Those thinking that Germany can only make good beers will be surprised to know that this country produces among the best white wines in the world. Riesling, in particular, thrives in Germany due to it being the perfect habitat for this species of grape.
Clearly German geographical position, its cold climate and a general lack of sun are not particularly favorable to viticulture. The vine is at the edge of adaptability in its climate, but the strategic position of the vines, usually planted on south-facing slopes, near water streams that offer milder conditions, result in balanced wines with good and pleasant acidity, a fact that allows them to age for many years developing amazing complexity.
Viticulture in Germany was introduced by the Romans, but until the time of Charlemagne, vines were mainly concentrated in the western part of the river Rhine. In the following centuries, Christian monks continued the diffusion of winemaking traditions bringing the vine also in Franconia and Bavaria.
The first half of the twentieth century was a time of deep crisis for wine production, mainly due to the two world wars that imposed severe restrictions on the country’s economy. But between 1950 and 1990, German viticulture underwent a profound development, and the government introduced strict laws oriented to quality production.
The most popular wine region is the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer extending along the river Moselle. The most cultivated grape is Riesling, which alone reaches over 50% of the area under vine. The cultivation of the vine in this region is rather difficult, and the vineyards are among the steepest in the world with gradients as high as 70%. The vines are generally planted in south-facing slopes with the aim of fully exploiting the effect of the sun. The resulting wines are suited to aging.
Another top region is Rheingau, a small area located west of Frankfurt. The Rieslings produced here are very different from those produced in the Mosel: more aromatic, usually fruitier, and richer with a less marked acidity. Indeed, Rheingau benefits from favorable climatic conditions, thanks to the providential effects of the Rhine River that reflects the light and warmth of the sun, ensuring greater consistency in the maturation of the grapes. This is also one of the reasons why the region produces also extraordinary sweet wines.
In contrast to other areas, Pfalz is not affected by the influence of the Rhine because the vineyards are usually located further away from its shore. But thanks to its particular microclimate, grapes tend to mature easily allowing the production of interesting sweet wines.
Located south of the Rheingau is the largest wine region of Germany – Rheinhessen. It mostly produces ordinary and inexpensive wines.
Among the other interesting wine regions deserving a mention: