Dazzling dry whites, as well as ripe, pure fruit Pinot Noirs are the new norm for German wines … and they are well priced and utterly compelling. If you’re not yet a German wine fanatic, crack open a bottle from one of a new generation of producers and be amazed.
Wine in Germany has thrived since the Romans started the trend in 2nd century BC. Mid 19th-century, the wines fetched more than the priciest Bordeaux. But in the mid-20th century, Germany’s reputation for fine wine dive bombed. World Wars, badly thought through German wine laws, a flood of sweetened wines and a plethora of alternative sources aided its demise. Yet the great producers carried on regardless … if you knew what to look for.
Today, however, the buzz is back. The wines are simply so good, they have to be on your radar.
As critic Jordan Salcito wrote, “A young generation of ambitious, thoughtful and meticulous growers is once again producing compelling wines.”
Climate Change bonus
Climate change has played its part, producing riper grapes and wines that can be fermented dry to dazzling mineral freshness and purity – the style modern consumers prefer. Previously Germany’s dry whites could seem too lean and acidic. That’s not the case any longer.
And it’s not only whites … the reds are remarkable, too. We’re talking mostly Pinot Noir – in fact, Germany has the third largest plantings of this grape in the world. Temperatures now are similar to those of Burgundy in the 1980s/90s. And as Burgundy prices rise, Germany provides a great-value and spectacularly delicious alternative. There are some world-class producers, not only in Baden, in the south, but further afield, too.
It’s not just climate change though … the key for many is limiting yields. Those shot up in the 1970s, during the sweetened Liebfraumilch days, but low yields, meticulous winemaking and all the natural advantages of vertiginous-steep slopes and poor slate-schist soils are today producing “some of the world’s finest, lightest, longest-living whites” (Jancis Robinson MW) and “world-class Pinot Noir”(James Suckling).
Our new stars
We have some great producers on our list – Von Buhl with its amazing history (one of its wines was chosen by Chancellor Bismarck to toast the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869) and, with Bollinger’s former winemaker, Matthieu Kauffman at the helm since 2013, the wines from fine fizz to dry Riesling, even Cabernet, are amazing.
There’s Leitz, too, and their pure, lime-fresh Rieslings, Peter and Fritz May at Karl May winery in Rheinhessen with luscious Pinot Noir, rounded Weissburgunder and crisp Rieslings; 7th-generation Ralf Bonnet at Naegele Bonnet Pfalz estate, and Domdechant Werner – another 7th-generation estate making brilliant, dry Rieslings with ripeness and racy freshness.
Newest to our list is award- winning Oliver Zeter. His father was a wine importer,
so Oliver was well versed in the business. However, travel to South Africa, in particular, decided him to train as a winemaker. He took over four hectares of vines from his cousins in the Pfalz and planted them with Sauvignon Blanc (he’d fallen in love with its bright fruit elegance in SA) and Viognier. He admits he likes to “swim against the current.” He also makes terrific Riesling and Pinot Noir, and we’re delighted to present his Riesling 2017 on our list. He has won many awards, even for his first vintage, 2007. He uses his own grapes, as well as working closely with other Pfalz growers for his other requirements. His aim always is to produce wine that “dances the tightrope between the styles of the New and Old worlds”.
And the bear on the label? It was etched by Pfalz artist Otto Dill for Oliver’s grandfather in 1933. It has since remained close to the family’s heart and has now been adopted as part of the label.
A few of our exciting german wines to try
Oliver Zeter Riesling 2017 – Brimming with peach, lemon zest and grapefruit, this is a dazzling fresh white
Leitz Eins Zwei Dry 2016 – Modern, citrusy, fresh, dry Riesling from ‘Winemaker of the Year’
Karl May Gutswein Pinot Noir 2016 – Ripe, silky luscious berry fruit – delightful
Reichsrat Von Buhl Riesling Nr 1 2017 – from former Bollinger winemaker Matthieu Kauffmann, this has purity, ripeness and racy minerally elegance