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
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
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
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).
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
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!
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.
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
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
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
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.