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Everywhere Else

Germany


  • Germany generally has a northern continental climate, but within this general framework there is great variety in the various microclimates. These differences are created in many cases by the river valleys that run through the country. Many soil types are found and some of the most distinctive wines are produced from slate soils that help warm the roots while providing drainage for the vines.

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  • White
    Without question, the most successful grape in Germany is Riesling, and slightly more than 20% of the country’s vineyard area is planted to this grape. Another grape variety that has almost as much vineyard land dedicated to it is the earlyripening and easy-to-grow Muller Thurgau, thought to be a cross between Riesling and Silvaner. It gives a wine with fairly neutral aromas and soft acidity. Kerner, Scheurebe and Bacchus are other Riesling crosses bred either to ripen early or to ripen to high must weights. Silvaner accounts for about 8% of the vineyard area, and provides a wine that is fairly neutral on the nose. It reaches its best expression in the Franken area. Small amounts of Pinot Gris, or Rulander, and Pinot Blanc, or Weissburgunder are also grown.


    Black
    Among the black grapes which make up over 15% of the total vineyard area, Pinot Noir, called Spätburgunder, is the most popular and a particular specialty of the Ahr. Blauer Portugieser, Limberger (also called Lemberger), Blaufränkisch (or Kekfrankos) and the cross Dornfelder are also grown.

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  • The various quality levels of German wine are among the more confusing aspects of this category to English-speaking consumers. The two lowest categories are equivalent to table wine and country wine, and are known in German as tafelwein and landwein.

    The lowest level of quality wine is known as QbA, (Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete), meaning that it has one of the thirteen regions, or Anbaugebiete, indicated on the label, although it can exhibit a more specific vineyard location as well.

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  • QmP and Prädikat
    At each of the next levels, a higher minimum must weight is required, i.e. the grape must is required to contain more sugar at harvest. In Germany, must weight is measured on the Oechsle scale, which is abbreviated Oe, similar to the Brix scale used in the US. These higher levels form part of Qualitätswein mit Prädikat (QmP), or quality wine with special characterstics. The lowest prädikat level is Kabinett, followed by Spätlese (late harvest), Auslese (selected late harvest), Beerenauslese or BA (shriveled late harvest) and Eiswein (produced from frozen grapes) and Trockenbeerenauslese or TBA (shriveled and dry selected late harvest). For Auslese and higher quality level wines, it is customary for pickers to make many passes through the vineyards to pick the grapes only at their advanced stage of development. This is one reason why these wines are so expensive to produce and to purchase.


    Sweetness
    Although must weight is higher as one ascends the scale, the wines are not uniformly sweeter. Sweetness is sometimes achieved by stopping the fermentation for the better wines or by adding concentrated grape juice known as süssreserve. Kabinett, Spätlese, and occasionally Auslese wines can be fermented dry, while BA, TBA and eiswein are nearly always very sweet dessert wines.


    Specific Vineyard
    When a wine is from a specific vineyard within one of these villages, the suffix –er is added to the name of the town to indicate that the vineyard is located in that town. This is why one will see Wehlener Sonnenuhr, or Graacher Domprobst, for example. In some cases there are vineyards of the same in different villages. This means one could also see Zeltinger Sonnenuhr, for example, which is located across the river from Wehlener Sonnenuhr.


    Other Label Terms
    Other indications may also be made on the label. Liebfraumilch indicates a blend of grapes of QbA quality that comes from one of several regions; Gutsabfüllung indicates estate bottled; and all QbA and QmP wines are tasted by the state before being awarded an AP number. This is sometimes used among wine geeks to distinguish various cuvees from the same producer.


    Other quality indications
    There are also a rich variety of different and conflicting classification systems available to confuse the consumer. The precursor of these classification systems was the Charta movement that stricter rules for must weight and yield than the regulations in force. A separate association of growers is known as the VDP, although these two organizations worked together, notably in the Rheingau. One recent development has been the use of expressions equivalent to Premier Cru ('erstes gewächs') and Grand Cru ('grosses gewächs'), although these are not officially recognized by the government. The government however has recognized the terms "classic" and "selection" used to indicate style.

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  • Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
    With some of the best sites in Germany and a predominance of Riesling, the Mosel is one of the most compelling regions. Two of the tributaries of the Mosel, the Saar and the Ruwer are often grouped together. Some of the most famous villages from this area include Piesport, Brauneberg, Bernkastel, Graach, Wehlen, Zeltigen, Urzig and Erden.


    Rheingau
    The Rheingau is another region that possesses steep slate slopes with a south/southeast exposure. The principal villages include Hochheim, Eltville, Kiedrich, Erbach, Hattenheim, Hallgarten, Oestrich, Winkel, Johannisberg, Gelsenheim, Rudesheim, Assmannhausen and Lorch.

    The wines of the Rheingau have more body and weight and less of the ethereal character and "fine boned" structure of the Mosel with their exotic aromas.


    Pfalz
    The Pfalz has a much warmer climate than the Mosel or the Rheingau, the slopes are gentler, and there is less slate in the soil. The wines are fuller and more powerful and some show a pronounced earthiness. Many of the most famous dry wines are produced here. The principal villages include Wachenheim, Forst, Niederkirchen, Deidesheim and Ruppertsberg.


    Nahe and other regions
    Other regions include the Nahe, and its villages of Schloss Bockelheim and Niederhausen among others; the Rheinhessen; the Mittelrhein; the Ahr, famous for Pinot Noir; and the southern regions of Baden for Pinot Noir and Franken, a region known for Silvaner, particularly as bottled in the distinctive bottle called Bocksbeutel after the testes of a goat. Less well-known regions include Hessische Bergstrasse, Saale-Unstrut, Sachsen and Württemberg.

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