Germany off the beaten track

Marienberg fortress high above the Main river in Würzburg. © CTW/ Andreas Bestle

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Getting to Know German Wine Lingo

September is a prime time to indulge in a few (or more) sips of one of Germany's most precious liquid specialties…so it had me thinking about some of the essential facts and specialized "wine lingo" that might help you get the most out of experiencing German white wine*, any time of year  

First of all, know your quality assurance labels.  

Many German wines carry a special "Prädikat" quality assurance label that confirms the wine has gone through the strictest of quality controls before and during bottling. The easiest to spot is the “VDP label" (
Verband Deutscher Prädikats- und Qualitätsweingüter).

So, here's a break-down of the types of VDP labels:
Kabinett wines are fine, light wines from ripe grapes.
Spätlese wines are wines made from ripe grapes during late harvest that are quite full bodied.
Auslese wines are made from special "selection" grapes -- very ripe grapes that have been specially selected for their extreme ripeness with any unripe grapes are discarded.
Beerenauslese wines are even more selective than Auslese as these wines are made from very sweet, overripe grapes that have been individually picked, and these wines have phenomenal aging potential.
TrockenBeerenauslese wines are dessert wines made from hand selected grapes so ripe that they are nearly raisons, and the wine is so sweet it reminisces a honey wine.
Eiswein (ice wine) wines are extremely sweet dessert wines made from grapes picked at -7°C (19.4°F) or colder and pressed while frozen. These wines have incredible, possibly limitless, aging potential. Some people keep them for decades!  

And now for a guide to German white wine "styles"

…so that you can decipher the wine terms as you stroll through one of Germany's many fantastic wine festivals or as you peruse a weinstub’s menu.  

Trocken wine is dry wine with the lowest sugar content.
Halbtrocken wine is somewhat dry but with up to double the sugar content of trocken wines. (These are the wines to which I always gravitate).
Lieblich wines  have up to double the sugar of halbtrocken wines, so they are certainly very sweet wines, with a sugar content of up to 45 g/l).
Süss wines are officially sweet wines; basically, any wine with sugar content of over 45 g/l is classified as a German "süss wein."  

Additionally, another common unofficial wine style you'll often encounter is "feinherb,” which translates as "dryish."  The amount of sugar is slightly less than that of halbtrocken wines. I tend to love these wines.  

Also truly impressive (to me, anyway) is that Germany has numerous organic wine grower associations whose standards exceed EU organic certification standards.
And 5% of Germany's vineyards are certified organic and have an official government control stamp on the label. And, while you might think this organic wine could taste different than other wines, experts at the German Wine Institute insist that organic wine should not taste perceptibly different than non-organic wine. They explain that the grapes essentially go through nearly the same procedures as most of the grapes in Germany, and they point out that all German wine producers adhere to some of the world's most rigorous wine industry standards. In fact, Germany’s wine producers are some of the most environmentally conscious wine producers in the world.  

So, now that you know your wine terms, it's time to get to tasting it.                          

Here is a small sampling of wine related locations and events around Historic Highlights of Germany cities! And, if you keep your ear to the ground and ask locals, you'll find there are various small, low-key wine tastings going on throughout the year!  


Mainz, located in Germany’s largest wine growing region (Rheinhessen -- “the land of 1000 hills”), is a must stop for anyone who loves wine.

The primary wine event in Mainz is the Mainz Wine Market (Mainzer Weinmarkt) during the last part of August and beginning of September. This wine festival sees more than half a million visitors each year.

A rather unique event to attend, however, is the Mainz Wine Salon in Brückenkopf Cellar at Theodor Heuss Bridge. This wine salon takes place throughout the year, on the first Tuesday of the month, and is where young vintners sample their best wines. Proceeds go to social welfare charities.  

Würzburg is another must stop for wine lovers.

Würzburg’s main wine event is the Wine Parade Würzburg (Weinparade Würzburg) during the first week of September, and it takes place in pagoda-shaped tents on the market square, in front of the Marienkapelle. More than 100 wineries are present.  

In Spring, Würzburg Wine Village (Würzburger Weindorf) showcases more than 100 wineries in timber-frame gazebos set up in the middle of Würzburg’s market square. 

For a wine experience like few others, try visiting the Würzburg's Baroque Festival at the Residence. It also takes place every spring as the Franconian wine growers association invites visitors to enjoy wine while renowned musicians put on fantastic performances in the Garden Hall  and White Hall.   

Another great festival is the Hofgarten-Weinfest (Court Garden Wine Festival) which takes place in the Würzburg Residence's palatial gardens and is put on by Staatlicher Hofkeller. This festival usually takes place at the beginning of July.  

Trier, located along the Mosel and Germany's oldest wine growing region, should be central to any wine tasting journey!  

Trier's main wine event is the Trier Wine Festival, taking place in the Olewig district, during the first few days of August. 

In January, the Moselle Wine Forum hosts more 100 wineries at the Forum Baths at Viehmarkt Square.


Wiesbaden’s Hesse State Wineries small 10 hectare vineyard is located in Neroberg, overlooking the city. A great photo spot while tasting some exceptional wine any time of year!  

Just outside of Wiesbaden is Kloster Eberbach, a former monastery that continues to produce wine. It offers wine tasting set amid picturesque slopes. However, adding to the location’s draw is that fact that it is where Sean Connery filmed the feature film, "The Name of the Rose"!  


The main event here is the Freiburg Wine Festival at Münsterplatz, the Rennaisance central square next to Freiburg's famous cathedral. It takes place at the beginning of July and features more than 400 varieties of wine.


Koblenz, where the Mosel and the Rhein meet, witnesses nearly half million grapevines grown on nearby slopes.

Any time of year, in the Weindorf "Wine Village," you'll find a vineyard in the middle of the city!

*Special note: German does produce red wine as well, and has some rather popular varieties. I've devoted this post to German white wines, but in the winter will devote an entire post to Germany's lovely red wine varieties.

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