The first stop on my great winetrip will be the increasingly famous wine region Rheinhessen, located in the south-west of Germany. In August, I will stay on the estate of the family Brühler. To prepare myself for my time in Rheinhessen, I did some research that I want to share with you today.
1. Rheinhessen is not Hessen!
This might come as a bit of an insider to you, if you are not familiar with the German federal state system. To put it very briefly: Germany consists of sixteen federal states, with Hessen being one of them. Rheinhessen, however, is a region belonging to the federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, which borders Hessen. The river Rhine functions as the natural border and provides loads of space for wine growing along its wonderful rolling hills. Why is this important to mention? As with many close nebighbours, there is a little bit of a rivalry between people from both sides of the river. And people from Rheinhessen are particularly delicate about this. So remember: Rheinhessen is not Hessen!
2. White wine rules!
Rheinhessen is the biggest wine growing region in Germany, bordering the river Rhine to the north and east, the river Nahe to the west and the little river Pfrimm to the south. It is famous for its delicately rolling hills, its mild winters and warm summers with cold nights that are cold enough to bring out the acidity needed for good white wines. Speaking of white wines… white wine production dominates with 70% of the area being covered by white grapes. Most popular grapes are Riesling, Müller-Thurgau and Silvaner. But there is also all the others like Grau- and Weißburgunder, Scheurebe, Kerner and, increasingly, Chardonnay as well. I tried a lovely Chardonnay from the winemaker Hothum which I totally adored and just thinking about it makes me wish I was back in the streets of Mainz tasting these beautiful wines.
The ruling of white wines doesn’t mean the reds are not worth mentioning. Incredibly great red wines are produced around the village of Ingelheim on the Rhine. And as I am writing this, I am looking at a bottle of a 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Weingut Wagner in the little village of Essenheim, just outside Mainz. I tasted this wine on their premises in December and, although being a white wine lover, this was like falling in love: my head started spinning, my tummy filled up with butterflies and I thought “This is yummy. I want more!”
3. You can’t get away from wine unless you want to … but who wants to anyway?
Wine and the consumption of wine is part of the region’s identity. Towns and the countryside would look differently if it wasn’t for the wine. Rolling hills, vines, vineyards in nearly every little village, numerous winebars full or character in the cities and so called “Straußwirtschaften” in the countryside. Straußwirtschaften are run by the winemakers themselves on their premises to promote their locally grown wine, they are only open for a couple of months per year, usually during summer.
There are also year-round festivities like red wine festivals, white wine festivals, wine festivals and also many cultural events. I like the “Night of Seduction” in the town of Bingen where winehills transform into wide picknick areas with music, food and of course wine. You can set up your picknick rug right in the middle of the vines. Numerous bands play well into the night. More on events and tourism in gereral can be found on this very good website, unfortunately it is only in German.
4. The world just loves Rheinhessen!
Doesn’t come as a surprise to me that Rheinhessen wines become more and more popular with winedrinkers all over the world. In particular, the Rieslings win major prizes and gold medals from all major wine competitions. In recent years, the term Riesling has become an eqivalent for quality wines from Germany (no doubt we have to thank the younger generation of quality driven wine makers for that. We do remember the times when Rheinhessen wine was associated with sweet Liebfraumilch and thank god these times are over!). The international network Great Wine Capitals features Rheinhessen as one of the finest wine regios in the world. I guess one can argue about favouring wine regions over one another but it’s nice to find Rhinehessen there, nevertheless.
5. Best way to get there!
The biggest city in Rheinhessen is Mainz, which is also the capital of the federel state, Rhineland-Palatinate. It has got good train connections to all cities in Germany and is only a thirthy minutes ride on the train to Frankfurt airport. The smaller airport of Frankfurt-Hahn, mainly serviced by the low-cost airline Ryanair, is equally close. Once in Rheinhessen, walking and cycling or taking the numerous regional trains and buses, are the best ways to explore the region. Many wineries also provide bed and breakfast accommodation, that way you are right where the action is and don’t have to worry about getting home (which can be an advantage after a few wines anyway). Really, there is no reason not to enjoy the great wines of Rheinhessen. If I were you, I would buy my ticket right away!