The consideration that German wines deserve is higher than what we give them. The ripening of the grapes itself is a real challenge at this latitude. These limitations become precious resources in areas where perfect conditions exist, which allows Germany to reach extraordinary heights of quality. The low alcohol content of German wines makes them more approachable, while the acidity makes them suitable for aging. But let's see what there is to know about German wines.
Here's what you need to know about German wines, in a few simple points.
History of viticulture in Germany
The vine has been cultivated in Germany since the invasion of the Romans and has been present since ancient times along the Moselle and on the left bank of the Rhine. In the mid-nineteenth century viticulture was so important in these areas that various schools of oenology were established .
German viticulture today
Vine cultivation takes place in central and southwestern Germany; mainly along the Rhine and its tributaries, and along the Moselle.
Growing vines this far north is difficult but it is possible thanks to the warm currents arriving from the Atlantic. The cool climate helps the grapes ripen slowly, allowing the formation of extract and aromatic substances and, above all, inducing a notable acidity, the main characteristic of German wines.
The vines of Germany
75% of German vines are white grapes . Above all, Rhenish Riesling (particularly in the Moselle and Rheingau) expresses itself at very high quality levels. It is a grape that ripens late, resistant to the cold of autumn, during which it develops a lot of sugar and is enriched with acidity. All this determines delicacy and fruity sensations (when the wine is young) while over time spicy and hydrocarbon hints develop.
Other important German grape varieties are Sylvaner, Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir), Portugieser, Dornfelder and red-berried Trollinger; Müller-Thurgau, Kerner, Bacchus and Ruländer (Pinot grigio) with white grapes.
The classification of German wines
It is regulated by a law from 1971, finalized in 1994
These are the types
1. Table wines
divided into Tafelwein (in turn coming from grapes entirely produced in Germany or imported from other European Union countries)
and Landwein , regional wines
2. Quality wines , divided into
2.1 Quality wines from a specific region (Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete or QbA )
2.2 Quality wines with predicate (Qualitätswein mit Prädikat or QmP )
But the classification of German wines is also based on parameters linked to the degree of ripeness of the grapes. And so the Prädikatswein are divided into
1. Sekt : quality sparkling wines, from not particularly ripe grapes.
2. Kabinett : light, low alcohol, dry wines.
3. Spätlese : more intense and structured wines, dry or sweet from late harvested grapes.
4. Auslese : wines produced only in the best years, from very ripe and selected grapes.
5. Beerenauslese : wines produced from grapes attacked by noble rot (Botrytis Cinerea), whose berries are selected by hand.
6. Trockenbeerenauslese : wines produced only in the best years, with selected dried grapes attacked by noble rot.
7. Eiswein : wines from frozen grapes.
The wine districts of Germany and their vines
There are 13 quality wine producing regions in Germany.
An area of 80 km which hosts the majority of German vineyards, whose main axis is the Rhine river. The most widespread grape variety is Riesling but there are also Weissburgunder, Gewürztraminer, Spätburgunder, Ruländer, Kerner, Müller-Thurgau, Morio -Muscat and Scheurebe.
Area south of Bonn, where dry white and fruity red wines are produced. The main grape varieties are Riesling, Müller-Thurgau (white grape), Pinot Noir and Portugieser (black grape).
The area, also known only as Moselle, extends along the three rivers. Of great charm for wine, it has the steepest vineyards in all of Germany, which make cultivation very difficult. The success of the Moselle is due to Riesling, which reaches very high quality peaks here, as well as Eiswein. In the month of June, we proposed two Rieslings in our thematic selection: you can find it here .
It rises along the course of the Nahe river and is characterized by a great heterogeneity of soils (slate, quartzite, sand, medium alluvial mixture). For this reason, some wines have strong acidity, others are softer and lighter, others very elegant. The cultivated vines are Müller-Thurgau, Riesling, Sylvaner.
A small area west of Frankfurt, the most representative of the Rhine basin. The soils here are rich in clay, quartzite and marl (similar to those of Burgundy). Riesling makes up 80% of the grapes grown.
South of Rheingau, it is Germany's largest wine region. Located along the Rhine, it mainly produces Sylvaner but also Kerner, Bacchus, Müller-Thurgau.
Area to the north, near Bonn and along the Rhine, with terraced vineyards. The landscape along the Rhine is protected by UNESCO. The vineyards are on terraces and the soil is generally clayey with slate. The white wines produced are mainly obtained from Müller-Thurgau, but Riesling and Sekt sparkling wines are also produced.
An area located along the bends of the Main river. The most cultivated vines are Müller-Thurgau and Sylvaner, together with Riesling (which however struggles to ripen here due to the continental climate).
The vineyards here are located along the banks of the Necktar River. Although Riesling is also cultivated, the area is more suited to red grape varieties such as Trollinger, Portugieser and Spätburgunder.
The northernmost wine district in Germany, the center of one of the oldest German wine regions. The most cultivated varieties are Müller-Thurgau, Sylvaner and Pinot Blanc, for light and soft wines, to be drunk young.
The westernmost wine district in Germany, located along the banks of the Elbe River. Meissnerwein is produced here, a very particular dry wine with a very pronounced bouquet. The cultivated grape varieties are Riesling and Müller-Thurgau, but also Elbling and Auxerrois.
The smallest district in Germany, characterized by basaltic soils on which Riesling, Müller-Thurgau and Pinot Grigio are grown. The wines are aromatic, rich and structured.
The southernmost area in Germany, located along the right side of the Rhine. The Müller-Thurgau predominates together with the Sylvaner. A popular rosé, Weissherbst, is also produced in this area.