Wines & Wineries of Germany
With thirteen official wine regions to visit, Germany is packed with myriad options for visitors who want to experience a wine country adventure. Four of the major regions, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Rheingau, Rheinhessen and Pfalz are ideal destinations for wine tourists who also want to explore some of Germany’s stunning countryside and historic cultural treasures.
Many of the most exquisite Rieslings produced in Germany come from the hillside vineyards along the Mosel River and its tributaries, the Saar and Ruwer. The unique slate soil and incredibly steep vineyard sites produce age-worthy wines with exceptional acidity and delicate flavors. The Mosel River loops back and forth past winemaking villages like Zell, Bernkastel and Piesport some 150 miles as it makes its way toward the Rhine River. Back-breaking hand labor is required to tend sites that sit on slopes as steep as 70 degrees. Notable producers in this area are plentiful and include estates such as Dr. Loosen, Weingut Von Hovel, Egon Moller, Max Ferd. Richter, S.A. Prum and Willi Schaefer. Riesling represents more than half of all grape plantings in the region.
In the Rheingau region, Riesling is also the belle of the ball, but it takes on different qualities than the leaner, flinty wines of the Mosel. Located near the town of Weisbaden, the Rheingau is a distinct microclimate caused by a sharp westerly turn the Rhine River takes here, giving good sun exposure to vineyards on its right bank. The famed Johannisburg Riesling is still made here today in the monastery that it is named after. With a long tradition of viticultural discovery and innovation, the Rheingau remains an important center of winemaking study. Although over 80% of the area is planted to Riesling the warmer growing conditions allow for good red wines, mainly Spatburgunder (Pinot Noir). Many historic Rheingau estates such as Schonborn, Reinhartshausen and Vollrads are among the most widely known in Germany.
Between the Rhine and Nahe rivers sits the Rheinhessen wine region, Germany’s largest viticultural area. This is an important agricultural center for many other crops as well. The Rheinhessen is best known as the originator of the ubiquitous sweet white wine, Liebfraumilch. Although much of the production coming from Rheinhessen today is destined for inexpensive white table wines, about 1/4 of its grapes go into well-respected premium wines. Recommended producers in the region include Keller, Wittman, Gunderloch and Heyl Zu Hernsheim.
South of the vineyards of Rheinhessen and just west of the Rhine itself is Germany’s second largest wine region – Pfalz. Its 23,000 acres of grapes stretch south and west to the border with France. With a climate far warmer than most of the country, ripening grapes here is not a problem and as a result as wider spectrum of varietals grow well here although Riesling still produces some of its best wines. This is an ancient wine growing region that dates back to the Romans and is home to Germany’s first “wine road” where tourists will delight in quiet historic towns, friendly vintners eager to share their wines and the fun of discovering the many small producers who are reinvigorating winemaking traditions in this peaceful corner of Germany.