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. This wine is not grown in enough areas in this country, especially considering the spectacular results of the efforts of a handful of vintners in California's Russian River Valley, Anderson Valley and Santa Barbara County. Its roots can be traced to Northern Italy's Traminer, although is grown successfully as Gewurtztraminer (Gewurz means spicy) in Austria, Germany, Alsace and elsewhere. It is rich, full-bodied and powerful, with ripe pears, tropical fruits and reminiscent of lychee nuts. At its best it is perfumed with floral qualities, like roses, and potently spicy, especially in the aroma.