The 100,000ha of German vineyards produce some of the worlds greatest white
wines from the Riesling
grape. With a run of excellent vintages, top estate wines are at last
fashionable and Riesling is finally getting the acknowledgment it deserves. Its
touch of sweetness is underpinned by a racy acidity and a fresh purity of the
Germany is the seventh largest wine producer in the world. Its vineyards are
centred around the major rivers, the Rhine and the Mosel as well
as their tributaries. The continental climate with hot summers, cold winters
and long, warm autumns is perfect for late-harvest wines. The finest wines are
produced on steep, often terraced, south-facing vineyards close to rivers. The
maintenance and the harvesting of the vines are often done by hand.
White grapes make up 85% of plantings, but reds are increasing. Riesling has
a knack of maintaining its varietal character while reflecting the terroir of
its site, so while all German Rieslings have that balance of nerve-tingling
pure fruit and refreshing acidity, there are definite regional differences.
The steep slatey slopes of the Mosel Valley produce the lightest,
most minerally Rieslings, with firm, steely examples coming from its
tributaries, the Saar and Ruwer. The south-facing slopes of the
Rheingau are drier and sunnier,
so the wines are fuller. The underrated Nahe lies in between the Mosel and
Rheingau both stylistically and geographically, while the large Rheinhessen
region can produce firm, full and racy Rieslings.
The Pfalz region further
south is warmer, so the wines are richer. Traditional wines have a degree of
sweetness but there has been a move to dry and medium dry styles (Trocken and
Halbtrocken), making up 40% of production.