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German wine regions

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Did You Know…?

  • About 22% of German wine is made from the Riesling grape.
  • Bad Durkheim hosts the world’s largest wine festival [600,000-plus attendees annually).
  • Speyer boasts it has the world’s oldest unopened wine bottle, from 325 A.D.
  • Six of Germany’s 13 wine regions are in Rhineland-Palatinate and they produce 70% of Germany’s wine.
  • Bremen owns the oldest surviving barrel of wine, a 1653 Riesling, and the oldest drinkable wine, of 1727 vintage.

2,000 years of viticulture

The Romans brought viticulture to Germany. Two millennia on, and winemaking is big business — and a big draw for travelers who savor wine and the culture that attaches to it. Whites account for two-thirds of German wines. Several municipalities in the wine regions have Bad in the name, a clue they are spa towns.

Germany counts 13 wine regions, mostly clustered in the country’s southwest quadrant. Only two regions are elsewhere, the Saxony wine area on the Elbe River and Saale-Unstrut, the northernmost area, which is named for its rivers, the Saale and Unstrut.

The other 11 regions are:

  • Ahr, named for the river that runs through it. Red varietals thrive on these riverbanks south of Bonn.
  • Baden, extending 250 miles north to south and home to the Heidelberg Castle.
  • Franconia (Franken), 40 miles east of the Rhine in Bavaria. Most of the vineyards are planted on the slopes that line the Main River.
  • Hessische Bergstrasse, which means Hessian Mountain Road, the tiniest of the regions, located south of Frankfurt.
  • Middle Rhine (Mittelrhein), a 60-mile stretch of the Rhine known for the dozens of castle ruins and fortresses overlooking the river. This section of the Rhine, with 60 small towns on its banks, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Moselle, along the Moselle, Saar and Ruwer rivers, considered Germany’s oldest wine-growing region. Landmarks include a Roman wine press in Piesport and Germany’s oldest wine cellars at the Vereinigten Hospizien estate in Trier.
  • Nahe, also named for its river. Relevant cultural sites include the ruins of Kloster Disibodenberg monastery, where Germany’s oldest grape variety still grows, and an open-air museum in Bad Sobernheim that highlights the history of viticulture.
  • Palatinate (Pfalz), site of the world’s oldest wine festival and Germany’s oldest productive vines. The Roman villa in Weilberg/Ungstein testifies to Roman viticulture.
  • Rhine-Hesse (Rheinhessen), Germany’s largest wine-growing region and home to Mainz, considered Germany’s wine capital.
  • Rhine District (Rheingau), known for its Rieslings and Pinot Noirs. At the Eberbach monastery, Cistercian monks pioneered quality viticulture and left a collection of wine presses.
  • Wurttemberg, the only region in Germany that produces more red wine than white.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Sleep in a wine barrel at the Lindenwirt Hotel in Rudesheim.
  • Plan or join a cycling trip that follows one of the country’s many wine routes. One example: Spend a week on the German Wine Route in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate.
  • Try your hand at making wine while staying on a vintner’s farm in the Rhine-Hesse village of Flonheim.
  • Explore Saxony’s wine region on the Elbe Cycle Route, then sightsee in Dresden and visit the workshops at the Meissen porcelain factory.
  • Numerous multiday hiking options include the Rheinsteig Trail, with “energy-sapping climbs,” and the Saar-Hunsruck-Steig Trail, called Germany’s most beautiful hiking route, both in Rhineland-Palatinate.
  • Celebrate the horseless carriage — and wine — in a single journey. Travel the Bertha Benz Memorial Route from Mannheim to Pforzheim, commemorating the first long-distance auto-driving trip in 1888. The path converges with some top Baden wine-growing areas.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Attend one or more wine festivals. Or, choose a fest that combines wine with food, music or other aspects of German culture.
  • In the Nahe wine region, try underground wine tasting — in a mine. Or, in Bad Durkheim, have a meal in the world’s largest wine cask, which accommodates about 430 people.
  • Look into the foods that go with wine. Have lunch in Gillenfeld at the Vulkanhof, a top goat cheese dairy. In Cochem, visit a historic mustard mill, or visit the Doktorenhof wine vinegar brewery in Venningen.
  • In Franconia, or elsewhere, overnight or spend the weekend at a wine estate for a closer look at wine production.
  • Attend a wine seminar led by an expert wine lecturer in the Franconia wine region.
  • Or, for the very serious oenophile, get yourself to the annual (late August/early September) Mainz Wine Market, attended by thousands who come to sample wines and meet growers, merchants and other oenophiles.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Winegrowers throughout the country stage wine tastings. Choose one or more for your itinerary.
  • Admire historic wine presses such as those in Eberbach Abbey at Eltville — or a Roman wine press in Piesport.
  • Buy wines directly from the growers for shipment home or to carry home (in checked bags). The Schloss Johannisberg estate in the Rheingau offers one example of that opportunity.
  • Choose a wine restaurant for lunch, or for several lunches.
  • Tour a wine museum. Examples are the museums in Bernkastel-Kues (Moselle region), in Stuttgart-Uhlbach (Wurttemberg region) and a third in Weingut Hoflossnitz in Germany’s easternmost wine region, the Saxony region.
  • Combine a journey on the Saale-Unstrut Wine Route, Germany’s northernmost wine route, with visits to the Neuenburg, Rudelsburg or other castles, plus the 13th century Naumburg Cathedral.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the German National Tourist Office at www.germany.travel