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Rheingau Wine Region

Location
The Rheingau wine region is one of Germany's smallest wine regions, yet it is also one of its most well known. The Rheingau wine region is located in the German states of Hessen and Rhineland-Palatinate (Rheinland Pfalz). It runs along the Rhine River between Wiesbaden and Rüdesheim.

Size
7,872 acres (3,187 hectares)

6,842,050 gallons (259,000 hectoliters) of wine are produced annually in the Rheingau region (80.4% Prädikatswein; 19.6% Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete). This accounts for only 2.5% of the volume from Germany's entire wine region.

Climate & Geography
The Rheingau region experiences mild winters, warm and humid summers, overcast autumns, and it is protected from the bordering Taunus hillside. It also receives a large amount of sunshine (on average, 1603 hours per year), which is intensified by the reflection off the Rhein River. This is the perfect climate for the Riesling grape to thrive, which is why almost 80% of the region is dedicated to the grape.

Soil types vary throughout the region. In the higher elevations, the soil consists of slate, quartzite, stones, and sandstone. At lower elevations, the soil contains high amounts of lime scale.

Grape Varieties
The wineries of the Rheingau have focused primarily on two high-quality grape varieties for centuries - the Riesling (planted throughout the region) and the Spätburgunder (planted almost excusively in the town of Assmannshausen).
  Riesling 78.43%
  Spätburgunder 12.66%
  Müller-Thurgau and other white grapes 7.51%
  Other Red Grapes 1.4%
  (Statistics from www.Rheingau.de)

Characteristics of Rheingau Wine
The region is known for its Riesling wines. These wines are strong and spicy and have great aging potential. Likewise, its Spätburgunder wines are known for being velvety smooth.

Within the region, wines vary based on the location in which they were produced. Riesling wines from the eastern and middle sections of the region tend to be fuller and stronger and get more earthy as they age. Those wines from the western section, such as from the town of Rüdesheim, tend to be more elegant.

Rheingau wines are best enjoyed after they have aged. Due to their acidity and complexity, they should be allowed to ripen. For dry wines, this ripening period should be at least 4 to 6 years after bottling.

History
The Rheingau wine region dates back to the 8th century. The story goes that Karl the Great noticed, while looking out over the Rhine River from his castle in the town of Ingleheim, that the snow melted more quickly at the Johannesberg Castle. So, in 779 grapes were planted in the town of Walluf and in 817 grapes were planted on the hills surrounding the Johannesberg Castle.

By the 1100's, the wine region grew to 741,000 acres (300,000 hectares), three time larger than it is today. During this time, the wine region was cultivated and managed primarily by Cisterian monks.

Home of the Spätlese and Müller-Thurgau Grape
The Spätlese grape-ripeness level was invented at the Johannisberger Castle in 1775. Until this time, the harvest of grapes was controlled completely by the Catholic Church and wine-makers could not pick grapes until they got permission to do so. The vineyards at the Johannisberger Castle were owned by the Bishop from Fulda. The story goes that in 1775 the Johannisberger wine-maker could not get permission to harvest the grapes because the Bishop was out on a hunting trip. The harvest was delayed by 14 days. To everyone's surprise, the riper grapes yielded an exceptionally good wine.

The Müller-Thurgau grape was also first bred here in the town of Geisenheim in 1882. Professor Hermann Müller, from Thurgau Switzerland, bred the Riesling and Madeleine Royale grapes to create the Müller-Thurgau grape. Today, it has become Germany's second most planted white grape.





Mosel Wine Region



Rheingau - Assmannshausen
Photo: © travelpeter - Fotolia.com



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