Wine Regions of Germany

Often Overlooked and Underrated, German Wines will Surprise You

When you ask someone about German wines, you usually get one of two responses. One waxes on about the elegant dry whites, while the other dismisses the whole country for its cheap, sweet, un-oaked whites with low ABV. So, unless you are big into white wines, especially Rieslings, you probably don’t know much about German wine. Read on to learn about the different regions and some of the stellar wines they produce.

Germany has 13 wine regions. Sixty percent of wines are produced in the Rhineland-Palatinate region in the west. It’s a picturesque area filled with forests, castles, and the Rhine. Many grapes are grown on the spectacular steep slopes of the Rhine.

German wines are grown at the upper end of the mid-latitude range (30 to 50 degrees) which is the most conducive to viticulture. With a latitude of 51 degrees, and a growing season cooler and shorter than most other wine areas, many German wines are known for their crispness. With its limited number of growing days over 50 degrees F (10 C), the cool climate produces acid-heavy, low alcohol wines.

German wines are grown at the upper end of the mid-latitude range (30 to 50 degrees) which is the most conducive to viticulture. With a latitude of 51 degrees, and a growing season cooler and shorter than most other wine areas, many German wines are known for their crispness. With its limited number of growing days over 50 degrees F (10 C), the cool climate produces acid-heavy, low alcohol wines.

In the description: 1- Ahd, 2- Baden, 3- Franken, 4- Hessische Bergstraße, 5- Mittelrhein, 6- Mosel, 7- Nahe, 8- Pfalz, 9- Rheingau, 10- Rheinhessen, 11- Saale-Unstrut, 12- Sachsen, and 13- Württemberg.

The Regions

Of the 13 German wine regions, all but Saale-Unstrut and Sachsen are in the south. Most of the regions are situated right off the Rhine. Diversity comes from the different varietals and variations in soil types as well as the long history of viticulture in Germany. The Romans brought vines to Germany around 2,000 years ago.

1. Ahd

If you are drinking a Spätburgunder--German for Pinot Noir--you are probably drinking a bottle from the Ahd, just south of Bonn. One of the smallest wine-growing regions, it is renowned for its red wines produced with grapes grown on terraced cliffs in volcanic soil.

Germans like to keep the best wines in the country.So finding an Ahd Pinot Noir is a bit like finding a 4-leaf clover. If you find one, pick it up!

2. Baden

The most southern of Germany’s wine regions, Baden sits along the Rhine on the edge of the Black Forest. The area is famous for its food and wine. Wines include Pinot Noirs and Rivaner, a cross between Riesling and Gutedel.

Wines from Baden are more easily found in the U.S. Try anything from Burg Ravensburg, but if you can find their 2013 Löchle Pinot Noir, it is a treat.

3. Franken

With its cool climate, earlier ripening grapes like Rivaner and Bacchus thrive here. The region sits just east of Frankfurt and is known for Silvaner, an unusual wine often bottled in the iconic Bolcksbeutel wine bottle style. You can’t miss its short-necked, potbellied, flat-bottomed bottle on the shelf.

Silvaner is a perfect spring wine with its light and fragrant style. Although not all are sold here in the iconic Bocksbeutel bottles, they are easy to find in the U.S. Try a Hans Wirsching’s 2020 Iphöfer Kalb Silvaner or a Bickel Stumpf’s 2020 Kapellenberg Frickenhausen Silvaner Trocken.

View from the Floersheimer viewpoint on Frankfurt Germany

View from the Floersheimer viewpoint on Frankfurt German

4. Hessische Bergstraße

Hessische Bergstraße sits on an old Roman road. It is the smallest of all the German wine regions, with only 1,150 acres of vineyards. The region produces primarily dry red and white wines. And most of them stay in the country due to its small production and proximity to Frankfurt and Mannheim.

5. Mittelrhein

On the banks of the Rhine, Mittelrhein is known for its steeply terraced vineyards and medieval castles that dot the area around the Rhine Gorge. Mittelrhein is a major producer of Riesling used in making Germany’s sparkling wine, Sekt.

Wine Magazine considered Sekt one of Germany’s best-kept secrets. Look for Sekt labeled Trocken - the German word for dry, for an exceptional dry sparkling wine. You can find Sekt from many online wine sellers.

6. Mosel

The Mosel Valley is Germany’s fourth-largest wine-producing region. It is home to some of the most delicate Riesling wines due, in part, to the slatey soil. Rieslings from this region are prized for their balance of acidity and fruit and mineral notes. Dr. Heidemanns, a popular import, has a range of Rieslings available in the U.S., from dry to sweet Beerenauslese. Beerenauslese is the designation for a specific level of sweetness achieved when grapes infected with noble rot and left on the vine to age. (Noble rot is encouraged by vintners as it impacts the sweetness of the grape; it is a fungus related to those found in penicillin and blue cheese.)

Scenic View To Village Of Zell at the Moselle Valley

Scenic View To Village Of Zell at the Moselle Valley

7. Nahe

Nate is like the Costa Rica of German Wine regions; there is so much range in soil types that just about anything is possible. The soils range from steep volcanic stone and red clay to flat loam and sandy soil stretches. There is so much diversity that the area is divided into seven subregions. Each of these grows up to 15 different vines from Riesling, Dornfelder, and Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) to Silvaner and Chardonnay.

8. Pfalz

Pfalz is one of Germany’s driest and sunniest areas. Forty percent of its vineyards are planted in red grape varieties, with Dornfelder and Pinot Noir dominating. The reds produced in the region are prized for their light palate with flavors of wild berries, rhubarb, black tea, and spices prevailing. Wines from this region, both white and red, regularly score in the 90s. Check out Wine Enthusiast’s list of some of the best wines from Pfalz.

Vineyards in Pfalz Germany with autumn colorsVineyards in Pfalz Germany with autumn colors

9. Rheingau

Steeped in history, the Rheingau wine region was where wine-growers first began harvesting Riesling grapes at various stages of development. This trend continues with viticulture education and research at Geisenheim University. The local Riesling is known for its spicy fragrance and rich flavor. The Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) tends to be full-bodied and velvety, with notes of blackberries.

Corvers Kauter’s  Rudesheimer Drachenstein Spätburgunder Trocken is an excellent bottle to begin exploring the region’s Pinot Noirs.

Vineyards of the Rheingau Wine Region on the Rhine Hills

Vineyards of the Rheingau Wine Region on the Rhine Hills

10. Rheinhessen

One of the leading producers of Liebfraumilch--those cheap sweet wines many associates with German wine and abhor--Rheinhessen has experienced a renaissance of winemaking. An influx of young, well-traveled, and collaborative winemakers are making wines that focus on classic grapes like Riesling, Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc), and Spätburgunder. They are still hard to find in the U.S. but are well worth the search.

11. Saale-Unstrut

Consistently cultured since AD 998, the Saale-Unstrut is unusual in its history and location north of the 51st parallel. Its location makes it the northernmost quality wine-producing region. Due to its location, Saale-Unstrut relies heavily on Müller-Thurgau and Weißer Burgunder grape varieties. These handle the short growing season well and have a different character when grown at higher latitudes. 

Quality, or Qualitätswein, and Prädikatswein, superior quality, are legal definitions for German wine. They each have specific attributes including ABV, dry and sweetness levels. The Prädikatswein designation even drills down to rating the ripeness level of the grapes. (It’s kind of like how Bourbon and Whiskey are defined here in the U.S.) 

Freyburg in the Saale Unstrut Wine Growing Region

Freyburg in the Saale Unstrut Wine Growing Region


Sometimes referred to as Saxony, the Sachsen region in the Elbe Valley is situated near Dresden. Sachsen, like Saale-Unstrut, does better with early-ripening grapes like Müller-Thurgau. Gewürztraminer is considered a regional specialty but is difficult to find outside of Germany.

13. Württemberg

Reds predominate in this wine region not far from Baden. Rather than the more common Spätburgunder, Württemberg grows Pinot Meunier, an early-ripening variety of Pinot Noir called Schwarzriesling (black Riesling). In France, it is the secret behind Champagne. In Germany, it is more often bottled as still than sparkling.

Schwarzriesling is used to create Schillerwein, an acidic pink wine with a smoky flavor. Some winemakers are also using Schwarzriesling to make Sekt.

Drinking White Wines

When picking any white, or any wine for that matter, where and when it will be imbibed is critical. For white wines, low alcohol + high acidity makes for an excellent refreshing wine on a hot day.

Unfiltered whites don’t produce sediments like red, but you may find tiny crystals (called tartrates) at the bottom of the cork. If you see those, it might be time to bring out the decanter. Carefully pour out the wine, filtering the crystals with an unbleached coffee filter or fine mesh aerator.  Another reason to decant is to bring the wine’s temperature up or down. Decanting a wine that got a little too cold will raise its temperature faster than if you leave it in the bottle. If your decanter is made of thinner glass than your wine bottle, you can decant and chill it faster. This way, you can always have your wine at its optimal temperature.

Beyond Liebfraumilch

Now when you think of German wines, you no longer dwell on the sweet, cheap Liebfraumilch wine of old, but the amazing variety of wines coming out of Germany’s wine regions. The next time you wander down the wine aisle, take a moment to see what German wines they have on offer; you might find a gem.

 A Bottle of Liebfraumilch Wine

If you do, let us know in the comments.