Mosel and Riesling are probably some of the most linked words in the world of wine. If someone says Riesling then the word Mosel makes an appearance usually in the same sentence – the majestic, rounded and sumptuous wines of the Moselle, Ruwer and Saar valleys are amongst the world’s favourite white wines. But what if I told you that there’s a better word when it comes to summing-up Riesling? Rheingau is the true home of the world’s second favourite white grape, Mosel is simply its summer residence.
All of the traditional things associated with the elegant Riesling varietal have more to do with Rheingau that with Mosel and nowhere else in the world is Riesling as omnipresent – whilst the wineries do produce other wines, their flagships are all based on Riesling and some don’t even bother producing anything else.
The Rheingau is a stretch of land located in the German state of Hesse between the towns of Rüdesheim and Hochheim. It is the sixth smallest production region out of thirteen and despite its production levels accounting for only around 4-5% of total German winemaking, it is one of the most important thanks to its breakthrough developments in classification and winemaking practise.
It is widely accepted that classification of vineyards first appeared in the Rheingau with its top producers having established a Cru system long before elsewhere in Germany. Up until recently the top Rheingau wines were referred to as ‘Erstes Gewächs’ (Premier Cru) but will follow suit with the rest of the German wineries in naming top wines ‘Großes Gewächs” (Grand Cru) and referring to the vineyards in which they are grown as ‘Erste Lage’ (First-class location/site). However, as is the case in the rest of Germany, not all wineries are allowed to use such terms – only those belonging to the VDP - an exclusive club that includes 200 of Germany’s best wine producers. (more here)
Not only classification of the vineyards and sites is something first attributed to the Rheingau but the classification that governs all German winemaking in terms of amount of sugar in grape at the time of harvest – the terms Kabinett, Spätlese and Auslese are familiar ones to drinkers of German wine – these originate from Rheingau or specifically Schloss Johannisberg – one of Germany’s most important (not to mention best) wine producers.
Talking about those producers, here are a few wines of theirs that I would like to recommend. Of course the best wines to emerge from the Rheingau are the single vineyard Erstes or Großes Gewächs – they however aren’t fit for every budget so I’ve featured mainly estate wines – cuvees of various estate-owned vineyards that give a give feeling of Rheingau for a sensible price. I have however included a very special wine from a very special winery – you’ll see below.
The above wines are ones that I have tried, like and would recommend further - I am happy to admit that they might not all represent the best wines of the region Rheingau but I feel that they are all fairly priced and are all available in several countries the world over. In the future I will, of course, cover such topics as the 'Erstes' and 'Großes Gewachs' wines but this is meant as an introduction to what I consider to be Germany's most important production region for Riesling. However, if you'd like to make a suggestion then I'm all ears - please add a comment using the form below or click on the contact link to send me an e-mail - I'd love to hear from you.