West of Mainz, on the gently sloping north bank of the Rhine, lies the Rheingau, one of Germany’s most prestigious wine-growing regions, known for its Riesling and Spätburgunder or Pinot Noir. The English term Hock for German wines derives from Hochheim near Wiesbaden, whose wines found favour with Queen Victoria. It’s a region of photogenic, vine-clad hillsides and pretty villages, and one unmissable attraction: the hauntingly beautiful Gothic monastery of Kloster Eberbach. At the western end of the region, the day-tripper magnet of Rüdesheim balances brash commercialism with a range of fine- and wet-weather attractions.
The Rheingau has a busy programme of wine-related festivals all year round, from a gourmet festival in early March to Kiedrich’s Rieslingfest in June and the Riesling Gala at Kloster Eberbach in November. Tourist offices have details.Read More
The Rheingau wine routes
The Rheingau wine routes
Separate but broadly parallel – the Rheingauer-Riesling Route for cars, the Riesling Radwanderweg for cyclists and the Rieslingpfad for hikers – meander west from Wiesbaden past vineyards, villages and historic landmarks, with plenty of spots to stop and sample local wines along the way, including seasonal wine-maker-run Strausswirtschaften.
The cyclists’ route stays closest to the river while the hikers’ route hugs the higher and more scenic ground on the fringe of the Taunus, but all three thread their way through wine-growing villages – Eltville, Kiedrich, Oestrich-Winkel among them – and pass Kloster Eberbach.
After the beauty and tranquillity of the Rheingau landscape, first impressions of Rüdesheim can come as a shock, above all the noisy, crowded Drosselgasse, a narrow lane leading up from the river into which tour groups are funnelled for an over-amplified facsimile of German joviality. Having suffered wartime bombardment, Rüdesheim’s not even consistently pretty. Yet beneath the veneer of plastic oompah lurks a genuine wine-growing village with quaint and peaceful corners worth exploring, including at the uphill end of Drosselgasse on Oberstrasse where the half-timbered Brömserhof at no. 29 dates from 1542 and now houses Siegfried’s Mechanisches Musikkabinett (March–Dec daily 10am–6pm; €6), a quirky collection of musical automata. Another saggy half-timbered beauty worth seeking out is the early sixteenth-century Klunkhardshof, in a narrow lane off Markt two blocks east of Drosselgasse. Meanwhile, at the eastern edge of town – a twenty-minute walk from the centre – you can watch a short presentation and buy a variety of local brandies from the Asbach distillery at the Asbach Besucher Center, Ingelheimer Str. 4 (March–Dec Tues–Sat 9am–5pm; free; asbach.de).