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The Viticultural Lexicon – Rheinhessen

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Poetically referred to as the “land of the thousand hills”, Rheinhessen is one of the driest regions of Germany, with less than 500mm of precipitation per year. Vines have been planted here since Roman times, and viticulture was encouraged by Charlemagne.

Rheinhessen is the largest of Germany’s 13 wine regions (Weinanbaugebiete), responsible for the largest amount of Qualitätswein in the country. In this regard, it is not unlike Languedoc-Roussillon of France, which produces the largest volume of Vin de Pays. Despite its name, Rheinhessen is actually not part of the federal state (Bundesland) of Hessen, but of Rheinland-Pfalz. As with other regions in Germany (except Ahr and Württemberg), white wine represents the majority in Rheinhessen at 69%.

The diversity and variety of grapes planted in Rheinhessen are perhaps singular in Germany, with no single variety constituting more than 16.5% of total production. Indeed, vineyards are often found next to orchards and groves. It can be described as a fertile land for oenological experiments and innovation.

Fuchs Faberrebe Feinherb 2012
Soft lemon-yellow with pastel golden reflex, the exotic nose presents pomelo peel, apricot and guava, elaborated with white flower. Medium-bodied at 12% and with adequate acidity, the juicy palate supplies lime, pomelo, greengage and nectarine.

Created in 1929 by crossing Pinot Blanc (a mutation of Pinot Noir) with Müller-Thurgau (often labelled as Rivaner if vinified dry; per se a crossing of Riesling and Madeleine Royale), Faberrebe (or simply Faber) was one of the new varieties by Germany’s leading horticulturalist Justus Georg Scheu, whose prolific creations included Huxelrebe, Siegerrebe, Kanzler, Regner, Septimer, Würzer, Perle von Alzey and the eponymous Scheurebe, which is often regarded as the most successful of new varieties. Grown in Rheinhessen and England, Faberrebe is high in acidity and must weight. The ability to ripen in cold climates is its strength, but its weakness lies in the lack of distinctive fruit flavours.

Fuchs Grüner Silvaner Trocken 2012
Light lemon-yellow with pale golden reflex, the refreshing nose offers lime, grapefruit and Tianjin pear, decorated by citrus blossom. Medium-bodied at 12.5% and with ample acidity, the fleshy palate delivers lime peel, lemon, guava and dried apricot.

Grüner Silvaner (or simply Sylvaner / Silvaner) is an ancient variety, a crossing of Traminer and Österreichisch-Weiß. Possibly originated from Austria, it is mainly grown in Alsace and Germany. Notwithstanding the Liebfraumilch craze of the 60s and 70s, Grüner Silvaner can produce fine wines, eg Alsace Grand Cru (in Zotzenberg only), as well as Erste Lage and even Großes Gewächs in Franken and Saale-Unstrut under VDP (Verband Deutscher Prädikats- und Qualitätsweingüter) regulations. Grüner Silvaner is vigorous, high in acidity and must weight. Rather neutral in taste, it is very much a blank canvas – or winemaker’s wine – as Chardonnay (minus the oak option)

Fuchs Huxelrebe Beerenauslese 2011
Rich lemon-yellow with bright jonquil reflex, the luxurious nose radiates nectarine, passion fruit, white clover honey and crystallised mandarin, decorated by elderflower. Medium-full bodied at 13%, supported by vivacious acidity and slight petillance, the honeyed palate exudes tangerine, ume, dried mango and sultana, garnished with honeysuckle.

An earlier creation by Justus Georg Scheu in 1927, Huxelrebe is a crossing of Chasselas (aka Gutedel) and Muscat Précoce de Saumur (aka Courtillier Musqué). It was named after Friedrich Huxel, who was the first to cultivate the new variety extensively. Mainly grown in Rheinhessen, Pfalz and England, Huxelrebe is high-yielding and early-ripening, possessing good acidity and must weight even in cool climate.

Contact: Ms Hildegard Fuchs of Weingut Fuchs, E: fuchs@weingut-fuchs.de; T: +49 6243 213; A: Burggaße 1, D-67592, Flörsheim-Dalsheim, Germany

Jacky I.F. Cheong is a legal professional by day and columnist by night. Having spent his formative years in Britain, France, and Germany, he regularly writes about wine, fine arts, classical music, and politics in several languages.

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