Hessische Bergstrasse: A Touch of Italy in German Wine Country

Between the Rhine River and the Odenwald forest, in the area between Heidelberg and Darmstadt, you'll find a tiny German wine region, the Hessische Bergstrasse.  Its name means "Hessian Mountain Road" in English.  Long ago, the Romans named their trade route through this part of Germany the "strata montana," or "mountain road." 

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It was Austrian Emperor Joseph II who gave the area its most famous tag line when he said, "This is where Germany transforms into Italy," during a visit to the Hessische Bergstrasse in 1764.  By this, he didn't mean that the architecture, which is quintessentially German, reminded him of Italian palaces or churches.  The Emperor was referring to the region's climate, which is mild enough to permit fruits, almonds and other plants you normally can't find north of the Alps to grow and thrive.  No wonder the ancient Romans created vineyards here – they knew the grapes would ripen perfectly in the warm sunshine.

Geography, Climate and Soil
This wine region is so small that you can drive through it in a very short time.  In fact, if you travel north to south, you'll discover that the Hessische Bergstrasse is only about 20 miles long.  Just south of Darmstadt and Seeheim, you'll begin to see the vineyards.  The region stretches south along the B3 road, with most of the vineyards located between Alsbach and Heppenheim.  There is a large concentration of vineyards near the town of Bensheim.  A bit farther north and east, the "Odenwald wine island" ("Odenwälder Weininsel") section of the Hessische Bergstrasse is concentrated around the town of Groß-Umstadt.

Many of the region's vineyards are planted on the slopes of the Odenwald foothills.  Some of these areas are very steep, which makes cultivation difficult.  You'll find a wide variety of soils in the Hessische Bergstrasse, including granite, loess, loam and porphyry-quartz.

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.

The Hessische Bergstrasse's sunny climate is excellent for wine grapes.  Rainfall here averages about 28 inches per year.  This combination of warm temperatures, adequate precipitation, and shelter from harsh weather provides a perfect environment for growing grapes.