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.
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.
Chardonnay, one of the most popular grape varieties in the world, is cultivated in virtually all wine-growing countries. In Germany, the grape was added to the list of officially permitted varietals in 1991, and has slowly but surely gained ground. Thus far, results have been good and even impressive in areas where the Pinot family has played an important role, such as Baden or the Pfalz. Most Chardonnays are vinified dry, fermented and/or aged in stainless steel or barrique casks. Fresh, fruity Chardonnays are also used for sparkling wine production.
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.
Scheurebe’s history is a bit of a mystery as DNA profiling revealed that this varietal is likely a cross between an unknown wild grape and Riesling. Its intense bouquet is reminiscent of black currant, peach, or ripe pear, and it goes well with aromatic, spicy foods, from appetizer to dessert as wines can be produced in numerous styles from various ripeness levels. In recent years, there has been an increasing tendency to produce drier-style Scheurebe, which is quite similar to Sauvignon Blanc. Professor Georg Scheu bred it in 1916 in Rheinhessen, and Germany’s largest wine-growing region became a stronghold for the varietal.
Gutedel has been grown for 5,000 years, making it one of the oldest cultivated grape varieties in the world. In Germany, the grape dates back to the early 17th century. Gutedel achieved its international popularity as one of the most delicious and easy to drink table wines with unique expression of terroir. In southern Baden, it has maintained a local specialty.
Although this white grape is grown primarily in southwestern France, it is now cultivated around the world, including in Germany! The grape has been planted in Baden since around 1830, and some of today’s German Sauvignon Blanc wines have received high marks at international tastings. This grape is highly regarded and loved because of its breadth of aromas and flavors along with a fairly pronounced acidity.
Gewürztraminer, also known as Roter Traminer, is one of the oldest grape varieties still cultivated; it was documented in Germany in the 16th century. The thick-skinned, light red grape can reach high levels of ripeness and produce fine, perfumed white wines, straw to golden yellow in color. Gewürztraminer is known for being mild in acidity and very aromatic with notes of acacia blossoms, violets, honey, and more.
Many historians feel that the Romans brought Elbling to Germany more than 2,000 years ago. In Germany today, Elbling is a specialty cultivated almost exclusively in the Mosel region. These simple wines are light, fairly neutral, and often effervescent with delicate aromas reminiscent of apple.