German Winegrowing Regions
German wine is incredibly rich and varied, which is due to not only the almost one hundred cultivated varieties but also the microclimate conditions of the winegrowing regions. Even within a small area, the various soil conditions, duration of sunshine, geographical location of the vineyard, humidity, ripeness of the grapes, and, of course, production techniques can lead to many very different tastes. In many cases, machines cannot be used and cultivation is cost-intensive, because the wine is produced in very narrow, steep river valleys due to the better microclimate conditions in numerous regions.
Enlarge image A harvester works on the hillside near Starkenburg on the Mosel. (© picture-alliance/ dpa) Mosel and Rhine wines are best known internationally, but Germany has 13 different wine regions in total. Eleven winegrowing regions are located in southern and southwestern Germany, where climate conditions are most favorable for viticulture. Two small areas are located in central and eastern Germany. The total area of vineyards, of which 65 percent is planted with white-wine grapes and 35 percent, with red-wine varieties, comes to a little over 102,000 hectares (approx. 252,000 acres). Accounting for 20 percent of the vineyards, Riesling is the most popular white-wine grape and is cultivated in all German wine regions. In the case of red wine, the Spätburgunder grape is the most favored, accounting for 11.6 percent of the vineyard acreage (German Federal Statistical Office).
Enlarge image These grapes are harvested frozen to produce the very sweet dessert wine known as Eiswein. (© picture-alliance/ dpa) In Rheinhessen alone, where winegrowing is the most important agricultural activity in the region, wine growers cultivate one-quarter of all German vineyards. The smallest cultivated area, and most difficult in terms of climate, is located in Saxony and covers only 420 hectares (1,040 acres). German red wines mainly come from the Ahr and Württemberg regions. Since red wines are becoming ever more popular, wine growers of other regions are also opting to produce red wines. In many regions, particular grape varieties predominate. For example, Mosel and Rhine are known for their Riesling wines; the Rheinhessen, Baden, and Palatinate (Pfalz) regions, for Müller-Thurgau and Silvaner wines; the Ahr region, for its Spätburgunder. There are grape varieties that have a millennia-old history, such as the Weisser Gutedel or the Roter Traminer; others are successful newcomers, such as Müller-Thurgau (1882), Dornfelder (1955), or Bacchus (1972). Palatinate, the second largest area of cultivation, with 22 percent of the vineyard acreage, has a reputation for being particularly experimental in its wines and also grows foreign grape varieties such as Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, in addition to the traditional ones.
In Germany, grapes are harvested as late in the season as possible so that they can develop more aroma during the extended maturing stage. Eiswein, which is produced from pressed, frozen grapes, and organic wine are among the specialty wines produced in Germany.