5 to Try: German Wines From Co-ops and Big Bottlers

Each post in our 5 to Try series showcases five examples of stellar wines from varying wine styles, grapes, and Germany’s 13 winegrowing regions. This month, we’re showing off a selection of wines from some of the largest producers and cooperatives in Germany, whose scale and skills help bring quality and accessible German wines to consumers around the world!

While not all of the wines on this list are produced by winemaking cooperatives, let’s start off with an overview of such organizations. Winemaking cooperatives are agricultural institutions that are owned by their members, who pool their resources, share costs, and participate in various steps of the winemaking process from growing grapes to bottling, distribution, and marketing.

Cooperatives (or co-ops) are especially important in regions and villages where vineyards are comparatively smaller. For owners of smaller vineyards, it might not be possible to vinify and market their wines on their own. For instance, many wine cooperatives emerged in the late 1800s following the phylloxera epidemic that devastated European vineyards.

When these winemakers band together, they can exchange information, know-how, and technology, recruit expert consultants, and contribute grapes to a final product overseen by skilled cellar masters. Each owning a handful of hectares, together they can add up to hundreds, and joint marketing helps strengthen sales. As the saying goes, there’s strength in numbers!

In Germany, the first winemaking cooperative was formed in 1867 in the Ahr region (Winegrowers’ Association of Mayschoß). The movement towards cooperatives began in earnest in the late 1800s when growers formed associations to improve the quality of their wine and their income as the political and socioeconomic changes of the times left some German growers in dire straits. As of 2010, there are some 50,000 German wine-growing members of roughly 200 cooperatives, and they produce about one third of Germany’s average annual grape harvest and collectively own 31,000 hectares of vineyards. Cooperatives are most common in Württemberg and Baden, where there are many part-time vintners. Here, they have been instrumental in strengthening export markets. In 2016, UNESCO added the German cooperative system to its list of Intangible Cultural Heritages.

Other wines featured in this list are from some of the country’s largest and best known producers and might be familiar to many readers here due to their size, prestige, or international fame.

So let’s celebrate unity and collaboration by sipping on these examples of wines from some of Germany’s largest estates, international partnerships, and winemaking cooperatives!


Loosen Bros Dr L Sparkling Riesling1. Dr L. Sparkling Riesling, Mosel

Starting with a sparkling – and our only non-cooperative wine on the list! If you know German wines, you likely know Dr. Loosen. The Dr. Loosen estate has been in the same family for over 200 years, currently under Ernst (“Ernie”) Loosen, who has won numerous accolades since taking the reins in 1988. Ernst’s reach and influence extends well beyond the Mosel. In 1996, he took over the Pfalz winery JL Wolf and rebranded it as Villa Wolf, complementing Dr. Loosen Mosel Rieslings with Pinots and other varietals from the warm and sunny Pfalz.

With the rapid success of Dr. Loosen, the Dr. L brand, and Villa Wolf, Ernst founded import company Loosen Bros. USA in 2003 to better manage distribution in the States. In 2010, Loosen Bros. expanded their portfolio by adding the Rheingau’s Robert Weil. Today the Loosen Bros. portfolio includes Fritz Haag, Maximin Grünhaus, Wittmann, and Zilliken, as well as estates across the world from Oregon to Australia. The company’s primary goal is to represent estates with a history of superior quality and a deep respect for the traditions of their region, but also the vision to be innovative and progressive for the future.

Bottler: Dr. Loosen

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Technical information

Dr. Loosen Website

Loosen Bros. USA Website


Ich Bin Ein Riesling Halby Marketing2. Ich Bin Ein Riesling, Rheinhessen

This Riesling is 100% German, but with an international story. Created by U.S. import company Halby Marketing, “Ich bin ein” was inspired by John F. Kennedy’s June 26, 1963 speech during the peak of the Cold War. It embodies the rebellious nature of Berlin’s street graffiti that flooded the city during the fall of the Berlin Wall, speaks to the winery’s uncompromising, authentic winemaking, and demands inclusiveness in today’s turbulent times.

Tom Halby started his wine career not long after that pivotal moment in history in 1967. Tom later utilized his sales skills and industry knowledge to develop a national distribution, marketing, and importing company. Halby Marketing, Inc. is now run by Tom’s son Brett and his wife Debra, who share Tom’s passion for German wines, continuing to represent a number of brands and products from Rheinhessen (Ich Bin Ein and others), Mosel, and Nahe.

Bottler: Halby Marketing, Inc.

Technical Information

Ich Bin Ein Website

Halby Marketing Website


Schmitt Söhne Riesling Kabinett3. Schmitt Söhne Riesling Kabinett, Mosel

Schmitt Söhne evolved from a small local winery to one of the leaders in German wine exports. To this day, the winery is located in Longuich in the Mosel, the same village in which the Schmitt family’s ancestors settled over 200 years ago, but operations now span across all of Germany, Europe, and the USA. They offer a number of wines from the Schmitt Söhne family wines and Thomas Schmitt Private Collection to brands like Relax and Fünf.

The Schmitt Söhne Family Wines brand is dedicated to Riesling and represents the extraordinary range of the grape with bottlings from Trocken to Auslese. Now under the 5th generation, Juliane Schmitt, the far-reaching company remains a family-run business with the same goal of creating the best wines possible using only top-quality grapes.

Bottler: Schmitt Söhne Wines

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Technical information

Schmitt Söhne Family Wines Website

Schmitt Söhne Export Group Website


Blue Fish Sweet Riesling4. Blue Fish Sweet Riesling, Pfalz

This Pfalz Riesling comes from Die Weinmacher Niederkirchen, a winemakers’ association of over 500 vintners cultivating around 2,000 acres of vineyard area and one of the largest independent winemaker associations in the Rhineland Pfalz area. Established as the Niederkirchen Vintners’ Association in 1901 by 36 winemakers, they merged with the St. Catherine Local Cooperative to form the Niederkirchen Vintners’ Cooperative Association in 1968. Since 1985, production, administration, and distribution have been organized centrally from modern commercial premises. The association rebranded as the Niederkirchen Winegrowers Association in 2004 and merged with Deutsches Weintor eG in 2011.

Among their range of wines is the Blue Fish brand, created in 2005 with a partner based in the U.S. They were looking to launch a brand to freshen the German wines category abroad, and when sailing in the Caribbean, the sales director saw a Blue Marlin jumping in front of him and thought, “What a beautiful blue fish!” In addition to this sweet Riesling, the Blue Fish line includes a Dry Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Pinot Gris.

Bottler: Die Weinmacher

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Technical information

Die Weinmacher Niederkirchen Website

Blue Fish Website


Affentaler Valley of the Monkey Pinot Noir5. Affentaler Valley of the Monkey Pinot Noir, Baden

Today’s Affentaler Winzer eG stretches back to the 1908 founding of the Naturweinbauverein Affental (Affental Natural Winegrowing Association) at the foothills of the Black Forest in Baden. At that time, the winegrowers cultivated only Pinot Noir, selling it exclusively to nearby restaurants and inns. Over the last few decades, they merged with a number of other local winemakers’ associations and expanded to international distribution. The idea for the monkey bottle was born in 1949, though the design has evolved a number of times over the years.

The monkey-themed bottle and brand pay homage to the name of the Affentaler area, which translates to “Valley of the Monkey.” Over 700 years ago, the Cistercian monks who first began cultivating Pinot Noir in Affentaler built a chapel near the vineyards, and the pilgrims’ cries of “Ave Maria” led the locals to refer to it as the “Ave Tal” (Ave Valley) and over time this mutated into Affental. The cooperative has a storied history, but most recently the Affentaler Winzer eG merged with the Baden-Baden wine cooperative in 2018, though the wines are still made separately at different locations. They offer a range of wine brands, varietals, and styles.

Bottler: Affentaler Winzer (Baden Wine Cooperative)

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Technical Information

Affentaler Website

Affentaler Monkey Bottle Website


Planning to try any of these 5 wines? Don’t forget to tag and follow @GermanWineUSA!

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