Despite being the premier country in the world for beer (think Oktoberfest!), German wine actually has a long history going back to the Roman era with distinct styles and numerous enthusiasts around the world. The reputation of German wines
around the has a mixed following. Some consumers rate German wines some of the world's best white wines, considering them to be aromatically pure and elegant, while others view the German wine industry to merely produce lower quality mass-market wines, such as the semi-sweet wine called Liebfraumich.
The German wine regions are situated primarily along the Rhine River, where about 60% of wine production taking place in the Rhineland-Palatinate state. There are 13 major wine producing regions, and 6 of these regions are located here. Historically, Germany focussed primarily on white wine production, particularly Moselles and Rieslings. However, in the last 20 years, German red wine, particularly the Pinot Noir variety that is called Spatburgunder, has made a presence on the international wine scene.
History of German Wine
The growing and production in Germany has a long history that dates back to the first century AD and ancient Roman times when parts of Germany was part of the Roman Empire. The oldest city in Germany, Trier, is situated directly on the Moselle River (which is a well-known German wine region) and was founded as a Roman garrison.
Prior to the Charlemagne-era, most of the grape-growing took place along the western side of the Rhine. However, Charlemagne took a risk and spread German viticulture eastward along with the spread of Christianity. From that point on in medieval German, the various monasteries and churches played a central role in viticulture and high quality wine production to be used during mass. Wine production expanded rapidly, peaking in around 1500, when there would have been over four times the area dedicated to grape production than there is today.
Wine regions of Germany
In Germany, there are 13 recognised regions (and broken down into 39 districts) that are producing highquality German wines. All of these regions are centred along major rivers, as these produce a suitable micro-climate to grow grapes. These regions are fairly unique in that they are among the most northerly wine producing regions, which mean that frost-resistant and early harvesting strains are important.
These 13 regions are as follows:
Ahr - known for its red wine production
Baden - in the southwest corner of Germany along the Rhine
Franconia (Franken) - Bavaria's only wine producing region
Hessische Bergstrabe - a small region in the state of Hesse producing mostly Riesling
Mittelrhein - dominated by Riesling
Mosel - situated along the Moselle River, and the two tributaries, the Saar and Ruwer rivers
Nahe - along the Nahe and world-renown for its quality Rieslings
Palatinate (Pfalz) - the second largest wine growing region in Germany that is renowned for producing dry-style powerful Rieslings
Rheingau - This is the oldest wine growing region in Germany (mainly producing Rieslings), where it is said all wine making practices in Germany are to have originated.
Rheinhessen (Rhenish Hesse) - this is the largest wine growing region in Germany, it underwent a significant increase in quality during the 1990s and now produces a mixed variety of wines, both red and white.
Saale - Unstrut - Germany's most northerly wine producing area that is in the former East Germany
Saxony (Sachsen) - located in the southeastern part of Germany, also in the former East Germany
Wuttemberg - one of only a few wine growing regions in Germany that traditionally specializes in red wines.
Today, these regions are broken down into 39 separate districts. In total, there are nearly 2700 individually registered vineyards in Germany.
Today, Germany is still perceived as a white wine producer, but red wines are still produced in a significant quantity due to local demand. The most common white wine grapes are as follows:
Riesling - by far, the most popular
Muller-Thurgau - a relatively new grape that is seen as an alternative to Riesling, as it requires only 100 days to ripen (unlike Riesling's 130 days)
Silvaner - a rather old grape variety that is used to produce power dry wines
Red wine production only accounts for approximately 37% of vineyards in Germany. The most popular varieties of red wine grapes are as follows:
Spatburgunder (Pinot Noir) - a very popular and much enjoyed variety that competes with Riesling
Dornfelder - a relative newcomer that is a recent crossbreed that is relatively easy to grow to give a dark, full-bodied style of wine