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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.
The region of Rheinhessen is the largest and most productive of all of Germany’s wine regions, and wine has been produced here since the Roman occupation of the country. It was favored by Charlemagne, too, whose influence was felt all over Europe, and Rheinhessen wines were at many points in history the height of fashion. Rheinhessen is bordered by the mighty river Rhine in the north and to the west, and is typified by its undulating topography - indeed, it is known locally as the ‘land of a thousand hills’.
The finest appellations in Rheinhessen are generally considered to be those in the Roter Hang (red slope), where the red sandstone soil imparts plenty of character and fascinating features. However, many popular and highly regarded wines from Rheinhessen are produced on the banks of the river Rhine, where the varied soils are full of interesting characteristics carried by the water. The majority of wines produced in this part of Germany are white, with sixty nine percent of the region’s total output being made up of Riesling and Muller-Thurgau varietal grapes. Red wines also thrive here, though, and Dornfelder is a popular varietal which is regularly praised for its depth and expression.
Riesling grapes have been grown in and around central Europe for centuries, and over time, they became the lasting symbol of south Germany's ancient and proud wine culture. Whilst the reputation of German wines abroad has in the past been mixed, the Germans themselves take an enormous amount of pride in their wineries, and Riesling grapes have now spread around the globe, growing anywhere with the correct climate in which they can thrive. Riesling grape varietals generally require much cooler climatic conditions than many other white grapes, and they are generally considered to be a very 'terroir expressive' varietal, meaning that the features and characteristics of the terroir they are grown on comes across in the flavors and aromas in the bottle. It is this important feature which has allowed Riesling wines to be elevated into the category of 'fine' white wines, as the features of the top quality bottles are generally considered to be highly unique and offer much to interest wine enthusiasts.