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A few hours south of Hamburg are the lush wine regions of Germany. While Germany might be known for its beer, it’s the wines that have totally stolen my heart. With 13 major wine regions and the majority in southeastern Germany, there are endless options for tasting, buying, and exploring. I was lucky enough to be invited by BottleStops a few weeks ago for a lovely winter wine trip from Mainz to the Rheingau – one of my favorite wine regions in all of Germany!
Table of Contents
- History of Rheingau Wine Region
- Mainzer Weihnachtsmarkt (Mainz Christmas Market)
- Day Trip to Rheingau
- Where to Eat in Mainz
- Where to Drink in Mainz
- Where to Stay in Mainz
- Perks of Traveling with BottleStops
- Like the Post? Share It!
History of Rheingau Wine Region
The Rheingau, meaning “Rhein District,” is located north of the Rhine River going west from Wiesbaden and ending around Rüdesheim (the official borders are the towns of Hochheim to Lorch). In total, the Rheingau wine region is 35 kilometers from east to west, and 3 kilometers from north to south. Almost 80% of all wines that come from this area are Rieslings even though the Rheingau only accounts for 3% of Germany’s total vineyard area. Other white wines account for 10% of production and Pinot Noir also account for 10% of all production.
Rieslings originated along the Rhein and are now the most famous type of wine from Germany. It tends to be one of the highest quality white wines produced in the world and especially excels in Germany’s cooler climate. Ironically, Rieslings are also quite popular in my hometown of Traverse City, Michigan due to its similar climate. Old Mission Peninsula and Leelanau County produce some of the best Rieslings in the United States, and a lot of the wine producers that have settled in and around Traverse City are German or Austrian!
Mainzer Weihnachtsmarkt (Mainz Christmas Market)
I’m never one to shy away from Christmas markets and the one in Mainz does not disappoint! Mainzer Weihnachtsmarkt (known in English as the Mainz Christmas Market) has been operating for 230 years in the backdrop of St. Martin’s Cathedral, a 1,000-year-old cathedral in the center of Mainz. St. Martin’s Cathedral is one of the most important cathedrals in all of Germany and was initially founded in 975 AD. While it was first completed in 1009, the cathedral has undergone numerous renovations and expansions due to damage caused by fires, wars, and old age. As the official seat of the archdiocese, St. Martin’s Cathedral had the right to crown German Kings and Queens. Between 1043 AD and almost 1300 AD, several German Kings and Queens were crowned in St. Martin’s Cathedral including Philip of Swabia and Frederick II.
The Mainz Christmas Market incorporates historical and cultural aspects of the city and region. One of the most famous, and life-changing, inventions of the last millennium was the printing press – invented by Johannes Gutenberg, a Mainz native. The Mainz Christmas Market pays homage to Johannes Gutenberg by hosting a Christmas card printing press workshop at the Gutenberg Museum, located right off the Marktplatz (Market Square).
- Gutenberg Museum: Liebfrauenpl. 5, 55116 Mainz
In an ode to the wine region, there is the possibility to rent a wine barrel at the Christmas market to sip your Glühwein (mulled wine) in it. The barrels seat between 6-8 people and must be booked in advance. You can rent a wine barrel here although there are no options (currently) for wine barrel rentals due to the Christmas markets just closing. Do note that these rentals fill up quickly!
Die Mainzer Winzer and their wines
Die Mainzer Winzer is a local association of 26 different wineries from Mainz. The main goal of the association is to promote the wine region through information, festivals, events, and even a wine marathon! If you’re looking for information regarding summer wine festivals in the region in 2019, check out this list (only in German). I attended the Mainz Wine Festival in August 2018 and absolutely loved it – there were over 100 wineries represented at this festival.
At the Mainz Christmas Market, die Mainzer Winzer is represented through local Glühweins. The Glühweins from die Mainzer Winzer wineries are required to be totally pure – no added sugar or anything else. The Glühweins must be local wines (heated) and spices, nothing else added. I find one of the hardest parts about drinking Glühwein is the overwhelming sweetness but with die Mainzer Winzer Glühweins, I could drink those all day ;)
Day Trip to Rheingau
While Mainz is a great city to explore, for a true winter wine experience, you must take a day trip out to one of the local wine regions! BottleStops took us to the wine region of Rheingau and although I’m incredibly biased, it’s one of my favorite wine regions in Germany (I can’t resist a good Riesling!). Luckily, BottleStops can also customize tours to other wine regions around Mainz if the Rheingau isn’t your preferred area!
Visiting Kloster Eberbach
The first stop of the day was Kloster Eberbach – a hotel, monastery, and winery. The monastery was founded in 1136 AD and became one of the largest monasteries in the entire region. At 300 hectares, the winery at Kloster Eberbach was one of the largest in medieval Europe. Today, there are about 200 hectares of used land for vine growing and 3/4 of the wines produced are Rieslings. The Kloster Eberbach Rieslings are their most famous wine and have been grown at this winery for hundreds of years. The Steinberg 30-hectare vineyard is the oldest on property and dates from 1239 AD.
- Kloster Eberbach: Kloster-Eberbach-Straße 1, 65346 Eltville am Rhein
After suffering massive damage during the Thirty Years’ War, almost all 300 monks and lay brothers left the monastery. When the reconstruction began, only 20 of them returned to help with the process. Eberbach Kloster had another period of wealth in the 18th century before going into decline following the French Revolution. Starting in 1998, the monastery became part of Stiftung Kloster Eberbach (Stiftung = Foundation) and the winery became a GmbH (a privately held company). By making the monastery part of a foundation, they are able to distribute money towards restoration and preservation efforts.
Interested in drinking to your heart’s content? Check out staying on-site at Gästehaus Kloster Eberbach (Hotel Kloster Eberbach)! The 28 double rooms from the 16th century formerly served as a mill and barn.
- Hotel Kloster Eberbach: Kloster Eberbach, 65346, Eltville am Rhein
If you’re unable to get a reservation at Hotel Kloster Eberbach, there are two other options close by that provide accommodation. You can also book a hotel in the next closest town of Eltville, one of my favorite villages in the region.
- Gästezimmer Hans-Norbert Mack: Taunusstr. 95, 65375 Hallgarten, Germany – compare prices here
- Hotel Zum Rebhang: Rebhangstr. 53, 65375 Oestrich-Winkel (Hallgarten), Germany – compare prices here
This year alone, about 2.5 million bottles of wine were produced. As this was a particularly good year (which resulted in the grapes ripening earlier than normal), 700,000 liters of wine had to be outsourced for production. On site can handle around 1.8 million liters of wine. If you’re looking to buy a wine from Kloster Eberbach, the 2010 and 2013 vintage Rieslings are particularly recommended :) All wine made on location is produced in the modern wine cellar (built in 2008).
Family-owned Georg Breuer Winery in Rüdesheim
In contrast to Kloster Eberbach, the family-owned Georg Breuer Winery located in nearby Rüdesheim is on a total of 34 hectares. The estate has been owned by the Breuer family since the beginning of the 20th century. Peter Breuer gave the estate to his son Georg Breuer (the namesake of the winery), who enlarged the estate and increased the export of wines. Georg’s sons Heinrich and Bernhard Breuer took over the estate from Georg and expanded to 15 hectares by the 1980s. Much of the success of Georg Breuer Winery, including international acclaim for the wines, stems from the hardwork and persistance of Bernhard Breuer. After his unexpected death in 2004, his daughter Theresa took over the estate (she’s a total badass – how cool is it that a woman is running this winery!?)
“I wish to produce wines that make the specific characteristics of their origin visible” – Bernhard Breuer
One of the coolest parts about the Georg Breuer Winery is that it isn’t located on one condensed plot of land. Instead, the 34 hectares is spread out between 120 different plots in both Rüdesheim and Rauenthal. Due to the different locations, the wine produced tastes slightly different from plot to plot, and the same type of wines from Rüdesheim have a slightly different taste than the same wines produced in Rauenthal. Personally, I prefer wine from Rüdesheim – it tends to be more ripe and fruity. Every plot is picked one by one in order to keep everything separate, and Georg Breuer Winery produces around 260,000 bottles a year.
This map is actually an outline of the Rhine River and the plots in the Rheingau/Rüdesheim area. As you can see, these plots are located at 50 degrees (latitude).
- Georg Breuer Winery: Geisenheimer Straße 9, 65385 Rüdesheim am Rhein
About 85% of all wine produced by Georg Breuer Winery are Rieslings. Besides Rieslings, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris are the other most commonly produced wines from Georg Breuer. Theresa was an absolutely fantastic guide and did an extensive wine tasting with us – I loved that it didn’t feel pretentious at all! When asking about her philosophy on tasting wine and knowing when it is “ready,” she stated that it was more about a feeling than facts or figures. I’ll admit that I bought quite a few bottles of wine ;)
photo by Julia Teine Photographie
Eating and Wine Tasting at RheinWeinWelt
Although Vinothek RheinWeinWelt just opened in 2017, the location of Vinothek RheinWeinWelt has a long history of producing alcohol. In 1892, distiller Hugo Asbach founded a cognac company. After the treaty of Versailles forbade German producers from using the term “cognac,” Asbach rebranded as Weinbrand (brandy). In 2007, after producing in this Rüdesheim location for more than 100 years, the brandy business was moved to Saxon and the building was left for ruin. After hundreds of thousands of Euros of investment, the former Asbach Uralt distillery building was renovated and Vinothek RheinWeinWelt opened in 2017.
Vinothek RheinWeinWelt incorporated aspects of the original building through the glass floor tiles. With over 1,000 square meters of space, there are ample opportunities for lots of wine tasting! Over 76 local wine makers are featured here and the best part? You don’t have to decide between wines! There are options to sample as many wines as possible through the wine dispensers set up in the different rooms. If you taste a wine you particularly love, you have the option to purchase a bottle of wine.
Additionally, there are local meats, cheeses, and regional delicacies available to eat while sipping on your wine. I went absolutely crazy on the regional cheeses and probably ate an entire platter myself! Everything was absolutely delicious and it was a great spot to stop for lunch during a day of wine tasting.
- RheinWeinWelt: Am Rottland 6, 65385 Rüdesheim am Rhein
Discovering Schloss Vollrads
When we pulled up to Schloss Vollrads, it was pouring rain so our tour was slightly changed last minute. However, our plans couldn’t be dampened when there was a Christmas market taking place at the castle! Instead of getting a tour of the different kinds of wines produced at Schloss Vollrads, we got a private tour of the interior of the castle (something not generally seen by the public).
- Schloss Vollrads: Vollradser Allee, 65375 Oestrich-Winkel
Schloss Vollrads is not only a castle but has been a wine-producing estate for over 800 years! It’s currently considered one of the top 100 best wineries in the world. The oldest wine bill of sale dates back to Schloss Vollrads in 1211 AD when wine was sold from the estate to St. Viktor’s monastery in Mainz. Until 1997, the von Greiffenclau family owned the castle and the wine estate. It is assumed that they settled in the region around the 9th century and possibly moved to this area with Charlemagne. The family built a tower in 1313 AD on top of Roman ruins and remained there until building the current-day castle in 1684 AD. The tower has one of the rarest, best preserved libraries in Europe. Goethe even had the opportunity to visit the estate in the 1800s.
Resting on 80 hectares, the Schloss Vollrads estate produces 100% Rieslings. The estate was completely family owned until 1997, when it declared bankruptcy and was taken over by the bank. However, the estate still continues to produce wine and holds a multitude of events, including the Christmas market.
The arrival of St. Nick – the children (and myself) went crazy! Photos by Julia Teine Photographie
Where to Eat in Mainz
I’m a huge foodie and there’s no shortage of places to eat in Mainz. If you’re looking for an authentic wine experience, stop by one of the local Weinstubes in Mainz. A Weinstube is a German wine bar or tavern – they tend to serve local wines and regionally made food. Mainz has plenty and make sure to try a few (there are usually local wine favorites at each one!).
However, I think I might have had the best meal of 2018 while on my trip with BottleStops at Laurenz in Mainz.
Laurenz in Mainz
Where do I even begin describing my delicious meal at Laurenz in Mainz? Everything was melt-in-your-mouth delicious and I left Laurenz dreaming about my meal for days to come. When I next come back to Mainz, I definitely plan on taking the Prince there because I know he’ll absolutely love it!
- Laurenz: Gartenfeldstr. 9, 55118 Mainz
The meal was three courses with a new wine for each course. We also received a cute slice of bread with olives before any of our courses arrived. Our starting course was a lobster bisque. As delicious as it sounded, I was unable to eat it due to allergies. However, the restaurant made it easy to switch it out for a wild herb salad with apple and citrus slices along with a calamansi dressing. It was served with a super light and refreshing pinot blanc and chardonnay blend from the Rheinhessen wine region of Germany.
The second course was so absolutely delicious that I’m still dreaming of it. It was venison wrapped in an amazing crust with a chestnut cream, red cabbage, sweet potatoes, and peanuts. While that might seem like an odd combination, it worked perfectly together. It was paired with a delicious (and very light!) German pinot noir from the Baden wine region. Even though I am not a huge fan of red wines, I found this one to be quite refreshing and worked perfectly with our meal. Seriously, I would make the 4+ hour trip back to Mainz just to have this one dish again!
For our final course (dessert!), I ate a salad with chervil root, a white chocolate sorbet, vanilla oranges, and salted and chopped macadamia nuts. While I prefer my desserts to be a bit more sweet, the dessert paired perfectly with a Riesling from the Mosel region of Germany. The Mosel is actually next on my list of wine regions to visit!
If you’re headed to Mainz and looking for a special meal, head over to Laurenz. The food is fabulous, the wine is delicious, the ambiance is perfect, and the service is very attentive. As I mentioned above, I’m looking for any excuse to return to Mainz with the Prince – just to visit Laurenz again!
Where to Drink in Mainz
As the center of Germany’s wine culture, the city is brimming with opportunities and places for a drink or two. If you’re looking for a more traditional experience, head to one of the many Weinstubes (English: wine bars or taverns). Most Weinstubes specialize in wine from one region of Germany or have a favorite wine (much like bars tend to favor a specific type of beer!). Here are some of the best Weinstubes in Mainz:
- Weinstube Zum Bacchus: Jakobsbergstraße 7, 55116 Mainz
- Weinstube Rote Kopf: Rotekopfgasse 4, 55116 Mainz
- Weinhaus Wilhelmi: Rheinstraße 53, 55116 Mainz
- Weinhaus Zum Spiegel: Leichhof 1, 55116 Mainz
If you’re looking for a more modern and alternative option to a traditional Weinstube, look no further than wineBANK Mainz!
As a member’s only club, wineBANK Mainz is an exclusive member’s only drinking association located almost 70 meters underground! Members are allowed to rent cellars or compartments for their wine collection. The monthly fee paid to store wine also covers the cost of drinking there and allows 24/7 access. The wineBANK in Mainz is particularly chic and there are plenty of areas to relax with a glass of wine.
- wineBANK Mainz: Im Altmünsterhof, Kupferberg Terrassenstrasse 18, 55116 Mainz
A membership to wineBANK Mainz gives you access to all the wineBANK’s around the world. There are currently several locations in Germany (including Hamburg!) as well as locations in Spain, Austria, and the USA (branded as wineLAIR in the latter).
The best part about wineBANK Mainz is the ambiance – it feels like a very upscale, exclusive location that’s quiet and great for a relaxing atmosphere. As this was our last stop, it was a wonderful place to unwind in the evening!
Finished the evening by drinking a wine significantly older than me (spoiler: it was delicious!)
If you’re looking to have a more chill evening and don’t want to actually go out, pick up a few drinks by the Mainz-based company Sechzisch Vierzisch! They specialize in Weinschorles – alcoholic drinks that are a mix of wine and sparkling water (super popular in Germany, especially in the summer months). The name is actually a play on the local Rheinhessen dialect. Sechzisch = Sechzig = 60 (in English) and Vierzisch = Vierzig = 40 (in English). All the drinks are 60% local wine and 40% sparkling water.
There are currently three products right now:
- White wine + sparkling water (the original)
- White wine + sparkling water + basil (my favorite!!!)
- Rose wine + orange sparkling lemonade
I am so glad that I’m able to order online because I will 100% be stocking up on the white wine + sparkling water + basil version. Plus, the bottles are super adorable and were actually a German Design Award Winner in 2018!
I mean, how can you resist buying when the bottles are this cute???
The company was kind enough to give us a private tasting of all the varieties as well as a gift bag to take home with extras from all the flavors! It took a lot of willpower to save the basil one for more than a few days (and the Prince was strictly told that he was not allowed to drink any of them!) :)
Where to Stay in Mainz
I’m picky about my hotels when traveling (something that’s only become worse the past few years!). I hate spending a lot of money but also like the finer perks of traveling. Enter me and all hotel in Mainz – solving all my hotel woes, providing me a budget price, and giving me lots of extra perks!
- me and all hotel Mainz: Binger Str. 23, 55131 Mainz
me and all hotel in Mainz
Comfy (large!) bed? Check! Cool interior? Check! Yummy (filling!) breakfast? Check! Plus, there were so many little perks and thoughts that went into creating this hotel. Only opened in autumn 2018, me and all hotel in Mainz should definitely be your hotel of choice on your next trip to Mainz. It is only a 5-minute walk away from the main train station, making it easy to access even if you have an early morning or late evening train.
Just part of the spa/sauna/relation area
I was lucky enough to get a private tour of the hotel and was blown away by the thought and details – in particular, baskets next to the sink to hold all your toiletries? Clearly a woman designed the bathroom! I think all of us women talked about that feature for a good 5 minutes because it is so easy and smart, yet so overlooked (raise your hand if you struggle with always trying to fit your stuff on a tiny sink!).
You’ll just find me relaxing here all day – why leave the hotel when you have this?
While I was only there a night and not able to take advantage of these amenities, there is a dedicated, state-of-the-art workout area and sauna. Double bonus is the amazing view you get from both locations in the hotel! To give a more local and young feel to the hotel, they are constantly inviting in local artists, performers, and DJs to give mini concerts in the living room area. It’s a great way to provide entertainment and support the local community.
me and all hotels has a few other locations around Germany and are rapidly expanding. They currently only have this location in Mainz as well as their original location in Düsseldorf (which I eagerly want to try out because I have yet to properly explore Düsseldorf!). Additionally, they are opening a new location in Kiel (my boyfriend’s hometown!) and Hannover later this year.
Below is a super cool initiative called “Before I Die…” – guests are able to post their hopes, dreams, and goals before they die. As you can tell, they go from funny to adventurous to serious. I think it’s a great way to include guests into a hotel experience and interject a bit of personality.
If you’re headed to Mainz – whether to do a wine tour with BottleStops, a bit of independent sightseeing, or a business trip – I’d highly recommend staying at all and me hotel!
Perks of Traveling with BottleStops
I would 100% do another wine tour with BottleStops (next stop: Mosel, which has been a bucket list wine region for me for years)! It just made the organization so easy – no hassle in trying to figure out the most efficient route and deciding the designated driver. Jérôme, the founder of BottleStops, went above and beyond to make sure we all had a wonderful experience. It was clear from the beginning how much he loves Germany’s wine culture. He found a great balance between giving us historical and factual information while making it really fun and enjoyable.
I love that every place we went, the owner knew him – it made it feel like such a local and intimate experience. Plus, he is always thinking about the small details. When we got into the car, he already had bottles of water for everyone as well as a pretzel to ensure that everyone ate and drank enough during a full day of wine tasting! I’d highly recommend taking the stress out of planning your own wine trip and schedule one through BottleStops – Jérôme has you covered!
P.S. He’s hosting a wine and food tour with one of my favorite bloggers: A Sausage Has Two. They’ll be leading this tour on April 13th in Mainz. If you’re interested, you can sign up here: Wine & Food Tour.
I’d like to share a special thanks to Jérôme of BottleStops for organizing everything, Laurenz for the delicious meal, and me and all hotel Mainz for hosting me!