Saale-Unstrut is Europe’s northernmost traditional wine-growing region, where vines have been cultivated since AD 998, mostly on labor-intensive terraced vineyards. Yields are low and, with the exception of extremely rare dessert wines, all wines are vinified dry and have a refreshing acidity.
Major Town: Freyburg, Naumburg, Bad Kösen
Collective Sites: 4
Individual Sites: 47
Vineyard Area: 772
– Weather is more variable than in the regions to the southwest
– Continental climate
– Average temperature
– Little rainfall – one of the driest regions of Germany
– Hard frosts in winter and danger of frost in spring
Top soil types:
Saale-Unstrut, Germany’s most northern region, lies in the valleys of the Saale and Unstrut Rivers between Weimar and Leipzig on the 51° of latitude and is sheltered by the Harz Mountains and the hills of the Thüringer Forest. The majority of the wine region is located within the Saale-Unstrut-Triasland Nature Park.
With over 23,000 hectares, Germany is home of the world’s largest vineyard area dedicated to Riesling. Riesling is predestined for northerly wine-growing regions and grows in all 13 German regions. Depending on type of soil and microclimate, it yields grapes that produce wines with extremely diverse nuances. They range from bone dry to lusciously sweet and from everyday wines to rare, high-quality collectibles. A “typical” Riesling is reminiscent of peach or apple on the nose, and has pronounced acidity. It is fantastic for food pairing and sparkling wine production.
Known for their approachable, light and refreshing taste, Müller-Thurgau wines make for easy, everyday drinking. Bred in 1882 by Professor Hermann Müller (1850-1927) from the Swiss canton Thurgau, this namesake wine now accounts for about 12% of Germany’s vineyard area and is grown in all 13 German wine-growing regions. The wines have a light Muscat tone, usually mild acidity, and sometimes, a flowery bouquet.
Dornfelder was bred in 1955, originally developed for use as a blending wine to add color to pale red wines, but has quickly become known as a classic German wine. Dornfelder is vinified in all styles, but primarily as a dry wine. One distinctive style is a very fruity Dornfelder that brings forth the grape’s intense aromas of sour cherry, blackberry, and elder. Other growers ferment and/or age their Dornfelders in casks or barriques, focus on tannins and structure, and create rich, smooth, and harmonious deep color. All styles have an unmistakably deep color.
Although it is a mutation of Pinot Noir and has pinkish skin, Grauburgunder is a white wine grape. It produces pale to golden yellow wines reminiscent of mango, nuts, almonds, and quince. It is vinified in stainless steel or oak, and typically denotes a dry, medium-bodied wine with fairly lively acidity. Germany now ranks third worldwide in terms of vineyard area devoted to Pinot Gris.
Weissburgunder wines’ fresh acidity and delicate fruitiness make it not only an ideal food wine, but also a light summer wine. A white mutation of Pinot Gris, the grape has shown a steady upswing for several decades; its area has doubled within the past ten years, with Germany having the second highest number of plantings after Italy. German Pinot Blanc is typically vinified dry and have a slightly nutlike aroma.
Subtle in aroma and mild in acidity, hearty, fairly neutral Silvaner is an excellent food pairing wine. The wines are sometimes earthy and powerful, and are prized for being juicy and mouth-filling. The widespread cultivation of Silvaner dates from the early 19th century, and it was once the most important grape variety in Germany. It has long been a traditional variety in Rheinhessen and Franken.
This Trollinger x Riesling crossing was only first introduced in the early 1970s but already saw its peak in 1992. Since then the number of plantings has declined. Known as Riesling’s “little cousin,” this aromatic wine is perfect for everyday drinking with aromas of pear, apple, currant, apricot, and more, and can be vinified dry to sweet.
Bacchus is a crossing of Silvaner, Riesling, and Müller-Thurgau, bred in the 1930s. Its floral Muscat tone is reminiscent of Scheurebe, and it is often fruity and crisp. This grape quickly became a favorite of growers as it ripens faster than many other varietals and is one of the more easy-going grapes. The wines are often vinified with some residual sugar and are rich in extract.