GERMAN WINE is primarily produced in the west of Germany, along the river Rhine and its tributaries, with the oldest plantations going back to the Roman era. Germany has about 102,000 hectares of vineyard, which is around one tenth of the vineyard surface in Spain, France or Italy. White wine accounts for almost two thirds of the total production.
There are 13 defined regions ("Anbaugebiete") in Germany:
Overall nearly 135 grape varieties may be cultivated in Germany - 100 are released for white wine production and 35 for red wine production.
White grape varieties account for 63% of the area planted in Germany.
Riesling is the benchmark grape in Germany and cover the most area in the German vineyard. It is an aromatic variety with a high level of acidity.
Müller-Thurgau is an alternative grape to Riesling that growers have been using, and is one of the so-called new crossings. This grape has a more neutral flavour than Riesling. Dry Müller-Thurgau is usually labeled Rivaner.
Silvaner is another fairly neutral, but quite old grape variety. It has remained popular in Franconia and Rheinhessen and produces powerful dry wines with a slightly earthy and rustic but also food-friendly character.
Grauer Burgunder or Ruländer (Pinot gris)
Weisser Burgunder (Pinot blanc)
Red wine varieties account for 37% of the plantations in Germany but has increased in recent years.
Spätburgunder (Pinot noir) - a much-appreciated grape variety. It is considered to give the most elegant red wines of Germany.
Dornfelder - a "new crossing" that gives dark-coloured, full-bodied, fruity and tannic wines of a style that used to be hard to produce in Germany.
Schwarzriesling (Pinot Meunier)
CLASSIFICATION GERMAN WINES :
- Deutscher Tafelwein (German table wine) is mostly consumed in the country and not exported. Generally used for blended wines that can not be Qualitätswein.
- Deutscher Landwein (German country wine) comes from a larger designation.
- Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete (QbA) wines from a defined appellation with the exception of Liebfraumilch, which can be blended from several regions and still be classified as Qualitätswein.
- Prädikatswein : wines made from grapes of higher ripeness. Wines of these categories can not be chaptalized. All these categories within Prädikatswein are solely linked to minimum requirements of potential alcohol.
- Kabinett wines is the first level of reserve grape selection.
- Spätlese wines ("late harvest") is the second level of reserve grape selection.
- Auslese wines ("select harvest") is the third level of reserve grape selection.
- Beerenauslese wines ("berry selection") these wines are generally made into sweet wines and can make good dessert wines.
- Trockenbeerenauslese wines ("dry berries selection") these wines can only be made in a sweet style and make extremely sweet, concentrated and usually quite expensive wines.
- Eiswein (ice wine) wine is made of grapes that freeze naturally on the vine and have to reach the same potential alcohol level as Beerenauslese. The grapes are harvested and pressed in the frozen state. The ice stays in the press during pressing and hence a concentrated juice flows off the press leading to higher potential alcohol levels, which in turn generally result in sweet wines due to the high potential alcohol.
LEVEL OF RIPENESS OF GERMAN WINES :
On wine labels, German wine may be classified according to the residual sugar of the wine.
Trocken refers to dry wine. These wines have less than 9 grams/liter of residual sugar.
Halbtrocken wines are off-dry and have 9-18 grams/liter of residual sugar.
Feinherb wines are slightly more sweet than halbtrocken wines.
Lieblich wines are noticeably sweet;
In recent years, the Verband Deutscher Prädikatswein (VDP), which is a private marketing club founded in 1910 (see www.vdp.de), has lobbied for the recognition of a vineyard classification, but their effort have not yet changed national law.
There are also several terms to identify the grower and producers of the wine:
Weingut refers to a wine growing and producing estate.
Weinkellerei refers to a bottling facility, a bottler or shipper.
Winzergenossenschaft refers to a winemaking cooperative.
Gutsabfüllung refers to a grower/producer wine that is estate bottled.
Abfüller refers to a bottler or shipper.