Rheinhessen (wine region)

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Rheinhessen (in English often Rhine-Hesse or Rhenish Hesse) is the largest of 13 German wine regions (Weinanbaugebiete) for quality wines (QbA and Prädikatswein) with 26,444 hectares (65,340 acres) under cultivation in 2008.[1][2][3] Named for the traditional region of Rhenish Hesse, it lies on the left bank of the Rhine between Worms and Bingen in the federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate. Despite its historic name it is currently no longer part of the federal-state of Hesse, this being the case since the end of World War II. There have been several unsuccessful attempts to legally reunite the former wine growing districts of Mainz on the hessian side during the post-war area. Rheinhessen produces mostly white wine from a variety of grapes, particularly Müller-Thurgau (4.320 ha), Riesling (3.769 ha) and Silvaner (2.467 ha), and is best known as the home of Liebfraumilch, although some previously underrated Rieslings are also made, increasingly in a powerful dry style.

The wine region is member of the Great Wine Capitals Global Network.

View from the “Red Slope” towards Saint Kilian’s Church, Nierstein


The Rhine forms the eastern and northern boundary of the region, with the river Nahe to the west and the Haardt Mountains to the south. The Palatinate wine region lies to the south, the Rheingau lies across the Rhine to the north, and the Nahe wine region to the west. Known as the "land of the thousand hills", the terrain is undulating with vineyards mixed with orchards and other forms of farming. Its larger towns include: Mainz, Worms, Bingen, Alzey, Nieder-Olm and Ingelheim.

In general the wines are best nearest the Rhine, where the soils impart more complex flavours. The best known area for white wines is the so-called Rhine Terrace (Rheinterasse; sometimes Rhine Front, Rheinfront) between Oppenheim and Nackenheim, which by itself is bigger than the whole of the Rheingau. A part of the Rhine Terrace, between Nackenheim and Nierstein is known as the Red Slope (Roter Hang) because of the presence of red slate.[4] The main red grape area is around Ingelheim, in the north of the region opposite the Rheingau.


Vineyards near Stadecken-Elsheim

Grapes have been grown in the region since Roman times, and viticulture was promoted by Charlemagne. The denomination Glöck is documented by a deed of donation from the year 742, it is the oldest appellation in Germany.

When the owners of Stadecken-Elsheim the Counts of Katzenelnbogen first cultivated Riesling in 1435 they called the wine from this part of their county the Wine from the Gau.[5] At the Congress of Vienna in 1814/15, Louis I, Grand Duke of Hesse, was awarded with Rhenish Hesse as compensation for the loss of his Westphalian territories. As a result, he amended his title to "Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine" and the name of the region was created.

Liebfrauenmilch is named after the Liebfrauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) in Worms, which also was the name of a good and famous vineyard. Later, Liebfrauenmilch was used as a name for a semi-sweet wine style produced in several German regions, and became responsible for much of the erosion of the German wines' reputation on the export market. The most famous Liebfraumilch brand, until they changed their classification, was Blue Nun which was created in 1921. Today, no quality-oriented top producer in Rheinhessen would dare to produce a Liebfrauenmilch for fear of losing their reputation.

Grape varieties[edit]

A sweet red wine made from Dornfelder produced in the Rheinhessen.

On the 26,444 hectares of Rheinhessen's vineyards as of 2008, white grape varieties account for 69%.[1] After a period of increasing plantations of red grape varieties the balance between red and white varieties has been more stable in the last few years. Müller-Thurgau (usually labelled Rivaner when vinified dry), the prime ingredient in Liebfraumilch, is no longer the most grown with 16.0% of the area, although it has decreased significantly. Riesling, currently at 16.4%, has been increasing in the last few years. Among the red varieties, Dornfelder is the most planted at 13.1%, and it was Rheinhessen's second-most planted variety for a few years before being overtaken by Riesling in 2008. Silvaner at 8.8% is also widely planted, although it also has decreased significantly. Although in decline, Scheurebe at 2.8% has a special connection to the region since Georg Scheu bred it at the Alzey Research Institute in the region.

The most cultivated grape varieties, by area in 2014, were:[6]

Leading grape varieties in Rheinhessen (2014)
Variety colour synonym cultivated area (%) cultivated area (ha)
1. Riesling white Weißer Riesling 16,4 4.357
2. Müller-Thurgau white Rivaner 16,0 4.247
3. Dornfelder red 13,1 3.492
4. Silvaner white Grüner Silvaner 8,8 2.348
5. Grauburgunder white Ruländer 5,6 1.493
6. Spätburgunder red Pinot Noir 5,5 1.453
7. Blauer Portugieser red 5,2 1.369
8. Weißer Burgunder white Klevner, Pinot Blanc 4,3 1.135
9. Kerner white 3,4 903
10. Scheurebe white S88 2,8 740
11. Regent red 2,8 740
12. Chardonnay white 2,4 626
13. Bacchus white 2,2 598
14. Huxelrebe white 1,2 329
15. Faber white Faberrebe 1,2 323
16. St. Laurent red 1,1 287
17. Ortega white 1,1 281
18. Sauvignon Blanc white 0,8 224
19. Merlot red 0,7 177
20. Morio-Muskat white 0,6 168
21. Gewürztraminer white 0,6 166
22. Cabernet Sauvignon red 0,4 106
23. Frühburgunder red 0,3 86


Since more young winemakers received their oenological education at the renowned University of Applied Sciences in Geisenheim, the quality increases year by year. Nearly all styles of wine may be found, old fashioned as well as new techniques. Due to the competitive qualities at the yearly VDP wine market of the Verband Deutscher Prädikats- und Qualitätsweingüter held in Mainz, not all requests for the 2006 harvest could be granted.


Vineyards at Worms-Pfeddersheim

Rheinhessen is divided into the following three districts (Bereiche):


In the northwest, towards the river Nahe; Scharlachberg is an important vineyard. In the town, one of the most renowned Liebfraumilch, Black Tower, is created by the Reh-Kendermann winery.


Source of most of the interesting wines of the region, and home to a third of the Riesling. The Roter Hang (red slope) in the north of this area lies on a sandstone that is reputed to give the best wines, to the south the soils become deeper. [see Hipping]


This district is situated around Worms.

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b German Wine Institute: German wine statistics 2009/2010 Archived 2011-07-26 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Dieter Braatz, Ulrich Sautter, Ingo Swoboda, Jancis Robinson, Wine Atlas of Germany the best vineyards in Rheinhessen, University of California Press 2014; p. 117ff, retrieved on 27 October 2018
  3. ^ Wein.de (German Agricultural Society): Rhine-Hesse Archived 2007-10-30 at the Wayback Machine, read on January 2, 2008
  4. ^ Wein-Plus Glossar: Rheinfront, read on January 24, 2013
  5. ^ Rheinhessen, The History of the County of Katzenelnbogen and the First Riesling of the World
  6. ^ "Bestockte Rebfläche der Keltertrauben 1989 - 2014 nach ausgewählten Rebsorten und Anbaugebieten". Statistisches Landesamt Rheinlandpfalz. Archived from (HTML) the original Check |url= value (help) on 28 December 2014. Retrieved 1 January 2015.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 49°54′N 8°00′E / 49.9°N 8°E / 49.9; 8