Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

Rheinhessen, huge, varied German wine region (see map under germany) south and south west of Mainz with 26,582 ha/65,658–acres of vineyard in 2013. For some time it was best known as a source of inexpensive blending wine but all that has changed.

The part of the region traditionally most associated with quality is often referred to as the Rheinterrasse, where a third of the region’s riesling vines grows. Its most famous vineyards are those in the so-called Roter Hang composed of Rotliegenden (Permian red soil) at Nierstein (with notable vineyards Hipping, Oelberg, Orbel, and Pettental) and neighbouring Nackenheim (Rothenberg). Aromas of peach, citrus, and a smoked meat pungency characterize wines grown on the red soils of the Rheinterrasse. A string of communes immediately south of Nierstein—Oppenheim, Dienheim, and Ludwigshöhe—also boast excellent eastern exposure on the edge of the Rhine. Most of the Rheinhessen is protected from winds and excessive rain by the hills on its western border, which rise to over 600 m (nearly 2,000 ft). But the temperature in the vineyards nearest the river rhine is warmer throughout the year than that of the rolling country away from the river, and in severe winters they avoid the worst effects of frost. loess, sand, and calcareous soils in most of these villages can also yield Riesling such as in the underrated Brückchen and Paterberg on the south side of Nierstein, while Silvaner—a traditional Rheinhessen stalwart now reduced to 9% of surface area—is resurgent qualitatively in the hands of ambitious estate-bottlers.