Visiting German wine regions

Credit:  A. Hanami

If you are deciding which classic wine region to visit next, Germany is a great choice.  The major wine regions in Germany are clustered in the West/Southwest within a two-hour’s drive of Frankfurt International Airport (FRA).  Bernkastel in the Mosel wine region is about 85 miles to the west; Rudesheim in the Rheingau is only 30 miles or so to the south and the Pfalz is about 75 miles away.   Other pluses, many Germans speak English and the highways are modern and fast.

The world-class wines to taste are the white rieslings, which can range from light-bodied, floral and crisp wines with balancing sweetness in the Mosel, to fuller-bodied, tropical and dry wines from the Rheingau and Pfalz.  Germany by far is the #1 grower of riesling in the world representing over 60% of global plantings, more than four times greater than #2 Australia.  Germany began growing riesling over 500 years ago and it reaches its ultimate expression here.  Another heritage grape is spatburgunder, aka pinot noir.  Germany is now the third largest grower of pinot noir in the world – reviving production of one of Germany’s earliest wines from a thousand years ago – with high quality producers found in the Rheingau, Pfalz and Ahr.

If you want to discover producers who follow strict production rules of quality, check out the VDP (Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweingüter) producers aka “quality wine estates”.  The VDP is a private quality consortium made up of producers such as the Unions des Grands Crus in Bordeaux or Chablis where the quality standards are higher than what the government regulations require.  In Germany, government regulations currently classify quality mainly by “oechsle” or grape sugar ripeness irregardless of yield, grape variety or site.  The VDP sets strict production rules and their highest quality vineyard sites are designated Erste Lage (“grand cru”) – except in the Rheingau where they are called Erste Gewachs due to historic government recognition of such term.