Where: Cultivated in Rheingau and Mosel regions
Varieties:Favourites include Riesling, Liebfraumilsch and Sekt
Serving Suggestion: A fine sweet wine is a perfect desert drink
Wine has been cultivated in the Rheingau and the Mosel for over 2000 years. This is the home of German wines including their finest and most sought after of their white wine – the Riesling. German wine may not be highly rated by the wine drinkers of the rest of the world or even Germans themselves, but increasingly, wine critics internationally are singing the praises of some exceptional Germanic vintages.
A Sweet Tooth
By contrast with the traditional French wines, Germans like to make their wines less alcoholic and slightly sweeter, although very dry wines are also developed. Some of their white wines are superb and expensive. Riesling is a hot favourite, second only to Chardonnay in white wine consumption in America and has been described as the “Ferrari of white wines”. It was introduced in the areas of Southern Germany because of its greater resistance to frost.
Late in the 19th century, top German Rieslings were the world’s most highly prized wines, consistently fetching higher prices than Bordeaux’s first growth and this was Germany’s Golden Era of wine. By the 20th century German wine status fell from primacy to plonk. Its worst period was during the second world war when much of the vineyards were destroyed or abandoned. Post War Germany began to harvest wines in mass production, adding to the nation’s economic boom. By the 1980’s, even wealthy Germans prefered the tastes of imported French and Italian dry wines. It was only the unrefined Brits who championed the cause of the Liebfraumilch as a cheap but versatile table wine. During the 1990’s, their reputation improved thanks to few small private states.
German wines may not be able to compete with their French neighbours in terms of refinement and variety, but sweet pudding wines and sweet white wines which they produce rank as some of the greatest in the world, like the priceless Trockenbeerenauslesen. As fashion has turned against sweet wine, Germany’s wine genius has become somewhat misunderstood, but increasingly more people are realising that although sugar can cover up a bland wine, great fine wines can also be sweet.
Where To Taste
Bacharach lays in the heart of the wine cultivation area of the Middle Rhine. For the last three generations, the Ratzenberger family has been producing high quality wines. Another one of their specialities is Sekt, the German version of champagne (sparking wine) which follows the true traditional method, producing a small-bubbled, creamy Riesling Sekt. In 2001, the Ratzenberger Sekt was selected as best sekt of the year.