Rheinhessen - wine region
Rheinhessen (in English often Rhine-Hesse or Rhenish Hesse) is the largest of 13 German wine regions (Anbaugebiete) for quality wines (QbA andPrädikatswein) with 26,444 hectares (65,340 acres) under cultivation in 2008.
Named for the traditional region of Rhenish Hesse, it lies on the left bank of the River 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 ofHesse, this being the case since the end of WWII.
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.
The Rhine forms the eastern and northern boundary of the region, with the Nahe River 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 andIngelheim.
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. The main red grape area is around Ingelheim, in the north of the region opposite the Rheingau.
Grapes have been grown in the region since Roman times, and viticulture was promoted by Charlemagne.
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.
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.