The kingdom of Riesling and excellent white wines – both dry and sweet. You should note that Germany is a rather cold country for grape cultivation, that’s why white strains here grow better and sugar content in grapes – and eventually wine – became the basis for the German system of appellation. The system thus differs from the French one, which has been adopted by many other countries. For many consumers looking for German wines, the system may pose some problems, but it is quite straightforward and worth getting accustomed to.
Germany produces large amounts of light, gentle, usually semi-sweet wines called liebfraumilch (produced for example in the Moselle valley, Rheinhessen, Palatinate, Rheigau, mostly from the Müller-Thurgau or Riesling strain). They are still quite popular in Poland.
German winemakers’ achievements are not limited to white wines. They also make many interesting red wines, mostly from the Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) strain. When it comes to white varieties, the crown naturally belongs to Riesling, but also Müller-Thurgau, Silvaner, Kerner, Scheurebe or Ruländer.
Germany has 13 wine regions, the most famous include:
Mosel (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – beautiful, steep vineyards, stretching along the Moselle river, give one of the best German wines. Produced wines are more gentle, light-structured with a clear and well-balanced taste. The region is composed of shale soils, sun-wrapped slopes and Riesling at its best.
Rhenish Hesse – the largest wine region in Germany, covered mostly with Müller-Thurgau and Sylvaner grapevines, producing delicate, well-balanced wines. Many inexpensive wines called liebfraumilch are made here for export, but there is no lack of other interesting propositions – more complex and dry wines.
Palatinate – a big, interesting and experienced wine region, dry and warm, which make it possible to produce many ripe wines. Beside Riesling and Müller-Thurgau, you can encounter many wines made from other varieties, such as: Scheurebe, Bacchus, Gewürztraminer, Silvaner or Kerner.
Other regions worth mentioning are Rheingau – the birthplace of excellent Rieslings or Baden – the southernmost region producing many notable white (Rieslings) and red wines – many local pinot noirs (Spatburgunder) are truly excellent and worthy of gourmets’ attention.
At the bottom, of course, are table (Deutchertafelwein) and local wines (Landwein).
A higher spot belongs to quality wines – QbA (Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiet).
At the top are QmP wines (Qualitätswein mit Pradikat) – grape cultivation and wine production in this category is subject to most demanding and rigorous regulations. Each QmP wine needs to have a “designation”, that is, a specific description of wine type, indicating the time of harvest and thus fruit ripeness. We distinguish the following types: Kabinett – light, pleasant, fresh wines, from ripe grapes. Spätlese – late harvest grapes, the wines from this category are richer with higher alcohol content. Many excellent dry wines are placed in this category, but gentler wines with lower sugar content are also present. Auslese – late harvest grapes, from selected, most ripe bunches. The wines in this category are concentrated and pleasantly sweet, although stumbling upon dry Auslese is also possible – it is then a robust wine with high alcohol content. Next we have Beeranauslese (BA) – wines in this category are made from selected late harvest bunches affected by noble rot (botrytis). Proper selection, the benefits of the rot and sugar concentration make these wines very sweet and aromatic with good acidity. Similar, pleasant sensations are produced by the Trockenbeeranauslese (TBA) wine class – from specially selected, carefully chosen overripe grapes, which appear like a raisin due to the noble rot (botrytisation).
When cultivating grapes in the case of BA and TBA, winemakers need to count on favourable weather conditions. However, if the climate permits, the resulting wines are very sweet, long-lasting, rich and concentrated with a complex bouquet of aromas.
In a slightly different category we can find the widely respected and expensive Eiswein (ice wine). This wine is characterised by an unusual production method. It is made from selected, frozen fruit, left on the bushes until the first frost (December or even January). Frozen grapes are quickly harvested and gently pressed - the water in the form of ice crystals remains in the press, separated from the thick and very sweet juice. Eiswein is an aromatic, complex and long-lasting wine – very rare and praised by connoisseurs.
It should be noted that the names on the labels of German wines, apart from the designators described above, also comprise references to the place of origin – in the simplest sense, it is a compound of two names – the town (the first part) and the vineyard (the second part).