Germany’s Wine Producing Regions
Did you know? One region of Peru has a tundra climate. The climate of La Rinconada, Puno, at 5,043 meters above sea level (16,545 feet above sea level), is classified as alpine tundra. Which means at least one month has an average temperature high enough to melt snow (0°C (32°F)), but no month with an average temperature in excess of 10°C (50°F). The average annual temperature is 1.3°C (34.3°F).
Most years, Germany is among the top ten wine producing countries in terms of quantity. In 2018, Germany was the eighth largest producer with a production of 10.3 million hectoliters. That same year Germany had 102,873 hectares (254,205 acres) of vineyards, 66.6% planted to white varieties. So, which regions of Germany produce wine? In general, in the southwestern part of the country, but there are exceptions. Let’s learn about the thirteen wine producing regions, in German the Anbaugebiete.
Baden is one of the sunniest winegrowing regions of Germany with some 1,800 sunlight hours annually. Geographically large, the region includes diverse zones such as Lake Constance with a view of the Alps, the Tauber River Valley, the hills surrounding the charming city of Heidelberg, the imposing extinct volcano Kaiserstuhl (the Emperor’s Chair), and the enchanting Black Forest. Fifty-nine percent of the production is white wine made various grapes including Müller-Thurgau, Weissburgunder (Pinot blanc), Grauburgunder (Pinot gris), Gutedel (Chasselas), and Riesling. Pinot noir accounts for nearly all the red wine production.
Called Franconia in English, this in an historic wine producing region located along the Main River. In the city of Würzburg, the capital of Lower Franconia, are located the impressive Würzburger Residenz, Marienberg Castle, and Bürgerspital winery, which celebrated 700 years in 2016. Franconia is also known for the “Bocksbeutel,” a distinctive bottle with a flattened ellipsoid shape. Although there is more Müller-Thurgau grown here, Silvaner is considered the queen of the region, cultivated some 350 years in the excellent “Stein” vineyard. Other white grapes of importance are Bacchus and Riesling. Some red wine is produced from the Domina grape.
The smallest of the thirteen regions, Hessische Bergstrasse has only 467 hectares (1,154 acres) of vineyards, nearly half planted to Riesling with some Grauburgunder and Spätburgunder. Although the region has a long history of wine production (the Counts of Katzenelnbogen established vineyards as early as 1435), it was recognized officially only in 1971.
The “Middle Rhine” runs some 120 kilometers (75 miles) between the cities of Bingen and Bonn. Here, the steep hillside vineyards meet castles, glorious residences, and the famous Lorelei rock, which inspired several folk legends involving a beautiful siren who would distract sailors with her beauty and song, causing them to crash on the rocks. The upper half of the Middle Rhine between Koblenz and Bingen was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002. With 470 hectares (1,161 acres) it is the second smallest of the thirteen regions. Riesling dominates here, although there is some Müller-Thurgau and Spätburgunder.
Until 2007 known as Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, this region runs along the Moselle River and its two tributaries, the Saar and the Ruwer. The region is among the most recognized of the country, famous for its Riesling wines, vinified from dry to very sweet. The vineyards are very steep, and each vine is anchored in the ground by a wooden stake (nowadays being replaced by metal posts). The soils are slate, and all work is manual. Because of the slate soils, the region is one of the few in the world where the Phylloxera louse cannot survive, and vines more than one hundred years old still survive and produce grapes. The region has 8,798 hectares (21,740 acres) of vineyards, 62% Riesling. Ninety-one percent of the region’s production is white wine (in addition to Riesling, Müller-Thurgau, Elbling, and Weissburgunder) although there are about 400 hectares (988 acres) of Spätburgunder. The Mosel also boasts the two most famous vineyards of the country: the Doctor, located in the city of Bernkastel, and the Scharzhofberg in the village of Wiltingen, where the country’s most expensive wine is made, Egon Müller’s Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese. In the VDP.Mosel’s wine auction, a single bottle of the 2003 vintage fetched 14,566 Euros ($16,978)!
With 4,237 hectares (10,470 acres), the Nahe is neither large nor small, but it does have a great diversity of soil types and a variety of grapes are planted here. The region runs between the cities of Bingen and Martinstein along the Nahe River. Riesling accounts for 29% of the planted area, but there is also Müller-Thurgau, Grauburgunder, and Weissburgunder; and the red varieties Dornfelder and Spätburgunder. The climate is temperate and pleasant, in part thanks to the protection provided by the Soonwald Forest and the low Hunsrück Mountains.
With 23,554 hectares (58,178 acres) of vineyards, the Palatinate is the second largest wine producing region of Germany, and also the sunniest, protected from the cold by the Haardt Mountains. Riesling accounts for 25% of the vineyards here, and also grown are Kerner, Grauburgunder, Müller-Thurgau, and Weissburgunder; and the reds Dornfelder, Portuguieser, and Spätburgunder. The wines are generally dry. A move to organic farming began here in the nineties, and today two-thirds of Palatinate vineyards are certified organic. Here you can find one of the curiosities of the wine world. The Friedrich Wilhelm Becker winery makes wines from Pinot noir grapes grown across the border in the French region of Alsace. But the law allows the wines to be labeled a German product!
The Rheingau region specializes in two grape varieties: Riesling with 86% of the vineyard area, and Spätburgunder with 14%. With 3,211 hectares (7,935 acres), it is not a large region, but is quite famous around the world. The emperor Charlemagne noticed that snow would melt more quickly on the hills surrounding Johannisberg castle and ordered vineyards planted there in 779. The British fell in love with the dry, white wines of the Rheingau in the seventeenth century, calling them “hock,” the name derived from the village of Hochheim. With their increasing fame, these wines would eventually command prices equal to or even higher than the best of Bordeaux and Burgundy.
With 26,758 hectares (66,120 acres), Rheinhessen is Germany’s largest wine region. Riesling, Müller-Thurgau, and Dornfelder dominate here, but there is a wide variety of other grapes grown. The village of Nierstein boasts several famous vineyards, and in 742 the Glöck was the first vineyard given a name. The soils around the villages of Nackenheim and Nierstein are notable for their high iron content and distinctive reddish tone. There are a number of young winemakers in the region, Johannes Hasselbach of Gunderloch winery one of the more notable. There are also several professional associations, such as “Message in a Bottle,” founded in 1992.
With 786 hectares (1,942 acres) planted and among Germany’s smallest wine regions, Saale-Unstrut is one of the two located in the eastern part of the country. It is also the country’s northernmost wine region. The winter here is harsher: in some years, the grapes struggle to fully ripen. Müller-Thurgau and Weissburgunder dominate here, although there are small plantings of Riesling, Dornfelder, Bacchus, and Silvaner. Because of the cool climate the wines are naturally lower in alcohol content and lighter in body, but fragrant and refreshing.
Saxony is the other region located in Germany’s eastern part, and also the country’s easternmost wine producing region. Just like Saale-Unstrut, the region experiences cold winters. With only 501 hectares (1,238 acres) planted, it is the country’s third smallest region. Here grow principally Müller-Thurgau, Riesling, Weissburgunder, Grauburgunder, and a bit of Spätburgunder. The Goldriesling grape is a specialty of Saxony, although currently there are only 17 hectares (42 acres) planted.
Along with the Ahr, Württemberg is the other red wine specialist of Germany. The Trollinger grape is the region’s specialty, but the region’s wine producers are also proud of their wines made from Lemberger, Riesling, and Spätburgunder. Grauburgunder, Weissburgunder are also grown, and even a small amount of Chardonnay! The beautiful city of Stuttgart, capital of the state of Baden-Württemberg, is of great cultural and economic significance, and several companies of international importance are headquartered here, for example, Bosch, Daimler, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche. It would be easy to fill a day with activities in and around the city. Mercedes-Benz and Porsche both have museums, the city center is easy to navigate on foot, one can easily reach several wineries using the clean and modern public transportation system, and the dining scene is rich and varied.
Data provided by Deutsches Weininstitut (German Wine Institute).
Coming soon: What are some of Germany’s grape varieties?
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