Expert Reveals German Wine Secrets



It’s no secret that we love German wines, but there’s more to them than meets the eye. Germany is well known for superior winemaking, perfectly evolved grape varieties, and of course terroir. Tragically, so many wine drinkers get stuck on stereotypes and miss out on lots of delicious details. In this spirit, here are five German wine “secrets” you may not know about, as revealed by June Rodil, MS, Beverage Director for McGuire Moorman Hospitality Group.

1. When it comes to white wine, there’s more to Germany than Riesling.

It’s no wonder that Riesling is Germany’s most widely planted grape variety. Wine drinkers around the world simply adore the stuff and demand is high. The cold-hardy variety is native to Germany and it’s behind some of the world’s most beloved white wines. But believe it or not, there is life after German Riesling! German Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and Silvaner, to name a few, are flooring white wine palates everywhere. As June notes:
“Alternatives to Riesling are plentiful and it’s pretty hard to choose a favorite. Germany’s climate is apt for pure, clean, fresh, and vibrant whites. Whether it’s a Pinot Blanc that tastes like you’re biting into a crunchy white peach or a heady and perfumed Gewürztraminer – their finish is filled with verve that revitalizes the palate and readies it for more food. This summer, I’ve been enjoying my fair share of Scheurebe and Silvaner – both have a lovely sweet herbaceous note to their aromas without being as aggressively green as Sauvignon Blanc. It doesn’t hurt that most Silvaner from Franken comes in a nifty bottle called a Bocksbeutel that’s both traditional and novel and an exceptionally great talking piece – just ask your sommelier for the translation of Bocksbeutel.”
2. The Password is: Spätburgunder
Since the mid-2000s or so, American wine drinkers have fallen head over heels for Pinot Noir. Guess what? Germany has been producing quality Pinot Noir under the name “Spätburgunder” for ages. In fact, Germany is actually the third largest producer of Pinot Noir in the world. While Pinot lovers are distracted by over-hyped selections, Germany offers expertly crafted Pinot Noir at fantastic values. Plantings are on the rise as more wine drinkers demand these elegant interpretations of their favorite grape.
“It’s about 100 degrees outside as I type this. I like red wine, but holy cow, it does not go with my disposition after running around on a day like today. Light, refreshing, thin-skinned reds that can be served with a slight chill are where it’s at—and Spätburgunder fulfills that and more. Don’t forget how nuanced this grape is as well—not only does it easily allow you to forget your climate woes, it also gives you flavors like tart cherries with dried red African tea and river rocks. There’s a lot going on in there but it’s not overt, over oaked, or over the top. It doesn’t throw itself at you, but, rather makes it easy for you to go back for more.”
3. Rah! Rah! For Rosé
The rallying cries are loud and proud -- from “Yes Way, Rosé” to “Rosé All Day”, the world is hooked on rosé! Popularity gives rise to imitation, so there’s lots of random rosé out there nowadays. How will you know if you’ve got the real deal? Centuries of skilled winemaking don’t lie. German winemakers harvest the healthiest grapes first to make their rosé wines. This manages alcohol levels and ensures the best quality. Wine drinkers love this stuff, and it shows in the numbers. Total production increased from 6% to 11% between 2003 and 2016. That’s 82 million liters of German rosé!
“We can barely keep rosé on the shelf at any and all our restaurant locations and with so many options flooding the market, it’s important to bring quality rosé to our guests. While rosé may be a small percentage of production for German winemakers, the care for exacting quality is at the same high level as the rest of their wines, and the price is just as competitive as the rest of the world. Trends are screaming for clean, dry, crisp, light bodied rosé from consumers–add complexity, balanced fruit and structure to that and it’s difficult to walk away from these wines.”
4. Wait a Sekt, is that sparkling German wine?
Sekt is both an endless source of fun wine puns and a remarkable German sparkling wine. Most of these wines are made in the Charmat method, which is perfect for preserving the intense aromatics of German varietals. Don’t overlook these wines the next time you’re celebrating a special occasion. These are quality bottles to have on hand for anniversaries, graduations, and of course, New Year’s Eve.
“Bubbles make everyone happy and I applaud it in many different forms. Sekt can be an inviting change to what you may see on many retail shelves and wine lists: Prosecco, Cava, Champagne. And while those are wonderful examples, there should be room for well done sparkling wines that provide variety in aromatics and flavor, are still serious, but don’t break the bank. Riesling, in all it’s chameleon-like capacities, makes for wonderful Sekt with its floral undertones, natural tart citrus notes, and long finish.”
5. The story of Riesling is evolving.  
Lots of wine lovers enjoy a sweeter style of Riesling, but the trend has taken a turn for the dry. The demand for mineral-driven, dry German Rieslings is on the rise! Back in 1985, just 16% of German Rieslings were produced in a dry style. As of 2016, it’s a whopping 46.3%. Pop a few dry Rieslings in your wine fridge to pair with virtually any meal. They’re a perfect companion to ceviche, spare ribs, and even banana splits.
“I used to think that the gateway drug to Riesling was Liebfraumilch … it’s not. Our palates have evolved and are now clamoring for dry dry dry! And while there is a special place in my heart for off-dry Riesling, the regal and universal nature of dry Riesling is evident. Those that think all Rieslings are off-dry or sweet are automatically taken aback and impressed with the fact that dry Rieslings exist, and those that laud the off-dry style cannot deny the powerful structure, longevity, and subtly delicious complexity of dry Riesling.”
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