In part one of this article, which you can read here, I covered the main German wines and areas etc.
Continuing on from there I’ll now look at some of the grape types.
I shall look at several grape types which although are not well known, they still play a very important role in the blending process and eventually the final taste of the wine.
There is a wide range of grape varieties cultivated in Germany from Albalonga to Zweigeltrebe. Research by the Federal Bureau of Statistics shows that there are nearly one hundred grape varieties grown in normal and experimental vineyards. Riesling and Müller-Thurgau account for over 35% of Germany’s 105,000 hectares of vineyards.
Over 11% of the vineyard area is planted with Spätburgunder or Pinot Noir, making it the most important red wine grape in Germany. Because climatic factors vary from region to region, so does each region’s varietal profile. In the more northerly areas, Riesling predominates while further south, the Burgunder or Pinot varieties are more common.
So lets have a look at some of these grapes…
Named after Justinus Kerner who in the 19th century was a well known performer (and some say lyrysist)of drinking songs . This grape is a cross of a red and a white grape ( Trollinger & Reisling) and has of late has become very popular with growers in Germany . It has the capacity to yield more than Reisling (up 15% more!) and has excellent frost resistance. Taste characteristics include high acidity, but has a leafy aroma combined with a smoothish texture. It requires low to poor soils to grow in and can be planted in moist valleys. Disease wise it is susceptible to oidium on sites which are exposed or windy. It can be found in South Africa where it has become established in the cooler cape vineyards and also recently in Chile where it is in its early stages of usage.
The god of wine ? well it is certainly a very useful grape in German wine production. It is a cross of the Silvaner and Reisling and then again with the “Muller-Thurgau”. Mostly grown in the Rheinhessen area ithas the flexibility to be grown on much worse soils than required for Reisling or Silvaner. Bacchus wine is low in acidity and while this can be a disadvantage growers keep the faith due to its very high must weights when at full ripeness. So what makes the Bacchus special to a grower, well again it is the yield and in certain years of exceptional harvests it can produce a unique a strong muscat flavour ,but generally it produces a high robust bodied wine with great character.
Attributed to Herr Georg Scheu who crossed a Reisling with a Silvaner in the Rheinfalz region in the early 1900’s. It produced a very acceptable Reisling type wine but later was identified as a great wine to produce Auslesen style wines. This grape is not particularly appetising when the grapes are less than ripe (well I know that applies to most wines!) but curiously has a very distinctive blackcurrant aroma and bears great must weights. Acidity tends not to be so high but high enough to act as a preservative in the bottle for many years. Can be grown on most sites but favours better ground as when the vines mature they withstand frosts better and are more resistant to chlorosis. A feature of this grape is that as it ripens before Reisling ,it rots when the accompanying foliage has been allowed to become messy or untidy and therefore allows the noble rot to spread faster, so when producing dessert wines it becomes a big advantage.
Well, you would think after producing one successful cross grape Georg Scheu would concentrate on refining the applications of that grape ….not so, here he is again with the Faber! Unlike his former creation this grape produces a much higher quality wine and it is a cross of the Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc) and Muller-Thurgau. Popular in the Nahe and Rheinhessen growing areas this grape excels in acidity and must weight, and is a lot more fruitier and punchy than it`s contemporary stable mates. Disadvantages include the stalk necrosis but can survive and thrive in almost any soil type. It makes marvellous Spatlese wines and used extensively for blending , particularly in place of Silvaner.
This is a cross of the Silvaner and the Pinot Blanc grape and has become a very popular grape for varietal blending in the Rheinplalz and Rheinhessen regions. It has the capacity in very small quantities to invigorate lesser blander wines enabling the grower and blender to produce higher quality more versatile and consumer appealing products. Characteristics include a concentrated grapey aroma, with medium to high acid levels off low must weight yields. It requires better than average vineyard sites as its vigorous nature almost demands rich soils. The grapes have to picked early so as to avoid rot and prevent a rather pungent “mousey” character.
This grape produces a full and flowery wine with a strong hint of peach. Used as a filler or blending enricher for lesser wines, which in turn is derived from different harvesting techniques employed by different wineries for specific wine production. It is susceptible to fungal diseases and therefore only suitable to planted in certain locations. It’s appeal to growers is again high must weights where suitable alternatives cannot be found due to growing or climatic restrictions.
This grape is named after Fritz Huxel. It is a cross of the Gutedel and Courtillier Musque, and growers produce huge quantities of ordinary wine from it. With muscat like characteristics it can produce very rich varietal wines but also highly prized blending material. Planted on good sites to achieve higher quality levels the wine often can produce a Auslese style product ,and with this in mind when harvesting takes place the grower will leave the grapes on the vine to ripen as long as possible to retain and increase acid levels. Huxelrebe’s great advantage is that provided the pruning process is kept as strict as possible it can produce QmP wines in poor years. This grape has been grown in England now for many years and is beginning to produce very high quality wines well worth trying the next time you visit the local markets or independent wine wholesalers.
This is a very ancient variety with most agreeing that it is certainly from the time of the middle ages with some saying it is from the time of the Romans and before. Today it is grown in the Mosel valley and in very small quantities in Luxembourg, originally being very important in the production of Sekt. With a high acid content but an indistinctive flavour offering it makes an ideal base product for sparkling wine production and today only plays a small part in sekt production. Able to grow on most sites in most soils it yields modest returns, it is prone to oidium and botrytis as the skins are quite thin. Must levels are medium to low and acidity levels are comparable to the Reisling.
This is a cross of Silvaner & Reisling and then again with the “fatherly” Muller-Thurgau! It is an early ripening grape growing on most soils but generally in and on the poorer sites it produces high must weights but does not have any elegance or punchy aroma to set it aside from others. Grown in small quantities in the Mosel valley it has excellent resistance to frost and is therefore used as a Pradikat enricher or “booster”.