German Wine: Liebfraumilch
This is probably the best known ofall German wines – yetitisa type of wine and not one specific wine. Originally the name was used to describe the wine of the Liebfrauenstift (Church of Our Lady) at Worms but later legislation specifically prevented the use of the term in association with the wine of this vineyard. Today, according to the German wine law, Liebfraumilch is classed as a QbA. It must be a white quality wine from the regions of Rheinhessen, Nahe, Pfalz and Rheingau, made from the Riesling, Silvaner or Miiller-Thurgau grapes, and possessing a ‘mild1 taste. It has to pass the required examinations for quality and receives a number (the A.P.) when it does so. In fact, most Liebfraumilch comes from the Rheinhessen, as the fullish wines of this region made good popular drinks.
Liebfraumilch is a wine unknown in Germany – to the astonishment of many visitors – because it was created as a style of German wine specifically for the export trade, so as to introduce the non-German public to a German wine. The outstandingly successful ‘Blue Nun’ Liebfraumilch, of H. Sichel & Son of Mainz, was first evolved in the 1920s: a courageous venture at a time when Germany was recovering from World War I and the great depression was obviously on the horizon. Today Blue Nun is possibly the biggest-selling branded white wine in the world! Nearly all the important shippers make a Liebfraumilch according to their own standards of what is good and what their customers want: some make a non-vintage wine, blending for consistent quality always; others use a blend of wines from a single year and put on a vintage. The style may vary considerably, so may the price. The eye-catching labels and unusual names often seen on bottles of Liebfraumilch are the shippers means of attracting the attention of the public to what is, essentially, a generic German wine, aimed at pleasing the non-German consumer outside Germany (as Corvo, blended to represent a ‘typical’ Sicilian wine).
The Liebfraumilch question is often much debated: some very respected authorities, including shippers, believe that it is virtually a brand name, with no advantage to the drinker who might be more interested and learn something from wine bearing the name of its region. Other equally respected people believe that the consistency of quality has the enormous advantage of being able to please world markets – very delicate German wines are obviously difficult to ship to many countries – and that it is important for people to know a wine that will please them easily, with a name they can pronounce, subject to strict quality controls imposed by legislation as well as the standards of the makers. It is probably fair to say that many people have become interested in German wines – and possibly wines in general – by drinking someone’s Liebfraumilch and enjoying it. However, if they confine their drinking entirely to Liebfraumilch, they may miss many pleasurable experiences and are limiting their knowledge.