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Germany isn't often a country that springs to mind when people talk about fine wine. But German wine is commonly misunderstood and often underestimated.
Many would be surprised to learn that Germany is actually the tenth largest producer of wine in the world, and a review of the average user ratings of 16,000 wines saw German wines get the fifth highest global rating - ranking higher than Australia, South Africa and Spain.
This article will provide a brief history of German wine, introduce some of the famous German wine regions and grape varieties, and finish with our recommendations for German wine for you to try.
The long history of German wine can be traced back as far as 70 AD when the Romans established the first German vineyard near Moselle.
Vineyards spread across the country largely thanks to churches and monasteries, who set up a lot of the vineyards and wine regions across Germany that are still established today.
The monks who ran the vineyards were renowned for producing high-quality wines, and the popularity of wine spread across Germany.
The 19th century is often recognised as the 'golden age' of German wine, when certain white wines from Germany carried more prestige than wines produced in Champagne or Bordeaux in France. It's suggested that Queen Victoria was a particular fan of German wine during her visit to Hochheim in the 1850s, and helped coin the British slang term 'Hock' for German white wines produced in the Hochheim region of Rheingau.
Unfortunately, Germany suffered the same fate as a lot of other European countries in the late 19th century when Phylloxera vine pests came across from North America and caused damage to a lot of established vineyards. Many German vineyards were destroyed and needed to be completely replanted with phylloxera-resistant rootstock.
Conflict across Europe in the early part of the 20th century also meant that a lot of resource and investment moved away from winemaking, and this damaged the German wine industry even further.
Wines of Germany bounded back onto the international stage between the 1950s and 1980s with the popular sweet wine Liebfraumilch, which was heavily marketed to the USA and UK audiences - Blue Nun being the most recognisable brand name.
The popularity of Liebfraumilch as an affordable, easy to drink, sweet white wine was great for the German wine industry while this style was in fashion. But when it fell out of favour in the late 1980s, it left an unfavourable impression of German wine in the minds of many consumers, and German wine carried a reputation for being sweet, and of low quality.
As we move into today, Germany has a solid reputation as a top global producer of Riesling white wine, and also for Spätburgunder (the German name for Pinot Noir) as a red wine variety.
They produce the majority of wine in Germany in the West of the country, with a few vineyards and wine producers in the East.
There are thirteen German wine regions:
Possibly the most internationally recognised German wine region is Mosel, which is on the banks of the Moselle River in the West of the country. Mosel is known for producing world-class Riesling, that has a subtle sweetness.
Pfalz is second only to Mosel for the amount of Riesling that is produced, for which the region has a strong reputation. Compared to the slightly sweet Riesling from the Mosel region, the Riesling from Pfalz is of the dry variety. Pfalz also produces other grape varieties, such as Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc, besides some native German grapes, such as Dornfelder and Gewürztraminer. There is also reasonable production of the white grape variety Müller-Thurgau, which is a deliberate cross of Riesling and Madeleine Royale grapes.
The Rheingau region produces a Riesling that sits neatly between the slightly sweet Mosel variety, and the dry Pfalz variety,
The largest of the German wine regions is Rheinhessen, which covers over 26,000 hectares, and is the area where a lot of German Liebfraumilch was historically produced. A lot has changed in the Rheinhessen region since the 1990's, however, and it is now recognised for producing Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc.
Another region of note is Württemberg, where red wines dominate production – which is quite unusual for Germany. The Württemberg region produces red wines from Trollinger, Lemberger (Blaufränkisch) and Pinot Meunier grape varieties.
It's estimated that approximately 130 grape varieties are grown across Germany. White wine production clearly dominates, with over 100 white wine grape varieties being grown, and around 30 red grape varieties.
The most recognised quality wine production across Germany typically belongs to three grape varieties:
Riesling accounts for around 23% of all vine plantings in Germany, and is ideal for the climate and growing conditions of Germany. There are different variations of Riesling across the country, with sweet wines being produced in the Mosel region, and dry wines being produced in areas such as Pfalz.
This wine is named after the Swiss professor who created it during the 19th century, by combining the white grape varieties of Riesling and Madeleine Royale. Rivaner wines are known for being quite light and fruity, and less acidic than Riesling.
Pinot Noir is another of the common grapes grown in Germany. It's suggested that Germany has one of the best microclimates for producing great Pinot Noirs, and has been recognised internationally for producing some of the best wines of this variety, with one German Spätburgunder wine winning the 'Best in Show' award at the 2021 Decanter Awards.
We are slowly growing our range of German Wine. To see what we have in stock right now head on over to our German Wine page and take a look.
By far our most popular and best selling German wine is the Dr ZenZen Riesling which is from the famous Mosel region, and is a perfect pairing with asian cuisine and seafood dishes.
Find out more about other wine producing countries: