Winemaking in Germany has a long tradition dating back some 2,000 years. It is the Romans, who at that time ruled over Germany that contributed most to the development of the winemaking. Romans that learned viticulture from the Etruscans and the Greeks spread it over Germanic territories.
After the Romans, the church’s monasteries had the most impact on winemaking, and that cultivated forward viticultural practices. Throughout the middle ages, the church monasteries planted some of Germain’s finest vineyard sites.
However, after Napoleon’s invasion, most of the church’s vineyards were sold to rich landowners. It was during the 18th and 19th century when German wines were regarded as equal with French wines.
Queen Victoria of England visited Germany in 1845. There she was attracted by German Riesling and created the term – Hock. Even today, German Riesling is known as Hock in Britain.
Unfortunately, the 20th century was devastating for the wine industry in Germany. The economic crisis, the wars, and wine diseases had horrendous consequences over the wine industry. On top of it, a series of confusing laws were introduced in the ‘70s. They further weakened the already declining winemaking industry. Quality standards were at the lowest possible point, and Germany began exporting strictly cheap and sweet wine.
This wine was famous in the US, the UK, and other countries across the world. But at the same time, no one in Germany would even consider drinking Liebfraumilch or some of its many variations. The most unfortunate part was that in the eyes of other nations, Liebfraumilch defined German wine.
German Wine in recent times
But in recent times, much has changed. Germany still produces plenty of inexpensive wines, but it also introduced many new venerable premium wines. New, modern, and progressive wine labeling laws were introduced that proved to be very beneficial to the German winemaking industry. But the overall impression is that there is much to be done to strengthen the wine industry.
The winemakers focus more on producing drier wines, and that is about 70% total production. Germany produces some exceptional sparkling wines as well. They are the world’s biggest consumers of sparkling wines per person.
Despite the many challenges, Germany is positioned as the 8th biggest wine exporter in the world. A big part of their export belongs to white wines, while their selection of red wines is limited, but of high quality.
Germany has some of the most northerly located wine regions in the world. It has thirteen viticultural regions that are situated mainly in the southern and southwest parts of the country. Many of the vineyards are on the slopes of the Rhine and the Mosel River.
The way they are perched on the slopes makes for a spectacular setting. They are must-see sights often enjoyed by tourists scouting the area. But they are not so spectacular for vineyard owners that need to farm the land and maintain the vineyards. The very steep slopes are notoriously challenging to work on.
Modern German Winemaking
Nowadays, there are almost 100 varieties of grapes in Germany. But Muller-Thurgau and Riesling make up for more than 40% of all varieties. Spatburgurnder (Pinot Noir) is the most common red variety in Germany. The Germans also love different Pinot varieties like Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Gris. Germany is the new leader for producing exceptional Pinot Noir.
Germany holds more than 60% of the Riesling market in the world. Their Riesling vineyards make the largest Riesling growing area worldwide. At the same time, the demand for German Riesling is unstoppable. Much of that demand is related to a shift in quality-oriented patterns of consumption. German Riesling is banking big on that, and current projects will keep on doing that in the foreseeable future.
Many German wines are regarded highly by wine critics from all over the world. They are praised for their intensely complex sweetness, food-friendliness, and so on. Many of their white wines have received a lot of international awards for their quality. Red wines are getting better and better, but ripeness remains a challenge.
All in all, German wines provide excellent value when compared to other premium wines from different parts of the world. As an additional value, wine tasting in Germany can be quite the experience. There is plenty of beautiful vineyards featuring many historical buildings that are worth the trip. Any wine enthusiast can take great pleasure in touring the wine regions of Germany.
German winemaking had its ups and downs, but from what it can be observed, now it’s doing just fine. It is far from a perfect situation, but what it lacks in some areas, it compensates in others. It might not be able to dominate the red wine market, because of the obvious reasons for which we have talked about earlier, but their white wines are set on a path of global domination.