Germany…A Wine Land of Extremes

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I love Riesling. I love German wines. My grasp, however, of the laws and vineyards of Germany suck. I am the first to admit it, and was reminded of it today during the TopSomm competition. Asked to pair a number of dishes with German wines with a GG (Grosses Gewachs) designation, I couldn’t state more than 3 to save my life (trust me, there are a crapload more than 3). We think of Germany as the home, the holy grail of Riesling, but this land is certainly more than its’ parts. And, as a wine dude, I get giddy like a schoolgirl when tasting these wines. Why can’t I speak intelligently about them?

I think it has to do with the sheer number of vineyards, along with the language. German wine law is easier to understand than in years past, but is still an exercise more suited for engineers and rocket scientists. I say in jest; you cannot escape the anal retentive strict personality of the German wine code, regardless of how much alcohol consumed. In addition, the lack of these wines on most restaurant programs make it difficult to gain access to them. And, quite frankly, I ain’t been there. I am reminded of certain guys in the business who can rattle these storied einzellagen (the German term for individual vineyard sites) off as second nature. These folk know where the umlauts go, the great producers in every wine growing region. Geisenheim gets them off. They have an intimacy that I can only hope to attain.

And Germany, with the advent of high-quality Spatburgunder (Pinot Noir), Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc), and Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris), the opportunities are endless. The cyclical nature of global warming has made the marginal climates of Germany more attractive to the palate for red wines, and richer, more expressive whites. Sylvaner, relegated to a novelty of sorts, is capable of world-class vino in the right hands. Chardonnay is on the move, with more vineyards dedicated to this variety, and early results are promising, if still a ways off from rivaling Burgundy…

If you are interested and want to learn more about German wines, check out germanwine,,,or drloosen.com

Thinking a trip to the Mosel may be in my future…


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3 Responses to Germany…A Wine Land of Extremes

  1. Just keep at it!! I can tell you, it even confuses this German again and again…but as you say, it can be worth figuring out. And a trip definitely can change everything. The wine culture is still so unbusiness like and personal. I just love it.

    Oh, and as a side note: I have reviewed a couple of Italian wines lately and those names are often even longer!!! Yes, it sounds nicer, it is Italian after all, but just as confusing…

    • Thanks for the comment! I think that Germany is a challenge because of the lack of wines available in the market, even though the list of grape varieties compared to Italy is shorter. I think of the sheer number of selections available from Italy in the U.S., and it doesn’t surprise me that they are the number one country we import wine from. Then again, there is pizza, lasagna, and fettuccine in every city in the States. Coincidence? I think not…

      • Oh yeah, I agree, but that is the same in Germany. We are obsessed with Italy…:)

        I think the biggest difficulty is the many differences in style. In Burgundy, you know that if you buy a white it will be dry and if it’s red it’s dry. Germany produces the whole range, especially with Riesling. There is nothing more frustrating than buying a bottle of Kabinett and hoping for a light wine and then it reaches Ausleselevels in sweetness for example…

        I also agree with the low number of German wines available over here. Add in that the wine also becomes quite expensive (I know, that is normal in the US, but it is still frustrating knowing how much less wine costs in Germany)…We actually force our friends to bring wine whenever they come to visit us.

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