Imagine a vineyard on a rather steep hill which starts above a little wine-town, and then in a generous curve embraces the Rhine.
Imagine a multitude of tiny paths finding their ways up and down and crossing themselves through this generous arch of slopes.
Imagine this vineyard bearing the noble Riesling grape and to be very special in its soil type and rather ideal in its sun exposition. And finally imagine that each year the 28 winemakers which share this vineyard make a presentation on 7 stands dispersed on the hill, where you could taste some 70 wines from the soils you’re standing on.
Welcome to the “Roter Hang”, the Red Hillside, which becomes a winelovers paradise for one weekend.
The Roter Hang is located in Rheinhessen, Germany’s largest wine region and represents on of the most prestigious vineyards of the region. Actually, Rheinhessen was for a long time known for average wines and only in the last few years it started to show its real potential, lead by some star wine estates such as Gunderloch or Keller.
My brother and I couldn’t leave this opportunity out and rushed to Nierstein, which is a very traditionnal small vintners village packed with lots of ambitious winemakers. We parked our car and walked up the hill to the so called “Riesling lounge” on the Western edge of the Red Hill, which somewhat represents the base camp to the wine presentation. There, at the first pavillon, you could buy your wine glass which you than carry along to the 6 other pavillons and bring home as a souvenir at the end of the day. Each pavillon stands for one to three single-“Lagen” within the Roter Hang and offers 10 wines in a mixed selection from different estates. In order to be able to taste more of all these delicious wines it was very convenient that one could chose to either have a small 0,1 or even smaller 0,05l glass.
We started at the “base-camp” then by tasting the “Orbel”, “Glöck” and “Heiligenbaum” wines and noted down some adjectives such as “earthy”,”caramell” and “filgrane” and tingled on to the next pavillon which was a hundred meters of walk through the vineyards away. There we poured the next glasses of Riesling from two sites promising very “mineral” and “racy” Rieslings according to the small booklet – we weren’t disappointed. We started to feel the Riesling flowing within our bodies by now and the burning sun, the 30 degrees air temperature helped us to realize how well exposed this site is and how happy these fellow Riesling plants must be (we hence started a conversation with the plants =)). But we are fighters and the shiny sun shouldn’t be a barrier to taste more of these delightful beverages. Not even for trying one or two sweet wines. I especially remember a sweet Auslese from Gunderloch, one of the most prestigious winemakers of the event (this was Pavillon 4 and the Rothenberg site..I think..*hicks*), – it had an exotic smell of mangoes and pineapple and was wonderfully balanced, with enough acidity to face 115g/l of residual sugar (and what a bargain at 1,50€ for a glass!).
Another outstanding estate at this tasting was Heyl zu Herrnsheim, which had wines offered at several stands (2004 Spätlese -Baron Heyl was remarkable). But what was striking was that of all the wines we tried, none was disappointing. And we tried plenty. (Ok, only 17 of the 70 offered, but one shouldn’t abuse ;=)) They all had a unique touch coming from that red slate soil which you can see surfacing at several points on the trail. Oh, and that’s obviously the reason the vineyard is called “Red Hillside”, which I should rather have written at the start of the article, but since you’re all smart guys, I believe you guessed that already.
So this was really a nice experience and if you’re there next year in the beginning of june I’d strongly recommend you to have a look at it. (see the official website of the Roter Hang)
…on the pictures below: the red slate, the church of Nierstein emerging in the vineyard, a glass of golden Auslese, and “look how developed these grapes already are!”…