- Rheinhessen (wine region)
Rheinhessen (in English often Rhine-Hesse or Rhenish Hesse) is the largest of 13 German wine regions ("Anbaugebiete") for quality wines ("QbA" and "Prädikatswein") with over 26,000
hectares under cultivation. [ [http://www.wein.de/1459.0.html Wein.de (German Agricultural Society): Rhine-Hesse] , read on January 2, 2008] Named for the traditional region of Rhenish Hesse, it lies on the left bank of the River Rhinebetween Worms and Bingenin the federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate. Despite its name it is not situated in the federal state of Hesse. It produces mostly white wine from a variety of grapes, particularly Müller-Thurgauand Silvaner, and is best known as the home of Liebfraumilch, although some previously underrated Rieslings are also made, increasingly in a powerful dry style.
The Rhine forms the eastern and northern boundary of the region, with the River
Naheto the west and the Haardt Mountainsto the south. The Palatinate wine region lies to the south, the Rheingau lies across the Rhine to the north, and the Nahe wine region to the west. Known as the "land of the thousand hills", the terrain is undulating with vineyards mixed with orchards and other forms of farming. Its larger towns include: Mainz, Worms, Bingen, Alzey, Nieder-Olmand Ingelheim.
In general the wines are best nearest the Rhine, where the soils impart more complex flavours. The best known area for white wines is the so-called Rhine Terrace ("Rheinterasse"; sometimes Rhine Front, "Rheinfront") between
Oppenheimand Nackenheim, which by itself is bigger than the whole of the Rheingau. A part of the Rhine Terrace, between Nackenheim and Niersteinis known as the Red Slope ("Roter Hang") because of the presence of red slate. [ [http://www.wein-plus.de/glossar/Rheinfront.htm Wein-Plus Glosar: Rheinfront] , read on January 2, 2008] The main red grape area is around Ingelheim, in the north of the region opposite the Rheingau.
Grapes have been grown in the region since Roman times, and
viticulturewas promoted by Charlemagne.
When the owners of
Stadecken-Elsheimthe Counts of Katzenelnbogenfirst cultivated Rieslingin 1435 they called the wine from this part of their county the Wine from the Gau [ http://www.graf-von-katzenelnbogen.de/ Rheinhessen, The History of the County of Katzenelnbogen and the First Riesling of the World] . At the Congress of Viennain 1814/15, Louis I, Grand Duke of Hesse, was awarded with Rhenish Hesseas compensation for the loss of his Westphalian territories. As a result, he amended his title to "Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine" and the name of the region was created.
Liebfraumilch is named after the "Liebfrauenkirche" (Church of Our Lady) in Worms, which also was the name of a good and famous vineyard. Later, Liebfraumlich was used as a name for a semi-sweet wine style produced in several German regions, and became responsible for much of the erosion of the German wines' reputation on the export market. The most famous Liebfraumlich brand, until they changed their classification, was
Blue Nunwhich was created in 1921. Today, no quality-oriented top producer in Rheinhessen would dare to produce a Liebfraumlich for fear of their reputation.
On the 26,281 hectares (64,940
acres) of Rheinhessen's vineyards (2006 situation [http://www.deutscheweine.de/icc/Internet-DE/med/1a6/1a64f607-a3e5-5117-3d28-952196117f51,11111111-1111-1111-1111-111111111111.pdf German Wine Institute: German Wine Statistics 2007-2008] ] ), white wine grapes account for 68%. Müller-Thurgau(usually labelled Rivaner when vinified dry), the prime ingredient in Liebfraumilch, is still the most grown with 16.0% of the area, although in rapid decline in favour of red varieties, such as Dornfelder, which at 13.3% has recently become Rheinhessen's second-most planted variety. They are followed by white varieties Riesling(12.2%), Silvaner(9.5%), Kerner(5.1%), Grauburgunder( Pinot Gris) (4.3%) and Scheurebe(3.9%), and red varieties Portugieser(6.8%) and Spätburgunder( Pinot Noir) (5.1%).
Although in decline, Scheurebe has a special connection to the region since
Georg Scheubred it at the Alzey Research Institute in the region.
In the past, most of the wine had been cheap white wine that was off-dry to semi-sweet. The response to Liebfraumilch falling out of fashion was to market "Rheinhessen-Silvaner" as a dry wine, which wasn't a great success in regard to the export markets. Some dessert wines are made.
Since more young winemakers get their oenological education at the renowned University of Applied Sciences in
Geisenheim, the quality increases year by year. Nearly all styles of wine may be found, old fashioned as well as new techniques. Due to the competitive qualities at the yearly VDP wine market of the Verband Deutscher Prädikats- und Qualitätsweingüterheld in Mainz, not all requests for the 2006 harvest could be granted.
Rheinhessen is divided into the following three districts ("Bereiche"):
In the northwest, towards the Nahe river; Scharlachberg is an important vineyard. In the town, one of the most renowned Liebfraumilch, Black Tower, is created by the Reh-Kendermann winery.
Source of most of the interesting wines of the region, and home to a third of the Riesling. The "Roter Hang" (red slope) in the north of this area lies on a sandstone that is reputed to give the best wines, to the south the soils become deeper.
This district is situated around Worms.
Notes and references
* Becht, Monika: "Weinland Rheinhessen." (German) Frankfurt: Societäts-Verlag 2005. ISBN 3-7973-0936-8
* Mangold, Matthias F.: "Rheinhessen im Glas." (German) Offenbach: Höma-Verlag 2006. ISBN 3937329145.
* Priewe, Jens: "WEIN DIE NEUE GROSSE SCHULE" (German) Zabert Sandmann 1997 ISBN 3-932023-02-1
* [http://www.thewinedoctor.com/regionalguides/germanyrheinhessen.shtml winedoctor.com] Good overview of the region, concentrating on the Rhine Terrace.
* [http://www.deutscheweine.de German wines]
* [http://www.rheinhessenwein.de Rheinhessen wines]
* [http://www.rheinhessenservice.de Wineries, Companies and wine festivals in Rheinhessen]
* [http://www.edenwines.co.uk/Rheinhessen%20vineyards.html list of Rheinhessen vineyards]
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