Lush greenery, romantic river valleys and dramatic rock formations are what lend the Nahe region in south-west Germany its distinctive character. Its mild climate ensures that grapes ripen early and develop a pleasing acidity. The 130km Nahe Wine Route links wine-growing villages, castles and natural beauty such as the Rotenfels rock face and the Trollbachtal Valley. The Edelschliff showcases what this region can do: a fine riesling, chosen by a jury, is presented in a designer bottle decorated with a gemstone from Idar-Oberstein.
The Nahe wine-growing area covers more than 4,000 hectares. Vineyards line the river Nahe from Martinstein to the point at which it joins the Rhine near Bingen, and spread out along the banks of its tributary rivers, the Ellerbach, Guldenbach, Gräfenbach, Glan and Alsenz. The vines thrive both on the gently undulating hills and on some of the steeper slopes. Seventy-five per cent of the area under vine is devoted to white wine varieties, predominantly riesling, müller-thurgau, silvaner and kerner, although pinot blanc and pinot gris have also become popular in recent years. Among the reds, dornfelder leads the way, followed by pinot noir, portugieser and regent.
The Nahe wine-growing region is shaped by its turbulent geological past. No other German wine-growing region has such a great diversity of parent rock. Along the lower reaches of the Nahe, quartzite and slate soils predominate. Rhyolite, melaphyre and red sandstone are more common along the upper section of the river in the wine-growing area between Traisen and Monzingen. Weathered soils and clay overlaid with sandstone, loam and loess are found around Bad Kreuznach. The variety of rock and soil is reflected in the many nuances of Nahe wines.
The climate of the region is temperate, mild and dry. On the lower stretches of the river between Bingen and Bad Kreuznach, pinot grapes and red varieties which are very particular about climate thrive particularly well, producing high must weights and a moderate acidity structure. On the upper Nahe and its side valleys, the climate is influenced by the cooler air masses of the Soonwald forest and the hills of the Hunsrück and North Palatinate regions. The grapes ripen later here, which is particularly beneficial in terms of bouquet and the acidity structure of the riesling and produces racy, fruity, lean wines.
Almost 50 per cent of the wines produced in the Nahe region are marketed directly to consumers via 300 or so businesses. Two cooperatives are also helping to expand the market for Nahe wines: the Winzergenossenschaft Moselland which sells wines under the 'Weinkellerei Nahetal' brand and the Winzergenossenschaft Rheingrafenberg in Meddersheim. The best estates in the Nahe region include Dautenpflänzer in Münster-Sarmsheim, Felseneck in Bockenau, Pittermännchen in Dorsheim, Frühlingsplätzchen in Monzingen, Hermannshöhle in Niederhausen, Traisener Bastei and Beutelstein in Oberndorf.
The Nahe winegrowers are as diverse as their wines, but one thing they have in common is their love of nature and of their region. They are also hospitable and like nothing better than a big party. Every weekend between March and December there is a festival, a fair or a wine presentation going on somewhere in the Nahe region. And visitors are always welcome.
The Nahe Cycle Route begins at the source of the Nahe river by Lake Bostalsee, reluctant though you may be to leave the lake and its many leisure activities.
The signed Nahe Wine Route winds its way alongside the river Nahe through some 130 kilometres of this convivial wine region where spring comes early and the summertime lingers.