Eating out in Germany
Although they have a reputation for being overly sweet and cheap, German wines range from dry to very sweet and can be very expensive and sophisticated. German wines include a broad selection of white, rose and red varieties.
One of the key features of German wines is their versatility. They are easy to combine with almost any dish, be it fancy or simple as they tend to be lighter and more fragrant than other wines. This, along with the moderate alcohol content, makes them an ideal refreshment to serve as an appetizer without causing drowsiness. Their elegant fruity quality, higher acidity and underlying crispness, make them easy to enjoy.
German wines go back to the ancient Roman times, when the Romans started cultivating grapes in the regions they conquered. Grapes continued to flourish throughout the ages and in medieval times many of Germany’s finest vineyards took form under the skill and experience of the monastic orders. Winemaking was taken seriously and high quality standards were set. However, when in 1803 Napoleon invaded and conquered the Rhine region, the vineyards were divided and sold off to private landowners.
Winemaking has remained in the hands of small wine producers who make wine themselves and most German wineries sell directly to consumers. There are no large wineries with well established brands as tends to be the case in other countries with important winemaking industries.
German wine grapes are cultivated in the northernmost country in which such vines can grow, mainly in Germany’s south-western region. As these grapes don’t get as much sunshine as other grapes around the world, the wines produced here aremore acidic with lower alcohol content. Less sun also results in a much later harvest, as the time these grapes take to ripen is much longer. Harvest time for German wines is usually around October and November. A large portion of these vineyards are located on hilly slopes which imply handpicked harvesting. This is extremely time-consuming as machines will usually do the work of 60 people.
The vineyards in Germany cover almost 100,000 hectares, and approximately 87% of this area is used for cultivating white grape varieties, while the remaining 13% is used for red grape varieties.
Someof the main white grape varieties grown in German vineyards include:
- Müller-Thurgau – the wine this grape produces can be described as a flowery bouquet with a slight muscat flavour and best consumed while still fresh and young.
- Riesling – these grapes produce a fragrant, fine-fruit bouquet; lively, pronounced acidity; piquant taste; with a potential for aging due to acidity
- Silvaner - the resulting wine has a neutral bouquet; mild acidity and is full-bodied and pleasant; it is best enjoyed while young.
Some of the main red grape varieties grown in German vineyards include:
- Spätburgunder - the wine is velvety, full-bodied, with hints of almonds.
- Portugieser - flavorful, light and mild wine; very pleasant and easygoing accompaniment to dishes.
- TrollingerWine: fragrant, fresh, fruity and hearty wine with good acidity.
About two thirds of all German households consume wine, and generally white whine is preferred to red, which in many cases is imported.
The most important sales outlets in Germany for buying wine include food retailers, wineries and producer coops, and specialist wine shops. Prices may vary from region to region but generally white wine is cheaper than red.