Wine routes of Germany
A pioneer of wine roads and winery tours, Germany is well used to enophile visitors exploring its villages and stopping by for tastings at its cellars. Drive, cycle, hike, or even take a river cruise through its historic winemaking regions.
The notion of touring vineyards, cellars, and wine villages as a leisure pursuit has long been popular in Germany. Indeed, it was here that the very idea of a wine route—or Weinlehrpfad (instructional wine path)—began in the 1920s, with the first official Weinstraben (wine road) opening in 1935.
Today, that tradition is still very much alive, and each of the major regions has a well-established wine road, enabling visitors to drive, cycle, or walk through the vines. The local tourist board will have maps and lists of the best wineries to visit on each, as well as details of the many wine festivals that take place in villages along the routes throughout the year. It’s a good idea to plan your route before you go, and the German wine promotional body, Wines of Germany, has a neatly designed and informative website with details for each of the regions (www.germanwines.de/tourism).
The Mosel and Rheingau
A tour might start in the city where German wine itself is said to have begun: the ancient city of Trier in the Mosel, whose surrounding slate-scattered slopes the early Roman settlers found to be well suited to the vine. The city itself, the oldest in Germany and a UNESCO World Heritage site, with its Roman basilica, baths, and amphitheater and half-timbered medieval townhouses, has manifold attractions of its own. Not the least of these is the superb Weinhaus Becker, a stylish member of the Design Hotel group, set in a family winery and featuring a two-Michelin-starred restaurant.
Trier is also a departure point for many of the river cruises that run up and down the Mosel River. This is a great way to take in the spectacular vineyard terraces, a patchwork group of special sites that rivals Burgundy for its wine-historical significance, complexity, and fragmented ownership but is like nowhere else in the sheer steepness of its vineyards—the Calmont vineyard between Bremm and Ediger-Eller is Europe’s steepest, with a gradient of up to 60 percent.
Among the companies offering cruises up the Mosel (and along the equally historic and spectacular Rhine Valley through the Rheingau, some two-week cruises taking in both) are Avalon Waterways (www.avalonwaterways.com) and River Voyages (www.rivervoyages.com).
Any tour along the Mosel is likely to involve a stop in the village of Bernkastel-Kues, with its Wine Cultural Center in the 16th-century St-Nikolaus Hospital. Featuring a museum devoted to local viticulture, a vinotheque and tasting room with more than 160 wines to taste, and a bistro, this is a good place to come for an overview of the Mosel’s long wine-producing history, as well as the current state of play. A walk up to the ruins of the 9th-century Landshut castle above town offers yet another perspective, in the form of panoramic views across the valley.
In the Rheingau, the equivalent wine village is probably Rüdesheim, and for all the slightly kitsch feel of some of the tourist-targeting inns and gift shops, it remains a must-visit in German wine country, with, like Bernkastel, a fine museum filled with winemaking equipment and paraphernalia from 2,000 years of wine production in the region. Another of the village’s attractions is a chairlift and cable car, which takes you up from Rüdesheim over the vineyards into the Niederwald national park and monument. To absorb the history of the region most fully, however, it is worth making a special visit to two of the Rheingau’s great sites. The first, just 4 miles (7km) west of Rüdesheim, is Schloss Johannisberg. As well as being one of Germany’s most historic wine producers (it claims to be the site of the discovery of noble rot), the estate, in a reconstructed castle in the grounds of a 12th-century Benedictine monastery, houses a fascinating collection of archive material, a wine shop and tasting room, and an excellent restaurant (www.schloss-johannisberg.de). The other, in the village of Eltville im Rheingau, is the magnificent 1,000-year-old Romanesque monastery, church, and winery of Kloster Eberbach. Tours of the atmospheric cloisters and church are available, as well as wine-tasting tours. The complex also has a good restaurant and a comfy hotel (www.kloster-eberbach.de).
Franken, Pfalz, and Baden
Another important landmark in the history of German wine can be found in the eastern city of Würzburg, and the grand Baroque palace of the Juliusspital. A charitable foundation that runs a hospital and home for the elderly, a nursery school, farms, and woodland, the Juliusspital also operates the second-largest wine estate in Germany (www.juliusspital.de). A visit to its headquarters beneath the palace in central Würzburg can include a tasting of the foundation’s still-excellent Franken wines, a meal in the restaurant, and a stroll around the magnificent grounds.
There is a deep sense of history, too, along the Pfalz’s wine route, most notably in the beautiful village of Deidesheim, where some of the region’s most celebrated cellars are based, including Reichsrat Von Buhl, Von Winning, and Bassermann-Jordan (www.von-buhl.de; www.von-winning.de; www.bassermann-jordan.de). There is also a high concentration of smart hotels and restaurants, such as Ketschauer Hof, Hotel Deidesheimer Hof, and the Kaisergarten Hotel & Spa (www.deidesheimerhof.de; www.kaisergarten-deidesheim.com).
But if history is always at hand, there is modernity, too. You can see it in the stylish, funky new-wave approach of cellars such as Tesch in the Nahe or Emil Bauer & Sohne in the Pfalz (www.weingut-tesch.de; www.bauerwein.de). And you can see it, too, in the recent rise to prominence of the southern Baden region, which has become a gastronomic destination thanks to the superb quality of its Spätburgunder, and whites from Grauburgunder and Weissburgunder. Among the many fine hotels and restaurants in this, one of the wealthiest parts of Europe, Franz Keller Schwarzer Adler in the village of Vogsburg im Kaiserstuhl is a top pick, combining a fine boutique hotel, a Michelin-starred restaurant, a wine cellar, and a wine bar (www.franz-keller.de). To make the most of a visit here, follow one of the region’s Weinlehrpfad, working your way by foot or bike through some of most highly prized and warmest vineyards in Kaiserstuhl (Kaiserstuhlpfad) and stopping off for tastings at the many cellars that line the way.
A VDP Rheingau wine producer with a long history, Balthasar Ress is based in Hattenheim but also runs an excellent tasting room and wine bar in the center of Wiesbaden.
Mauergasse 10, 65183 Wiesbaden | +49 61 15 05 84 69 | www.balthasar-ress.de/weinbar
This wonderfully cozy, sensitively updated old inn in the Rheingau village of Hattenheim also houses a restaurant specializing in local dishes and a wine list to die for.
Hauptstrasse 34, 65347 Hattenheim | +49 6 72 39 96 80 | firstname.lastname@example.org | www.hotel-zum-krug.de
In the Pfalz wine village of Deidesheim, a stylish boutique hotel with a spa, immaculate rose gardens, superbly stocked wine cellar, a bistro, and one of the region’s best restaurants.
Ketschauerhofstrasse 1, 67146 | +49 6 32 67 00 00 email@example.com | www.ketschauer-hof.com
Claus-Peter Lumpp’s three-Michelin-starred Restaurant Bareiss is but one of the attractions at this luxurious retreat in the Black Forest, perfectly situated for tours of Baden.
72270 Baiserbronn-Mitteltal | +49 7 44 24 70 | firstname.lastname@example.org | www.bareiss.com
This Mosel hotel among the vines, with a 300-year-old cellar, plays host to many top winemakers for tastings, and offers an excellent wine list at its two restaurants.
Hauptstrasse 81–83, 54486 Mülheim | +49 65 34 94 80 | email@example.com
A fabulous Art Nouveau hotel, built in 1904 on the banks of the Mosel in the village of Traben-Trarbach, with a range of apartments and suites, a spa, and a traditional restaurant.
An der Mosel 11, 56841 Traben-Trarbach | +49 65 41 70 30 | firstname.lastname@example.org | www.bellevue-hotel.de
Becker’s combines slick modern accommodation, a wine bar, and a fine restaurant alongside the titular family’s winery.
Olewiger Strasse 206, 54295 Trier | +49 6 51 93 80 80 email@example.com | www.beckers-trier.de
Grandly situated high above the Mosel with superb facilities set around a medieval castle and three restaurants including Claudio Urru’s highly rated Gourmetrestaurant Schwarzenstein.
Rosengrasse 32, 65366 Geisenheim-Johannisberg | +49 6 72 29 95 00 | firstname.lastname@example.org | www.schwarzenstein.de
Fabulously quirky winery guesthouse in Baden, where, as the name suggests, the accommodation involves sleeping in cozily converted wine casks, surrounded by vineyards.
Ilona Wild, Bergstrasse 7, 77887 Sasbachwalden | +49 16 26 49 32 74 | email@example.com | www.schlafen-im-winefass.de
Hans Haas’s two-Michelin-starred Munich restaurant is consistently hailed as having one of the best wine lists in Europe by the WFW World’s Best Wine Lists awards.
Johann-Fichte-Strasse 7, 80805 München | +49 8 93 61 95 90 | www.tantris.de
For more restaurants with award-winning wine lists click here.
A longstanding leader of the Baden wine scene, now run by the grandson of the founder and his wife, Dr Heger welcomes visitors to its tasting room in Kaiserstuhl.
Bachenstrasse 19/21, 79241 Ihringen | +49 76 68 99 51 10 | firstname.lastname@example.org | www.heger-weine.de
One of the stars of the Rheinhessen, Philipp Wittmann is based in the old market town of Westhofen in the south of Germany’s largest wine region, where visitors can tour his fine old cellars and elegant garden.
Mainzer Str 19, 67593 Westhofen bei Worms | +49 62 44 90 50 36 | email@example.com | www.weingutwittmann.com
A historic Nahe winery that has been run by the same family on the same site for 32 generations, or 800 years, in a beautiful castle in Wallhausen.
Schloss Wallhausen, Schlossstrasse 3, 55595 Wallhausen | +49 6 70 69 44 40 | firstname.lastname@example.org | www.prinzsalm.de
One of the oldest wineries in the Mosel, founded by Cistercian monks in the 12th century and housed today in a building that dates back to 1509, with an elegant guesthouse and tasting room.
Mönchhof, 54539 Urzig | +49 6 53 29 31 64 | email@example.com | www.moenchhof.de
Dr H Thanisch Sofia Thanisch is the latest woman to run this famously female-influenced Bernkastel estate; she welcomes visitors to her tasting room set by the river on the ground floor of the family mansion.
Saarallee 31, 54470 Berkastel-Kues an der Mosel | +49 65 31 22 82 | firstname.lastname@example.org | www.thanisch.com
With a wine trail through the vineyards, a wine shop, a restaurant, and of course the famous castle itself, this celebrated producer is one of the best to visit in the Rheingau.
Vollradser Allee, 65375 Oestrich-Winkel | +49 67 23 66 0 | email@example.com | www.schlossvollrads.com
Owned for more than 30 years by a multinational (Suntory) but still retaining a personal touch, the “jewel of the Rheingau” welcomes visitors to a neo-Gothic country house surrounded by vineyards and gardens.
Mühlberg 5, 65399 Kiedrich | +49 61 23 23 08 | firstname.lastname@example.org | www.weingut-robert-weil.com
A pioneer of Pinot Noir in the northern region of the Ahr Valley, Mayer-Näkel has 15ha (37 acres) operated by Werner Näkel, his wife Claudia, and their daughters, who invite visitors to taste the range in their wine boutique.
Friedenstrasse 15, 53507 Dernau | +49 26 43 16 28 email@example.com | www.meyer-naekel.de
Owned by the same family since the 1740s, this classical Pfalz estate features an elegant tasting room in an 18th-century manor house renovated in neoclassical style.
Manderling 25, 67433 Haardt an der Weinstrasse | +49 63 21 28 15 | firstname.lastname@example.org | www.mueller-catoir.de
One of the names behind the renaissance in Sekt as a genuine challenger to Champagne, Sekthaus Solter has a beautiful manor house, park, and farm shop in Rüdesheim.
Niederwalddenkmal, 65385 Rüdesheim am Rhein +49 67 22 25 66 | email@example.com | www.sekthaus-solter.de