In the land of freshly brewed beer and open-air beer gardens, there lie ruined castles, rambling forests, vine-covered hillsides, picturesque hamlets and of course (you got me right), exceptional wine estates. This is where the skies greet you in the morning, the breeze is pristine and the roads lead only to go beyond.
Just 30 minutes away from Frankfurt Airport, is the Rheingau region where Rhine River flows gently amidst monasteries, castles, hills and the vineyards. Surrounded by the aroma of wine, my first stop here was the town of Rudesheim am Rhein.
Walter, my host for the day, courtesy the Frankfurt Tourism Board, introduced me to the region’s history, architecture and wines. We landed up in a small family-run winery to have the first drink of the trip, the Riesling. What followed was a series of wine tasting sessions at the various wineries that the region had to offer.
Listen to epic Abbey tales
We walked the last stretch through the vineyards, up to the hill above Rudesheim. And lo and behold, the majestic sight of St Hildegard Abbey greeted us. The only active nunnery in Germany that has been making wines since the Middle Ages, this place is just magical. Talk to the nuns to understand their austere ways of life and listen to the hymns at the church in the evening every day. Do not forget to try some fine Rieslings, too.
Try late harvest wines
As the night set in, we headed to my favourite stop. SchlossVollrads, the idyllic wine estate is the oldest operating commercial winery in the world. Believe it or not, they first sold wine in 1211. Once you are done with the wine tasting here, do head to SchlossJohannisberg. Both these estates produce their own Riesling. Interestingly, SchlossJohannisberg is where late harvest wines were discovered, and did I mention, accidentally discovered. As Walter narrated the story, I couldn’t help but imagine how life works in such beautiful unexpected ways. Back in the day, anxious monks were awaiting the much delayed harvest order. And when it finally arrived, the grapes were so acidic that they lent a sweet flavour to the wines and late harvest wines were born.
Another fascinating tale from these two estates is Goethe loved to walk between SchlossVollrads to SchlossJohannisberg. So sober down and walk around to soak in a bit more of the history here.
Hike to Niederwald
For a more challenging hike, we walked through quiet forests and breathtaking vineyards cultivated on steep rocky slopes towards the Niederwald Monument. This 19th-century monument was built to commemorate German reunification. You get a view of the entire Rhine valley from the top.
Witness dramatic Romanesque architecture
For an aristocratic and ecclesiastical history of Riesling, head to KlosterEberbach. This used to be a Cisterian monastery in the 12thcentury. The monks who founded KlosterEberbach were from Burgundy, and brought the Pinot Noir grapes with them. Though an estimated 85 per cent of today’s wine production in the region is Reisling, you will find a big cult-following of Rheingau Pinot Noir. So taste both grape varieties at a private tasting in the candle-lit wine cellar of KlosterEberbach. Do ask to see the giant wooden wine presses from the 16th century that were used by the monks. This dramatic Romanesque architecture is now preserved by the state. It was here that scenes from the 1986 film The Name of the Rose were filmed as well. I had my own paparazzi moments, add to it the Bollywood twist as well. What are these places without some random acts of fun?
Visit quaint villages
Do walk through the sleepy, old medieval town of Lorch and Eltville. The timber-framed houses and narrow cobbled streets are among the top draws to these beautiful towns in Germany.
Some towns you want to visit. Some towns you do. Some you stay in, and some stay with you. From getting up close and personal with people to having your fond memories of drunken adventures, there is something for everyone here. So in your lifetime, do visit Rudesheim, at least once to slam glasses with your neighbour, drink wine, dance and be merry. PROST!