When most people hear German wine, the first thing that comes to mind is a Riesling. The second thing that comes to mind is “meh… let’s try something else.” Why do German wines have such a bad rap? I’ve asked myself this many times and I think it’s because historically Germans have produced primarily sweet wines which are not to many people’s liking.
However, Germany is one of the top wine producers in the world! According to germanwineusa.com, “Germany is the home of the world’s third largest producer of Pinot Noir, after France and the U.S., and Pinot Gris, after Italy and the U.S. As dry wines have surged in popularity in Germany, acreage of Pinot Gris, also known as Grauburgunder, has expanded as well – there are currently over 4,800 hectares under vine.
The wide range of grape varieties cultivated in Germany is impressive, from Albalonga to Zweigeltrebe. Data compiled by the Federal Bureau of Statistics lists some 140 grape varieties grown in Germany!
Riesling and Müller-Thurgau, which account for some 35.4% of Germany’s 102,000 hectares of vineyards, have the most commercial importance. Over 11% of the vineyard area is planted with Spätburgunder, or Pinot Noir, making it the most important red wine grape in Germany.”
So if Germany has such a knack for growing grapes and making & exporting wines, why do we still not love German wines? The following info is from Wine Enthusiast Magazine which describes the “classic” German wine styles… and you’ll notice that they all have something in common, the word sweet.
The least ripe of the prädikat levels, and typically the lightest of a grower’s offerings. With their low alcohol levels and touch of sweetness, these wines make ideal picnic quaffs and mouth-watering apéritifs. Most often consumed in their youth, they can last for ten years or more.
Literally, “late picked.” These grapes are generally only late-picked with respect to those grapes that go into Kabinett or QbA wines. If vinified dry (an increasingly popular style), they can still seem less than optimally ripe. Traditionally made, with some residual sugar left in, they are extremely food friendly. Try them with anything from Asian food to baked ham and roast fowl. Most should be consumed before age twenty.
Made from select bunches of grapes left on the vine until they achieve high sugar readings, these wines often carry a hint or more of botrytis. While some are sweet enough to serve with simple fruit desserts, others are best sipped alone. With age, some of the sugar seems to melt away, yielding wines that can ably partner with roast pork or goose. Thirty-year-old auslesen can smell heavenly, but sometimes fall flat on the palate. Enjoy them on release for their luscious sweet fruit, or cellar for ten to twenty years.
“Berry select” wines are harvested berry by berry, taking only botrytis-affected fruit. While auslesen are usually sweet, this level of ripeness elevates the wine to the dessert-only category. Hold up to fifty years.
These “dried berry select” wines are made from individually harvested, shriveled grapes that have been heavily affected by botrytis. Profoundly sweet and honeyed, their over-the-top viscosity and sweetness can turn off some tasters, while others revel in the complex aromas and flavors.
Made from frozen grapes that are at least equivalent in sugar levels to beerenauslese, but which produce wines with much racier levels of acidity. The intense sugars and acids enable these wines to easily endure for decades.
But Germans can make some pretty delicious dry wines as well! Although Sauvignon Blanc is associated with the south of France, there are now some 600 hectacres of Sauvignon Blanc vines in Germany, primarily in the Pfalz, Rheinhessen, and Baden. To the surprise of some, a number of these wines have received high marks at international tastings in recent years. Also, a relative newcomer, bred in 1955, Dornfelder is already considered a German red wine classic and has been in great demand for years.*
So, let’s drop our preconceived notions about German wines and try some new styles and modern German wine brands! What are your favorite German Wines? Do you feel like German wines get a bad rap, or do you feel like German wines are indeed not worth drinking? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!