Fine wine from Rheingau Germany. Rheingau is one of 13 quality wine regions in Germany. It follows the Rhine river from Hochheim to Lorch, within the federal state of Hesse. The 12.5 miles (20km) from Wulluf to Bingen are the only point at which the Rhine flows in an east-west direction for any significant distance. It is this deviation from its usual northerly journey, around the Taunus hills, that is the heart of the Rheingau and provides the steep, south-facing slopes that are home to the region's vineyards.
Rheingau's approximately 7750 acres (3100ha) of vines makes up only around 3% of Germany's total vineyard plantings, but the region punches way above its weight in terms of its contribution to the quality and fame of German wine. Almost entirely a Riesling area, the first documented plantings in Rheingau occurred in 1435, and this one variety now accounts for nearly 80% of Rheingau's wine production. Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) is a distant second at around 12%, followed by Müller-Thurgau at 2%.
Climatically, the Rheingau is cool-continental with an annual average temperature of 50F (10C), 1643 hours of sunshine per year and only 21 inches (536mm) of annual rainfall (about the same as Napa Valley, California). Geology is varied here, with slate, quartzite, sandstone, gravel and loess all making an appearance in the soils and in turn influencing the wines. This terroir means that although the Rheingau makes up only 3% of Germany's total vineyard area, it accounts for 44 first-growth sites and nearly one-fifth of Germany's 244 VDP-classified Erste Lage sites.
The best of the Rheingau's wines are typically more masculine in character than the wonderfully feminine wines of the Mosel. They are firmer in structure and texture, with a discernible backbone of acidity, around which the wines are built. Great Rhinegau Rieslings are noted for their depth and power, whereas the great wines of the Mosel are characterized more by their superb elegance and poise. Both are some of the greatest expressions of white wine the world has ever known.