Everything You Need To Know About German Wine

Wine production is a big part of Germany’s culture and economy. The high mountains and cold weather make good conditions for good quality grapes, making German wine popular across the globe. Germany grows about 8 main varieties of grapes, which are used either singly or in combinations in their wines.

vineyards in south germany

Understanding German wine labels

Sometimes understanding the language on a fine bottle of German wine can be a little intimidating. There is usually a lot of content and most, if not all of it, will be in German. Here is a quick guide that should prove helpful. The 2 broadest terms are Deutscher Wein and Landwein. The former refers to wine made anywhere in Germany and the latter to wine made in specific but broad geographic regions. Prädikatswein is another key term which refers to the levels of wine classification and the Prädikat level on the bottle is an indication of how ripe the grapes were when they were made into wine. The riper the grapes, the sweeter and more highly flavoursome the wine. Some of the wines at the sweeter end of the spectrum include Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese. The latter two make great dessert wines and are picked after being infected with ‘noble rot’, a safe fungus that adds to the sweetness and richness of the taste.
german sweet wine for dessert

Finding A Sweet German Wine

Many people prefer sweet German wine. But finding it sometimes can prove to be difficult as sometimes winemakers will take sweet Spätlese grapes, make a wine from it and label it Kabinett, which is the least sweet wine in the Prädikat range. A never-fail technique is to note the alcohol level of the wine. As a rule of thumb, the lower the alcohol level, the sweeter the wine will be. This is because not all the sugar would have fermented and what’s left will contribute to the sweetness. So a wine with 8% alcohol will be quite sweet, while one with 13% alcohol is going to be quite dry. Another tip – if there is the term Trocken on the bottle, it is sure to be dry wine, even if there are sweetness-indicative words added to it. Halbtrocken refers to an ‘off-dry’ flavor, while a bottle labeled ‘GG” will also contain dry wine which is not sweet. GG wines are generally more expensive as the grapes are sourced from a single, high quality vineyard.
range of grapes in germany

Most Popular White German Wine Grapes

There is a wide range of grapes that go into the making of white German wine. Among these, the Riesling is considered the king of the crop. It grows even in stony and poor soil and requires very little moisture. As a boon in the cold weather of Germany, Riesling grapes are very frost-resistant and produce very acid-heavy wine which also gives it a long shelf life. Riesling grapes are harvested late, usually only by October, and the wine has a fragrance and taste of peaches and apples when young. It is grown throughout Germany and is the largest grape variety grown in the country. The second most popular German wine grape is the Müller-Thurgau, or Rivaner, and is usually harvested in September. Although like the Riesling, it does well with less sun and less than perfect soil, these grapes require more moisture and therefore soil that drains better. The wine is less acidic and more floral than a Riesling. Silvaner grapes were previously a contender for the most abundantly grown wine grape in Germany. Today, however, they account for only 7% of the country’s grape production. They make a full-bodied wine which is only mildly acidic and best enjoyed as a young wine.