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Riesling and the Wine Regions of Germany

Updated: Mar 31, 2023

Where to take a grape escape to slurp great Riesling.

While Riesling can be found in most of the German wine regions it’s the hero grape in the Mosel and Rhein wine valley area of Rheingau, Rheinhessen (Nahe) and further south in the Pfalz.

One of Riesling’s most unique and celebrated qualities is its vibrant expression of terroir, commonly defined as “a sense of place.” In other words, certain elements of the soil and microclimate that the grapes are grown in are noticeable factors in the wine’s taste profile. This transparency of terroir means that Riesling grown in different regions will produce wines with markedly distinct characteristics.

“Riesling is grapes that’s character and charisma is truly reflective of its terroir ( soil and climate ) and with that the influence of stylistic traditions ensures that each region has a claim to fame on the king of white grapes”

Riesling and the Wine Regions of Germany

The Mosel: Majestic river views hallmarked by some of the steepest vineyards as far as the eye can see is Germany’s largest producer of Riesling

Riesling from the Mosel is legendary. The sites on steep slate-covered hills, in particular, bring forth Rieslings that number among the finest in the world. The Mosel is probably the most famous and oldest wine regions of Germany if not the world. Nearly 2000 years of uninterrupted viticulture have created a unique bond between its natural and cultural landscapes.

Along the serpentine route of the Mosel, the river banks rise sharply and the vineyards carpeting these slopes are among the steepest in the world. The best vineyards have an average slope at an astounding 60-70-degree gradient. On these precipitous inclines, nearly all labor must be done by hand. That includes tying each vine to its own wooden stake and carrying up the slate soil that has washed down with the winter rains. In the Mosel Riesling accounts for 92% of cultivation.

Unlike other regions where you will find a diversity of soils the Mosel is mostly a diversity of slate. Blue, grey with some iron rich red slate deposits. Therefor, the region produces a Riesling with its own distinctive personality. The fragrance is reminiscent of spring blossoms and peach. Younger dry wines usually have a pale straw color, light body and a refreshing, fruity acidity. To add to their charm, they often have the slightest hint of effervescence. In more premium Riesling you get a sense of hot stone from the heat-reflecting slate that is mirrored in the wines. These wines will have a mineral-rich and earthy, yet highly elegant, with refined, complex aromas. They are wines of nearly infinite longevity.

In general expect to taste dry Riesling that is typically delicate and intensely mineral, partially from the slate soil it’s grown on. Young wines smell more fruity fresh with a bit of flint stone, and mature growths can show interesting petrol notes. While gasoline and wine may sound like an odd match, wine aficionados celebrate and seek out this quality in German Riesling! Conversely, also expect to try lighter fruity refreshing riesling to more syrupy decadently sweet late harvest Riesling all defined by a juicy acidic back bone.

The Rheingau : The Burgundy of Germany, is a region nestled on the south facing valley between the Taunus Mountains and Rhein river 45km from Frankfurt.

The Rheingau is a beautiful region, rich in catholic traditions and noble estates. Early on, its medieval ecclesiastical and aristocratic wine-growers were associated with perfecting Riesling on first class sites. Then in the 18th century, they were credited for recognising the value of harvesting the crop at various stages of ripeness creating the Prädikate German quality system. Nearly 80% of its 7,700 acres are planted with Riesling – a record among wine regions worldwide. The region’s geological history is millions of years old, during which its diverse soils developed: quartzite and slate; loess; and gravelly, sandy, and clay sediments of the Mainz Basin, a prehistoric sea – soils that mark the terroirs in which Riesling thrives. In the end of the region famous steep slate vineyards are world known for Riesling and also elegant Pinot Noir.

Rheingau Rieslings are generally a light golden colour are known for their elegant, bone dry, and powerful zesty long finishes from many noble, established VDP winemakers (top producing estates). Rheingau Rieslings are very floral with citrus and apple notes and in from famous Johannisberg area sometimes have a spicy fragrance. But mostly Rhiengau Riesling almost always has a pronounced, crisp structured acidity. There are many acclaimed Riesling GG (Grand Cru Qualities) that either dry or lusciously sweet have long ageing potential and the finest fetch tremendous prices at auction.

Rheinhessen & Rhein Valley: The land of a 1000 hills left behind by an ancient sea

While vines are virtually a monoculture in the Rheingau or along the Mosel, they are but one of many crops that compete for the fertile soils of this region’s vast farmlands. With rolling vineyards as far as the eye can see the steepest vineyard sites are confined to small areas in the Rhein valley near Bingen, Nahe and south of Mainz along the Rhein Terrasse of Nierstein.

As Germany’s largest wine region there is diversity of climates and soils types. Many of its famed wine villages celebrate the chalk, corral and limestone soils left behind from compact ancient reefs adding minerality and sometimes more balanced creamy acidity in wines. Rheinhessen is one of the most exciting wine regions with younger wine makers challenging traditions and focusing on different grape varieties and more natural, organic wine making. This new found energy is leading the way to make high quality Rieslings that can compete with their famed neighbouring regions sometimes at more accessible prices.

Rheinhessen Riesling are often characterised as being softer, more round, fruit-forward, medium-bodied with a more approachable mild acidity. They are pleasant, easy-to-drink wines. On ancient Rheinhessen coral limestone some of Germany best Riesling is produced where Riesling glows golden yellow in the glass. The delicate bouquet smells of fresh, ripe stone fruit. More distinctive than the fruit, however, are the mineral, salty notes of the wine and the dense, juicy harmonious acidity.

Pfalz - The Tuscany of Germany

Bordered by Rheinhessen to the north and France on the south / Sth west the Pfalz’s contains some of Germany’s warmest vineyards. This remarkably pretty wine region was the first region to really embrace wine tourism with its famed Deutsche Weinstraße - German Wine route. Visitors following the 85km wine route from the French border at Schweigen to Bockenheim will enjoy an endless sea of vines and quaint villages. The pastoral roads are guided by fruit trees, old walled villages with terracotta roofed, half-timbered houses and of course plenty of wineries to taste the region. All this set against the more prominent tree-covered Haardt mountain range which is dotted by historic castle ruins.

The Pfalz is second only to the Mosel in acreage planted with the noble Riesling grape. Here, it yields wines of substance and finesse, with a less austere acidity than their Mosel counterparts. Beyond some of the most famed red wines of Germany one out of four vines in the Pfalz is Riesling, which is also the most important variety for VDP estates. The Rhine plain between the foothills of the Haardt and the river provides optimal conditions for grapes, thanks to its geological diversity: weathered coloured sandstone, slate, basalt, shell-limestone, and Rotliegend (volcanic red sandstone) that each lend a distinctive note to rieslings which generally have a fuller body, sometimes creamier, rounder balanced acidity with with more orchard fruit. On volcanic red soils riesling are more tropical with bit of tangy spice.

So now you have a good Riesling to take a Grape Escape to Germany. On tour we will discover Riesling in all its glory from smaller producers to critically acclaimed as we cruise through the vineyards to see the vines and admire their grape views. There will also be a chance to swirl, sniff and slurp many other amazing wine varieties beyond Riesling. I promise that after a day slurping many wines with me you will be more experienced and most likely big fans of German wine & Riesling! Zum Wohl - German for “To good health”.

For more information about the wine regions of Germany and more tips and tricks for your travel you can find lots of heplful information on the WINES OF GERMANY page

Has all this made you thirsty? Cant Decide on which region? maybe you want to visit them all? Well get in touch

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