A Look At Germany's Top Wine Regions & Great Grapes
While beer lovers associate Germany with beer (and rightly so), this picturesque country is home to some of the world's most superlative wines. It's true that Riesling is king in Germany, reigning as both the most planted variety and the grape which creates the best wines. This delicate grape thrives in Germany's cooler climate. Famous for creating vibrant, floral, mineral, stone fruit and citrus laden wines, Riesling is a sommelier favourite for its versatility with food. Because it comes in a full range of dry to sweet, it can be paired with a simple chicken dish to a heavily spiced Indian curry.
Although Germany isn't known for its reds (yet!), there are a few red varietals grown here that make excellent wines and climate changes are increasingly benefiting the German red wine scene. Spätburgunder, which we know as Pinot Noir is the star, but talented producers are also making delicious wine from red grapes like Dornfelder and Blauer Portugieser.
By and large, Germany possesses a continental climate. Winters are cold, while summers tend towards moderately warm. Producing wine in one of the world's most northerly winemaking countries means taking into account everything from vineyard aspect, elevation, exposure to sunlight, soil, and proximity to water (which reflects sunlight back onto the vines and helps grapes to ripen). This is why Germany's top vineyards are characterised by steep slopes which cling to the hillsides next to the country's many rivers, requiring labour intensive hand harvest each year. But the hard work of Germany's winemakers goes rewarded – German Riesling is considered by many to be one of the greatest wines in the world.
As for the regions themselves? There are a total of 13 wine regions in Germany. We'll take a look at the ones you need to know.
The Mosel River snakes its way between sloping hillsides from inside France to its junction at Koblenz with the mighty Rhine river. The best vineyards have a southerly aspect which helps grapes to get that little extra bit of sun exposure and heat to help them ripen. This is essential in those cooler years where grapes may otherwise struggle to reach ripeness. Riesling dominates the Mosel Valley, yielding wines of incredible purity, delicacy, elegance and finesse. Mosel Riesling can be dry to sweet and tends to have lower alcohol levels, making it a perfect lunch wine.
The Mosel is really three distinct areas: Mosel itself, the Saar and the Ruwer valleys. Mosel is the most internationally recognised of these regions with premium wines coming from the might S bends of the rive between Cochem through Berkastel to Piesport.
Along with the Mosel, the Rheingau is one of Germany's finest winemaking regions. Legendary vineyard after legendary vineyard dots the slopes which hug the Rhine river. Again, Riesling dominates the vineyards here. Compared to its siblings in the Mosel, Rheingau Riesling tends to be riper and more concentrated in flavour. We also see excellent quality Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) in the western part of this region.
The Pfalz is Germany's second largest wine region and shares a border with France. Riesling is also a major player in the Pfalz. It tends to be a little riper and has slightly lower acidity than wines from the Mosel. You'll also encounter some red here in the form of Spätburgunder and Dornfelder.
White wine fans who love racy, food-friendly, aromatic wines should get to know German Riesling. They're ideal for anyone who prefers lower alcohol wines full of generous flavour. And keep a look out for German red wines, particularly Pinot Noir. With climates changing German wines will become more of a force internationally – an absolute winner in our book!