Wine in Germany
Believe it or not, but Germany is the eighth largest wine producer in the world, with much of its wine produced in the west of the country, along the river Rhine and its tributaries. It has a mixed reputation on the world wine stage, but it’s not all Liebfraumilch and Blue Nun, and some of Germany’s wines can confidently rival any from Spain, Italy and France.
German wine is best sampled in and around Germany’s beautiful countryside. With its picturesque villages, medieval castles, crystal clear lakes and snow-capped mountains, where better to savour a glass or two of a crisp white wine.
Germany is so easy to access with DFDS. You can sail to France or Holland and then it’s just an enjoyable drive to the border. Taking your car is the most convenient way to get about and Germany’s famous Autobahn covers almost the whole country, making travel to even the most far-flung vineyard a doddle.
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The oldest vineyards in Germany can be traced back to the Ancient Roman era, when the western parts of today's Germany made up the western border of the Roman Empire. Germanic viniculture was practiced primarily on the western side of Rhine at this time, but Charlemagne (Charles the Great) is supposed to have brought viniculture to Rheingau in the east. The continued eastward spread of viticulture coincided with the spread of Christianity, so the churches and monasteries played an important role, especially in the production of quality wine.
1775 is an important date in German winemaking. It happened that most of the grapes in Johannisberg's Riesling-only vineyard suffered with Noble Rot due to a late harvest. Unexpectedly, these grapes gave a very good sweet wine, which was termed Spätlese, meaning late harvest. From this time on, late harvest wines from grapes affected by Noble Rot have been produced intentionally.
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Germany produces wines in many styles: dry, semi-sweet and sweet white wines, rosé, red and even sparkling, but it is most famous for its wines made from the Riesling grape variety. This aromatic grape makes fruity white wines that range from crisp and dry to well-balanced, sweet and of enormous aromatic concentration.
Silvaner and Rivaner are also popular grape varieties for white wines. While primarily a white wine producer, red wine production surged in the 1990s and just over a third of German vineyards are devoted to the cultivation of dark-skinned grape varieties. For the red wines, Spätburgunder, the German name for Pinot Noir, is in the lead.
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Most of Germany's 13 wine regions are concentrated within an hour or two of Frankfurt, close to Cologne, Heidelberg, Stuttgart and Würzburg, and are easily accessible using Germany’s impressive Autobahn and regional road system.
However, the famous German Wine Route, established in 1935, is one of Germany’s oldest wine routes and will take you to some of the country’s greatest vineyards.
The 85 km route winds its way through the Palatinate from the German Wine Gate in Schweigen-Rechtenbach on the French border to Bockenheim in the north of Germany.
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There are over 1000 wine festivals in Germany every year and, although Wurstmarkt means ‘sausage market’, it prides itself in being the world's biggest. It has been taking place every September for nearly 600 years and with over 150 local wines to sample, and local food as well, it’s well worth planning your trip to include this world renowned festival.
Other famous festivals include the Wine Festival of the Middle Moselle which takes place every September in Bernkastel-Kues, the Moselle Wine Festival at Traben-Trarbach and Moselfest at Winningen, which is Germany’s oldest wine festival. Most of the festivals take place over the summer months so make sure to check before you book your trip.
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