Ask someone to name a German wine and most people will give you the names of cheap bland sugary brands, which unfortunately Germany has now become associated with. German wine is more than Blue Nun, Liebfraumilch or Hock however.
There is a wealth of very good quality delicious wine waiting to be discovered. If you are looking to try something new, or haven’t tried German wine since you were fed a warm bottle of Hock at a house party in the early 90s then try again. Chances are you’ll find something you like!
Winters in Germany are cold, and although summer and autumn are warmer, there is plenty of wind and rain to lash at grapes on a vine. Varieties grown in Germany have to be hardy to withstand the elements. Luckily Riesling is a hardy little grape, which because of the climate ripens slowly and develops rich complex flavours. River mists encourage noble rot, which makes sweet German wine. Although there are some good reds being produced, the majority of German wines are whites.
The widest grown grape is Riesling, which makes arguably the finest wines in Germany. Other white grapes grown include Silvaner, Muller-Thurgau and Pinot Gris but these are in much lower quantities.
The brilliantly named Spatburgunder, which makes delicate fine reds, is actually Pinot Noir so if you are a fan, look out for these wines. Also keep an eye out for deep red German wines made from Dornfelder, which can be a good price because they are relatively unheard of!
Where do they Grow?
The best vineyards are on the mineral rich steep slopes around Germany’s river valleys. Each region has a slightly different style owing to the soil, climate and tradition. Wines from the Mosel Saar Ruwer region can be lighter in style than other areas, but can be pricey. There are some good cheaper German wines to be found in less popular areas such as the Rheinhessen, around the Rhine, and Baden, in the south of Germany. Each area will have its share of very expensive and better value wines however, so it’s worth exploring a little.
Styles of Wine
Wines from Germany are unique in style. Whites (mostly Rieslings) are generally light in body and alcohol, and can range from dry and crisp, to sweet and unctuous. Wines (even the sweet ones) are often balanced by good acidity so they made perfect wines for spicy food. Whites are normally low in alcohol too so make perfect aperitifs. German wines can be costly but they are well worth a try!
Reds can range from being light and fruity in the case of Spatburgunder (Pinot Noir), to the deep and dusky Dornfelder. Traditionally reds were produced for the home market only, but there are now some very decent reds being produced for export too.
Don’t speak German? Here’s what the Labels mean!
Means that the wine comes from a quality region. These can be sweeter than higher classed wines as winemakers are allowed to enrich them with sugar. You can get some excellent QbA wines for great prices so for look out for this mark.
Means that the wine comes from a single area within a quality region. There are a number of divisions within this class and these will tell you much about the style of wine, especially it’s sweetness.
If you like your wine very light, very crisp, and tasting of green apples then try a Kabinett Riesling. They are not very sweet and make great aperitifs!
Rieslings will have more body and more flavour with a little more sweetness than a Kabinett wine.
Rieslings are sweeter, richer and fuller than Spatlese and are made from individually selected bunches of very ripe grapes.
Rieslings are made from individually selected bunches of grapes which have been affected by Noble Rot. These wines are rare, expensive, rich and sweet and often sold in half bottles.
Rieslings are produced in tiny amounts from the ripest grapes from the finest vintages and affected by noble rot to such an extent that they have turned into raisins. Wines are very high in sugar and very low in alcohol. Top quality TBAs count amongst the most expensive wines in the world.
Eiswein – Ice-wine!
Growing grapes for wine in colder countries has its advantages! Eiswein is a delicious sweet German wine packed full of fruit flavours but prevented from becoming sickly by very high levels of crisp acid. It is made from grapes left on the vine until it’s cold enough for the water in the grapes to freeze, which concentrates the sugars without adding any flavours. The frozen grapes are picked in the middle of a winter’s night, by hand, at a temperature of at least minus 8 degrees. It’s a difficult risky process however so Eiswein can be expensive.
So now you’ve read about it, why not stock up on a case? Choose from a selection of wines from Germany here.
- Germany also produces brilliant value sparkling wine called Sect, which is a great alternative to Champagne. The Germans consume more sparkling wine than any other country!
- High acid aromatic wine with a certain amount of sweetness matches very well with spicy food. Try Riesling with spicy dishes. It really works!
- Muller Thurgau is a hybrid grape made from Riesling and Madeleine Royal. It was created to be a Riesling alternative, which would ripen earlier and produce more grapes. Many people believe it doesn’t have the same complexity or flavour as good Riesling. Most branded Liebfraumilch is made from Muller Thurgau.