If you’ve been keeping up with “German Wines Demystified,” you’ll recall that many German wineries produce wines made from a diverse selection of grapes. The Deutsches Weininstitut (German Wine Institute) claims that nearly 100 grape varieties are grown in Germany.
Germany’s Geisenheim Research Center, Institute of Grapevine Breeding in Siebeldingen (Pfalz) and Staatliches Weinbauinstitut (Institute for Viticulture) in Freiburg are at the forefront of European wine research. Here, German viticulturalists work to create new grape crossings, adding to Germany’s rich heritage of viticulture and oenology.
Let’s take a look at some of Germany’s best-known varieties.
Riesling - Riesling takes pride of place on any list of German grape varieties. Justifiably named the “king of white wines” by the Mosel Wine Promotion Board, riesling is Germany’s most famous wine grape. When riesling grapes grow in Germany’s cool climate and slaty soil, the resulting wines can be delicate, steely and nuanced. Approximately 20 percent of Germany’s vineyards are planted with riesling grapes.
Bacchus - This cross of riesling and silvaner, developed in 1959, grows throughout Germany. It is most frequently planted in Franken and Rheinhessen.
Gewürtztraminer - Also known as traminer, gewürtztraminer is best suited to Germany’s warmer wine regions. Known for its distinctive aromas, gewürtztraminer is a grape that definitely reflects its terroir. Nearly half of all German gewürtztraminer grapes grow in the Pfalz.
Grauer Burgunder - Grauer burgunder, also known as ruländer, pinot gris (French), or pinot grigio (Italian), is known throughout Europe. In Germany, grauer burgunder grows well in Baden because of the region’s warmer climate.
Kerner - Another cross, this time of riesling and trollinger, kerner is quite popular. Approximately seven percent of Germany’s vineyards are planted with kerner grapes. Kerner is frost-resistant, always a good quality in cool Germany.
Müller-Thurgau - Also known as rivaner, Müller-Thurgau was named for its creator, Doctor Hermann Müller, and for the Swiss canton where he was born. Created in 1882, Müller-Thurgau is high-yielding but disease-prone. Quality, therefore, varies greatly. Müller-Thurgau remains extremely popular, especially as an everyday, inexpensive wine.
Silvaner - Once extremely popular, silvaner is now planted in about six percent of Germany’s vineyards. Silvaner is at its best in Franken, where the resulting wines pair wonderfully with the local cuisine. Silvaner also grows well in Rheinhessen.
Weisser Burgunder - This grape, also called weisse burgunder or weissburgunder in German and pinot blanc in French, is growing in popularity. Another wine that pairs well with food, weisser burgunder ages well in barriques and produces good dry (trocken) wines.
Dornfelder - Steadily increasing in popularity, dornfelder is known for its deep color and juicy grapes. Dornfelder is a cross of two crosses (heroldrebe and helfensteiner), and it has some very good qualities, including rot resistance.
Portugieser - Germany’s third most popular red wine variety, portugieser’s light color and low acidity detract from its ageing ability. This high-yielding but rot-susceptible grape is planted in nearly six percent of German vineyards.
Schwarzriesling - Another grape with many names, including müllerrebe and pinot meunier, schwarzriesling produces dry reds and Schillerwein, a rosé from Baden-Württemberg.
Spätburgunder - Germany’s most popular red wine grape, spätburgunder is also called pinot noir. Top German reds from the Ahr valley and other German wine regions are produced from spätburgunder grapes. At their best, spätburgunder wines hold their own against French pinot noirs.
Trollinger - Extremely popular in the Stuttgart area, trollinger is very light in color for a red wine. It is far more popular in Baden-Württemberg than it is in other parts of Germany.
A Tradition of Quality
If you have the chance to taste wines made from these German grapes – not to mention the other 87 or so varieties – you’ll probably agree that Germany deserves its reputation for combining viticulture, wine-making tradition and attention to quality.
In German wine news:
As of August 1, 2007, the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer wine region is known as “Mosel.”
Also as of August 1, the quality classification “Qualitätswein mit Prädikat” has been renamed “Prädikatswein.”
Source: Deutsches Weininstitut