There is a portion of Missouri that so closely resembles the Rhineland in Europe, that it was aptly named after it following the settlement of German villages over 100-years ago. The Missouri Rhineland is a geographical area of Missouri that extends from west of St. Louis to slightly east of Jefferson City, located within the Missouri River Valley on both sides of the Mississippi River. As a major wine-growing region around the Rhine River, named by the German-Americans who were determined to bring wine to the region, they designated the area as a major wine production region we know and love today.
Since the soils of the Missouri River Valley and surrounding areas are many rocky residual soils, that makes them unsuitable for growing regular crops, but perfect for viticulture, also known as the growing of grapes and vineyards. Left after the carbonate bedrock weathered away over the millenniums, the area is quite conducive to growing wine grapes. Coupled with steep slopes, settlers, dating back as early as 1801, with the first permanent German settlement of Dutzow in Missouri, knew the only crop that would be successful there was a wine grape.
These German settlers established the first wineries in the mid-19th century, and later Italian immigrants entered the industry, causing some competition between them and the already-established German towns.
However, come Prohibition, the winemaking was shut down altogether. Prohibition ruined the burgeoning industry and it wasn’t until the 1960s when locals decided to rebuild the region for today.
The area was designated by the federal government as the first American Viticulture Area in 1980. Having won a variety of tasting awards, the state’s wine industry contributes to serious economical and tourism development today.
History of Missouri Rhineland
German attorney and author, Gottfried Duden, named the Missouri Rhineland when he first visited the land in 1824. He was investigating the possibilities of settlement in the area by his German countrymen. He returned to Germany in 1827, feeling it was too overpopulated, came back in 1832 to officially settle the region.
Led by Friedrich Muench and Paul Follenius of the Giessen Emigration Society, the German immigrants followed in 1834. Muench brought with him his exerptise in the cultivation of grapes and winemaking. As a prominent writer and lecturer at the time, he published his book: American Grape Culture in 1859.
By 1836, the German Settlement Society began to look for a place to build a German community that was insulated from the increasing diversity of nationalities in America. They founded Hermann, which is the epicenter of the Missouri Rhineland today.
As the most populated region of the Missouri Rhineland when it comes to wineries, the area along Route 94 between Defiance and Marthasville has been nicknamed the Missouri Weinstrasse (wine route in German). This area has the highest concentration of wineries in the state, and there are a variety of wine trails and tourist activities available to visitors in this region.
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