At first glance, Germany is unlikely wine country. The country is cold and many regions are not particularly sunny. Furthermore, many of the slopes that the vineyards are planted on are impossibly steep and covered with crumbling slate and rock. Fortunately, within this cold and cloudy country, there are pockets of temperate climates located along the Rhine River and its tributaries. Although the poor slate soils commonly found in these regions would appear to be a disadvantage, the rocks actually absorb and retain heat that keep the vines warm during the cold nights.
Germany lies at the extreme of cold-climate winegrowing in Europe. Due to these cold temperatures, the country’s production has always been predominantly white wines, with Riesling at the top of the list in both quantity and quality. For a country essentially dominated by a single grape variety, Germany has a dazzling variety of unique vineyards, producers, and styles. White wines can range from the very dry to the very sweet; but the mark of a quality wine here is always the delicate balance of ripeness and piercing acidity resulting from the cool climate.
While many winegrowing regions struggle with the effects of a warming climate, in Germany it is actually enabling increased production of fine red wines. In the past couple decades, Germany has tripled its plantings of Pinot Noir, known locally as Spätburgunder. The warmer temperatures are permitting these red grapes to fully ripen, and the results are unique and delicious Pinot Noirs. As we mentioned above, not all Riesling is sweet; so make sure to take your time learning about German wine labels and sweetness levels. Don’t worry if it takes you some time because we will be here to guide you every step of the way!