Wiesbaden“Wine–enjoyed in moderation–heals and comforts with its strength and warmth.” These words from the 11th-century Benedictine nun Hildegard von Bingen ring true year-round in Germany’s Rheingau winegrowing region. Once a year, though, they resonate more than usual in the former spa town of Wiesbaden, when the beautiful little city sets up the “world’s longest wine bar” in its historic center, and showcases the wines and culinary specialties of the area’s vintners and food producers.

The Rheingau Wine Festival

The Rheingauer Weinwoche, begun as a promotional event by the winegrowers of the Rheingau region, is now Europe’s biggest wine festival, attracting more than ten million visitors per year over a ten-day run. At about 100 stands, winegrowers present their products, accompanied by a variety of culinary specialties of the area. When my husband and I visited the festival, we felt right at home, alongside groups of friends and families getting together over a glass or two of Riesling (and I spotted a couple of beers, as well) to enjoy a long summer evening. The mood was amiable, the pace unhurried.

Best of all, the wine was really, really good!

Rheingauer Weinwoche
The festival dominates the historic center of Wiesbaden, spread over cobblestone streets around the Hessian State Parliament, the Town Hall and the Market Church.
Rheingauer Weinwoche
Rheingauer Weinwoche offers entertainment on three stages. The music is primarily classic rock, jazz, with some bluegrass, folk music and Latin beats.
Rheingauer Weinwoche
We felt right at home with all the folks enjoying local wines, food and fellowship.
Rheingauer Weinwoche
Festival foods ranged from savory, cheesy plates to fish dishes and dessert crepes. Some of the larger platters are best shared with friends.
Rheingauer Weinwoche
The Wiesbaden festival’s mood is mellow, the pace unhurried. With so many wine and food stands, it’s easy to make an evening of it.

The wines

Rheingauer Weinwoche
Just two of many beautiful wines produced in Germany’s Rheingau region.

With more than 100 wine and food stalls, a Rheingau festivalgoer is spoiled for choice. Tom and I enjoyed a light dinner at nearby Lumen, before making the rounds of the festival’s wine stands. There, we tried two Rieslings and a red, starting at the stand of Weingut Alois Dahn, named one of Germany’s best wine producers by Gault Millau. The Riesling we sampled was fresh and redolent of stone fruits, but a bit sour on the tongue for my taste. It would be worth trying a second offering–perhaps one of the vintner’s highly regarded reds, from what was clearly a very popular stand in the Weinwoche line-up. Next time!

This year’s festival included a stand from Wiesbaden’s twin city of San Sabastián, Spain. There, the family-owned Bodegas Mitarte presented a selection of wines from its 45-hectar vineyard, featuring grapes pressed in ancient caverns using traditional methods. There were whites and a rosé on offer, but as red wine fanciers, we could not resist the Mitarte Reserva (2009). Spicy, with notes of toast and minerals, our sample had sublime mouth feel and harmonious tannins. In a word: sublime.

We sampled a fine Weisbadener Neroberg Riesling: it was mellow, soft on the tongue, with floral notes and a long finish. What a treat to discover for ourselves that the only true Wiesbaden wine is so good!

Neroberg Wiesbaden
Weisbadener Neroberg, a dry Riesling produced under the city’s own label, is made at the nearby Eberbach Monastery from grapes grown in a four-hectare plot on the Neroberg hill overlooking Wiesbaden. The vineyard was originally planted in the 16th century by Count Philipp von Nassau-Idstein, and handed down through the Prussian state to the city of Wiesbaden at the turn of the 20th century. The label has been in production since 2005.

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Wiesbaden's Rheingauer Weinwoche, a German summer highlight

If you go

  • The Rheingauer Weinwoche in Wiesbaden, commonly known as Weinfest, takes place annually from the second Friday in August for ten consecutive days.
  • If you want to taste several wines and still keep your wits about you, consider purchasing a deciliter sampler portion (0.1 liter), which is great value.
  • Any time of year, for a unique souvenir of your visit, stop into the Wiesbaden Tourist Office and pick up a bottle of limited production Neroberg Riesling.
  • To make the most of your time in Riesling country, consider leaving the driving to Deutsche Bahn and take a train to Wiesbaden (we traveled via DB’s ICE long-distance service). If you have time for more exploration, continue onward to little Rüdisheim (via a regional rail partner) at the crook of the Rhine. It just a half-hour’s ride–and another world– away.
Germany’s Rheingau wine region covers rolling hills west of Frankfurt, and is easily accessed via Wiesbaden, a short train ride from Frankfurt Main Station. We traveled from Switzerland to Frankfurt on Deutsche Bahn’s ICE.

The Rheingau is just one of Germany’s 13 designated wine-growing regions, and there are hundreds of wine festivals through the summer and harvest season. If you like what you taste in Wiesbaden, consider the region a German wines “starter kit” and explore farther afield!

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We attended the Rheingau Wine Festival as guests of Deutsche Bahn and Wiesbaden Marketing, with great accommodation in Wiesbaden provided by the Hotel Oranien.

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