Rheinhessen is the largest of the 13 wine regions in Germany. They produce both entry level and premium quality wines from roughly 26,800 ha of vines. Winemaking in the Rheinhessen is traced all the way back to the region’s Roman occupation. The oldest known record of a vineyard in Germany was in Rheinhessen called Glöck, recorded in a deed as a gift in 742.
Throughout modern times Rheinhessen hasn’t necessarily held the same reputation as some of its neighbours for producing fine table wines. However, the region is one to watch with an influx of young winemakers. The Rheinhessen wine region is experiencing a resurgence with quality wines being produced by smaller producers.
Where Is The Rheinhessen Wine Region
The Rheinhessen wine region is sandwiched between two of the highest regarded wine regions in Germany. Rheingau which is famous for iconic Riesling producers sits on the east bank of the Rhein north of Rheinhessen. Pfalz follows the Rhein river’s west bank to the south of Rheinhessen. Nahe is located directly to the west of Rheinhessen’s border. Refer to the image below:
Rheinhessen sits on the western banks of the Rhine river and is known as the land of a thousand hills. Travellers reminisce over the endless rolling hills that stretch as far as the eye can see. Similar to other famous wine regions in Germany like the Mosel, the best Rheinhessen vineyards are planted in the valleys in close proximity to the river Rhine . The advantage of planting vines close to the Rhine is that it has created a microclimate with favourable growing conditions. The surrounding valley traps heat which moderates the vineyard temperature. Sunlight reflects off the water and into the vineyards which sit closest to the river. This allows the grapes to mature at an optimal rate.
The major towns in Rheinhessen are Mainz, Worms (which is one of the oldest cities in Germany), Alzey & Bingen. All of which are situated along the river Rhine except Alzey which is inland.
How To Get To The Rheinhessen Wine Region
There are a few different ways to get to the Rheinhessen wine region including train, river cruise or by car. The closest city to the Rheinhessen wine region is Frankfurt . You can fly direct from the UK and most European capital cities to Frankfurt. Frankfurt airport is perfectly located as it’s only 20 minutes out of the CBD. From Frankfurt CBD you can get the train directly to Mainz in 40 minutes. The price of a train ticket costs roughly €14 one way – you can buy train tickets here. RyanAir flies direct to Frankfurt from London Stansted Airport from as low as £20 one way. There are also direct flights from the UK for under £50 if you book in advance. Check out both British Airways and Lufthansa’s websites.
Once you have landed in Germany, renting a car is a great way to see the region at your own pace. The four major cities in the Rheinhessen wine region are all within a short drive of each other. If you would prefer to be guided by a local there are a number of private and group wine tours. These leave from either Frankfurt or one of the smaller cities in Rheinhessen like Mainz or Worms.
Style Of Wine Produced In The Rheinhessen Wine Region
Germany is known globally for its ability to make world renowned aromatic white wines. The most well known and respected wines are from the native variety Riesling. The majority of vineyards in the Rheinhessen wine region are white aromatic varieties suited to the moderate temperatures. With the varied soil types and an increasingly favorable climate due to global warming, Rheinhessen is slowly building its reputation with the wine consumers as a region capable of producing premium wines like its neighbours in the Mosel & Rheingau.
Liebfraumilch is a style of white wine from Rheinhessen that helped erode the region’s reputation. Prior to the 1990’s the Rheinhessen region produced a lot of Liebfraumilch. Liebfraumilch is a soft mellow white wine that was often very sweet and unbalanced. Since then varieties and styles better suited for dry white wines have been produced such as Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay and Riesling. In the Rheinhessen they also produce red grapes such as Pinot Noir and Dornfelder which are worth exploring. With the increase in global warming there has been a mini boom in plantings of red grapes varieties. Currently ⅓ of the Rheinhessen’s vineyards are planted with red varieties. In the last 10 years red grape plantings have doubled.
Top 5 Vineyards To Visit In The Rheinhessen Wine Region
Weingut Feth is located in the town of Flörsheim-Dalsheim which is 55 miles south of Frankfurt, just to the west of the Rhein River. The family have been involved in winemaking in Germany for over 230 years. Florian Feth is the winemaker and vineyard is certified organic with all his wines being vegan friendly.
Weingut Feth has been practicing biodynamic winemaking and viticulture techniques for over 30 years. This ensures they make the very best wines possible in an environmentally sustainable way from their small 25 ha plot of vines.
Feth focusses on white german wines and we highly recommend his single vineyard Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc. He also produces a very nice Spatburgunder which is Pinot Noir in English. If you can’t make it to his vineyard we have a nice selection of his wines for you to try below! You won’t be disappointed.
– Weingut Riffel –
Riffel Weingut is located in the ancient village of Bingen in the north west of Rheinhessen. They are located just on the border of the Nahe wine region. The two winemakers’ Carol and Eric Riffel took over the vineyard in the early 2000’s and are part of the new generation helping push Rheinhessen into being known for premium wines rather than mass produced table wines.
At Weingut Riffel expect to find refined aromatic white wines with a very small amount of Dornfelder. Riffel focus on traditional German white grape varieties such as Silvaner and Riesling. They also produce high quality Grauburgunder and Weissburgunder. Outside of Germany these are called Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc. They account for over 60% of the biodynamic vineyard’s plantings. We love the Pinot Blanc on a hot summer day matched with a sharp goat’s cheese.
– Pura Vida –
Pura Vida is a small family owned winery in Rheinhessen run by Klara Mittruecker and Simon Mueller-Oswald. The couple share a passion for travel and wine. Pura Vida’s wines are dry wines made using techniques they have learnt during working in vineyards around the world. The labels of Pura Vida wines are city maps of famous places such as Washington DC & New Delhi in India.
This is another winery responsible for the exciting youth movement in Rheinhessen. Klara & Simon are both in their mid 20s and are not afraid to push boundaries with new techniques and technology. We love the dry style of Riesling made at Pura Vida.
– Weingut Wittmann –
Phillip Wittmann is considered one of, if not ‘the Pioneer’ of Rheinhessen’s rise in recent years. Phillip is one of the founders of message in a bottle which is a Rheinhessen winemaker association. It has two key goals. 1) maintain quality wine standards 2) have fun with wine. The Whittmann family has been making wine since 1663. Over the last 10 years the vineyard and winery were converted to follow Rudolf Steiner’s biodynamic ethos. The Wittmann family wines are still handled in very traditional ways as a nod to their past at the same time leading the way for the future. Long lees contact, old wooden fermentation and delicate care of wines are all techniques regarded highly in the cellar.
Their WESTHOFENER RIESLING is one of the very best quality Rieslings the Rheinhessen can produce. Think juicy characters of citrus and stone fruit with a backbone of limestone minerality, structural acidity and a long round mouthfeel.
– Dreissigacker –
There is certainly a theme here. Dreissigacker is another winery with a young winemaker at the helm after inheriting the family vineyard. Jochen Dreissigacker has also converted his small vineyard into a certified organic vineyard. Just like the other producers highlighted, Riesling dominates the vineyard with over half of Dreissigacker’s 21 ha’s planted with Riesling.
The forward thinking winemaker has been quoted as saying that he is not interested in making wines that everybody likes. Instead he focuses on producing polarizing wines that get your attention. Certainly a change from the type of wines being made in Rheinhessen a few decades ago! We recommend trying one or all of the single vineyard Rieslings – simply stunning.
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Wine Bars In The Rheinhessen Wine Region
After a day exploring the Rheinhessen wineries it will be time to settle into one of the many wine bars, pubs or restaurants for the evening. It is a great way to enjoy some local German cuisine and even better local Rheinhessen wines. In the Rheinhessen you will find a range of historic bars with old cellars. Similar to the vineyards, there are a lot of up and coming wine bars that are run by the new generation. Below is a couple of wine bars we recommend in the Rheinhessen wine region.
In the town of Mainz, just a short walk from the bank of the Rhine river you will find a small wine bar called Weinstube Hottum. Hottum was established in 1791 and has great reputation. Locals will tell you it is one of the best places to enjoy a schnitzel with local wines. Expect casual dining, great service and very affordable prices.
Weingut Listmann is renowned for its architecture and the spectacular garden full of palm trees, cypresses and sequoias trees. The highlight of the dining experience is eating and drinking fine wines outside in the late summer sun.
We know this wine bar isn’t technically in Rheinhessen. It is in Frankfurt and there is a good chance you will be spending a night in Frankfurt on your way in or out of Rheinhessen. The underground cellar of Dünker gives a great ambience. Dünker does not close until 3am on weekends which is a bit later than most traditional wine bars. It is a great spot to settle in and enjoy great wines with friends.
Accommodation In the Rheinhessen
There are plenty of unique accommodation options for those visiting the Rheinhessen wine region. The main question is which of the small villages and cities would you like to base yourself? Or would you prefer to stay the night in each new village you visit?
There is also the option of staying in Frankfurt which has a lot more accommodation options. From here you can do day trips into the Rheinhessen wine region. However we usually like to fully immerse ourselves in the region and stay with locals when we can.
Below is a list of accommodation providers we recommend;
Budget accommodation in the Rheinhessen Wine Region – Under £75 p/n
Now for the wine tours in Rheinhessen. If you’re reading this article you are likely to be as interested in discovering new wines as we are. There are a couple of ways to experience wine while in Rheinhessen. There is the self drive option which is great if you want some freedom and flexibility with which wineries to visit and when. However, this isn’t so great if there is no one in your group who is willing to stay sober.
Taking a guided tour around the Rheinhessen wine region is a great way to take in some extra local knowledge and advice at the same time getting to visit the different wineries. Local guides are also a great source of insider tips for where to eat. The three tour types available in Rheinhessen are e-bike winery tours, private wine tours (this is the best one if you know exactly where you would like to go!) or joining a group wine tour. The group tours are a really fun way to meet other travellers which often leads to linking up for drinks later in the evening.
Things To Do In the Rheinhessen Wine Region
When you visit the wine capital of Germany you should expect a few things. For the outdoor adventurer there are over 500kms of trails to explore either by foot or bicycle. History buffs can visit the 16 castles in the Rheinhessen wine region and plenty of old towns to explore. Wine lovers are in for a real treat as there are hundreds of vineyards, restaurants and bars to enjoy local wines while in the region.
A great way of seeing some of the amazing castles on the Rhine river hop on hop off boat cruise. Prices are affordable at 40 Euros a ticket and allow you to stop in the famous historical villages along the river. One of the main towns along the Rhein River is Worms. It is one of the oldest cities in Germany and the free walking tour is very much recommended.
We hope you get to enjoy the Rheinhessen wine region soon! If you do, let us know how you enjoyed it by DM on instagram @savagevinesuk. If you are reading this guide from the UK and want to get your hands on some Rheinhessen wines before or after you travel check out our online wine shop here. We only support small independent vineyards and import directly from the winemaker. This ensures you get great value wines and ensures the wineries get a fair price for their amazing wines. At Savage Vines we are all about vines, wines and good times.
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