German wines are somewhat ignored in the UK, which is a shame. The country’s vineyards are amazing, and a wine tasting will be memorable experience on any holiday schedule.
It’s one of those enduring clichés about Germany that is refusing to die in the UK: that German wine equals Liebfrauenmilch - usually mentioned with a smile of gentle deprecation. The truth, however, is very far removed from the stereotype, for German wine is one of the country’s success stories, in particular its Riesling varieties, praised by wine experts worldwide.
Sizewise, Germany can, of course, not compare itself with big players such as France. There’s simply not enough of it for worldwide export and the locals like to drink it themselves (apart from Blue Nun, of course). That in itself is enough reason to travel to Germany, particularly during the many wine festivals in summer and early autumn, but there’s also a new generation of young winemakers who are exploring organic wine-making and reinventing traditional grape varieties, giving wine a stylish new look.
There are altogether 13 different wine-growing districts. The biggest is the Rheinhessen region in the Rhineland-Palatinate with 26,000 hectares of vine. The smallest is in Saxony with 410 hectares. Other major wine areas are the Palatinate, Baden, Moselle, Franconia, Nahe and the Rheingau.
Germany’s biggest wine-growing district is synonymous with wine. Almost every village in the region between Alzey, Worms, Mainz and Bingen, is somehow involved with wine. Perfect weather conditions contribute to the quality of grapes here. Apart from Riesling, Silvaner is a traditional grape variety. Rheinhessen is also a good place to try some red wines, with one-third of the whole vineyard area now being covered with red grape varieties.
Young vintners are at the forefront of winemaking
Above all, what makes Rheinhessen so interesting is the generation of young vintners. One of the big talents is Carolin Kühling-Guillot who runs the Kühling-Guillot estate with her husband and is widely praised for her Pinot Noir. By the way, this is the original home of the (in)famous Liebfrauenmilch, first produced in the 18th century with grapes from the vineyards of the Liebfrauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) in Worms. Meanwhile the Gutzler vineyard has been successful in reintroducing Liebfrauenmilch to the wine lists of some of Germany’s top restaurants.
This is a major destination for any wine lover not only because of the biggest wine festival worldwide taking place each year in Bad Dürkheim but also because of the German Wine Road which meanders from Bockenheim to the French border. Classical grape varieties prevail here, in particular Riesling but also Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. Renowned traditional wine-growing estates such Dr. Bürklin-Wolf, Reichsrat v. Buhl, Bassermann Jordan or Menger Krug, who have been in the wine-making business for centuries, plus a young and adventurous breed of winemakers such as Schneider in Ellerstadt who have a very individual take on labels – check it out! – and a knack for marketing.
Germany’s third biggest and most southerly wine district includes popular travel destinations such as the Black Forest, Lake Constance, Heidelberg, Baden-Baden or Freiburg. The area stretches for 400 km and consequently a wide variety of types of wines can be found. More sun than in other places in Germany determines the taste of the wines produced here, and it is the best place to find Pinot Noir.
The Romans brought wine-making to the Moselle and left some of their wine presses here for visitors to see. A lot of the wine grows in quite spectacular fashion on slopes along the Moselle, including the world’s steepest vineyard, Bremmer Calmont. Lots of options to combine wine tasting with hiking or cycling in one of Germany’s most picturesque spots.
Famous for the pot-bellied bottle type, Bocksbeutel. The Müller-Thurgau grape variety is mostly grown here and has been updated by young wine-makers. Silvaner white wines are another specialty. Wine-growing is centred around the Baroque town of Würzburg, and the Main cycling track is a great way to explore the region from the wine perspective.
The insider tip in the south-west, this wine-growing district along the Nahe river has a 2,000 year-old tradition of wine-making. Lots of Riesling, but also Rivaner, Silvaner and Burgundies. The region features spa towns such as Bad Kreuznach or Bad Münster am Stein, and there’s a nice wine road and cycling tracks along the Nahe.
The Rhine, by turning west near Wiesbaden and then heading north again 30 km later, created a perfect place for the 3,100 hectare Rheingau wine-growing district, famous for its Riesling. Assmannshausen is also particularly known for Pinot Noir.
More details on all German wine regions here: www.deutscheweine.de