Germany's major wine districts

Germany has hundreds of wine festivals every year. But to provide all that fun requires an even larger amount of hard work in its justly world-famous vineyards.

Baden

Nowhere is that effort more evident than Baden. At the southernmost tip of Germany's wine regions, this slender strip of land extends from Lake Constance in the south to Heidelberg in the north.

Though third in size, Baden may well be the most renowned. Situated near the famed Black Forest area, the soils range from gravel and limestone, to clay and volcanic stone. The grapes vary correspondingly and include such common names as Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer and Riesling, but also the less well known Gutedel and Müller-Thurgau.

The region may also lead in consumption. Overall per capita consumption is 32 bottles per year. In Baden, the figure is 53 bottles per person annually.

Mittelrhein

Mittelrhein isn't anywhere near the largest producer in Germany, but the village of Bacharach — named for the Greek god of wine Bacchus — has been among the premier producers since the Middle Ages.

The clay-like slate produces grapes of delightful acidity. Riesling, Müller-Thurgau, and Kerner are among the variety found in this region that stretches south from Bonn for 100 km (60 miles) along the banks of the Rhine.

Vineyards are often found on the steep, rocky slopes amid the grounds around medieval castles. From them comes a sparkling wine that is second to none.

Rheingau

Centrally located, Rheingau is among the oldest of Germany's wine regions. Situated between Lorch near Mittelrhein and Hochheim on the Main River, the hillsides are topped by the forests of the Taunus Hills.

It is said that Botrytis was first put to use here, to help the world famous Rieslings of the region. But Pinot Noir, too, is cultivated here, lending itself to the spicy and full-bodied Spätburgunder.

Developed over centuries by the inhabitants of cloisters and monasteries, the region's wines once graced the table of Queen Victoria. That knowledge has evolved to the point where oenological institutes here are recognized as among the finest in the world.

Rheinhessen

Bordered on the west by the Nahe River and to the north and east by the Rhine, this 600 suare miles (1,667 sq km) region is second only to Pfalz in size.

Second in size, but second to none in quality. The communities of Bingen, Mainz and others of the area, benefit greatly from the many soil types and micro-climates. As a result they can produce a Portugieser red of great distinction. And the ancient Silvaner has long been the pride of vintners there.

Pfalz

Famed world-wide for its chalk, marl, and clay, Pfalz is Germany's largest producer. Müller-Thurgau, Kerner, Silvaner, and Morio-Muskat are only a few of the grapes grown here. A relatively new red from the Dornfelder grown here produces a complex, full-bodied wine.

Shunting up against France on the south and west, and bordered by Rheinhessen on the north, the region stretches over 48 miles (80 km). Along this land, viticulture has reached a point that takes it's rightful place at the pinnacle of winemaking.

But whether large or small, all of Germany's winemaking regions are filled with vintners who take pride in producing wines that make those festivals popular with visitors the world over.