The pale skinned fruits of the Riesling grapevine have been grown in and around Germany's Rhine Valley for centuries, and contributed much to the country's wine culture. Today, Riesling grapes are grown and processed in several countries around the world, where they are prized for their ability to grow well in colder climates, and their unique flavors and characteristics. Riesling grapes produce an impressive array of wines, including fine semi sweet and dessert wines, to excellent dry white wines and sparkling varieties, all which allow the grape to shine through as a premier example of an excellent white wine varietal. One of the things which makes Riesling such a special grape is the fact that it is highly 'terroir expressive', meaning that the features of the land it is grown on can come across well in the flavors and aromas in the wine. As such, it isn't unusual to find flavors of white stone, or smoky ash-like notes in a fine Riesling alongside the more usual orchard fruit flavors more commonly associated with good white wines.
It has long been recognized that the finest of Germany's distinctive white wines come from the steep valley sides of the region known as Mosel-Saar-Ruhr, a collection of three beautiful winding valleys in the ancient and fascinating Rhineland. If Germany's flagship grape varietal is the Riesling, then the true home of German wines must be Mosel-Saar-Ruhr, where wineries dotted across the region deal with thousands of acres of Riesling grapes every season. For thousands of years, since the time of the Romans, Mosel-Saar-Ruhr has been known as an important wine region, and the mineral rich soils which make up the steep sides of the green valleys provide plenty of nutrients and interesting characteristics to the grapes which grow there. Riesling wines from Mosel-Saar-Ruhr are renowned for their crispness, their lightness and drinkability, and have a unique aging potential, with some bottles even aging for over fifty years.
As in many Old World countries, the rise of viticulture in Germany came about as a result of the Roman Empire, who saw the potential for vine cultivation in the vast flatlands around the base of the Rhine valley. Indeed, for over a thousand years, Germany's wine production levels were enormous, with much of the south of the country being used more or less exclusively for growing grapes. Over time, this diminished to make way for expanding cities and other types of industries, but Southern Germany remains very much an important wine region within Europe, with many beautifully balanced and flavorful German wines being prized by locals and international wine lovers alike. The hills around Baden-Baden and Mannheim are especially noteworthy, as these produce the high end of the characteristic semi-sweet white wines which couple so perfectly with German cheeses and pickled vegetables. However, all of Germany's wine producing regions have something special and unique to offer, and are a joy to explore and experience.