The German wines you’ve been missing

By Sergio González | 16:48

France, Italy and Spain are the great wine producers in Europe while Germany, Belgium or Czech Republic are often regarded for their beers and ales. This is not fair since missing out the new German wines is something your palate can’t afford.

Actually, winemaking in Germany began as early as the first Roman conquerors brought some vines from sunny Italy and somehow managed to make them grow north of the Alps. It was so, so long ago that nobody had turned water into wine yet.

Once the Roman Empire ceased to exist, monks and nuns were in charge of not letting German winemaking perish along with it, and their medieval techniques are one of German wines’ unique features.

Winemaking in Germany is challenging: neither landscape nor weather will help you, but that’s nothing human will can’t accomplish. German winemakers may have to build terraces on slopes facing South to get enough sunlight on these northern locations and may only build them by lakes and rivers so it won’t be very cold at night, but in doing so, they reach perfection. A rough environment demands better techniques and more careful planning than in Southern Europe.

Wines and spirits are subject to trends and fashion like every other consumer product, and German wines took a turn in the 60s that made them pretty popular, but not necessarily better. Germany focused its winemaking in the sweet sparkling white wines we all identify nowadays as German-made.

The debate arose because of the petrol notes, goût de pétrole, present in older Riesling wines. Appreciated by experts as the integral aroma of a well-matured Riesling grape, it’s hard to like this taste the first time, so German wine industry favoured the more commercial sweet white Riesling wines.

However, around the globe a new generation of foodies is recovering old traditions that industrialization blew away. One of the most interesting sides of unique German winemaking is how they measure the quality of wines, which is based on the grape’s natural sugar at harvest rather than on the final product.

This leads Riesling wines to be categorized in 6 descending categories of ripeness. Kabinett is the first harvest, when sugar is still not very abundant, so viners get light-bodied wines. As grapes mature, sugar concentration rises and it’s the perfect time to pick them up if you are planning on making a sweeter, heavier Auslese. However, you can also let all the sugar ferment and get a dry (trocken, in German) Spaätlese. The other three categories are considered desert wines and range from dry, Trockenbeerenauslese, to several levels of sweetness, Beerenauslese and Eiswein.

There are even better news about this new generation of winemakers: their wines are totally “green”. Harvested from vineyards no further than 100 miles, produced sustainably but traditionally using FCE wooden barrels and a distribution system tighter than IKEA’s will leave your palate and your eco-self equally satisfied.

Our eating preferences have changed a lot in the recent years and thanks to TV shows like Kitchen Nightmare or Top Chef we know that nowadays food must be fresh, simple and straight to the point. The rise of these new German wines is explained by the perfect pairing they make with bruschettas, humus, charcuterie and all the food trends we can’t help gramming about. Are you ready to discover the old-new German wines?

Photo credit: Holger Stein Photography

Photo credit: Geo-Loge


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