In almost all 136 municipalities of Rheinhessen (except for three) viticulture is carried out on 414 locations. The subject of the vineyards will occupy us even more intensively in the near future with the profiling of origin in the new wine law. The largest wine-growing "community" in Rheinhessen is Worms with 1,605 hectares of vineyards. The two other municipalities in the top 3, Westhofen and Nierstein, each with 800 hectares, are still much larger than the Ahr, Hessische Bergstrasse or Middle Rhine wine-growing regions.
The vineyards of Rheinhessen are currently cultivated by almost 2,400 wine-growing businesses, only about half of which actually appear on the market as self-marketing wineries, the rest deliver their harvest to cooperatives and producer groups or sell them to wineries. The number of wine-growing businesses has halved in the past 20 years. Smaller part-time and after-work businesses in particular are giving up and the areas are being taken over by ever larger wine-growing businesses. In the face of structural change, the purely family business is increasingly becoming an employer. In the viticulture schools there are more and more career changers with a lot of interest and fun in manual work in nature and in the cellar.
The climatic data in the knee of the Rhine have developed extremely positively for viticulture over the past 20 years. The annual average temperature has risen by over 1 degree to 10.5 degrees Celsius and, with milder winters, hardly causes any winter frost damage to the winemakers. The warming also enables the cultivation of international grape varieties which the older generation of winemakers would not have ripe every year. In contrast, precipitation in Germany's least rainy region has barely changed at 530 liters per square meter per year, but it is extremely different from region to region and from season to year. And it is precisely these weather extremes that will develop into the problem of climate change in the medium term: Sharply demarcated heavy rain or hailstorms alternate from year to year with frost damage when budding or extreme drought and more and more often leave the vintners with a fearful look at the more and more bluer with almost 2000 hours of sunshine the nascent sky over Rheinhessen.
These freak weather conditions also make the yields in the vineyards very different. In the past decade, they fluctuated between 7,600 and 11,200 liters per hectare of vineyards. The winemakers would do well to keep a small supply in the cellar for large vintages in order to compensate for smaller harvests. In 2020, 28,200 different wines with the origin “Rheinhessen” were marketed on the label, more than two thirds of them were white wines, almost a quarter red wines and one tenth rosé wines, which are currently very popular with wine lovers. Almost half of the wines are made dry, the rest are semi-dry and sweeter. Noble sweet selections and higher ratings hardly play a role in the amount of less than one percent. We are particularly pleased about the current increase of almost 7% in the sales volume of Rheinhessen plants compared to the 2019/2020 year-on-year comparison.
Rheinhessen has the world's largest Silvaner area with 2,100 hectares, but Riesling is the most cultivated variety in the vineyards with almost 5,000 hectares. The “bread and butter” variety Müller-Thurgau follows in second place with 4,000 hectares, before the Dornfelder (3,346 hectares) come third on the podium. The winemakers are currently making real money with the Pinot Gris, which does not make it into the top 3 in cultivation, but is extremely popular with wine connoisseurs at the moment. And after the Burgundy family, there is then a very colorful variety of grape varieties that grow on the 1,000 hills of the region. But that's also what defines Rheinhessen.