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The Hessische Bergstraße wine region, market square in Heppenheim

The Hessische Bergstrasse wine region: quality not quantity

It was probably the Romans who first introduced vines to the strata montana, but the earliest records of viticulture in the Bergstrasse region are from the 8th century and relate to Lorsch Imperial Abbey. In 1971, Hessische Bergstrasse became an independent wine-growing region and today it is the smallest of Germany's 13 wine regions. It consists of two separate geographical areas: Starkenburg, south of Darmstadt, comprises the towns of Alsbach, Zwingenberg, Bensheim and Heppenheim, while the 'Odenwald wine island' is the area in and around Gross-Umstadt and Rossdorf.

Regional characteristics

Area under vine and grape varieties

Soil types

Climate

Growers and cooperatives

Character

Highlights from the wine region

The Bergstrasse Route runs for approximately 80 km between the Rhine Plain, the Rhine and Neckar rivers and the western slopes of the legendary Odenwald forest from the university city of Darmstadt in the north to the wine-growing city of Wiesloch south of Heidelberg. This charming little patch of vineyarded countryside is known for its fine wines and has many an exciting tale to tell. When Germany is in bloom, we can tell you exactly where spring can be enjoyed at its fullest.

The Bergstrasse, which was once known to the Romans as the "Strata Montana", is nestled in a mild-climated region that enchants visitors with its swathes of pink and white blossom in spring, lemon harvests, overflowing fine wines, flourishing sequioa trees and picturesque half-timbered medieval towns.

The Bergstrasse: the region with a racy local flavour

In the Bergstrasse wine growing region, the sun shines for 1,600 hours per year and the people who live here know that the sun produces the finest wines: varietal and distinctive wines like its famous riesling, which has striking names like Auerbacher Fürstenlager, Bensheimer Streichling or Heppenheimer Centgericht, or the pinot gris, pinot blanc or pinot noir that are also produced here. Wine from the Bergstrasse was first mentioned in the 8th century in the "Codex Laureshamensis" written by monks from the Abbey and Altenmünster of Lorsch. Charlemagne would later enjoy the wines here like so many of the great men who came before and after him.

Worth a visit

Just a stone's throw away from the kingdom of the legendary Nibelungs, the castles, palaces, royal residences and abbeys of the Bergstrasse line up one after the other like pearls on a string. These magnificent buildings are a testament to the wealth of the Middle Ages and are a reminder of a time of knights, princes and kings. Proud half-timbered town halls lord over cobbled market squares whilst the Abbey of Lorsch (Lorscher Reichskloster) is known for the central role it played in the politics of the region across the centuries. As the oldest building in Germany, the Carolingian gate house (King's Hall) is really worth a visit.

Worth experiencing

In the Bergstrasse region, culture and nature come together in harmony. Concerts, exhibitions and festivals at historic locations will tempt you at every turn while parks and gardens take centre stage in the region's wine festivals, historic parish fairs and chaotic town fairs. A good feast is always welcome on the Bergstrasse and visitors will be greeted with tables overflowing with fresh produce, fine wines and other regional delicacies.

Insider tip

This enchanting landscape, which straddles over 2,000 years of history from the past to the present, can also be travelled on foot, although you certainly don't have to walk the entire route. An immersive experience from beginning to end and always worth visiting: if you've never been, then now is the time to see what all the fuss is about!

The Wine and Stone trail in Heppenheim an der Bergstrasse combines wine and art in a remarkable way by illustrating the cultural history of wine in works of art. The 6.9km trail links a total of 70 exhibits on the theme of wine-making – which must be a European record. You can spend days here, and still learn something new.

Lorsch Abbey in the Hessische Bergstrasse region has probably done more to preserve the history of wine-making than anywhere else in Germany. Countless places in Baden, Franconia and Rheinhessen are able to trace their viticultural history back to the early Middle Ages because of Lorsch Abbey, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

More than eighty years old but still in its prime. The first Bergstrasse Vintners' Festival may have been held in Bensheim back in 1929, but it remains a firm favourite for all ages and among wine enthusiasts from the local area and beyond. South Hessen's biggest wine festival has a young, fresh and modern image – but it still retains its traditional charm.

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