Germany is the tenth largest wine-producing country in the world. German wines are light, lively and fruity thanks to the unique climatic and geological conditions in Germany's thirteen wine growing regions.
Taste wines with the Winzer or wine growers, learn how the grapes are pressed, and celebrate the young new wines at the many seasonal Weinfeste or wine festivals.
And there are plenty of opportunities to do so since Germany has over 1,000 square kilometres of vineyards in its many designated wine growing regions, which are among the most northerly in the world.
Spätburgunder or Pinot Noir and Dornfelder are the most popular red wine varieties. Some of the red grapes are also used to produce rosé.
Total annual German wine production is around 8.5 million hectolitres, corresponding to around 1.2 billion bottles.
Photo: Bodenheim am Rhein (Rheinland-Pfalz) © Dr. Patrick Patridge
Popular German Wine Grape Varieties
Germany is the home of Riesling wine with half of all Rieslings worldwide produced here. Riesling vines grow in all German wine regions and represent German wine culture like no other grape. In the Rheingau alone, Riesling grapes take up some 80% of the cultivated area. Young light Riesling wines from crisp dry to fruity sweet are ideal Summer wines. Riesling grapes are ideal for sparkling wine - or Sekt - production because of their natural acidity.
Riesling is a popular companion to freshly harvested asparagus in early Summer, served up with sauce hollandaise and new jacket potatoes.
Müller-Thurgau is a crossing of Riesling with Madeleine Royale and a relatively new grape variety used to make flowery and lively white wines. It is grown in nearly all of Germany’s wine regions. When you see ‘Rivaner’ on the bottle label you can be assured that it is a light, fresh and dry wine.
Silvaner is used to produce dry, full-bodied fruity wines – particularly in Franconia or Franken where the limestone- and Keuper soils ensure the production of very special wines. Some 75% of German Silvaner vines are grown in Franconia and Rheinhessen. Silvaner wine has mild acidity and is often blended with other varieties such as Riesling and made into dessert wine.
SPÄTBURGUNDER (PINOT NOIR)
Spätburgunder or Pinot Noir is the most popular German red wine grape variety. It produces light to medium body wines, which come in a broad range of enticing bouquets, flavours and textures. Spätburgunder is also a grape that requires complex viticulture skills on the part of the wine grower due to its high demands on climate and soils.
Some of the oldest and largest German red wine producers are to be found in the river Ahr valley in Rheinland-Pfalz. Its wines are marketed under the Rhein-Mosel label.
Dornfelder is an easy to grow, dark-skinned variety of red wine grape with good acidity. It is the most successful newcomer of German origin (1955), now firmly established as the second most grown red wine grape variety in Germany, in the Palatinate and in Rheinhessen in particular.
Photo: Bergsträsser Winzer eG Heppenheim (Hessen-Bergstraße) © Dr. Patrick Patridge
German Wine Festivals
There is no better place to sample and enjoy German wines than in the landscapes and regions where they are produced and with the people who produce them. And there is certainly no better way of you getting to know wine growers and Germans in person than sitting down with them on a bench at one of the thousand or so wine festivals over a glass or two of either wine or of grape juice mixed with mineral water at long wooden tables and learning to speak some words of German or even dialects of the same.
Most German wine festivals occur in the Summer and Autumn when the countryside is brimming with activity and full of colour. They feature 'Weinköniginnen' (wine queens), harvest parades, live music, dancing, fireworks and regional delicacies such as ‘Winzersuppe’ (Wurst & Vegetable soup) and ‘Zwiebelkuchen’ (onion cake). A special favourite of mine is the annual Rheingauer Weinmarkt on the "Fressgasse" in Frankfurt am Main.
And a final tip for German wine lovers: ‘Straußwirtschaften’ - seasonally-opened wine restaurants in the Palatinate, Rheinhessen and Rheingau where wine growers sell and serve their own wine along with a variety of simple but delicious cheeses, breads, soups and Wurst. You know when a Straußwirtschaft is open by the vine branch, wreath and / or broom placed at the outside entrance.
Photo: "Popular Rheingau Rieslings" © Dr. Patrick Patridge
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