WHAT do you think of when you think of German wine - or do you
ever think of German wine? Having spent a long weekend at the
German Wine Academy recently, I have come away with two distinct
messages: first, they want us to think German when we think of
wine; and, second, they do not want us to think of what they call
It is not too long ago that German wine-sales in the UK were
dominated by two big brands of Liebfraumilch. As far as I am aware,
one of these has all but disappeared, while the other is now used
for a range of wines, some of which are not even German.
For the wines of any country to gain a great reputation, they
must have individuality. The problem with big brands is that this
is something that they destroy. Given that Germany is only 17th in
the world for the amount of area under vines, there must be some
dumbing down in quality if big brands are created.
Much more exciting, however, is what is happening to German
wines. Over the past few years, there have been two distinct moves:
first, more emphasis is being placed on trocken, or dry,
wines. For some time, I was not totally happy with this, as I have
long enjoyed the contrast between the crisp acidity and the
delicate sweetness of the best wines of the Mosel.
Most of the great estates, however, are now concentrating on dry
wines. Indeed, the world's association of wine estates, the German
VDP, will permit only the top rating of Grosses Gewächs for dry
wines. Rather bizarrely, this term has not been officially accepted
by the authorities, but only appears rather clandestinely on labels
The other big change of direction with regard to German
wine-production has been the significant move towards red-wine
production. I have never made a secret of my liking for the Pinot
Noir grape, and this is the main grape planted for the production
of red-wine in Germany, although it generally appears under the
alias of Spätburgunder. Most of these wines are not aged in the
barrel, and are drunk chilled.
This year's German Wine Academy course took place in Freiburg,
in Baden, and it is here that most of the finest Pinot Noirs are
produced, though we did have a tasting of Pinot Noirs from all over
Germany. One of my favourites, however, came from Franconia, but it
had a hefty retail price of €70.
The region produces some wonderful white wines, also from
Burgundian grapes: the Weissburgunder is the Pinot Blanc, and the
Grauburgunder is the Pinot Gris. The Chardonnay, however, makes a
comparatively rare appearance. One of the real problems is that
Germany is quite happy to consume all the wine that comes out of
Baden. The local co-operative cellar, the largest in Germany,
exports no more than two per cent of its production.
Two Pinot Noirs from Baden which I can recommend are the
Oberrotweiler Käsleberg 2009 from Salwey, an outstanding grower in
the volcanic soil vineyards of the Kaiserstuhl (Tanners of
Shrewsbury, £14.80), and the Karl H. Johner Enselberg 2007