Grim genius of the German nation
Germany is the northernmost of winemaking countries in Europe and probably the most under-appreciated, despite the fact that the history of viniculture here dates back to Ancient Romans, to the 1st century B.C.
The true dawn of the German winemaking fell on the early Middle ages. The grim genius of the German nation held the bar high for a very long time. We have the monasteries to thank for that – they accumulated knowledge and taught new vintners. Which is quite understandable, as they had a lot to gain.
In the 18th century the amount of experience they gained transformed into new quality. Wines from Rhein and Mosel grew to have a reputation in Europe – in Bohemia, England and Russia, in particular. German wines were often compared to Burgundy wines in quality and potential. All throughout the 1800s the collaboration between the science and practice of winemaking grew closer and more intense.
But the 20th century was a harsh one all-around. To our great sorrow, in the 1970s the quality of German wines dropped drastically, above all due to the Wine law which allowed winemakers to dress up the label with exuberant names that had virtually nothing to do with the wine’s origins. The customers ceased to understand what they were buying.
The Wine law introduced the term Grosslage (collective vineyard) that was created to ease the sales from the lesser-known Einzellage (single vineyards).
And what a great “help” that was. People were allowed to use the word “quality” when the meaning was the opposite. Any mentions of specific vineyards vanished from the labels, and the meaning of terroir was lost, and with it – any individuality the wine could have. The majority of vineyards were regarded as equal, which pointlessly leveled out each and every wine. The traditional terms, connected to the quality of wine, became empty candy wrappers. Many wines simply became sweetened alcoholic beverages. The reason was simple – the vineyard yield was hardly regulated at all. As a result, the drastic drop in quality led to the drop in prices, and eventually to a serious crisis in the German winemaking.
The change for the better happened at the end of the last century. It was primarily due to the new generation of vintners with the “right” kind of philosophy. The winemakers in Rheingau and some other regions, as well as the members of VDP (Verband Deutscher Prädikats- und Qualitätsweingüter – the Association of Quality German Wine Estates, est. in 1910) tried to undo the damage caused by the Wine law. On the one hand, they took an independent stand, harvesting the grapes and making wines by much higher standards than what was regulated by law. On the other hand, they were striving to go back to the vineyard classification – though unspoken, but well-organised – akin to the appellation classification in Burgundy. And this bore its fruits.
Many grape varieties get made into wine in Germany, but we are primarily interested in Riesling and Spätburgunder.
Ask any true lovers of the white wine where the best Riesling is made. All will choose Germany! And would be correct. German Rieslings are one of the Great White wines of the world, alongside with the best Burgundy Grand cru from Chardonnay.
If we were to take a look at the most prominent wine regions in Germany, then our first choice would be Rheingau. That was the region that confirmed Germany’s status as the provider of world-class Rieslings. Opposite Rheingau, on the other side of Rhein lies Rheinhessen – the largest winemaking region in Germany where Riesling accounts just for 12-15%, but what Riesling it is! It is richer and fuller in body, but can easily take on its counterparts from Austria and Alsace. And then, of course, there’s Mosel.
The most refined and light-bodied Rieslings of this area sometimes bear the name Mosel-Saar-Ruwer (that’s what the region used to be called) on their labels. Most vineyards here are planted on very steep slopes, sometimes reaching 70 degrees. The combination of cool climate and great exposure of the “sloped” vineyards allows for wines that preserve their delicacy and bright acidity even harvested late.
The red pearl of the German wines is Spätburgunder – the German version of the French Pinot noir. Its early-ripening clone is called Frühburgunder. The best specimens of Spätburgunders are made in the northernmost red wine region in Germany – Ahr. Other good Spätburgunders are produced in Pfalz and Baden, both of which have warm climate.
German wines can live for decades and age perfectly: their taste only becomes better, deeper, more refined. The secret lies in very high-quality grapes and a wondrous balance of sugar and acidity of the vine grapes grown in harsh climate.
German vineyards have been cultivated century after century. Some wonder: what? Century-old traditions of winemaking in Germany? That’s exactly what we are talking about!
- Berg Schlossberg-Georg Breuer
- G-MAX Riesling-Keller
- Riesling Westhofen ABTS E GG-Keller
- Riesling Dalsheim Hubacker GG-Keller
- Hunsrück Spätburgunder "R"-Rudolf Fürst
- Oberhäuser Brücke Riesling-Dönnhoff
- Kammerberg Spatburgunder-Friedrich Becker
- Riesling -von der Fels--Keller
- Brauneberger Juffer Riesling-Fritz Haag
- Bernkasteler Lay Riesling-Markus Molitor
- Riesling -S--Keller
- Spätburgunder Kammerberg-Friedrich Becker
- Ahrweiler Rosenthal Spatburgunder GG-Jean Stodden
- Niersteiner Pettenthal Riesling-Keller
- Dernauer Pfarrwingert Spatburgunder GG-Meyer-Näkel
- Bürgstadter Spätburgunder-Rudolf Fürst
- Spätburgunder -S--Keller
- Im Sonnenschein Weißburgunder-Oekonomierat Rebholz
- Hohen-Sülzener Kirchenstück Riesling-Battenfeld-Spanier
- Rothenberg Riesling-Kuehling-Gillot
- Niersteiner Pettenthal Riesling-Kuehling-Gillot
- Recher Herrenberg Fruhburgunder GG-Jean Stodden
- Sasbacher Limburg Spatburgunder-Bercher
- Dorsheimer Burgberg Riesling-Schlossgut Diel
- Terra Montosa-Georg Breuer
- Riesling Silberlack GG-Schloss Johannisberg
- Spatburgunder-Bernhard Huber
- Mittelheimer St. Nikolaus Riesling-Peter Jakob Kuhn
- Hochheimer Kirchenstuck Riesling-Künstler
- Riesling Centgrafenberg Großes Gewächs-Rudolf Fürst
- and 21 more wines...
- Georg Breuer
- Markus Molitor
- Fritz Haag
- Weingut Keller
- Friedrich Becker
- Jean Stodden
- Bernhard Huber
- Schloss Johannisberg
- Schlossgut Diel
- Weingut Künstler
- Weingut Rudolf Fürst
- Oekonomierat Rebholz
- Weingut Peter Jakob Kuhn
- and 8 more producers...