German wine

Discover Germany’s white and red wines

German wine comes from 13 regions recognized as regulated and controlled appellations of origin. The German wine from these regions is called "Qualitätswein" or quality wine. The most common grape variety is Riesling, followed by Müller-Thurgau. The most renowned wines come from regions close to the banks of the Rhine which cross Germany.

Germany is winemaking country, and on that is well-known for its white wines. However, they also produce very interesting reds with a light colour and high acidity. German wine in general is known for its freshness, intensity and pleasant perfume. And thanks to its acidity, German wine generally ages very well, especially in the bottle.

German winemakers are often considered to be experts in the art of finding the balance between sweetness and acidity in a wine. Residual sugar and acidity have to work hand in hand to stop the wine from becoming either too sweet, treacly and bland or too strong and sharp. Because of Germany’s location and its cool and rainy climate, vines can struggle to mature, so the grapes are often harvested with very high acidity levels that can only be balanced with a certain amount of residual sugar per litre. That means there is a huge range of German wines with a hint of sweetness.

Historically, Germans have produced wines that are on the sweet side. However, for a few decades now, dry wines have been catching up with sweet wines, which contain residual sugars, and now dry wines account for more than half of all German wine production.

Climate, soils and varieties.

Riesling is the reigning variety in the German vineyard. It grows in the best vineyards in the main wine regions: Moselle, Rheingau, Nahe and Pfalz. The second most popular white grape is Müller-Thurgau, and the third is Silvaner. Silvaner is at its best when grown in clay-limestone soils and the wine it produces is similar to Chardonnay wines from Chablis. And it is worth mentioning that Pinot Gris (Grauburgunder) and Pinot Blanc (Weissburgunder) are the most popular in Pfalz and Baden. As for red varieties, Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder) is most prominent, but there is also the Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet. Now, approximately 35-40% of vineyards are planted with red varieties.

Most German vineyards lie on slopes on river banks, specifically the Rhine river and its two tributaries, the Moselle and the Nahe. Having the rivers nearby helps to moderate temperatures and makes it more difficult for frost to form in the vineyard. The best plots are south or southwest facing to make the most of the sun and allow the grapes to ripen properly.

German vineyards have very diverse soils. The river banks are dominated by slate and on the hills, by clay and limestone. It is worth saying that soils in the Moselle area are very rich in minerals, in Ahr the soils are volcanic and in the Middle Rhine there is a mix of clays and shales.

Quality designations.

Classifying German wines by quality can be a bit confusing. Lets try and make sense of it: Currently, the body in charge of this task is the VDP - Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweingüter, the association of quality producers. This institution represents around two hundred wineries that are considered to be the best in Germany. However, there are some other wineries producing exquisite wines but that preferred not to be part of the group.

Within the VDP, there are the following categories from lowest to highest quality:

VDP Gutsweine, VDP. Ortsweine, VDP. Erste Lage and VDP. Groose Lage.

Within the different categories, wines can be classified by the amount of residual sugar they contain or the production method:

-Trocken: for dry wines.

-Kabinett: light, refreshing and slightly sweet wines.

-Spätlese: meaning late harvest. So these are more mature wines than those labelled Kabinett. They have a good aging potential, lasting over 10 years.

-Auslese: More ripe grapes than Spätlese, sometimes even with noble rot. They age fantastically well.

-Beerenauslese: Sweet wines made from grapes with noble rot.

-Trockenbeerenauslese: very sweet wine made from grapes affected by noble rot.

-Eiswein: made with grapes that have been frozen on the plant. They have high levels of sugar and acidity.

Important German wineries.

Some of the German wineries that are very representative of their regions are Villa Wolf in the VDP Pfalz, Dr. Loosen, A. J. Adam, Günther Steinmetz and Markus Molitor in the VDP Mosel-Saar-Ruwer area and Battenfeld Spanier and Kühling-Gillot from the VDP Rheinhessen.

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