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Rheinhessen Riesling

German Riesling Rheinhessen

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The Rheinhessen does a lot more than mass-produced, semi-sweet wines.

The Rheinhessen is Germany’s largest wine-producing region by vineyard area. The German Wine Institute reports that there are close to 27,000 hectares of vineyards in the region spread out over three districts and 400+ individual sites. The Rheinhessen sits in the heart of German wine country. A drive through the region gives way to views of vineyards planted next to golden wheat fields and large plots of corn.

Unfortunately for high-quality German wine producers, the Rheinhessen is the birthplace of Liebfraumilch. This cheap, semi-sweet wine has given the region a hard reputation to shake. However, there is much more to this region than Liebfraumilch. This is a dynamic wine region producing fine German wines that can stack up to top wines from more renowned regions like Mosel, Rheingau, or the Pfalz.


The Rheinhessen Riesling Style

There are many different varieties grown in the Rheinhessen including Germany’s beloved grape Riesling. It is the most planted grape in the region, 17% of the total vineyard area. Those quick to dismiss Rheinhessen Riesling would be foolish. There are a number of famous producers here such as Keller, Wittmann, and Gunderloch to name a few.

Charine and I recently spent several weeks visiting producers in the region. Because of the size, various microclimates, and producer philosophies, I couldn’t find an overarching ‘Rheinhessen style’ of Riesling. There are flinty, firey examples from the Roter Hang site and big, ripe Rieslings from the Morstein location. There are also wines with razor-sharp acidity and tack-like structure like those found in the western end of the region.

Red slate soils in the Roter Hang, one of the premier Riesling sites in the Rheinhessen.

What I find in the Rheinhessen is that Riesling can reach levels of greatness. With the right site and producer, these wines can be just as thrilling and exciting as any other examples coming out of Germany. It also helps that the two most recent vintages (2017 & 2018) are fantastic. This means there is plenty of choice for consumers at all price points.

Did I find a ‘Rheinhessen style’ or Riesling? In short, no, but I did find outstanding German Riesling. The producers are warm and welcoming, which makes the Rheinhessen a region I look forward to visiting again soon. Here are some of my favorites from the trip.


Wine Recommendations

You can find out more about our scoring system on the WINE RATING page.

  • Wittmann, Riesling Trocken 2018

Wittman is one of the biggest names in the region. Phillip Wittmann is obsessed with high quality and that shows through in his entry-level Wittmann Riesling Trocken. It’s a fruit-forward, easy-drinking Riesling. Notes of yellow peach, pineapple, lemon, and a touch of mineral make up the flavors. With an intense nose, this is an excellent, full-bodied Riesling for those who want to discover Rheinhessen Riesling for the first time. Score: 90/100

  • Wittmann, ‘Niersteiner’ Riesling 2018

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The Wittmann ‘Niersteiner’ Riesling is a classy, Erste Lage (1er Cru) wine with fruit from the Roter Hang. It has an intense and nose that explodes out of the glass. There are notes of big-time tropical fruit, mineral, and lemon notes. This is intense and fun to drink. It’s bright, slatey, and mineral-driven while being rich and mouth-filling. Score: 92/100

Wittmann niersteiner riesling trocken
  • Wittmann, ‘La Borne’ Riesling Alte Reben 2018

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The Wittmann ‘La Borne’ Riesling Alte Reben is created for the annual VDP auction. It’s made from vines that are roughly 60 years old. There are notes of lemon, white pepper, peach, and baked apple. The wine is intense, crystalline, and concentrated. It is full of charisma and attitude with a long finish. It’s a wine that gave me goosebumps on the first sip. Score: 95/100 

Wittmann la borne riesling alte reben
  • Gunderloch, ‘Nackenheim’ Riesling trocken 2018

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The Gunderloch ‘Nackehnheim’ Riesling offers tremendous value, as it can be found around the world under 20 USD. There is a touch of natural gas on the palate along with notes of lemon, apple, and pepper. This has lots of electricity and density with several layers on the palate to taste through. It’s a wine to buy and enjoy by the case. Score: 92/100

Gunderloch nackenheim riesling
  • Gunderloch, ‘Rothenberg’ Riesling trocken Grosses Gewächs 2017

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The Gunderloch ‘Rothenberg’ Riesling Grosses Gewächs is a serious Riesling designed to be aged. It’s fermented in 1200 liter oak casks. The wine boasts notes of gas, white peach, slate, and crushed rock and finishes with a smoky note. This has the razor-sharp acidity of Riesling but yet there is a certain roundness and charm to it at the same time. Score: 93/100

Gunderloch Rothenberg Riesling Grosses Gewachs
  • Alexander Gysler, ‘Klangwerk Weinheimer Hölle’ Riesling 2017

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Alexander Gysler is not a huge name in the Rheinhessen but his wines should not be overlooked. The Alexander Gysler ‘Klangwerk Weinheimer Hölle’ Riesling is one of the estate’s top wines. It has notes of lemon, white apple, white peach, and a touch of pepper. It’s a tight and linear Riesling that finishes long. If you open this young, give it several hours of air before serving it. Score: 91/100 

alexander gysler klangwerk weinheimer holle riesling
  • Wagner Stempel, ‘Scharlachberg’ Riesling Grosses Gewächs 2018

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Wagner Stempel producers high acid, mineral-driven Riesling. The Wagner Stempel ‘Scharlachberg’ Riesling Grosses Gewächs is made from a vineyard in the village of Bingen. It’s fermented entirely in stainless steel. It’s a ripe Riesling with notes of yellow fruit, pepper, lemon, and a touch of slate. The wine is big and bold upfront with the true-Riesling tack sharp finish. Score: 92/100 

wagner stempel scharlachberg riesling grosses gewachs
  • Wagner Stempel, ‘Heerkretz’ Riesling Auslese 2017

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The Wagner Stempel ‘Heerkretz’ Riesling Auslese is one sexy sweet wine. It has notes of honey, flint, lemon, white peach, and apricot. This is luscious, stony, and structured with tack-sharp acidity. Long and mineral finish with around 150 g/L of residual sugar. It’s steely, racy, and electric. Score: 94/100 

Wagner Stempel heerkretz riesling auslese
  • Gröhl, ‘Sackträger’ Riesling Alte Reben 2018

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Eckehart Gröhl is an unsung hero in the Rheinhessen. He producers Rieslings and Spätburgunders that overdeliver in their price points. The Gröhl ‘Sackträger’ Riesling Alte Reben is a ripe and dense Riesling with notes of stone fruit, exotic yellow fruit, and white flower. It is a full-bodied Riesling with power on the backend and a chewy finish. Score: 90/100

Grohl Sacktrager Riesling Alte Reben
  • Gröhl, ‘Ölberg’ Riesling Reserve 2018

The Gröhl ‘Ölberg’ Riesling Reserve is aged in oak. The wood is present on the palate but it is well integrated. There are notes of peach, wet slate, lemon, and apple blossom. It’s full-bodied with high acidity. This is a baby and with more time in the bottle, it should show its true colors. Score: 91/100

Grohl Olberg Riesling Reserve

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We covered our own transportation, visits, and accommodation. The opinions expressed in this article are unsolicited and have not been paid for in any way by governmental bodies, enterprises, or individuals. We do not sell editorial content as that would destroy the legitimacy of our reviews and the trust between Exotic Wine Travel and its readers. On occasion, we extend the option of purchasing the wines we review or/and the products we spotlight. Some of these product links are set up through affiliate programs, which means Exotic Wine Travel gets referral credits if you choose to purchase these items via the links we provide.

DR MATTHEW HORKEY
DR MATTHEW HORKEY
Author | Speaker | Wine Nerd
https://exoticwinetravel.com

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