The Nahe wine region is located in between the Mosel and Pfalz wine regions, in the area around the Rhein River tributary. The Nahe wine region is not very big – about a fifth of the vineyard area of Pfalz and a bit more than half that of Mosel – but what makes Nahe so special is the extraordinary number of soil types. They tell a tale of the region's volcanic past.
In the early days Nahe was disregarded as a wine region. Here it took the Roman settlers some 500 years longer than in other present-day German areas to begin vineyard cultivation. Once started, however, and all the way up to the 19th century, Nahe was renowned for producing some of the finest wines in Germany. From there Nahe – because of wars and economic hardship – winemaking all but stopped.
Then in the past 30 years came an astounding resurrection, tied in large part to the growing popularity of great German Rieslings among wine lovers.
It is interesting to note that craft winemaking has always been more apparent in Nahe than in most other German wine regions. It was because of this that Nahe fell behind in the 20th century when other German wine regions industrialized – but it is also because of this historic focus on smaller volume crafted wines that Nahe has been able to rise up once more.
Grape varieties in Nahe
Riesling is the leading white grape in Nahe followed by Müller-Thurgau and Silvaner. Among the reds, about 20% of the vined land is under Dornfelder (and this is likely to hold) even as Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) becomes increasingly popular as a red grape of choice in Nahe.
Terroir and wines in the three subregions of Nahe
Nahe has everything in terms of soil: Volcanic sandstone, clay, limestone, sand, slate and more. These different terroirs offer unique conditions for growing a number of varieties in specific sites tailored by nature for their needs.
Nahe can be divided into three subregions, each with its own unique conditions for viticulture and thus winemaking: Upper Nahe, Bad Kreauznach and Lower Nahe.
This westerly located subregion includes some of the oldest vineyards in Nahe located around the villages of Martinstein Monzingen and Bad Münster am Stein-Ebernburg.
The area is noted for its steep slopes and terraced (man-made structures, where horizontal stonewalls provide support for the slopes, while preserving the benefits of a hillsides exposure to sunlight's) Riesling vineyards with diverse soils of sandstone, slate, melaphyre and porphyry. The climate provides favourable conditions for fully ripening grapes to produce dry wines with finesse, minerality and spice as well as sweeter and later harvest wines.
In the area of the main town, Bad Kreuznach, vineyard soils are filled with much more clay and loess (wind-blown silt). Some of the best south-facing vineyards are located just out of the Bad Kreuznach town, which allows for the making of fuller-bodied Rieslings.
In this subregion you can find some of the oldest family estates that were instrumental for Nahe’s resurrection as a producer of quality wine, as well as some of the new shakers and movers in the region.
As we head north towards where the Nahe river meets the Rhine near Bingen, the landscape becomes flatter and vineyard soils begin to gain more quartzite and slate. Riesling is still important here but less so than in the other Nahe subregions. Riesling from the Lower Nahe often displays characteristics of wet stone, minerals, citrus and stone fruit.
The flatter sites of loam, loess and sand encourages the Müller-Thurgau vines. Full-bodied Silvaner is also made from vineyards here, as well as other whites; Pinots Blanc, Pinot Gris and Kerner. As for reds, this part of Nahe excels particularly well in Spätburgunder production.
Food and Nahe wine
For food go for a dry-style Riesling and for lighter fares of eggs and white meat – and a sweeter aromatic style for cheese and desserts. A fresh Nahe Silvaner is a perfect match for salads and shellfish but can also compliment tapas and grilled fish.
On the reds, Spätburgunders are very versatile when it comes to different food – but it’s also great to enjoy on its own. Lighter style Dornfelders match burgers and pizza very well, and a more full-bodied Dornfelder pairs well with savoury foods.
The volcanic soils and beautiful grapes.What are the most popular grape varieties in Nahe?
Riesling, Müller-Thurgau, Sylvaner, Dornfelder, Spätburgunder.What types of food works well with wines from Nahe?
Dry-style Riesling with lighter fares, eggs and white meat. Nahe Sylvaner for the sea. Lighter style Dornfelders for burgers and pizza. Full-bodied Dornfelder also for savoury foods.