A German Wine Tour
The whole world envies us for the Riesling. But enough of the most cultivated grape variety in Germany - there is so much more to discover. A young guard of quality-conscious winegrowers, a region full of red wine enthusiasts and about 102,000 hectares on which a diverse range of fine grape varieties have found a home. The Bordeaux wine growing area alone is richer in vineyards. But don't be discouraged - the high concentration, combined with combined knowledge, unique climate and terroir, creates an incomparable style that is respected and enjoyed worldwide. But from which corners does German wine come and who are the people responsible for the fine and fresh wines from Germany? Let's find out, with a short excursion through the 13 prosperous wine-growing regions of Germany.
Germany's 13 growing regions
Baden is the southernmost and at the same time the warmest of all growing areas. No wonder that mainly dry white wines and red wines are produced here. On 16,000 hectares between the picturesque Lake Constance and Tauber Valley, Burgundy varieties, Müller-Thurgau, Gutedel and occasionally Riesling are cultivated in Baden. The white, red and rosé wines from southern Germany achieve a great reputation in the typically cosy and contemplative manner of the winegrowers from Baden and already offer a good start on our journey. Delicious sun-kissed wine and decelerated life - always worth a visit.
The growing areas of Baden:
- Badische Bergstrasse
- Lake Constance
The Swabian seems to like red wine - about 70% of the wines are made here from red grape varieties. Bottled in 1 litre bottles, the light and often semi-dry red wines are drunk by the Swabians themselves. Export is rare, own consumption is not. Lemberger, Trollinger, Schwarzriesling and of course Spätburgunder are the preferred varieties for red wine, while Riesling and Müller-Thurgau dominate the white wine varieties. Württemberg has about 11,500 hectares of cultivated area, which is divided into the following growing areas, which sometimes still list numerous site-related sub-categories:
- Württemberg and Bavarian Lake Constance
- Upper Neckar
- Württemberg lowlands
The second largest wine-growing region - about 23,600 hectares - is one of the driving forces behind the rise of top German wines. First and foremost, the Riesling reaches unimaginable heights here due to the mediterran-like climate. Mild, sunny, dry - this is how Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Scheurebe, Gewürztraminer, Silvaner and Müller-Thurgau ripen on the large vineyards of the Palatinate. The red grape varieties Pinot Noir and Dornfelder also find a cosy home in the Palatinate. The production quantity is large, the quality is higher - fresh, fruity, mineral due to the nutritious sandstone and volcanic soils of the 144 wine-growing communities of the Palatinate.
Spread along the Main, the wineries of the Franconian wine region are equipped with the best Silvaner that can be found in Germany. In addition, the 6,000 hectares of excellent German wines from Riesling, Pinot Noir, Regent, Dornfelder, Bacchus and Müller Thurgau can be found. Bottled in Bocksbeutel, a bulbous wine bottle, the Franconian wines, from a composition of spice and minerality, inspire the gourmets of the world. Spread over the Mainviereck, Maindreieck and Steigerwald regions, the German wines from Franconia score with their unique, climatically determined styles, which are unique in Germany.
The smallest growing area in terms of area - about 440 hectares - in the heart of Germany comes out big with first-class Riesling and Pinot Gris. However, many people do not notice the high quality of German wines from the Hessische Bergstrasse, as the tasty wines have already received great recognition in the regional inns. Pack your bike and tour along the steep slopes of the Rhine Valley, around the Starkenburg, Umstadt and the scattered individual vineyards of the region. Because it is best enjoyed locally anyway.
Germany's largest wine-growing region, with a vineyard area of around 26,500 hectares, offers something for every taste. Whether uncomplicated table wine, wine from the best vineyards or the infamous Liebfrauenmilch - a yield of 2.5 million hectolitres speaks for itself. Large areas are reserved for the driving forces of German wine, namely Riesling, Müller-Thurgau, Burgundy and Silvaner. There is also care for rare grape varieties such as Bacchus, Kerner, Scheurebe, Morio Muskat and Faberrebe. 24 large vineyards between the Bingen, Nierstein and Wonnegau areas, 434 individual vineyards, a superlative for German wine: Rheinhessen.
Long tradition and yet brand new: the Nahe wine region, named after the river of the same name, is richly endowed with diverse soils and ideal conditions for sparkling white wines from Germany. Riesling, Müller-Thurgau, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Silvaner grow splendidly and extensively on 75% of the vineyards, while the red Dornfelder and Pinot Noir vines are the source of dry red wines from the vineyards along the River Nahe. A great variety of varieties and soils on about 4200 hectares invite you to a heterogeneous wine tasting, on the wine trail between the Nahe valley and the areas of Glan and Alsenz.
Rheingau, and Riesling - fits. On 78% of the vineyards it is the most prominent grape variety from which dry to semi-dry white wines are finally produced. In the best quality, the white wine from the Rheingau is considered one of the best white wines in the world. A great honour for German viticulture. In addition, the Rheingau is home to the largest contiguous cultivation area for Pinot Noir. The Rheingau is specialized in a few grape varieties, but what the winegrowers make of it is incomparable. Spätlese, Edelfäule and the Rheingau Roman - everything from the Rheingau, everything for German wine.
The vineyards along the Moselle are sometimes considered to be the first on which the Romans cultivated vines. Riesling also plays an important role on the Moselle. Filigree, semi-dry to sweet white wines with delicate acidity are the order of the day here. Also from Müller-Thurgau, Elbling and Kerner. The origin of German wine, experienced by bike or boat, is always worth a trip - especially when it ends with a glass of fresh white wine from the queen of grape varieties.
To the left and right of the Rhine the wine-growing region Mittelrhein stretches over 100 kilometres. That is about 467 hectares of vineyards on steep slopes, which know how to convince with sparkling, minerally and acid accentuated white wines. But also Pinot Noir, Dornfelder and Blauer Portugieser can be found here in considerable quantities. Not always Riesling, but more and more often worth a bottle on the Middle Rhine. Or two. A glass between the Siebengebirge and the Loreley. Beautiful area - delicious wine.
The individualist among the growing areas. Clearly above the 51st degree of latitude, which is seen as the natural border of viticulture in Europe, the cultivation area around the river Ahr is the number one for red wine from Germany. Up to 85% of the area is used for Pinot Noir, Blauer Portugieser, Frühburgunder, Regent and Dornfelder, only a small part, almost subordinate, the Riesling raises the flag of the white wines. Full-bodied, lush and red - this is how one could describe and taste the wines of the Ahr.
Germany's northernmost wine-growing region is located on the banks of the Saale and its tributary Unstrut. On 750 hectares the grapes enjoy surprisingly dry and warm summers. Ideal conditions for Müller-Thurgau, Silvaner and Dornfelder. Three early ripe grape varieties that fit perfectly into the short growing season. The finesse-rich and playfully light white wines are mostly vinified as dry wines and are rich in acidity.
A little to the east of the Saale-Unstrut region lies Saxony, which has the second smallest area for cultivation. On about 500 hectares in the Elbe valley between Meissen and Dresden mainly white wines from Müller-Thurgau, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc are produced. The dry white wines, from the terraced slopes along the Elbe basin, are often extraordinarily complex and noble. Everyone should taste the wines from Saxony and be pleasantly surprised. German wines from the cultivation area Saxony, which also carries the epithet Elbflorenz - what are you waiting for? Taste the diversity of German wines from the 13 German wine-growing regions. A large selection of fine grape varieties awaits you - and as already mentioned, the whole world envies us for the Riesling.
The quality levels of German wine
German wine is divided into several quality levels, which are based on the German wine law. In ascending order, these are:
- Tafelwein - the lowest step on the ladder. No quality requirement necessary, only a regulated alcohol content of between 8.5% and 15% vol. from approved vineyards and grape varieties.
- Landwein - the upmarket variant of Tafelwein. Only available for dry and semi-dry matured wines, which must indicate their origin on the label. The minimum alcohol level is higher than that of a comparable Tafelwein The wine must not be blended with concentrated must.
- Quality wine produced in certain regions (Q.b.A.) - the majority of German wines are of this high quality. They come from the 13 growing areas of Germany and are made from approved grape varieties. The alcohol content may be enriched by adding sugar before fermentation. At least 55° Öchsle, the unit of measurement of the must weight, and 9% vol. Alcohol is necessary in order to obtain the official inspection number from the quality wine inspection, which can be found on every label.
- Prädikat wines - the highest standards, single-variety and without added sugar. Wines of this category are called Qualitätsweine mit Prädikat, in short QmP. Depending on the must weight, this category is divided into six categories.
- Kabinett - fine, light wines made from ripe grapes with low alcohol content and at least 73° Öchsle
- Spätlese - mature, elegant wines that are harvested late and with a must weight from 85°Öchsle.
- Auslese - from a must weight of 95° and noble wines made from fully ripe grapes.
- Beerenauslese - full, fruity wines from overripe and hand-picked grapes, a must weight from 125° Öchsle and a sweet and alcoholic character.
- Trockenbeerenauslese - shrunken and noble rotten berry with decades of ageing potential, sweet and with a must weight from 150° Öchsle.
- Eiswein - the grapes for Eiswein are harvested and pressed in the frozen state at at least -7°C and have a minimum must weight of 125° Öchsle.
In addition to the legal classification, the quality levels of the Verband Deutscher Prädikats- und Qualitätsweingüter, an association of around 200 wineries in Germany, have also established themselves. The VDP classification is based on the origin of the wine. There are 4 levels of quality for this.
- VDP Gutswein - Wines from in-house vineyards that meet VDP quality standards.
- VDP Ortswein - Wines from high-quality, traditional and characterful vineyards within one place. Regional grape varieties and yield reduction are prerequisites for the local wine classification.
- VDP Erste Lage - the third highest level ensures first-class locations with an independent character, in which ideal conditions and quality have been proven for years. Regional grape varieties are a matter of course.
- VDP Grosse Lage - the highest rating according to VDP quality levels. The best wines with an expressive character and extraordinary ripening potential grow on the Great Sites on parcel boundaries. The grape varieties are local and closely linked to the vineyard.
The history of German viticulture
Even though thousands of years ago fermented juice was enjoyed within the borders of what we now call Germany, viticulture really started with the Romans, who tried to continue their conquest over the Moselle and Rhine. In order to meet the constant demand for wine and not to transport it across the Alps, the Romans decided to cultivate the vines locally. Archaeological excavations confirm the origin of the so-called German wine from agricultural cultivation at the Moselle and also in the Palatinate.
After the rule of the Romans, viticulture increasingly developed into the hands of kings and noblemen and consequently to the church. and its scattered monasteries. Charlemagne promoted and regulated the cultivation of vines already in the 8th century. The popularity of wine increased immensely, not least because it was alcohol, but also because the wine was often cleaner than the usual drinking water.
The monasteries suffered a significant decline in viticulture due to the conquest of Napoleon. The monks were replaced by new winegrowers, but this did not affect the quality. More devastating for German viticulture was the phylloxera catastrophe in the 19th century, which razed almost the entire vine stock. The today legally prescribed procedure with grafted vines helped the German viticulture back on its feet and was further advanced by various innovations on the vineyard and in the cellar. Innovations that revolutionized viticulture around the world.
Buy German wines online
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