While the rest of Germany is still wearing a scarf and gloves, spring is already opening its arms in the Hessische Bergstrasse wine region. The plentiful sunshine brings magnolia and forsythia into bloom and cherry and apricot trees make a pretty backdrop to the charming old towns of Zwingenberg, Heppenheim, Alsbach and Bensheim. It also brings a glow to the grape varietals grown locally as does a terroir of porphyry-quartz, granite, sand and loess-loam. Wines here are deliciously dry and semi-dry.
When you sip our wines from this region picture an 80-kilometer-long straight Roman road, an ancient trade route dotted with picturesque spots and beautifully crafted wines. This is called the Bergstrasse or Mountain Road. It encompasses 463 hectares covering two wine districts, three collectives and 20 individual sites.
White wines lead the way here with 79% of vineyards given over to their production. Riesling is the main grape by far covering nearly 40% of production. Pinot Gris follows along with Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc and Silvaner. Additional reds include Dornfelder and St. Laurent which are steadily making their mark.
Since 1971, the part of the Bergstrasse that winds its way through the state of Hesse has produced wines independently with vineyards becoming more frequent as you hit Zwingenberg. Winemaking is concentrated around Auerbach, Bensheim and Heppenheim. This area ends south of Heppenheim on the Hessian border. The second, much smaller area, “Umstadt Area”, has its epicenter in the city of Gross-Umstadt. Affectionately, it is known as the “Odenwald Wine Island” because of its slightly isolated position in the Hessische Bergstrasse.
One of our favorite things to do here is to hike along the Bergsträßer Weinlagenweg, a delightful trail that cuts right through swathes of vineyard. The views are out of this world and, if you are here on May 1st, winemakers invite you to hike through their vineyards. This activity is part of the Bergsträßer wine meeting which Bensheim hosts.
Plenty of wine festivals follow which we love visiting as we get to try wines we would otherwise not even know existed. When Pentecost rolls around, Zwingenberg holds a wine festival in its striking historic square while Heppenheim puts an excellent selection of local wines on display in June. September hails in events in Bensheim and Gross-Umstadt celebrate in September. If you visit out of season, you can find rare locally produced wines in the restaurants and taverns that line the Bergstrasse. We bring you the best as well.