Germany’s Wine Regions

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In honor of Oktoberfest, we thought we’d spend a little time talking about German wines. We know that this is a tradition celebrated with beer but we wanted to give the wines of Germany their time in the spotlight.

Top Grapes

Riesling is the most predominant grape variety in Germany, accounting for 60% of its grape growing area and the country’s most widely exported wine. Despite the fact that there are nearly twenty different grape varieties grown in Germany, the top three grape varieties are: Riesling (22%), Müller-Thurgau (13.3%) and Spätburgunder (11.1%).

Out of all the Old World European wines, Germany doesn’t produce volumes as large as the wine leaders in Europe (France, Italy, Spain), but the quality of their wines are quite exceptional and unique based on the diversity of Germany’s wine growing regions.

An easy way to remember Germany’s wine regions

 

There are 13 wine growing regions in Germany, many of them named after their rivers (i.e., Ahr, Mosel, Rhein, Nahe, Saale). If you don’t get a chance to go visit them all, here’s an easy way to remember them and what makes them unique. We’ve given each region a sound bite description to help you.


Ahr
Red wine paradise

Pinot Noir {or Spätburgunder} is undoubtedly the most popular grape variety. Here cooler temps are moderated by the Ahr River and the soils retain heat, keeping the grapevines warm.


Baden
Spoiled by the sun

Known as Pinot Country (meaning Pinot Noir, …Blanc, and …Gris) this is one of the warmer areas of Europe and in Germany getting the most sun and having a Mediterranean climate. In Germany, the Kaiserstuhl region in Baden gets the most sunshine.


Franken
Bocksbeutel country

Known for the bocksbeutel, a flat bulbous bottle that was used to traditionally for everyday white wines (which interestingly doesn’t roll downhill). Their white wines are earthy mineral and primarily include Silvaner and Müller-Thurgau.


Hessische Bergstrasse
Early Spring

Spring arrives here earlier than anywhere in Germany. It is also one of the smallest growing regions in Germany. Terraced hills, fruits and nut trees thrive here and it’s been said that this area is where “Germany starts to be Italy.” Riesling is king of Bergstrasse.


Mittelrhein
Riesling and romance

Think charming and romantic medieval castles and picturesque towns. Wines here are mineral rich and hearty with lively acidity. Known mostly for Riesling.


Mosel
Elegance and history

The Mosel (named after the river) is Germany’s oldest wine-growing region. Rieslings from the Mosel are very elegant with more minerality and have a delicate residual sweetness on the palate.


Nahe
A small precious stone

Like a gem in the treasure chest of German wine regions, no other region offers so many different types of soil in such a small space. Local vintners produce a wide range of wines including Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Kerner, Müller-Thurgau and reds including Dornfelder and Portugieser. Nahe is an independent wine growing region by law.


Pfalz
Where almond trees bloom

Think of Mediterranean weather with almond, fig and lemon and olive trees. Full bodied and juicy Rieslings are produced in this area which is the largest area under Riesling vines. Dornfelder is the second most popular grape. There are 600 grapevines for every inhabitant of Southern Pfalz.


Rheingau
Royal Riesling

Riesling is the undisputed king among the grape varieties. Rieslings from Rheingau has touches of mineral and marked by fresh fruity acidity. Spatlese (late harvest) has its origins here.


Rheinhessen
Dynamic revival

Younger generation winemakers recognize the potential of this driest and warmest area in Germany for growing grapes and agriculture. There are such diverse soils and microclimates, a single vintner can produce 30 or more different wines per year. Silvaner is the most popular white having the largest acreage of the grape worldwide. Müller-Thurgau, Riesling and Pinot varieties are also grown. Known for Trulli white stone shelters in vineyards.


Saale Unstrut
A piece of heaven

The beauty of the landscape has attracted people here for years. These are the northernmost vineyards of Germany with low yields giving wines finesse. Müller-Thurgau is main grape variety followed by Pinot Blanc and Silvaner. Red wines are rare and hardly ever leave the region. Wines are known for being delicate and lively with fresh acidity.


Sachsen
Easternmost and rare
Wines from Sachsen are rarely found on the market as less than 1 percent of German wines come from here. It is one of the smallest wine growing regions in Germany producing delicate Müller-Thurgau, Riesling and Pinot Blanc.


Württemberg
Red wine country

The hilly landscape along the rivers shows the volcanic origin and geological history of Württemberg. This area is home to both Baden and Wurttemberg wine regions but they are both unique. Red wines include Trollinger, Pinot Meunier, Lemberger and Pinot Noir. Made of part time wine growers who deliver grapes to coops but also wines that are self marketed.

Learning the geography of where the wine regions are located and knowing what they’re most famous for is the best way to recall the differences between each of these wonderfully unique and rich areas in Germany.

Illustration: Dennis Crothers/Wired.com
Photos courtesy of The German Wine Institute

Comments 2

  1. Great article, love the way your mapped out each of the wine regions. I would like to see this for Italy since we are planning a trip next May.

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