If you are looking for fine German wine and food, consider the Rheinhessen region of southwestern Germany. You may find a bargain, and I hope that you’ll have fun on this fact-filled wine education tour in which we review a local white Liebfraumilch.

Rheinhessen is a relatively small area, sometimes called the land of the thousand hills, nestled between the Rhine and the Nahe Rivers. When Charlemagne was ruling the roost Rheinhessen wines were already well known. Of all thirteen German wine regions Rheinhessen has the largest area planted in wine grapes and the highest wine production. In fact it is responsible for more than one quarter of the German wine acreage and wine production. Rheinhessen also produces the highest percentage of generally low quality table wine, almost 12%. Over 60% of Rheinhessen wine is middle quality QbA wine, and slightly more than 25% is higher quality QmP wine. About 87% of its wine is white, but the percentage of red wine is increasing. The most widely grown varieties are the German hybrid Müller-Thurgau and Silvaner. The usually higher quality Riesling represents only about 10% of the total production. Dornfelder is the most widely planted red grape variety.

Worms is one of the oldest cities in Germany. The original settlement was probably about six thousand years ago. The Celts founded the city so long ago that Worms, along with Cologne and Trier, claims to be the oldest city in Germany. It was an important site for the classic poem The Nibelungenlied (The Songs of the Nibelungs) which Richard Wagner transformed into a classic opera.

Opera lovers and history buffs will want to see the Nibelungen Museum, fittingly enough located in two medieval towers with an excellent view of the old city. Make sure to see the partially Gothic Wormser Dom St. Peter (Cathedral of St. Peter). This building was severely damaged by fire during a war near the end of the Seventeenth Century. Other Worms sites of interest include the Dreifaltigkeitskirche (Church of the Holy Trinity), the Lutherdenkmal (Luther Monument) and the Kunsthaus Heylshof (Heylshof Art Gallery). The Judenfriedhof Heiliger Sand (Holy Sand Jewish Cemetery) is the oldest Jewish cemetery in Europe. Some of the tombstones are almost one thousand years old. Worms also has a Jewish Museum and a synagogue.

The northern outskirts of Worms include the twin-towered Gothic Liebfrauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) famous not as a church but because of its vineyards, the original site of Liebfraumilch. For decades, countless Americans and Britons thought of Liebfraumilch as the quintessential German white wine. Many of them were introduced to wine via this sweet, low-alcohol wine mostly produced in Rheinhessen and Pfalz. This wine is made for export; Germans almost never drink it. However, the city of Worms with a population of about 85 thousand souls, is a center of the German wine business.

Before reviewing the Rheinhessen wine and imported cheeses that we were lucky enough to purchase at a local wine store and a local Italian food store, here are a few suggestions of what to eat with indigenous wines when touring this beautiful region.

Start with Spunderkäs (Cheese whipped with Cream and Onions).

For your second course enjoy Spannferkel (Spit roasted baby Pig).

As a dessert indulge yourself with Geeister Kaffee (Coffee Ice Cream and Chocolate Pralines in a cup of Coffee).

OUR WINE REVIEW POLICY All wines that we taste and review are purchased at the full retail price.

Wine Reviewed

Bihn Liebfraumilch 2005 9.7% alcohol about $7.50

Let’s start by quoting the marketing materials. Tasting Note Pale straw yellow colour; floral, green apple aromas and flavours with a touch of spice; off-dry and light bodied

Serving Suggestion Brunches and buffet fare; quiche; salmon mousse.

My first pairing was with a salad consisting of baby spinach, tomatoes, feta cheese, and California olives. The wine was lightly fruity (appley) and pleasant but weak and short.

The next tasting involved cold barbequed chicken with a cucumber and onion salad and a potato salad. Once again the wine was light and fruity but this time of middle length. It cut the fat nicely.

The final meal consisted of a broccoli and olive quiche topped with parmesan cheese (baked with the quiche, not added afterwards). The wine was light, refreshing, and slightly sweet. This sweetness did not clash with the quiche’s saltiness. I finished the glass with an el Cheapo chocolate ice cream sandwich. The wine became slightly honeyed.

The initial cheese pairing was with a French goat cheese that really resembled a Camembert. The wine was fruity and a bit sweet. I then tried the Liebfraumilch with a Swiss Gruyere. The wine became rounder and somewhat more acidic. OK.

Final verdict. This Liebfraumilch never really added anything to the food; it simply provided a not at all bad tasting liquid to wash the food down. If that’s good enough for you then it is a bargain, in spite of a somewhat dubious past. Fine wine is wasted on some everyday food. And I cannot afford fine wine all the time. Sometimes this Liebfraumilch will more or less fill the bill. I’ll be buying it again. But I’ll be careful when and where I serve it.

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