Rheingau, Germany | Best Wine Destinations 2017 | Wine Enthusiast
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Rheingau, Germany | Best Wine Destinations 2017

Less than half an hour from Frankfurt and accessible by train, the medieval wine villages of Rheingau dot the banks of the Rhine like pearls in a strand. A landscape of ancient Roman castles, monasteries and vineyards, it offers appeal for wine lovers, history buffs and outdoor enthusiasts alike. Rheingau mapWiesbaden, Rheingau’s urban core, is an ideal starting point for visitors who seek upscale hotels, restaurants and shopping. The ancient spa town offers restorative thermal springs as well as a historic casino. Moving west along the river, from Eltville to Lorch, each of the region’s charming villages offers an array of sights, tastes and experiences.

Where to Dine

For casual outdoor dining with scenic views of the Rhine, Anleger 511, in Eltville, is ideal. Many wineries operate in-house taverns, known as gutsschänke or gutsausschank, which serve local cheeses, sausages, schnitzel and more. Corvers Kauter, a small, family-owned winery in Oestrich-Winkel, executes traditional fare with a fresh Mediterranean edge. For fine dining among Rheingau’s historic castles and winery estates, the restaurants at Schloss Vollrads or Schloss Johannisberg deliver exceptional ambience.

Schloss Johannisburg
Schloss Johannisburg

Where to Stay

For luxury accommodations, the Hotel Nassauer Hof in Wiesbaden offers a thermal spa and a Michelin-starred restaurant. Deeper into wine country, Zum Krug, a Hattenheim restaurant that’s a winemaker favorite, offers sleek, modern comfort at its adjacent inn. At Weingut Baron Knyphausen, the converted living quarters of the noble Knyphausen family (which still owns and operates the winery estate) are minimally furnished, but feature excellent wines and a historic experience steps from vineyards and the Rhine.

Other Activities

View on Ruedesheim in the Rheingau, Hesse, Germany / GettyA cable car from Rüdesheim to the historic Niederwald monument offers bird’s-eye views of Rheingau’s most prestigious vineyards and the river valley below. The sloping hills and forests of Rheingau offer scenic hiking and biking trails, most notably the 192-mile Rheinsteig trail from Wiesbaden to Bonn.

Budget Tip

The art cellar at Georg Müller Stiftung appeals to both art and wine enthusiasts. A guided tour of the winery’s 250-year-old vault outfitted with contemporary art installations is only five euros.

When to Go

The climate is welcoming from spring through fall, with July to October being peak season.

Rheingau offers appeal for wine lovers, history buffs and outdoor adventurers alike.

Where to Taste

Rheingau’s most historic wineries like Schloss Johannisberg, Kloster Eberbach, Schloss Vollrads and Schloss Schönborn provide a fascinating study into Riesling’s history and the aristocratic and ecclesiastic dynasties that supported it. Available by appointment only, Robert Weil and Domdechant Werner represent some of the region’s most iconic wines. The weingarten, or wine garden, at J.B. Becker offers an outdoor terrace that overlooks the Rhine with a library of unique wines that date to the early 1990s. Georg Breuer showcases wines by Theresa Breuer, one of Germany’s most dynamic young female winemakers. Peter Jakob Kühn is a frontrunner in the region for its spectacular biodynamic wines. For sparkling wines, Barth, relatively unknown in the U.S., is a standout. In Wiesbaden, the Balthasar Ress Weinbar offers a sophisticated outlet to sample wines from Ress and a handful of other producers.

Schloss Schonborn
Schloss Schonborn

Prominent Wines

Rheingau is home to the earliest documented plantings of Riesling (in 1435), and it’s still the region’s most noble grape variety. A temperate climate bolstered by warming effects of the Rhine River yields Rieslings with fuller body and richer texture than other regions in Germany. Dry, fruity and noble-sweet wines are all produced, but in recent years, up to 80 percent of Riesling production has become dry. Spätburgunder, or Pinot Noir, from Rheingau is exceptionally balanced with ripe blackberry and cherry flavors, but with restrained oak and brisk acidity. Increasingly, traditional-method sparkling wines, or sekt, made from Riesling and Champagne varieties (Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay) show prominence.

Local in the Know

Louisa Follrich
Louisa Follrich

Louisa Follrich, the 2015–2016 Rheingau Wine Queen, enjoys sharing a glass with friends along the bank of the Rhine at her local weinprobierfässer (an outdoor tasting stand) in Hattenheim. “Every other Tuesday, it’s another winery’s turn to sell wine by the glass,” she says. Follrich, who studies wine business at Geisenheim University, also frequents the Kapellengarten, a seasonally operated wine garden and restaurant. “It is not really widely known, but locals like to spend time there.”

See the rest of our 10 Best Wine Travel Destinations.