The Ahr: Germany’s Red Wine Valley

Many years ago, a Navy friend brought us a bottle of German wine as a hostess gift.  Brian was elated because he’d found this wine in the U.S.  I was surprised to discover that the gift was German red wine from a region I’d never heard of, the Ahr.  No surprise, Brian told us – the Ahr is a very small wine region that produces mostly red wines, so it’s very hard to find Ahr wines outside of Germany.

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We really enjoyed that wine, and my interest in the Ahr lingered long after we recycled the empty bottle.  Such a small wine region, one that produces quality wines that don’t fit the stereotyped image of German wine at all – how did this happen?  It turns out that the Ahr’s steep, sheltered slopes have the perfect climate for spätburgunder (pinot noir) grapes.

Climate and Soil
The Ahr is one of the smallest wine regions in Germany.  It centers on a 15-mile stretch of the Ahr River, which flows into the Rhine River north of Koblenz.  Even though the Ahr Valley is so far north, its warm, almost Mediterranean summer climate allows spätburgunder grapes to thrive because the Eifel Mountains shelter the vineyards.  Most Ahr wine grapes are grown on steep slopes above the river.

The Ahr’s soils vary from loess in the eastern valley to slate and volcanic soil in the west.  Because so many vineyards are steep and terraced, wine production is costly here; much of the work in the vineyards must be done by hand or with special machinery.  This naturally means that the best red wines from the Ahr command high prices.

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.

Ahr Grape Varieties
Nearly 88 percent of the wine grapes grown in the Ahr are red wine grapes; in fact, 62 percent of Ahr vineyards are planted in spätburgunder grapes.  Portugieser trails behind at 11 percent; almost as many Portugieser grapes are planted here as all the white wine grapes grown in the Ahr (12 percent).   Riesling (7 percent) is the most popular white wine grape.