Many people think of Germany as a beer producing country, and the beers of Bavaria in particular are known very well internationally. However many parts of Germany are wine-producing areas, and due to the northerly location have produced wines quite unlike any others in Europe, many of outstanding quality. Despite this it is still better known abroad for cheap, sweet, low-quality mass-produced wines such as liebfraumilch.
Table of contents
The wines have historically been predominately white, and the finest made from riesling. Many wines have been sweet and low in alcohol, light and unoaked. Historically many of the wines (other than late harvest wines) were probably dry (trocken), as techniques to stop fermentation did not exist. Recently much more German white wine is being made in the dry style again. Much of the wine sold in Germany is dry, especially in restaurants. However most exports are still of sweet wines, particularly to the traditional export markets such as Great Britain. Red wine has always been hard to produce in the German climate, and in the past was usually light coloured, closer to rosé or the red wines of Alsace. However recently there has been greatly increased demand and darker, richer red wines (often barrique aged) are produced from grapes such as Dornfelder and Spätburgunder, the German name for pinot noir.
Because of the northerly climate, there has been a search for suitable grape varieties (particularly frost resistant and early harvesting ones), and many crosses have been developed, such as Müller-Thurgau. However these have generally been of much lower quality than the grapes used historically, and have merely been used to produce large amounts of low quality wine. Recently there has been an increase in plantings of riesling as local, and to a lesser extent, international demand has been demanding high quality wines.
The wines are all produced around rivers, mainly the Rhine and its tributaries, often sheltered by mountains. The great sites are often extremely steep so they catch the most sunlight and so are difficult to harvest mechanically. Many are also extremely small, and several wines may be produced from grapes of different ripenesses, and different grape varieties. This makes the lists of wines produced long and complex, and many wines hard to obtain as production is so limited.
Perhaps the most distinctive characteristic of German wines is the high level of acidity in them caused both by the lesser ripeness in a northerly climate, and by the selection of grapes such as riesling which retain acidity even at high ripeness levels.
These are listed roughly in order of importance, although this varies significantly by region.
White wine grapes
Principal varieties are listed below; there are larger numbers of less important varieties too.
- Riesling (Klingelberger)
- Grauer Burgunder or Rülander (Pinot Gris)
- Weisser Burgunder (Pinot Blanc)
Red wine grapes
- Spätburgunder and Frühburgunder (Pinot Noir)
- Schwarzriesling (Pinot Meunier)
Types of wine
- Deutscher Tafelwein (German table wine)
- Deutscher Landwein (German country wine)
- Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete (QbA)
- Qualitätswein mit Prädikat (QmP)
- Grosse Gewachs
- Blue Nun
- Sekt (sparkling wine)
- Hessische Bergstrasse
- Stephen Brook, The wines of Germany.
See also Cuisine of Germany.