Fine wine from Rheinhessen Germany. Rheinhessen is responsible for the largest production by volume of Qualitätswein in Germany. Historically, it was part of the former Grand Duchy of Hesse-Darmstadt, but it is now included in the federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate. It is also known as 'the land of a thousand hills' and has been producing wine since ancient Roman times.
This region is located to the south of the Rheingau, north of Pfalz and east of Nahe. The Rhine river runs along its north-eastern border, with the Haardt mountains to the south and the Nahe river to the west forming a natural border. The stony soils of loess and loam work in conjunction with the Rhine to provide the vines with warmth in the evenings. With just 500mm of precipitation per year, this is one of the driest wine regions in Germany.
Rheinhessen is divided into three Bereiche, or sub-regions, with varying degrees of quality and composition. Bereich Nierstein is often regarded as the leader in terms of quality, due to its proximity to the Rhine and the rich mineral deposits found on the riverbed. The Roter Hang (Red Slope), so-named because of its red slate, is found here – between Nackenheim and Nierstein, as part of the Rheinterrasse sub-region of Rheinhessen.
Bereich Bingen is to the north-west and includes the town of Ingelheim, where the majority of red grapes in the region are grown. Bereich Wonnegau is further south and includes the centres of Worms and Alzey, where the grape Scheurebe was invented in 1916. Worms has the dubious distinction of having given rise to the semi-sweet Liebfraumilch, which at one time almost single handedly destroyed Germany's reputation as a prestigious producer of quality wine.
Müller-Thurgau (16%) is the most widely planted variety in Reinhessen, just ahead of the increasingly popular Riesling (14%). The recent fashion is to produce dry wines, perhaps in an attempt to restore the region's former glory. Dornfelder (13%) is the most common red grape, with small percentages of Spätburgunder (5%) gaining popularity.