The German wine scene has undergone an astounding transformation over the past two decades. It is more diverse and exciting than ever before. The Winzersekt (single producer sparkling wine) category is a prime example of this development. With around 3.2 litres of annual per capita consumption, Germany is a world leader in sparkling wines – but this was not always true in terms of the level of quality wine production.
Sparkling wine was primarily a mass product for a long time – with a few exceptions. This has since changed. Producers such as Raumland, Diel, Solter and Schloss Vaux have paved the way for unique top-quality sparkling wines. Numerous other talented sparkling wine makers have joined them, such as Sven Leiner, Mark Barth or Niko Brandner. The wines they bring to the bottle and the glass are world-class.
The Brut Nature styles, such as Mark Barth’s “Ultra Pinot” from the Rheingau, are particularly impressive, as he added no sweetening dosage to the final product. The wine is brought into the bottle unmasked, so it requires exact work in the vineyard and the cellar. For those who enjoy mature sparkling wines, Florian Lauer from Weingut Peter Lauer in Ayl on the Saar is a must-visit. Some of his sparkling wines have matured on the yeast for decades. He currently sells reserve sparkling wines and cremants from the vintages 1984, 1987 and 1992, all freshly disgorged and available in Germany for 50 euros ex winery.
Speaking of matured wines – despite all modern trends, we should always consider the past decades when it comes to German wines. Germany is a treasure chest when it comes to matured Rieslings. These wines can be delicious and a perfect partner with food. Currently, I enjoy drinking Spätlese and Auslese wines from the excellent vintages of 1990, 1989, 1971 and 1975. The prices, especially for Auslese and Spätlese wines, remain very reasonable by international standards. Since many private collectors’ cellars have been liquidated by now, prices are rising, but it is worth looking out for well-stored bottles.
But Germany is not only good at white wines, but it also produces first-class reds. My home region of Württemberg, for example, has developed into a top spot for fine reds – although the area is still an absolute insider tip from an international point of view. Just outside Stuttgart – almost within sight of the Mercedes-Benz headquarters – a quiet wine revolution has taken place. Twenty years ago, the region was known for its rather unremarkable Trollinger red wines, which came across more like rosé wines, but this has changed fundamentally in the meantime.
In the high sites of the Rems valley, the soils are characterised by Keuper and sandstone and produce not only intense yet focused Rieslings but also multi-layered red wines. These are mainly Pinot Noirs but also Lembergers, which have developed their distinctive character here – with an elegant savouriness. Lemberger is otherwise known as Blaufränkisch, which has become famous in Austria, particularly for its fresh, dark berry fruit.
Better clones and site selection, better winemaking, and more refined use of oak than in the past are factors that make the difference in Württemberg today. Besides, more and more farms are working organically or biodynamically. Moritz Haidle from Stetten, Rainer Schnaitmann from Fellbach and Aaron Schwegler from my home town Korb are just three of my personal favourites. They are worth to try.