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Rheinhessen Wine Region

Rheinhessen Wine

Rheinhessen Vineyards

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), and towards the south near the town of Worms and around the village of Westhofen.

Local winemakers 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.

The Terroir

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. Silvaner is commonly grown here and so are the Pinot varietals (Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir).

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 vineyards around Westhofen largely consist of marl and calcareous soil, which can be tinted red due to the high concentration of iron. The wines of this region are well balanced and tend to be soft, medium-bodied with an appealing nose and great minerality.

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.

History of Rheinhessen

Liebfrauenstift Kirchenstuck Vineyard in Rheinhessen

While wine-making in Rheinhessen dates back to Roman times and the region was known to produce many high quality wines throughout the centuries, its reputation took a turn for the worst due to the popularization of Liebfraumilch (Beloved Woman’s Milk) internationally in the 20th century. Originally a high quality wine from the Liebfrauenstift monastery in Worms, which is a First Growth vineyard today.

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.

Local winemakers 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.

Rheinhessen vintners have worked long and hard to overcome the stigma carried by Liebfraumilch and, in recent years, it is especially the region's newest generation of young and innovative winemakers that have drawn international attention with high quality products. The Liebfrauenstift Kirchenstück vineyard has regained its former glorious reputation and produces stunning First Growth wines again.