Exploring the Best Food and Wine Experiences in Germany's Rheingau Region
Riesling is the dominant grape in the Rheingau. The wines range from extra dry to sweet and can pair just as well with traditional German fare as with sushi and other international dishes. Although the Rheingau is Germany's smallest wine region, it's also the most compact — with nearly 8,000 acres of vineyards packed close beside villages, exploration is as easy as wandering up lanes until they turn into gravel roads leading past miles of vines. However, keep in mind that you'll need a car or bike to expediently visit the following vineyards:
Schloss Johannisberg — Vineyards have surrounded the winery castle here over the last 1,200 years, making it the world’s oldest riesling estate. Originally founded under the Benedictine order, Johannisberg's longstanding winemaking heritage is now on display in the Bibliotheca Subterranea, a locked vault within the winery's cellar catacombs serving as a famed treasure chamber of centuries-old wine rarities. Grapes from their vineyards, which total nearly 200 acres, are still hand-picked, ensuring they're harvested at precisely the right degree of ripeness and giving credence to their motto: "Quality is determined in the vineyard, not during vinification."
Schloss Vollrads — Art, culture, and of course extensive wine cellars complement each other in a big way on this estate. A tower house, their premier landmark building built in the 14th century, is surrounded by a pond and can only be reached by a stone bridge. A two-winged manor house was built on the grounds in 1684 — the Greiffenclau family lived in the manor up until 1997. Riesling remains the only grape variety used at the winery, but it showcases the entire range of designations for wines made from the grape — kabinett, spätlese, auslese, beerenauslese, trockenbeerenauslese, and eiswein. The estate offers guided tours with tastings, a wine bar, and a shop, and hosts various special events with a regular concert stage for the Rheingau Musik Festival.
Kloster Eberbach — Once a Cistercian abbey, Eberbach Monastery remains to this day a meticulously preserved monument to classic European Middle Age architecture. The monastery‘s growing winemaking prestige over the last 9 centuries solidified the community's wealth. Grape varieties include riesling, but also branch out to pinot noir, pinot blanc and pinot gris. Their wine estate boasts over 1 million vines on the steepest slopes in the Rheingau, with 150 acres planted on over a 35 percent pitch. Their onsite restaurant as well as several lodging options make lingering a bit longer all the more attractive.
Henkell — The headquarters of the world renowned sparkling wine producer Henkell is just outside downtown Wiesbaden. Open for tours, it boasts a grand marble entrance hall with a rotating collection of paintings on the walls. Further exploration reveals Henkell’s extensive production and bottling operation and vaunted cellars several floors below. Founded by Adam Henkell in 1832, the producer still successfully combines the artful composition of French cuvée with the precision and consistency of German craftsmanship. Henkell is now exported to more than 100 countries.
Coverage made possible by participating in a partially sponsored visit. Photos and video courtesy of Steve Mirsky, Altdeutsche Weinstube, and Park Hotel Tillmanns.