DiningUnearth the Rheingau’s delicious food and drink

This gourmet region is home to elegant wineries and atmospheric restaurants serving traditional German dishes

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Just west of Frankfurt, and on the north bank of the Rhine, the Rheingau is a patchwork of picturesque villages, rolling green hills, fairy-tale castles and row upon row of Riesling grapes. Less than an hour’s drive from Jumeirah Frankfurt, it’s very tempting to leave the city behind and explore this extraordinarily beautiful and bounteous sliver of German countryside.

Appreciate fine wines

Home to more than 3,000 hectares of vineyards, the Rheingau is not only the country’s most distinctive Riesling wine-growing region, it’s also one of the oldest – local experts believe Emperor Charlemagne requested the first row of vines be planted near Schloss Johannisberg around 1200 years ago.

A historic wine cellar

Since then, Benedictine and Cistercian orders worked hard to establish the rich tradition of viticulture for which the Rheingau is renowned – it’s possible to visit old wine presses at the 12th-century Eberbach Abbey – while today the region has gained a worldwide reputation thanks to expert winemakers who oversee the production process from state-of-the art wineries to welcoming cellar doors.

Visit some of these for yourself with a trip along the 74-mile Rheingau Riesling Route, which runs from Lorch to Hochheim. Or, if you prefer to take a more active approach to your explorations, there are also dedicated hiking and cycling routes running though the region.

The picturesque Rheingau Riesling Route

Explore atmospheric castles

Schloss Johannisberg is just one of several castles that can be visited and it’s worth stopping by for a tasting and a tour of the incredible Bibliotheca Subterranea, where more than 25,000 precious wines are stored in the 900-year-old abbey cellar – the oldest is from 1748.

In addition, one of the first stone castles in the Rhine Gorge, the 12th-century Schloss Brömserburg, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, that’s home to the fascinating Rheingau Wine Museum, while the restaurant that spans Schloss Vollrads’ indoor and alfresco dining spaces features local dishes matched to the castle’s own wines. Following lunch, you can stretch your legs at the baroque Schloss Biebrich, which is surrounded by a beautiful public park that’s modelled on a formal English landscape garden.

Stop at historic villages and towns 

Aside from sampling the local Riesling, there are plenty of other things to see. For example, the picture-perfect town of Rüdesheim unmissable for its half-timbered buildings, historic taverns and fragrant bakeries. Wander down the Drosselgasse and you’ll find yourself walking in the footsteps of 15th-century sailors, who would transport their oars, sails and rigging back to their homes along this alley, before stopping at Drosselhof for traditional German fare such as schnitzels and sausages.

Half-timbered buildings in Rüdesheim

Meanwhile, the largest town in the Rheingau is Eltville, where the pleasant Platz von Motrichard promenade leads to the 14th-century Electoral Castle. Explore the moat and dungeons before climbing up the 79-foot tower for views of the town and surrounding green landscape before enjoying a final glass at Weingut Koegler or Weinhaus Krone. Known locally as Straußwirtschaften (meaning wine tavern), these historic haunts can be easily identified by the strauß (bouquet) hanging in the entrance and are a great place to sample local produce including artisan cheeses like spundekäs (soft cheese), which is seasoned with pepper and paprika, or handkäse (sour milk cheese) that was originally shaped by hand.