Our Top Germany Wine Regions
When you think of German beverages, your mind probably jumps to beer, with images of beer steins overflowing on Oktoberfest.
But Germany is also a major wine producer, with a history that dates back thousands of years. Let’s take a closer look at the Rhenish Hesse and Franconia wine regions, as well as the under-the-radar but oh-so-delicious German sparkling wine, Sekt.
Rhenish Hesse, or Rheinhessen in German, is the largest of the country’s 13 wine regions. The name Rheinhessen derives from the region’s location in the Rhine Valley, the river runs along its north and eastern borders. The river is crucial to the terroir of the region: It adds rich mineral deposits to the soil and helps to moderate temperatures in what would otherwise be a very hot valley. The hills surrounding the valley shield the vineyards from extreme weather, allowing for a more temperate, drier climate than the rest of the country.
These natural characteristics have encouraged the region’s inhabitants to cultivate grapes for wine since the time of the ancient Romans. The oldest record of a German vineyard is a deed from the year 742 AD, and another document dated from 1402 specifically identifies Riesling as a grape varietal. Rheinhessen’s largest city, Mainz, was an important trading port on the Rhine.
Rheinhessen, and Germany in general, is known for white wines. The most popular grapes in the region are Riesling, Müller-Thurgau, and Silvaner. A number of talented winemakers have recently made Rheinhessen their home, embracing organic and eco-friendly practices, shifting to smaller quantities, and producing dynamic wines that are earning widespread recognition.
Located in the state of Bavaria, many of Franconia’s vineyards lay along the Main River. Similar to the Rhine, the Main helps to regulate temperatures and foster a climate that is ideal for growing white grape varieties, which dominate the scene here, occupying 80-90% of the vines. The region is famous for its Silvaner, which was served at Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953. But Müller-Thurgau is actually the most widely planted varietal, followed by Silvaner, then Riesling.
The area has been producing wine for at least 1200 years, evidenced by documents that date back to 779 AD. Franconia is rich with medieval and Renaissance-era castles that add to the magical ambiance of the wine country. The region is also famous for its Bocksbeutel: thin, wide-based bottles whose signature shape is protected by the European Union.
While it may not have the name recognition of Champagne or Prosecco, German sparkling wine, Sekt, is considered by many to be the “next big thing”. Riesling is the most popular grape varietal used to make Sekt, but Silvaner, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Gris grapes are also used. Sekt is produced using traditional fermentation methods similar to Prosecco and rivals its Italian and French counterparts in taste tests.
One reason that Sekt hasn’t yet reached the same level of popularity on the global stage? Because it’s so popular in its homeland; 80% of Sekt is consumed within the country—a major reason why Germany actually has the highest per-capita consumption of sparkling wine in the world. So next time you celebrate Oktoberfest, don’t neglect Sekt!
Visit Germany and try these amazing wines yourself!