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The Nahe: Germany's rural star

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Nahe is a relatively young wine region in Germany – plantings date back only to the late-8th century. It is generally considered one of the top regions in the country, however, and like most top regions focuses primarily on riesling. Although not as extreme in its breakdown as either the Rheingau or Mosel, Nahe is nonetheless more than 75% white wine, and more than 25% riesling.

 

Historically, the Nahe was one of Germany’s most renowned wine regions. Throughout the 19th century, Nahe riesling fetched top-dollar in the international market, and was highly prized domestically. In the early part of the 20th century, however, the Nahe fell behind as other regions – such as the Mosel and Rheingau – made use of their industrial base to push ahead. The Nahe, with its primarily agricultural industry, fell behind and fell off the map for nearly half a century. Beginning in the 1980s, however, the winemakers in the Nahe began reforming their production practices, improving the overall quality of wine coming out of the region. In the past decade, the Nahe has become known on the international stage for rieslings that rival those of the Mosel and the Rheingau.

 

In recent years a number of sites with extreme south-facing slopes have been planted in Mediterranean style red varietals, to make use of their unique microclimates. Although these wines haven’t become widely recognized yet, they represent a fascinating development in German winemaking, and the region may someday soon be known equally for its high-quality reds as it is for its whites.

 

Wine from the Nahe is less commonly exported than many regions in Germany, with the bulk going to domestic consumption. Indeed, much of the wine produced in the Nahe is not from co-operatives, and much of the style is influenced by the large supermarkets that buy up much of the wine. Wines of the Nahe are usually described as somewhere between those of the Mosel and those of the greater Rhine – two areas it also happens to lie between geographically. That means that Nahe wines marry the sweetness and sharp acidity of the Mosel with a rounder, richer feel more often found in the Rhine regions. Top Nahe wines transcend this description, however, with the spiciness found in only the best German riesling. Wineries to watch for include Dönnhoff wines, using grapes mostly from the Niederhaus region, Emrich-Schönleber, and Crusius.