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When you think of German wine, it’s common to think of Riesling. Though Riesling is undoubtedly the queen of German wines, the country’s 13 wine-producing regions produce a host of other whites and reds as well, ranging from fruity to spicy, dry to sweet, after-dinner specialties to versatile ones. Here is a list of German wine varieties that wine connoisseurs should make it a point to sample on their next trip to Germany.
Riesling is the flagship wine of Germany and constitutes more than one-fifth of all wine varieties grown in the country. Riesling has a long history dating back to the 15th century, and originates in Germany’s Rhine Valley. This wine is highly aromatic, fruity or flowery in taste and has a high acidity level that is often balanced by adding sugar. It pairs well with a wide diversity of dishes, mainly fish and pork, but also spicy Asian cuisine. In Germany, 60 clones of white Riesling are produced, including red Riesling (Roter Riesling).
Spätburgunder is hands-down the most popular red wine variety in Germany, and the winner of several Decanter awards. This variety is grown in all of Germany’s 13 wine regions. The difference in climate and soil across these regions results in a difference in taste, though all Spätburgunder varieties grown in Germany have a savory and elegant taste in common. Traditional German Spätburgunder is light in color and body and has a lower level of tannic acidity. However, full bodied, dark red Spätburgunder with higher tannin acidity levels are also popular.
The Müller-Thurgau variety is a cross between white Riesling and Madeleine Royale grapes, and one of the newer breeds (19th-century) of German wines. While many wine connoisseurs find Müller-Thurgau too bland and sweet, many others enjoy its sweet taste, fruity (often peachy) aroma, and low acidity. This wine is at its best when young.
Grauburgunder is a white wine variety, though the grapes are reddish-gray in color. This wine has a bright golden-yellow color and a mild to medium level of acidity, and is full-bodied. It has a mild fruity, nutty and spicy aroma. It is elegant and dry and goes well with many different kinds of foods. The rich and strong-flavored variety of Grauburgunder is known as Ruländer.
Silvaner has been an integral part of Germany’s wine culture for close to four centuries, and constitutes about 7% of Germany’s wine production. This white wine is jokingly referred to as Dracula Wine, as it is very old, pale and is ruined if exposed to direct, bright sunlight for long. This wine is full-bodied with a mild acidity level. It tastes its best when young.
You would think that icy cold weather is not good for grape production, but delicious Eiswein is actually produced from grapes naturally frozen in the vineyards. Most Eisweins are light, sweetish and honey fresh, with a distinct fruity or flowery flavor. The ABV (alcohol by volume) of Eiswein is usually low, between 7 and 12%. This makes it a perfect after-dinner or dessert wine. However, Eiswein is usually much more expensive than other wine varieties in Germany.
Frühburgunder is another version of Spätburgunder, made from grapes that are ripened earlier than those used to make Spätburgunder. But this red wine has a personality distinct from Spätburgunder. It has a fuller body, darker color, and milder acidity as compared to Spätburgunder. This wine is a specialty of the Ahr Valley.