Lesson 20 – The Rest of Germany

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Sommelier School

Lesson 20 – The Rest of Germany

And now, the rest of the story, er, I mean Germany. So last week we covered 3 of the 13 Quality wine regions. How are we going to do the remaining 10 in a week? Well, the short answer is we are really only going to concentrate on a few more regions and then quick mentions of the others. The long answer is next.

 Ok, so let’s recap the 13 regions. They are:

  • Ahr
  • Baden
  • Franconia (Franken)
  • Hessische Bergstraße
  • Mittelrhein
  • Mosel (previously known as Mosel-Saar-Ruwer)
  • Nahe
  • Palatinate (Pfalz)
  • Rheingau
  • Rheinhessen
  • Saale-Unstrut
  • Saxony (Sachsen)
  • Württenberg

Those in BOLD are the regions we will focus on today. The others will get a mention at least.

First we will talk about the Pfalz (#8 on the map below). This is the second largest wine region in the country. Situated just across the border from Alsace and following the Rhine river up to Rheinhessen. It gets the most sun and is the driest of the regions. The Haardt Mountains to the west help with its climate. Unlike some areas from last week, there are no 70 degree slopes to grow vines on. Much of the area is flat or low hills with low-degree slopes.  Soil types range from sand, limestone, loess (a loose combination of silt, sand, clay, with calcium carbonate – term originated in Germany), granite, and slate.


Map of the wine regions in Germany. Created with TheGimp based on Image:Deutschland_topo.png by Wikipedia User de:Benutzer:Captain_Blood.

The predominant grape varietal here is Riesling at about 23%, though red wines now account for almost 40% of total production. That is led by Dornfelder at almost 14% and is the #2 varietal grown. Besides the two varietals mentioned, there are an additional 65 varietals grown here, though many are less than 0.5%. Even so, the Pfalz is a place where the growers will experiment with different varietals. Most of the wine here is trocken or halbtrocken (off dry). In fact, just about 2/3 of the wine produced here is dry. 

There are 2 Bereiche here with 25 Grosslagen. Bereich Mittelhaardt-Deutsche Weinstrasse is the better of the two. And many of the wines use the Einzellagen name to denote quality. The area around Bad Dürkheim is particularly good. Much of the wine from here is actually from Dornfelder rather than Riesling.

Next we will go to Nahe. Number 7 on the map above, it is situated around the Nahe River. Surrounded by the three regions from last week, Mosel, Rheingau, and Rheinhessen, it can produce wine from the best of all three worlds. Climate-wise it enjoys a temperate climate and can be similar to a Mediterranean climate for the south-facing slopes. Frosts are rare here too which helps not only with the harvest, but also with the crucial first buds in Spring. Soils vary just like the Pfalz.

Most of the wine here is sweet with only about 1/3 of it trocken or halbtrocken. Riesling is the most planted varietal here with Müller-Thurgau coming in second and Dornfelder third.

There is only one Bereich and 7 Grosslagen. The two Grosslagen to look out for here are Burweg and Kronenberg with excellent Roeslings.

Moving on, we have Baden (#2). Sometimes it is grouped with Württenberg (#13) since they are both part of the same state named Baden-Württenberg, but they are separate wine regions. For our purposes we will discuss both here, but remember that they are separate regions. Both areas are protected by the Black Forest to the west. Württenberg also get additional protection from the Swabian Alb hills to the East since it is easternmost region of the two. Both areas can be sunny and warm because of this.

Once the largest region in Germany, Baden’s production declined beginning in the late 1800s when Alsace became a part of Germany after the Franco-Prussian War. That acquisition was instrumental in its decline since the Alsace produces top-quality wines. After France regained control of Alsace, production continued to decline so a number of groups were formed over the years to help counter that. Eventually the Zentralkellerei Badischer Winzergenossenchaften (Central Winery of Baden) or ZBW was created. This group has returned it to the 3rd largest region in Germany.

Both regions are know for dry red wines. For Baden it is almost 70% red wine while Württenberg is almost 60%. In this are, it isn’t Dornfelder that leads the way for reds. Spätburgiunder is the red of choice in Baden while a local favorite, Trollinger is Württenberg’s number one red.

As far as quality, Baden produces the better of the two. The following Bereiche in Baden are the ones to make note of:

  • Kaiserstuhl
  • Markgräflerland
  • Ortenau

For the last of the regions we are going to concentrate on, we go to Franken (#3). So if you’re like me and don’t really know your German geography that well, you may not know that this region is in the state of Bavaria. OK, so that sounds familiar. Maybe because of beer? Or did you think of Bavarian Cream Pie first. Be honest.

Anyway this area is more known for its beer than wine. However, what is different here is the bottles that are used in Franken for wine. It is called a bocksbuetel. A picture of it is below:



Eigenes Foto von —Mussklprozz 4. Mär 2004


Originally used for the better wines from here, it is the standard bottle.

The main varietal here is Müller-Thurgau. However, it’s Silvaner that is the better varietal here. As far as climate, summers are dry and warm, but winters long and cold. So there is little time for ripening and frost can be an issue.

So that leaves the remaining five. I’ll list them below with a note or two:

  • The Ahr (#1.Despite being so north, known for dry red wine. Almost 60% Spätburginder)
  • The Mittelrhein (#5. Some overlooked quality here. Dry/off dry Rieslings)
  • Hessiesche Bergstrasse (#4. Smallest region. Dry/off dry Rieslings. Hottest place in Germany)
  • Saale-Unstrut (#11) & Sachsen(#12) (Former GDR. Easternmost regions. Almost 100% dry/off dry white. Müller-Thurgau top varietal)

That’s it for this lesson. While it might seem natural to move on to Austria next week, unfortunately we need to move on to other parts of the world with larger production. With that said we will be doing Spain and Portugal for the next 2-3 weeks. Probably 3 weeks. 

So why do Portugal with Spain but not Austria with Germany you ask? Well, Portugal is the home of Port wine, which is very important to know. Portugal’s popularity is also gaining quite a bit of steam. Austria is fairly unknown to the general public so we will get to it eventually, just not yet.

Just an FYI, I will be doing a live twitter/uStream tasting next Wednesday. This isn’t just me, but a group of people that are participating. At least the twitter part. I think I’m the only one doing uStream. I should be up and running by 6PM Central time. If my schedule allows, I’ll start when everyone else does at 5PM. Expect me to be on for only 30 minutes or so as this will be most likely next Friday’s episode of 1337 Wine TV. But come by and chat.

Mark V. Fusco

Aspiring Sommelier in Training

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