There’s much more to German wines than Black Tower and Blue Nun!
To quote Louis Stevenson; “Wine is bottled poetry. but…
But not necessarily so in the case of Black Tower and Blue Nun, Germany’s most famous wine brands, which are about as classy as John Smiths in the UK.
Germany has 13 wine-making regions and all boast gorgeous countryside locations, many with lush hills, river valleys and pretty villages, creating much appeal for wine tasters and holiday makers alike.
These areas are dotted with a patchwork quilt of small privately-owned vineyards and at many you can often drop in for a wine tasting without an appointment although the purchase of a few bottles is expected!
German vineyards lie in the south of the country and are generally grouped around the rivers Mosel and Rhine and their tributaries.
The main growing regions consist of the following:
Generally the climatic conditions for the growing of grapes are often referred to as “marginal” however the vineyards still manage to produce wines of variety both low in alcohol but high in acidity. When balancing the wines to achieve the desired finish ,the maker will use “chaptalisation” to enhance the alcohol and unfermented grape juice to give a little sweetness and fruit to balance the acidity.
There are two categories of wine produced in Germany; Table wine and Quality wine.
This describes wine that has been made from grapes grown in Germany.
If the word above is used on its own then it describes a wine that is blended with imported wine from other EU countries and is therefore not German wine in its entirety.
This classification is similar to that of the French “vin de pays”, is a regional wine and is a category of tafelwein. Landwein is made a lot drier than other German wines and has a particular taste which is distinctive. It is identified by two descriptions;
Trocken; meaning “dry” or Halbtroken “semi-dry”.
These wines are known and referred to as “Qualitatswein” and have two categories:
In German “Qualitatswein bestimmte Anbaugebeite” . On the wine label it will clearly show this or just simply “QbA”. The translation of the above is “designated quality wine region”.
There are 11 quality wine regions in Germany and are known as “Anbaugebeite”. Within these regions there are sub divisions known as “Bereich” and yes you`ve guessed it within these regions there are “Grosslagens”! A Grosslage consists of a collection/group of vineyards producing wines of a similar character.
However… there is a further division smaller than a grosslage… The Einzellage
QmP means Qualitatschwein mit Pradikat and means that these wines are made with extra qualities.
There are 6 different “QmP” categories:
As mentioned before the climate is cool, but the winters are very cold . The summers can be exceptionally warm and in certain years can result in the grape harvest being abundant and concentrated.
The grape varieties concentrate on three main types;
This is probably the best known and accounts for up to 30% of vineyard plantings. It is a late ripener and has strong acidity but delicious concentrated flavours.
Traditional German variety yielding a much higher tonnage than the Reisling and a lot softer tasting wine.
Of Swiss origin due to its creator Professor Muller, this is an early ripener and like the silvaner is a high yield vine.
Other grapes include the Gewurztraminer, Kerner, Bacchus, Morio-Muscat, Scheurebe, Faber and Ortega.
South facing slopes near rivers and mountains and even in areas of forestation . Soils vary but in generally the poorer the soil the greater the yield, thats not to say of course that rich fertile soils do not produce high quality grape juice it is normally in much smaller quantities.
Due to the cooler nature of German weather the grapes produce wines of high acidity and low sugars. So the German producers overcome this by adding unfermented grape juice prior to bottling. This juice is called “ Sussreserve”. Through careful blending and dosage, a wine is produced with out any harsh overacidic taste and an inviting touch of fruit and sweetness prevails.
Ok, you might think we have forgotten arguably the most famous of German mainstream wine…
…well we haven’t!
This is a QbA wine and can only come from a vineyard in one of the four Rhine Regions.
This as we know is a easy drinking wine, soft, fruity and probably the first wine you ever tasted. Times have moved on though, and whilst it still has its place in popular drinking culture, generally its grape varieties have become less well known with the consumer.
There is one thing worth mentioning about German wines… and that is the high quality, variety and depth of flavours in the many different wines you can obtain from the smaller “boutique” vineyards often overlooked when purchasing your wine.
You can read part two of this article here where I cover the German grape types.