The Rheingau which is located near the city of Frankfurt - is one of 13 designated German wine regions producing quality ‘QbA’ and ‘Prädikatswein’ wines. Named after the traditional region of Rheingau (meaning ‘Rhine district’), the wine region is situated in the state of Hesse, where it constitutes part of the Rheingau-Taunus-Kreis administrative district.
The region is one of the smallest in Germany making up only 3% of the country’s total vineyard area. As of 2008 the Rheingau had 3,125 hectares of vines, with nearly 80% of their regions vines being Riesling with Pinot Noir making up most of the rest at 12.2%, followed by Müller-Thurgau at 1.6%. It is believed the Romans planted the first vineyards in the Rheingau before Charlemagne (747 - 814) began to actively promote viniculture.
The Cistercian monks, who are credited with having founded the wine industry in Burgundy, brought Pinot Noir with them to Rheingau, although the earliest record of the varietal in Rheingau is from 1470. The slopes down from the Taunus Mountains belonging to Kloster Eberbach were planted in the 12th Century, and early in the 13th Century the vineyards had reached their present size. In medieval times, more red wine than white wine was produced; usually the vineyards were planted with mixed varietals which were vinified together.
The Rheingau Wine Region with nearly 150 years of winemaking history was officially classified back in 1867. The classification was the basis for taxation of wineries after the annexation of the Duchy of Nassau by the Kingdom of Prussia in 1866.
The geography of the Rheingau is very unique. Near the town of Wiesbaden, the Rhine River detours from its northward flow to flow west for about 30km before it flows north again. The majority of the Rheingau vineyards are situated near the river's right bank, though the region also includes some steep slopes rising up behind the small towns. The Rheingau wine region stretches about 50km, and at the north raises the Taunus mountain range, so most of the Rheingau's vineyards are on south-facing slopes between the mountains and river, which provides excellent wine-growing conditions in these cool northerly latitudes.
The Rheingau wine region is one of the most distinguished in the world. It is a quiet, beautiful wine region, rich in history and tradition. Early on the regions grape-growers were associated with the noble Riesling grape and in the 18th century, were credited for recognizing the value of harvesting their fruit parcels at various stages of ripeness - from which the ‘Prädikate’ or special attributes that denote wines of superior quality evolved.
Queen Victoria's enthusiasm for the wines of Hochheim contributed to their popularity in England, where they and ultimately Rhine wines in general, were referred to as Hock. The world-renowned oenological research and teaching institutes in Geisenheim has contributed significantly to the extraordinarily level of technical expertise in the German wine industry today. Two grape varietals dominate the area: Riesling and Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir). The former yields elegant wines with a refined and sometimes spicy fragrance; a fruity, pronounced acidity; and a rich flavour. The Pinot Noir wines are velvety and medium to full-bodied, with a bouquet and taste often compared with cherries.