In his opera, Richard Wagner talks about Rheingold as a gleaming hoard of gold in the depth of the river Rhine – hence the name. In reality though, you’ll find it along the river’s banks, or rather, that is where they grow the raw material of the true golden treasure that comes in bottles. But Germany’s vineyards are not exclusively found along the Rhine. In the 13 quality wine regions Ahr, Baden, Franconia, Hessische Bergstraße, Middle Rhine, Moselle, Nahe, Palatinate, Rheingau, Rheinhessen, Saale-Unstrut, Saxony and Wurttemberg, noble drops are being bottles that easily compete with the world’s finest.
Rustic Wine Collection
It was not, as many people assume, the Romans who brought wine to what today is Germany. In fact, it has been established that the first production of alcohol from wild vines dates back as far as the Neolothic period. What the Romans did introduce, however, was viticulture. Where before, wine as we know it had mostly been imported in amphoras, the 3rd century really gave viticulture on German soil an updraft. It was in monasteries especially that this tradition has been cultivated – up until today.
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Due to the different climate, German winemakers preferred different grape varieties than their Mediterranean counterparts. One could argue that what Merlot is to the French und Chianti to the Italian, Riesling is to the Germans. The biggest wine-growing region in Germany, Rheinhessen, specialises in innovative, sparkling Riesling varieties, among other things.
Old Wine Estate
The second biggest wine-growing region, Palatinate, produces amazing types of Pinots. Often called “Germany’s Tuscany”, its ambassadors are young vintners with fresh ideas and a completely new understanding of sustainability who now run the beautiful, tradition-steeped wineries. The 85 kilometres-long “Deutsche Weinstraße” (German wine road) is especially delightful in spring, when the almond trees that grow everywhere are in full bloom, and in the autumn, when the magnificent old sandstone houses open the gates to their courtyards to let guests have a taste of their Federweißer (the season’s first wine). As far as quality is concerned, you’ll find everything from gemütlichkeit to award winning cuisine. The Gault Millau wine guide 2015 gave the awards for best Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc to Palatinate’s winegrowers.
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As the only one in Germany, the wine growing area Baden belongs to European wine growing zone B (A is the coldest wine growing zone, C the warmest), just as, by the way, the Champagne does. A whole 300 kilometres, its vineyards follow the Rhine from Basel to beautiful historical Heidelberg, which is always worth a visit. On the steep hills, the grapes are often still being harvested by hand and processed into fabulous, diverse wines. Most important grape variety is the Pinot Noir.
The steep vineyards along Ahr river are Germany’s most important region for red wines, while along the Moselle, Riesling is being grown almost in monoculture – the product can compete with the wold elite. As far as scenery is concerned, the region is also among Germany’s most beautiful and offers some fantastic views: on steep hills, you find one castle after the other and picturesque villages full of historical timber-framed houses like Enkirch, which invite to take a lovely stroll and discover enchanted places.
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The northernmost of Germany’s wine growing regions, Saxony, still produces full-bodied wines thanks to the mild climate along the Elbe Valley. Grouped around beautiful Dresden and the city famous for its porcelain, Meißen, one can indulge in baroque architecture and palace gardens while sipping noble drops. Saxony is the only region that grows the 100 years old Golden Riesling – maybe not the finest wine out there, but definitely a rarity worth enjoying on a beautiful summer’s eve.
German viticulture with its long tradition has shaped hospitable people and stunning landscapes that are still so different in the various growing regions – as different as the wine. One could go as far as make a connection between soft wine and soft hilly landscape or intense flavours and steep sunny mountains. Be that as it may – all of these regions are definitely worth a visit with their castles, palaces and wineries where you can enjoy life with all senses!