesling grape and later, in 18th century, they were credited for recognizing the value of harvesting the crop at varying stages of ripeness.
It was this theory and practice that led to "Prädikatswein" (quality wine with distinction or QmP) and the formation of what is today the modern Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweingüter (Association of Vintners with Distinction) or VDP evolved.
The persistence and skill of the vintners, superior quality and precise production methods guaranteed German Riesling a place among nobility. Most notably, Queen Victoria's enthusiasm for Hochheim's wines contributed to their popularity in England, where the term "Hoch" became synonymous with German Riesling.
The discovery of late harvest wine is attributed to the Rheingau region, where a messenger arrived late at the cloister in Johannisberg in 1775. The messenger was supposed to give permission from the Bishop of Fulda to begin harvesting. According to legend, he was robbed during his journey, which was the reason for his late arrival.
At the time, the Bishop controlled the harvest and as a result of his messenger’s delay, the entire harvest was postponed. When the messenger finally arrived, the grapes had started to shrivel and become moldy. With great concern that the vintage was lost, the grapes were harvested in an attempt to create a simple table wine.
It was only after fermentation that everyone received a wonderful surprise: a rich, exquisite wine had been created. Later, scientific researchers concluded that botrytis cinerea, more commonly known as Noble Rot, had improved the quality of the wine. Through continued research, vintners found that the selection of individual dried grapes improved quality even more, eventually leading to the various classifications of noble sweet dessert wine.
The world-renowned oenological research and teaching institute in Geisenheim has been significant to the extraordinary technical improvements made in German viticulture.
Founded in 1872 by Heinrich Eduard von Lade, the school was created as a primary research institute for viticulture and stands as a top institute in the world for enological studies. Today’s state of the art facility plays a major roll in the study and improvement of the science of winemaking.