The term Terroir…tasting the origin
Provenance is very important and traditional for German and European wines. In recent years, German wine growers have begun to use the term terroir in this context. The direct translation of the French word means „soil, subsoil, source, provenance, location and vineyard“. However, the word actually describes much more: terroir signifies the overall effects of natural vineyard conditions plus the influence of the winemaker on the style of the wine. It includes site conditions such as soil type, water balance or hours of sunshine but also the grape variety or specific production and ageing procedures. Terroir signifies more than just soil, it means „a sense of place“. The term is not only used for wine but for many other agricultural products.
The winegrower modifies the natural conditions by implementing site-optimised viticultural practices to realize the full potential of the vineyard. The production of wines of a specific provenance depends on the selected grape sort, optimally an autochthonous grape, site-specific viticulture and the implementation of traditional oenological practices. The effects of environmental conditions and vintage are deliberately accepted in order to produce highly diverse wines. Of course, this provenance- based viticulture also affects the terroir.
However, some restraint is required when implementing oenological practices. Growing international grape varieties or using barrique barrels may be useful additions to winemaking in the Rheingau and Hessische Bergstrasse. However, this has a profound effect on the traditional character of the wines. Vintners producing specific brands will implement various oenological procedures to minimise the environmental effects. The result is a constant wine style, where provenance cannot be tasted. Only a few international sorts have managed to conquer the market. The project „Terroir Hessen“ is part of the discussion concerning the merits of provenance versus brand.
The cultural landscape Rheingau is located on the right bank on the Rhine from Walluf to Lorchhausen. Gently rolling hills extend from the Taunus down to the Rhine river. The Rheingau as landscape gives its name to the wine region.
The Rheingau has dry warm summer and mild winter. In the villages near the Rhine river grow Mediterranean trees such as fig trees, olives, apricots and peaches. At the steep slopes along the Rhine the vegetation has well adapted to the drought.
Hattenheim is a very important historical town in the Rheingau region, which had already been mentioned in the year 954. Restored half-timbered houses on small paved alleys adorn the city centre around the marketplace and historic town hall. One of its architectural treasures is the Hattenheimer Fortress, which was built in 1100 by the Lord of Hattenheim. Nowadays the fortress is open to different wine festivities and other activities the whole year through.
The wine-growing estate “Georg Müller Stiftung” is situated in the old town, Most of the vineyards are located in the Hattenheim region, in the very heart of the Rheingau.
The estate covers an area of approximately 14 hectares with excellent vineyard locations such as Nussbrunnen, Wisselbrunnen, Hassel, Schützenhaus, Engelmannsberg or Jungfer. In the vineyards of the wine-growing estate approximately 80% grow Riesling, 15% Spätburgunder as well as Frühburgunder, Müller-Thurgau, Auxerrois, Sauvignon Blanc and Ehrenfelser in an environmentally sustainable way.