Germany and It’s Association with Wine Making
Although Germany produces some of the finest white wines in the world, the quantity of wine produced is comparatively small beside the yield of France, Italy, Spain and the Argentine. The vineyards of Germany are the most northern in the world and nearly all the wines – and certainly all the finest wines – are white. The main areas are: the Rhine, the Mosel, the Palatinate (or Pfalz), Nahe. Franconia, and Baden-Wiirttemberg. In the last region a large amount of red wine is made; but few of this region’s wines are exported. Many of the German vineyards have been cultivated since Roman times, and the finest wines command record prices. This last kind of wine is possibly most enjoyable when served by itself, outside the context of a meal, because the delicacy of a beerenauslese, trockenbeerenauslese and eiswein is best appreciated without the distraction of any other flavouror smell. There is, of course, a vast amount of German wine intended for everyday drinking as well and among drinkers outside Germany, Liebfraumilch is possibly the best-known name.
In 1971, the new German Wine Law began to operate and this changed the labelling of wines, although of course wines bottled before this date will bear descriptions in use at the time they were made. The complexities of the new law are still being sorted out, but in general the German wines are now put into three categories: tafelwein or table wine; (Deutsche tafelwein is only from Germany) qualitatswein or quality wine; qualitatswein mit pradikat, a quality wine with qualifications. Only wines that come into the last category may bear the descriptions previously recognised: spatlese – late picked auslese – selected bunches of grapes beerenauslese – selected grapes trockenbeerenauslese – selected overripe grapes. All these wines contain only their natural sugar, varying according to the degree of ripeness attained when the grapes were picked, and may not be sweetened in any other way.
With the finest wines, grape varietiesmay be specified; but if they are not, it is assumed, on the Mosel, that the Riesling alone is used. As these wines are made in fairly small quantities, the actual cask number may also be given: each cask differing slightly. The name of the owner, or the establishment owning the vineyard, is also usually given on labels of the finest wines. The length of such names can be confusing to the non-German speaker, but it should be remembered that the precision with which German wines are named is essentially a safeguard to ensure the consumer getting exactly what is required. The difficulties attending production of German wines – climate, steepness of many of the vineyards, sensitive nature of the vines – throws added responsibility on the growers and shippers. It is said that, nowadays, it is more important to know the different styles of different shippers than to know vintages, and certainly the great vintage years are rarer in Germany than, usually, in France; the skill of modern winemaking enables passable and even good wine to be made in years that might, in former times, have been disastrous. It is the individual firm who can keep the wine true to the style of its region and its vintage (even when it has to be assisted by the laboratory in a poor year), and who can enable it to show itself to advantage in a good year.
An increasing quantity of sparkling wine is made in Germany and this is known generally as sekt. Some of it is made according to the Champagne method, but most is made by the CM ve close or Charmat method. Many fruit and other liqueurs are made in Germany, including bitters; but although these are exported, they tend not to be so well known outside their own country. Abbreviations often used on wine lists indicating the areas from which German wines come, are:
M. – Mosel.
N. orNa. – Nahe.
P. – Pfalz.
Rg. – Rheingau.
Rh. – Rheinhessen.
R. – Ruwer.
S. – Saar.