Germany is the eighth largest producer of wine in the world. If you have ever lazily sailed along the Rhine River in Western Germany you will have noted the vineyards which pepper the banks. Germany is wine country although its wine production is sometimes overlooked internationally.
If you think of German wine, cheap and sweet varieties may spring to mind. Liebfraumilch can be picked up at low cost in many UK supermarkets. Its name derives from where it was first produced – The Church of Our Lady in Rhineland-Palatinate. In many parts of the world, it is synonymous with the 'Blue Nun' label - a label which brings connoisseurs out in grape shaped hives. The funny thing is that Blue Nun is incredibly popular selling in excess of five million bottles annually. It is Germany's number one best-selling wine.
Still, it is Liebfraumilch. Table wine at best, vomit inducing at worst. There are many other wines from Germany which offer even expert taste buds a more delicate experience.
The most famous German grape variety is Riesling. The grape is used to make sweet, dry and sparkling white wine. Germany is the perfect climate for growing the acidic Riesling. Wines produced from the grape make an excellent accompaniment to food although more intense wines areto be enjoyed alone.
Riesling is regarded as Germany's wine – it is their point of difference within the wine market. The grape variety is ranked as one of the top three worldwide alongside Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.
The Riesling grape subtly changes flavour depending on where it is grown. The wine producing regions of Germany make very different tasting wines from the same grape variety. It is interesting stuff even for a wine novice.
The Mosel region is on the border of France and has a warm, Mediterranean climate. The south facing slopes which loom over the Rhine River are home to vineyards which were first grown by the Romans. The hillside is covered in slate which the wine makers believe imparts a distinct flavour in Mosel Riesling.
Wines made in Mosel are described by connoisseurs as being more complex than from any other region. The wines carry floral notes along with peachy tones. The wines produced here are light in colour and body.
One of the most interesting regions is Rheingau. If you were going to start a vineyard then this location wouldn't be a natural choice. Grapes like warmth but Rheingau is situated in the north where it is cold. What makes the region interesting is the Rhine. It changes course for a short stretch in this area and rather than heading north veers to the west. The banks are sheltered by the mountains providing an unexpected climate for grapes. The first references to the Riesling grape are from this area where monks were renowned for making wine. The region is, along with Mosel, one of the most famous in Germany.
The Riesling wine from Rheingau tastes different to that from Mosel. The mineral deposits in the soil give the wine a mineral taste with more pear- like tones.
There are several other wines producing regions in Germany such as Nahe, Franken, and Pfalz. German wine is regarded much more highly than it once was now that varieties other than Blue Nun are widely available. The vineyards are smaller in Germany than in the other key wine producing parts of the world. This means that production is limited. Wine buffs love the hard to obtain types of which only a tiny number are made annually.
The image of a ruddy faced German drinking beer from a stein may be what many of us imagine when we think of German drink but in truth, Germans are far more keen on wine.