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German Wine: It´s nothing wrong loving Riesling

More wine types to love

Germany has 13 different wine regions. Mosel is famous for good reasons. Lot on the German wine list

GERMAN WINE: Germans love to drink beer and tasty beer is all over the country. But German wine of high-class is also on the table, above all if you ask for a glass of Riesling. A fifth of all of the vine grapes planted in Germany is Riesling. To talk about German wine, you have to start with this iconic grape. There’s a lot to love: Riesling can taste like peach or apricot, with a lime-like tartness. It’s also incredibly aromatic, like jasmine and honey.

Wine grapes in Rheinhessen, the largest of German wine regions
Wine grapes in Rheinhessen, the largest of German wine regions

Many claims that Riesling is the most misunderstood wine. Experts, wine writers, people who spend much of their income on wine, tend to love it. And yet, a common hold back from casual wine drinkers, in particular in the US is “it´s too sweet”. In Europe, we know better, because they are not all sweet.

The Grapes in Germany

Germany produces wines of exceptional quality based on six grape varieties. They are Pinot Noir, Müller-Thurgau, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Sylvaner.

Riesling grapes are naturally very high in acid, and the cool, northern climate of Germany means this ripping acid stays in the grapes even into the fall harvest season. So, winemakers let the fermentations stop before the wine is completely dry, retaining a little sweetness in order to strike balance in the wine.

So many words!

German wine names and labels are terrifying and scaring with lot of words and ton of information. Let´s get on with a few terms.
The spectrum starts with table wine from anywhere: that is Deutscher Wein. Then there is Landwein from broad areas.

Top quality wine has two categories. Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete is quality wine from a certain wine region.
Prädikatswein also have the specific region listed. This is the highest level for wine classification and must be labelled by Prädikat.

Even more wine names

Kabinett is another category usually light and fresh. Grapes for Spätlese wines are left on the vine a little longer to get more sugar. This is more powerful and rich, plus sweeter than the Kabinett.
Aulese wines are more honey and bold, and excellent add-ons to cheese plate.

Look for Beerenauslese or Trockenbeerenauslese when you want sweet stuff. Trocken means dry refers to the dried berries rather than the wine. These sweet wines are made with late-harvest grapes – the same that makes Sauternes.

Finally, grapes for Eiswein are picked and pressed in winter when they are frozen, and these wines tend to be the sweetest – and most expensive.

Wine Castle in Johannisberg
Wine Castle in Johannisberg

 Five German wine regions

Germany has 13 different wine regions mostly clustered in the southwestern part of the country. Here are five.
Mosel region is famous for good reasons. The slopes are incredibly steep, so the grapes must be hand harvested. Mosel Rieslings are wonderful, with lots of acidity to complement flavours of peach, slate, and fennel. There are tons of great producers, including Willi Shaefer, Immich-Batterieberg, Martin Kerpen, J.J. Christoffel, A.J. Adam, and Merkelbach.

Rheingau rieslings tends to be more powerful and concentrated. Most vineyards are on the northern bank of the Rhine between the towns of Assmannshausen and Wiesbaden.

Rheinhessen is where Blue Nun and Liebfraumilch – a sweet white blend – come from. Wittmann and Keller are making dry Rieslings that help us remember the wines of this region

Warm, sunny climate

The Pfalz sits north of the French region of Alsace has warm, sunny climate. They make some minerally, expressive white wines, such as Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc) and Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris).

The tiny region of Nahe is home to Dönnhoff. The line-up goes from delicious and fresh, with laser-like acidity, to legendary and pricey dessert wines. To search deeper, look for wines from Schlossgut Diel and Schäfer-Fröhlich.

Germany´s picturesque regions are second to none at every level. Look for the superb, classically styles wines from Schloss Johannisberg, west of Wiesbaden. This castle is one of the worlds’ oldest Riesling with a great reputation. After a run of good vintage in recent years, there´s never been a better time to try these wines.

A bottle of 2010 Riesling Biberlack, Schloss Johannisberg, Rheingau, Germany
A bottle of 2010 Riesling Biberlack, Schloss Johannisberg, Rheingau, Germany

Wine for any food

Dry German Rieslings are labelled as “trocken” and the top bottles called Erste Lage or Grosses Gewachs are always dry. Riesling fans all over the world know its quality and it a great wine for food. German Riesling goes with just about any food, meat, soup or fish and seafood — or all by itself.

Riesling is great with smoked fish, salads, curries, even braised beef. If you buy a bottle that turns out to be too sweet for your taste, save it for a salty cheese or dessert. According to a German saying, a fish should swim thrice: in water, in sauce, and in wine.

Why I keep on buying Riesling..? Because I love drinking it while it’s young, and enjoy when it’s aged.

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Gudmund Lindbaek
Gudmund Lindbaek
Journalist founded King Goya a few years back. Meeting people, local food and engaging stories are my passion. I plan for ambitious once-in-a-lifetime trips. My delight is the prospect of Future Travels: Longer, Slower, Farther! I just want a tiny slice of adventure to be alive, and then excited to return home.

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