The reputation of the German wine industry has suffered due to its past emphasis on making fairly cheap sweet wines. However, this has changed in recent years. The focus has moved from mass production to high quality produce. As a result, domestic wine consumption has increased in Germany coinciding with a slow decrease in sales of beer. Germany is now the eighth biggest wine producer in the world, although most of this is white wine as red is much harder to grow than white in the northerly German climate.
There has been a major increase in the production of red wine over the past twenty years. This is due to a rise in standards, the emphasis has changed from quantity to quality of production. In the past German red wine was light coloured and more akin to Rosé. However, using different grapes and techniques such as barrelling, dark fine quality wine has been produced. The use of grapes such as Dornfelder and Spätburgunder has also increased quality. Due to preconceived ideas, German red wine has not been very popular abroad, however, in relatively new markets such as Russia, Germany’s red wine has been fairly popular. Despite this, production has mainly focused on domestic customers. Germany’s red wines have great potential on the international market. They are consumer friendly with a light, fruity and easy to drink flavour. This has been demonstrated recently with the USA consuming a large amount of German wine and a dramatic increase of 72% for the consumption of German red wine in Britain in the past year alone.
Spätburgunder is also known as Pinot Noir, and is an extensively grown red wine grape variety. However, these wines can be fairly expensive and may be hard to find outside Germany. Spatburgunder is used primarily in the region of Baden and competes with popular white wine varieties of grapes for this location. Dornfelder is a new variety of grape grown in Germany. It has grown increasingly popular due to its relative resistance to rot and its ease of growth in northerly climates. Unlike many traditional German red wines it is full bodied, has a deep red colour, good acidity levels and a fantastic aroma. If grown correctly Dornfelder has a fantastic texture, fruity flavours and a memorable bold taste. Portugieser is the second most commonly planted grape in Germany. It is an old variety that produces a light textured, pale and easy to drink table wine that is suitable for every day use. Portugieser is popular with wine producers as it is easy to grow and fairly resistant to disease.
Red Wine Regions
The region of Baden is a large red wine producing area. It is sited in the Black forest, which is famous for the Spätburgunde grape. This region has produced some interesting and experimental wines. The region of Pfalz is one of the largest wine producing areas in Germany. This is where the Portugieser grape is grown. Conditions are relatively warm and it is a region that produces a lot of quality wines although also quite a few extremely commercially orientated efforts. Both Pfalz and Baden lie in the southern area of Germany. Consequently, they have a better climate and conditions for wine making than many other regions. Ahr also produces some excellent quality red wine, however, it is possibly the least know wine region. It primarily produces red wine made from the Spätburgunde grape. Although these wines are velvety, full of flavour and have a lot to offer, they are generally consumed locally.
Classification of German Wines
Germany has fairly detailed wine laws and a quality classification that is stated on the label. The lowest classification is Tafelwein or table wine. This is the most basic wine and the grapes used needn’t be of German origin. Landwein is of higher quality than table wine, but is not up to the standard of a ‘quality wine’. Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete has more specific requirements for entry, the grapes must come from specific regions. It is generally used as an everyday wine and only just meets the requirements for an EU ‘quality’ wine. Qualitätswein mit Prädikat means the wine exceeds the requirements for a quality wine. There are six further categories within this classification each dependent upon increasing sugar levels.
Germany is not well known for its red wine. However, in recent years the quality and amount of red wine produced has dramatically improved. The more widespread use of the Spätburgunder and Dornfelder grapes has improved the quality and intensified the colour of the wine. The light, fruity flavours of German red wine are becoming increasingly popular both within Germany and abroad.