Rheinhessen is known as Germany’s largest wine producing region. Nestled between rolling hills, bordered to the west by the Nahe River and to the northeast by the Rhine, it is a very fertile land. Unlike along the Rhine or the Mosel, many other crops are harvested here in addition to the many vineyards that cover approximately 20% of the area. The better vineyard sites are in a concentrated area along the steep west bank of the Rhine, known as the Rheinterrasse (Rhine terrace).
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The Romans already planted vines here and the land provides just the right conditions for growing grapes. From the diverse soils to the above-average sunny days and varying microclimates, Rheinhessen is able to produce an array of varieties. As a matter of fact, Rheinhessen is an area much less focused on Riesling than other German growing areas.
The vineyards of Rheinterrasse have rich soil and benefit from the microclimate created by the Rhine. It is here that the terroir ranges from red, sand stone soils, to gravely, chalky, pebbly soils, which all produce wines with an earthy and juicy quality. The wines of this region are well balanced and tend to be soft, medium-bodied with an appealing nose and great viscosity.
The town of Ingelheim is particularly well known for its Pinot Noirs. According to legend, Charlemagne recognized the similarities of the terroir with Burgundy and brought with him the first Pinot Noir wines in 8th century.
Internationally, Rheinhessen received its infamy from the famous Liebfraumilch (Lovely Woman’s Milk), which actually started out as quite a good wine. Originally, it came from the vineyard in the Liebfrauenstift monastery in Worms, which is classified as a First Growth site. However, the wine gained a word-of-mouth reputation and, soon enough, blends were created for export across all of Germany’s winemaking regions that bore the name Liebfraumilch, but had little resemblance to the original.
Pretty much a crude, sweet, characterless and over-chaptalized blend, it was mass marketed under a number of names, such as Blue Nun and Madonna. After the export of these low grade wines peaked in the 1980s, Rheinhessen has done much to improve its reputation as one of Germany’s top producing regions.
The young, ambitious wine makers of Rheinhessen are known for their commitment to experiment with various grape varieties and production methods. Georg Scheu (1879-1949), who is known for creating a number of new crossings that are still being planted today (including the Scheurebe, Huxelrebe and Siegerrebe grapes), spent much of his career here.
A unique mix, Rheinhessen produces something for every taste. Nowhere else in the world is there a region that plants more of the historic Silvaner grape than Rheinhessen. And besides Riesling and Pinot Noir, other common varieties are Rivaner, Dornfelder, Huxelrebe and Siegerrebe.