German Wine Regions

Staff Writer
A look at the wine regions of Germany

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0


The first vineyards in this fecund vineyard region along the Rhine River, in the state of Hesse west of Frankfurt in west-central Germany, were probably planted by the Romans, and throughout the Middle Ages, many of the best vineyards were planted and tended by monks. The modern Rheingau is above all riesling country, producing some of the finest expressions of the grape in the world. Typically, the grape produces wines with intense varietal fruit, good acidity, and an aroma variously described as suggesting perfume and gasoline. These wines may be anything from bone dry to intensely sweet, depending on category. Surprisingly, the second most widely planted variety is spätburgunder, which is pinot noir, and there is interesting red wine made here, too, not always as light as expected. The Rheingau, like the other 12 quality wine districts in Germany, is divided into geographical categories, including collective vineyard (Großlagen) and single vineyard (Einzellagen) designations. Some of the most famous and highly regarded Einzellagen villages include Hochheim, Erbach, Schloß Vollrads, Schloß Johannisberg, Geisenheim, and Rüdesheim.


The Mosel wine region in western Germany, known until 2007 as Mosel-Saar-Ruwer (the Saar and the Ruwer being two tributaries of the Upper Mosel River), produces white wines — principally riesling-based, but also often including müller-thurgau, elbling, and other varieties — of the utmost refinement and elegance. They are high in acid, low in alcohol, and wonderfully fragrant; like the wines of the Rheingau, they may be bone-dry or intensely sweet or anything in between. The region is noted for its Eiswein, or ice wine, made with grapes that have frozen on the vine, concentrating their sugar. As in the Rheingau, the Mosel, like the other 12 quality wine districts in Germany, is divided into geographical categories, including collective vineyard (Großlagen) and single vineyard (Einzellagen) designations. These are divided into six Bereiche, or districts.

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Almost two-thirds of Germany's wine production — and six of its 13 quality wine regions — is concentrated in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate. This includes the vineyards of the Mosel and of the Palatinate, or Pfalz. The latter is one of the largest wine regions in Germany, and produces excellent wines, most of them dry. The whites are made from riesling, müller-thurgau, sylvaner, and other typical German varieties, but also sometimes employ chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, grauer burgunder (pinot gris), weißer burgunder (pinot blanc), and other imports. Likewise the red wines, which account for about 40 percent of the Palatinate's production, may be made from such German cultivars as dornfelder or roter traminer, but also from spätburgunder (pinot noir), cabernet sauvignon, or merlot. Germany's other quality wine regions are: Ahr (specializing in pinot noir), Baden, Franconia, Hessische Bergstraße, Mittelrhein, Nahe (producing increasingly impressive rieslings), Rheinhessen (the largest wine-producing region in the country), Saale-Unstrut and Saxony (in the former East Germany), and Württemberg (best-known for fruity red wine made from the local trollinger grape).