German Wine Press
Introduction to
German wine

English introduction to German Wine
Including a directory of all of the top wine auction houses

Categories listed on this page:
A short history of German wineA short history of German wine
German wine classificationsGerman wine classifications

A short history of German wine

history of German wineGermany has a long traditional history of wine growing however wine drinkers in other countries have tended to opt for Italian and French wines over German wines in the last few decades. Until recently, even in top class restaurants the wine lists have tended to be devoid of German wines. The quality of German wine, inparticular white wine, is now being recoginised by the wine drinkers. It is not uncommen in England (the largest export market for German wine) to now find a number of good German wines listed on the wine menu, even with the competition from New World wine.


Reisling is classic grape variety connected with German winegrowing tradition. Although France and Austria have also been documented as planting riesling in the 15th century, German Rhein Riesling sets a benchmarket for Riesling in other countries. On the Rhein river and it's tributaries, the banks are classically extremely steep making it difficult to harvest with machines. The ground is made up of a lot of slate and the grapes get a lot of sunlight. Due to the cooler climate, red wine has historically been difficult to cultivate and only in the late 20th century has the production of red wine in Germany exploded to suit market demand.

Modern German wine

German wine is generally conceived as being sweet as this was actually a mass-market style produced to satisfy the consumer demand during 60's through to 70's and 80's. A shifting market, particularly with large interest in red wine, has seen a trend towards a much drier style of white wine and the new planting and production of red wine, in particular Dornfelder and Spätbergunder (Pinot Noir).

The mass market production of cheap wine in the past somewhat damaged the reputation of German wine however now specialist boutique wineries, wine communes and larger established wineries are now developing a good reputation overseas.

The traditional Rhein Riesling differs from other Reislings as the structure and taste of the wine strongly reflects the mineral and slate terrior. Compared with other Rieslings, German Riesling is often refined and can be described as being subtl with finess.

Grape Varieties (statistic 2004)

64% White wine grapes   36% Red Wine grapes
20 % Riesling   11,1% Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir)
14,7% Müller-Thurgau   8,0% Dornfelder
5,5% Silvaner   4,8% Portugieser
4,5% Kerner   2,5% Trollinger
3,7% Grauer Burgunder (Pinot Gris)   2,4% Schwarzriesling (Pinot Meunier)
3,1% Weisser Burgunder (Pinot Blanc)   2,0% Regent
2,3% Bacchus   1,5% Lemberger
1,9% Scheurebe      
1,1% Gutedel      
0,9% Chardonnay      
0,8% Faberrebe      
0,8% Huxelrebe      


German wine classifications

There are four levels of German wine quality:

Table wine / vin de table
This is the lowest category and signifies an ordinary table wine. The grapes have to be from an approved grape variety from a recognised wine growing region. These wines are readily found in supermarkets and commonly served in 1 litre jugs in traditional wine cellars and taverns with local food around the wine growing areas. These wines may be chaptalized.

Country wine / vin du pays
Similar to Tafelwein (Table wine) however Country Wines have to have a higher "must weight" (German = Öchsle, France = Brix, USA = specific gravity) which affected the alcohol content when fermented. Landwein is required to be trocken (dry) or halbtrocken (off dry). These wines may be chaptalized.

Q.b.A - Qualitatswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete
Quality wine from a specific winegrowing region.
Wines from a certain region or village that have in some way been 'corrected' (ie. adding sugar) and therefor do not qualify as a Prädikat wine. The grapes are often riper than in Tafelwein and Landwein.

Q.m.P - Qualitatswein mit Prädikat
Quality wine with distinction
This is a top qualification and is a wine from a specific village or vineyard and the grapes must have reached a certain level of ripness specific to the grape type an region, as dictated by law. These wines may be chaptalized. As part of the Q.m.P wines there are additional classifications that refer to the ripeness of the grapes upon picking:

Kabinett: Light wine with low alcohol from ripe grapes, can be sweet, off dry or dry. Usually Riesling however sometimes blended with Müller-Thurgau.

Spätlese: Late harvest wine picked at least seven days after normal harvest for riper grapes with a higher "must weight". A more concentrated wine than the Kabinett with better cellaring potential. "Classic" is a new classification being fazed in to replace Spätlese.

Auslese: Selected Harvest - Also a late harvest however often picked later and usually picked by hand. The grapes are often infected with botrytis (noble rot). Under the revised re-classification, Auslese will be known as "Selected"

Beerenauslese (BA): Selected Berries Harvest - Usually afected with botrytis (noble rot) and has a specific "must weight" leading to (desert) wines that are sweet, rich and age well.

Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA): Selected Dry Berries Harvest -The botrytis (noble rot) afffected grapes are almost raisens at the time of picking producing concentrated golden wines that are expensive and rare.

in addition

Eiswein: Ice Wine - formed from naturally frozen grapes in which the water dissolves leaving concentrated sugar. Once picked and fermented it produces a sweet desert wine that can either be drunk young or aged.

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