A jewel of wine culture between Darmstadt and Mannheim: the Hessische Bergstrasse is not one of the largest wine regions in Germany in terms of area - but it is one of the top addresses for excellent Riesling, for soft Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc full of character.
The Hessische Bergstrasse - "Here Germany begins to become Italy"
The wonderfully mild climate between the Rhine and the Odenwald caused Emperor Joseph II to make this appeal when he travelled back to Vienna from his coronation in Frankfurt in 1764. Anyone exploring the Hessische Bergstrasse and its wine culture will come across a few large internationally renowned wineries and many winegrowers who produce wines for their own use and for sale in the region in the smallest of locations.
The mountainous road through Hessen
The Hessische Bergstrasse, known above all for crisp Riesling, is one of the smallest wine-growing regions in Germany, alongside Saxony and Saale-Unstrut. It stretches south of Darmstadt along the western slopes of the Odenwald to the border with Baden-Württemberg, where the Badische Weinstrasse joins it.
The wine styles of the Hessian Bergstrasse
More than four-fifths of the region's 450 hectares are planted with white grape varieties, more than half of them with Riesling. Gradually, the cultivation of red grape varieties is gaining in importance. This is due to the mild weather and the rise in average annual temperature as a result of climate change.
Climate and soils
Spring is more noticeable on the Hessische Bergstrasse than anywhere else in Germany, and the autumnal cool-down is long in coming. The predominantly west-facing vineyards, some of which are very steep, benefit from plenty of sunshine and sufficient rainfall. The ridges of the Odenwald provide protection from cold easterly winds and strong temperature fluctuations.
Around the largest wine communities of Heppenheim and Bensheim, fertile loess and clay soils with a high storage capacity for water and plant nutrients predominate. In the north of the region, the vines grow partly on granite weathered soils with deposits of drifting sand. On this nutrient-poor subsoil, only persistent, strong vines bear grapes, just as on the scattered red sandstone sites around Großumstadt.
The Hessische Bergstrasse - Wine in numerous variations
The region's sheltered locations and diverse soil conditions allow the cultivation of a wide range of grape varieties - above all Riesling, which accounts for around 50 percent of the area under cultivation. Müller-Thurgau, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc also thrive here. Among the red grape varieties, Pinot Noir and Saint Laurent are the most common, as well as - thanks to rising temperatures - more and more southern European grapes such as Primitivo or Cabernet Sauvignon.
Interesting facts about the Hessische Bergstrasse
How did the wine come to the Hessische Bergstrasse?
Roman settlers and merchants were already enjoying the pleasantly warm climate in this region of otherwise rather cool Germania about 2,000 years ago. Sweet chestnuts, figs and wine thrived along the "via strata montana" (mountain road) between the Rhine and Odenwald. The first written mention of viticulture is found in the Lorsch Codex, a document which, among other things, confirms the donation of a vineyard to the Lorsch monastery in 755.
Which is the most famous winery in the region?
Some of the best wines from the Hessische Bergstrasse come from the Staatsweingut Bergstrasse. It belongs to the Hessian State Wine Estate Kloster Eberbach, the largest wine estate in Germany. In the 1970s, the domain was the first winery in the wine region to venture into the production of Trockenbeerenauslese and Eiswein. Today, especially dry Riesling, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris are among the top products of the Bergstrasse State Winery in Eberbach Monastery.
What is special about Heppenheim's Centgericht?
The former historic court site on Heppenheimer Landberg is considered the best location in the region (VDP Erste Lage or VDP Goßes Gewächs). Since 1970, it has been owned by the Hessian State Winery Kloster Eberbach (Domaine Bergstrasse). In addition to the Riesling, which is also mainly grown here, it is planted with Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Noir and Early Pinot Noir. An excellent wine from this site is the Heppenheim Centgericht Grauburgunder Crescentia, which, with its crisp aromas of citrus and pome fruit and earthy, mineral nuances, is reminiscent of a Pinot Grigio from South Tyrol full of character. The "Wine and Stone" adventure trail, which is almost seven kilometres long and packed with numerous diagrams and works of art, leads through the Heppenheim Centgericht.
Order wine from the Hessische Bergstrasse online on VINELLO
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