Germany's Rheingau Wine Region: History and Tradition on the Rhine

Johannisberg Riesling. Kloster Eberbach. The Geisenheim Research Institute. These famous names remind us that the Rheingau has always been at the center of Germany’s winemaking tradition.

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The Rheingau is small in size, but looms large in German wine history. Here, at Kloster Eberbach, Cistercian monks began making wine in the 12th century. The Rheingau’s Johannisberg (Saint John’s Mountain) lent its name to riesling, Germany’s most famous wine. Here, too, spätlese was born in 1775. The Geisenheim Research Institute, sometimes translated as the Geisenheim Wine Institute, developed some of Germany’s most famous varietals, including Müller-Thurgau, named for the professor who created it.

Thousands of tourists visit the Rheingau each year. They come for the wine, of course, but they also visit to walk or bicycle along the Rhine River, to enjoy music festivals and to see the Rheingau’s many abbeys, castles and villages. Visitors and locals alike enjoy the Rheingau’s agreeable weather and panoramic views.

The region’s mild winters and warm summers help local winemakers create some of Germany’s finest rieslings. About 78% of the Rheingau’s vineyards are planted with riesling grapes. Nearly 13% are planted with spätburgunder (pinot noir), Germany’s most important red wine grape. The Rheingau, although small, has a wide variety of soil types. The nearby Taunus Hills help protect the area from harsh weather.

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.

Hillsides are important in the Rheingau. Most vineyards in this region are located on hills, either steep, riverside slopes or gentle, rolling grades. In centuries past, monks and nuns built their monasteries and abbeys on hills; later, local rulers erected castles above the valleys to protect their lands. The monks planted wine grapes on their properties and nearby landowners followed suit.