Germany

Introduction

When it comes to wine, Germany popularity is mainly due to the Riesling vine. There are 13 wine regions in this country: Ahr, Baden, Franconia, Hessische Bergstraße, Middle Rhine, Moselle, Nahe, Palatinate, Rheingau, Rheinhessen, Saale-Unstrut, Saxony and Wuerttemberg. The finest Riesling wines are pressed in Moselle. These wines are light, very spicy and rarely have more than eleven volume percent. German wines, in particular the variety from the most diverse white and red wines, is highly appreciated and popular throughout the world.

Wine history

Germany’s viticulture dates back to the first centuries AD and the beginning of the country’s occupation by the Roman Empire. Since there was a lack of wine supply in these provinces, far away from the Empire’s capital, the garrisons posted in these lands took advantage of the wild grapes they found on the valley slopes next to rivers such as the Rhine, Moselle, Meno and Danube.

By the 4th century, viticulture had reached a great economic level, especially in the Moselle valley, and Treveri (the city known now as Trier) became the capital of the Western Roman Empire thanks to its huge wine business, which would be transported to the British provinces.

With the collapse of the Roman Empire, German viticulture came to a halt and wouldn’t recover until the constitution of the first German empire in the 8th century and the Kaiser’s interest on wine consumption and commercialization.

This second revival of the viticulture had its culmination in the XV and XVI centuries. At that time, Europe enjoyed a subtropical climate, allowing for a great geographical extension of vineyards never seen before. Over the last 200 years or so, the Cistercian monks were the main culprits of spreading the word about wine and viticulture, and the “Kloster Eberbach” (Cistercian monastery founded in 1136 in Rheingau) maintained over 200 commercial branchers throughout Europe, selling great amounts of wine. In 1435 “Reussling” is first mentioned to denominate a native variety. The significance of the Riesling grape, though, wasn’t recognized until much later.

During the 17th century, and the climate change propitiated by the devastating religious wars, the wine-making suffered a heavy blow. By the second half of the 18th century, the first signs of an economic recovery propitiated a recovery as well in the terrain of the viticulture, now including new modern techniques of vinification and the first selections of superior clones. In 1787 the prince-bishop of Trier, Clemens Wenzeslaus, ordered the planting of Riesling on the Moselle. The golden age of wine began all over Germany, with vineyards primarily in Pfalz, Rheingau and Moselle which achieved worldwide recognition. By the 19th century, the best German Riesling producers could not cover the huge world demand for their wines and the prices increased to ridiculous levels, until these were the most expensive wines in the world.

The First and especially the Second World War put at end to this German Wine era. Germany was economically destroyed and people were too busy fighting or surviving as to worry about making wine.

Then, over the 1950s, Germany enjoyed a rapid recovery that, along an industrialization of German viticulture, allowed for the wine to flow again. Clones and hybrids were grown with faster maturation and more yields possible to make numbers and changed the old historical structures of terraced plots by uniform vineyards with easy access for modern agricultural machinery. A philosophy of quality viticulture increasingly fell under the pretensions of new and large wine companies with decisive influence on decisive politicians to develop new legislative reforms. This philosophy didn’t help to the German wine reputation that, once again, was greatly affected by the economic crisis the country suffered in the early 1980s.

At that moment, the association VDP (counting with some of the most reputed wineries and winemakers) tried to change course with a set of strict rules and requirements for determining the quality of the wine products. By the 1990s, thanks mainly to a remarkable change of climate that favored these northern areas, the quality of the German wines reached once again old known levels.

The culmination of this whole process is the introduction of a first national classification by system payments in Borgogna for the partners of this exclusive association, representing the aristocracy of the German viticulture.