alert

Please note:

The Wine Society is currently closed. For the latest information, please click here.

Explore / Expertise

Time for a fresh look at Germany

Contents

Anne Krebiehl Anne Krebiehl / 12 February 2020

Germany's wines have undergone a renaissance in the last 30 years and deserve every wine lover's attention. Anne Krebiehl MW tells us why.

Wine map of Germany
Wine map of Germany
Harvesting at Küntsler at Hochheim in the Rheingau
Harvesting at Küntsler at Hochheim in the Rheingau

When it comes to buying anything German, Brits seem to suffer from a schizophrenic attitude: they love and appreciate German-built cars and washing machines, have no hesitation whatsoever when it comes to German beer and, if supermarket shelves are anything to go by, have even embraced Lebkuchen and Stollen as Christmas treats. But German wine? That's still a bit of a no-no. Yet, who can blame them? The track record is clear: there is competence and exactitude, even 'Vorsprung durch Technik', but Germany as a land of gastronomic discovery, full-flavoured produce, diverse regional cooking, scenic landscapes, unique wines and even sensuous joy? This is simply not how the world sees us. To every thousand cookery programmes delving into cucina and cuisine, tiffin and tandoor, there might be one clichéd mention of Bratwurst. How sad. If Germany is framed in gastronomic terms at all, it is all about pork knuckle, sausages and foaming steins of beer carried by buxom waitresses. Yawn. Then there is a vague memory of unpronounceable, seemingly endless strings of consonants, possibly even in gothic lettering and – even worse – the hangover of Liebfraumilch & Co. If I had a pound for every stupid Blue Nun joke I've heard as a German girl in the UK wine trade I could retire today. Yes, the real Germany remains a mystery to most, so I can understand that there is a certain nervousness.

Yet, while the world had its back turned, this country at the very heart of Europe has transformed itself viticulturally. Despite an outdated, clunky and almost impenetrable wine law, the Germans started turning a corner in the late 1980s had a real reckoning in the 1990s and have upped their game tremendously since the turn of the millennium. Clearly, climate change has helped. Today grapes ripen reliably in every vintage when this simply was not the case before. This means that properly dry wines are now the rule; that dry riesling in a scintillating array of styles is a real and enduring proposition; that pinot noir, aka spätburgunder, takes its rightful place in the global pinot pantheon.

Josephshoefer in the Mosel - one of Kesselstatt's best vineyards
Josephshoefer in the Mosel - one of Kesselstatt's best vineyards

But there's another thing at play, too. While Germany benefits as much as any winegrowing country from scientific progress and superbly educated winemakers, something has shifted in the way Germans see themselves. All quality producers today have travelled to and even worked in various vineyards across the globe only to return home and recognise the treasure at their feet: ancient vineyards on sun-facing slopes situated on sinuous riverbends; exquisite soils and a climate that had turned from marginal to wonderfully temperate. Right on their doorstep they had the opportunity not just to make good wine, but to craft something unique, expressing region, culture, site and personality. Following on from a generation that still saw being a Winzer (winemaker) as terminally uncool, this is a huge cultural turnaround, a paradigm shift from the browbeaten winemakers of the late 20th century, rocked by scandal and weighed down by an ultra-naff image. Today's Winzers are a collaboratively minded, energetic crowd keen to experiment and rejoice in what makes Germany unique. This transformation has happened across all of Germany's 13 growing regions which span four degrees of latitude: from Baden's southerly slopes at 47.5°N to Saale-Unstrut's northerly suntraps at 51.5°N.

While the parents of today's trendsetters proved that absolute quality was possible, this latest generation of winemakers builds on that premise to redefine what German wine is in the 21st century. So what does that mean? It means a focus on regionality, site and unique expressions of grape varieties.

Sunset as seen from the Weiler Schlipf vineyard in Baden
Sunset as seen from the Weiler Schlipf vineyard in Baden

Clearly, riesling is foremost in this endeavour but not alone. Those who have not yet given German pinot noir a try are missing out, while the other two pinot siblings are hits in their own right. German pinot gris/grigio, aka grauburgunder, is pitched between the light, neutral styles of northern Italy and the rich, rounded styles of Alsace, often with pristine fruit and lovely balance. The real sleeper is pinot blanc, aka weissburgunder, a slender but supple wine with as much ability to express soil as chardonnay. Then there are the lesser-known varieties. Those who love subtlety should get their hands on silvaner, especially from Franken. Those who love translucent, chillable reds should look for trollinger and lovers of peppery reds should try Germany's take on blaufränkisch/kékfrankos known as lemberger. The fact that these wines are unbelievable value for money is almost a scandal, considering how handcrafted most of them are. There is so much to discover and enjoy. Thus for wine's sake, let go of your present notions of Germany, turn your gaze away from the Autobahn towards those sun-kissed vineyards, those steep slopes, those deep forests with their cold, clear brooks, those winding river valleys expanding into orchard and pasture. Yes, Germany can also be beautiful and languid, brimming with flavour, joy and ease. There even is a word for it: Genuss.

The Wines of Germany by Anne Krebiehl MW

Book Offer London based but German born, Anne Krebiehl MW is a wine writer, lecturer and wine judge. Her first book The Wines of Germany is available at a special member price of £21(£30 rrp) from the publishers, Infinite Ideas. Please order online at infideas.com using the discount code WSGERMANY30 valid until Saturday 29th February, 2020




Want more inspiration?

Sign up for a carefully-curated selection of recipes, guides, in-depth expertise and much more.

Our website uses cookies with the aim of providing you with a better service. By using this website you consent to The Wine Society using cookies in accordance with our policy.

Close

4.4. Cookie Policy

By using The Wine Society website, you agree to cookies being used in accordance with the policy outlined below. If you do not agree to this, you must alter your browser settings to turn off cookies or block those types which are unacceptable to you or cease using the website.

The Wine Society uses cookies to enable easy navigation and shopping on the website. We take the privacy of all who use our website very seriously and ensure that our use of cookies complies with current EU legislation. The following guide outlines what cookies are, the types of cookies used on The Society's website and how they work.

You may alter your browser settings to turn off cookies or block those types which are unacceptable to you, but this will cause difficulties when accessing and using some areas of the site. Instructions on how to do this can also be found below.

4.4.1. What are 'Cookies'?

  • Most major websites use cookies.
  • A cookie is a very small data file placed on your hard drive by a web page server. It is essentially your access card, and cannot be executed as code or deliver viruses. It is uniquely yours and can only be read by the server that gave it to you.
  • Cookies cannot be used by themselves to identify you.
  • The purpose of a basic cookie is to tell the server that you returned to that web page or have items in your basket. Without cookies, websites and their servers have no memory. A cookie, like a key, enables swift passage from one place to the next.
  • Without a cookie every time you open a new web page the server where that page is stored will treat you like a completely new visitor.
  • More recently, cookies have also been used to collect information about the user which allows a profile of their preferences and interests to be created so that they can be served with interest-based rather than generic information about available goods and services.

4.4.2. How do Cookies help The Wine Society?

Cookies allow our website to function effectively. Cookies also help us to arrange content to match your preferred interests more quickly. We can learn what information is important to our visitors, and what isn't.

4.4.3. How does The Wine Society use cookies?

The Wine Society does not accept advertising from third parties and therefore, as a rule, does not serve third-party cookies. Exceptions to this include performance/analytical cookies (see below), used anonymously to improve the way our website works, the provision of personalised recommendations, and occasions when we may team up with suppliers to offer special discounts on goods or services.

The Society uses technology to track the patterns of behaviour of visitors to our site.

4.4.4. What type of cookies does The Wine Society use?

We use the following three types of cookies:

4.4.4.1. Strictly Necessary Cookies
These cookies are required for the operation of our website, enabling you to move around the website and use its features, such as accessing secure areas of the website. Without these cookies, services like shopping baskets or e-billing cannot be provided. Under this heading, we currently use the following cookies:

  • Authentication Cookie and Anonymous Cookie
    These cookies remember that you are logged in to your account – without them, the website would repeatedly request your login details with each new page you visit during your time on our website. They are removed once your session has ended.
  • Session Cookie
    These cookies are used to remember who you are as you use our site: without them, the website would be unable to tell the difference between you and another Wine Society member and facilities such as your basket and the checkout process would therefore not be able to function. They too are removed once your session has ended.

4.4.4.2. Functionality & Targeting/Tracking Cookies
These cookies are used to recognise you when you return to our website and to provide enhanced features. This allows us to personalise our content for you. Under this heading, we currently use the following cookies:

  • Unique User Cookie
    This cookie is used to:
    • store your share number in order to identify that you have visited the website before. Without this cookie, we would be unable to tell whether you are a member or not.
    • record your visit to the website, the pages you have visited and the links you have followed. We use this information to make our website, the content displayed on it and direct marketing communications we may send to you or contact you about more relevant to your interests.
    • This cookie expires after 13 months.
  • Peerius Cookies
    These third-party cookies are used to provide you with personalised recommendations based on your purchase and browsing history. They expire within 4 hours of your visit.

4.4.4.3. Performance/analytical cookies
These cookies collect information about how visitors use a website, for instance which pages visitors go to most often, and if they get error messages from web pages. These cookies don't collect information which identifies a visitor. All information these cookies collect is aggregated and therefore anonymous. It is only used to improve how a website works. Under this heading, we currently use the following cookies:

  • Google Analytics Cookies
    These are third-party cookies to enable Google Analytics to monitor website traffic. All information is recorded anonymously. Using Google Analytics allows The Society to better understand how members use our site and monitor website traffic.

4.4.4.4. Authentication Cookie
In order for us to ensure that your data remains secure it is necessary for us to verify that your session is authentic (i.e. it has not been compromised by a malicious user). We do this by storing an otherwise meaningless unique ID in a cookie for the duration of your visit. No personal information can be gained from this cookie.

4.4.5. How do you turn cookies off?

All modern browsers allow you to modify your cookie settings so that all cookies, or those types which are not acceptable to you, are blocked. However, please note that this may affect the successful functioning of the site, particularly if you block all cookies, including essential cookies. For example, In Internet Explorer, go to the Tools Menu, then go to Internet Options, then go to Privacy. Here you can change the rules your browser uses to accept cookies. You can find out more in the public sources mentioned below.

4.4.6. Learn more about cookies

4.4.7. Changes to our cookie policy

Any changes we may make to our cookie policy in the future will be posted on the website and, where appropriate, notified to you by email. Please check back frequently to see any updates and changes to our cookie policy.