The northernmost vineyard in Europe, Germany's vines have flourished in the valleys along the great rivers for more than 2000 years, giving rise to the finest German wines.
Thanks to its long wine-growing heritage, Germany enjoys a wealth of ancestral know-how that has been handed down from generation to generation. Since the 1990s, German winemakers have been rethinking their winemaking methods to produce top-quality wines whose exponential growth has quickly earned them international acclaim.
Germany's 13 wine-growing regions enjoy an ideal location on the Rhine and Moselle rivers. Among the best known are the Moselle Valley with its steep vineyards, the Nahe with its wide variety of wines, the Palatinate, the prestigious Rheingau and the greater Hesse-Rhine.
Running along the rivers, the rows of vines follow one another and benefit from optimal sunshine, maximised by the reverberation of the rays of sun. Germany has a cool continental climate, so summer humidity is compensated for by less rainfall in autumn, giving the grapes time to ripen and develop noble rot.
In Germany, regions are not associated with specific grape varieties as in Burgundy, for example, which leads to a different naming system, based on the density of the must at the time of harvest. The grape variety is indicated on the label in the name of the wine. The classification of German wines is based on three main categories: Tafelwein, Qualitätswein (QbA) and Pradikätswein (QmP).
Tafelwein, table wines, are distinguished from Qualitätswein and Prädikatswein, two categories that comprise quality wines. Qualitätswein are wines from one of the 13 recognised wine regions. While they range from dry to sweet, the addition of sugar is a common practice. Prädikatswein, literally "wines with special qualities", have a much higher standard of winemaking: they must come from one of the 39 sub-regions that make up the 13 wine regions. Moreover, the addition of sugar to the must is strictly forbidden.
However, another complementary classification of German wines, called VDP and set up on the initiative of the finest German winegrowers, brings a sense of place similar to the Burgundy classification: Gutwein (can come from any place included in the VDP specifications), Ortswein (village equivalent), Erste Lage (premier cru), Grosse Lage (grand cru). A Grosse Lage can be labelled Grosse Gewächs if it is dry. These are the finest German dry white wines.
These utterly exacting and meticulous classifications lead to a large number of different wines. The style of German wines is very varied and all these nuances contribute to the sophisticated German signature style
From racy and mineral to mellow and fruity, German white wines made from Riesling, Müller-Thurgau and Silvaner are among the finest white wines in Europe. True masters in the art of vinifying Riesling, German producers also brilliantly cultivate Pinot Noir, known as Spätburgunder in Germany.