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Guide to Wine in Germany

Throughout the world there exist around 2,000 varieties of grapes, only around 200 are suitable for wine production. In Germany there are only two dozen traditional varieties used in German wine production. Even so there still seems to be a lot of wine out there and getting to understand labeling and the different varieties of wines available can be a bit of a minefield. Where better to start than to taste them! The best time to do this is in Autumn when the majority of wine festivals are held along the wine routes of Germany, here you can combine the breathtaking scenery, the autumnal colours glowing in the still- warm sunshine, with wine tasting at one of the huge selections of wine festivals throughout the wine regions of Germany. The wine Festivals are as diverse as the wines they celebrate and some date back hundreds of years. There will be music, dancing, traditional folk music bands and often processions and parades showing off this year’s wine Princess. There is a concentration of wine festivals along the Rhine and Mosel wine growing regions. Some 500 festivals take place annually in the towns and villages along the Rhine and a further 300 along the Mosel(click here to see our list of wine festivals). Germany produces many styles of wine, dry, sweet, white, red and rose and the sparkling wine, Sekt.

The wine regions of Germany:-

Mosel-Saar-Ruwer:– The river Mosel runs through the valley and is joined by it’s tributaries the rivers Saar and Ruwer. The Steep slopes allow the sunshine to ripen the grapes and the soil retains it’s warmth even at night. The Riesling grape is grown in this region. Major towns are Koblenz, Cochem, Zell, Bernkastel, Piesport and Trier.

Rheingau:- Is a small but one of the most distinguished wine regions in the world, rich in tradition. Because of it’s Southerly situation on a bend in the river, it receives more sunshine than others. It is a fairly flat landscape evolving into progressively steeper slopes. It produces top quality wines made from grapes harvested at various stages of ripeness.

Mittelrhein:– Between the Rheingau and the Mosel lies the Mittelrhein region, with fairytale castles nestling along the slopes bordering the Rhine valley. The villages in the area are home to pretty half timbered houses adorned with flowers. The towns of Bacharach(named after Baccus the god of wine), St.Goar and Boppard are bustling with activity. The Rhine has lost none of it’s romantic appeal and millions of visitors flock here every year. It is a beautiful region of steep, terraced vineyards stretching 100 km along the banks of the Rhine. On a bend in the river you will find the Lorely rock famous for the maidens who lure unsuspecting sailors to their deaths on the rocks.

Baden:- Baden is the most southerly of Germany’s wine regions. A long slim strip of vineyards extending some 400 km from North to South. A warm and sunny wine growing region in Germany, stretching from the Bodensee (Lake Constance) through the Black forest and Baden-Baden, to the lower Rhine. It is noted for it’s Pinot wines both red and white and it’s fiery red from the volcanic Kaiserstuhl area.

Sachsen or Saxony:– From the former East Germany, runs along the River Elbe including the well known towns of Dresden and Meissen. The wines produced in this region are dry, crisp wines, and they are proud of their speciality Gewurztraminer. The predominate grape variety grown in this region is the Muller-Thurgau.

Franken:- Situated east of Frankfurt, following bends along the Main River and the only wine region in Bavaria, Franken is probably the least well know of all the wine regions, but produces good, quality wines, easily recognised by their distictive shaped bottles. White wines are Sylvaner and Muller-Thurgau and reds are mainly Pinot Noir. The wines of this region are full-bodied, drier and earthier than those of other regions, this is mainly due to the climate of cold winters, high annual rainfall and early frosts.

Pfalz:-With around 23,000 hectares of vineyards, Pfalz is the second largest wine growing region and is the sunniest and driest region in Germany. This region produces more wine than any of the other regions most coming from the Riesling grape. Red wine production has been increased in this area in recent years. The original of the German wine roads runs along through charming villages and small towns, the most well known being the spa town Bad Dürkheim which houses, in the main square, the world’s largest wine barrel which actually contains a restaurant, around the outside of the square you can sample wines and make purchases and walk through the pretty streets through to the park.

Württemberg:- One of two wine regions in the federal state of Baden-Württemberg this region produces many red wines from the Trollinger grape variety, from light crisp reds to those with body such as the Schwartzriesling and Lemberger. The region contains Heilbronn and Stuttgart, where you can find wine festivals without leaving the city.

Hessische Bergstrasse:- The Hessian mountain road takes it’s name from the old roman trade route known as the strata montana, and is one of the smallest of all the wine regions. The slopes are not only covered with vines, but also with orchards of fruit trees which are spectacular when they flower in the spring, famous for the colour and the fragrance. The wines tend to be fragrant and rich. The Riesling and Pinot are the predominate grape varieties of this region.

Rheinhessen:- Situated on the west bank of the Rhine lies Germany’s largest wine region. It lies between Mainz and Bingen and produces the world famous Liebfraumilch. Gentle rolling hills are planted with the largest acreage of Silvaner grape. There has been a lot of development in the region over recent years there are many quality wines being produced here.

Nahe:- named after the river that runs down through valleys of the forested Hunsrück hills to Bingen on the Rhine, this is one of the smaller wine regions, but produces a diverse variety of wines from relatively few grape varieties. At the centre of the region is Bad Kreuznach. The main grape grown here is the Riesling , some of the wines here have achieved a high reputation in recent years.

Ahr:- One of the smallest wine regions, and relatively unknown outside of Germany. This region produces stunning red wines, the predominate grape being the Spätburgunder. It runs only 25 km along the river Ahr, a tributary of the Rhine that runs in at Remagen. The vines are at the mercy of spring frosts and therefore the vines are planted on steep slopes to help make the most of the sun’s warmth. The region also grows Dornfelder, Portugieser, Riesling and Muller-Thurgau.

Saale-Unstrut:- The second of the two regions from the former east Germany. It is situated along the rivers Saale and Unstrut, around Freyburg and Naumburg. Being one of Europe’s more northernmost wine regions the weather can be uncertain and the vines are planted on labour -intensive stone terraces to help the crops make the most of any sunshine. The majority of the wines of the region are dry, white.

The grades of German wines found on ladels give an indication to the quality of the winePrädikatswein -The top of the range grapes which are picked when the grape has reached a certain level of ripeness. Kabinet-fine- light wines,picked several days after Prädikatswein grapes, and having a fairly low alcohol content. Spätlese – (late harvest) ripe, elegant wine, picked 10-14 days after Kabinet.Auslese- (selected harvest) hand selected grapes from a late harvest with high sugar content. Beerenauslese- The grapes are left longer on the vine than the Auslese, they develop a fungus which removes moisture from the grape producing very sweet dessert wines. Ice wine- These grapes have reached the same sweetness as the Beerenauslese grapes but have frozen on the vine. These are picked at night to remain frozen and pressed in their frozen state.

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