Germany lives up to its billing as a fairytale destination full of joyous festivals, picturesque castles, and remarkable scenery. The magic extends into the domestic wine scene, too. A host of dynamic varieties and styles of wine are enchanting enough on their own, but when paired with the right food, the magic multiplies and is sure to leave you spellbound.
It’s more than fair to say that Germany has a little bit of everything. The country is so multifaceted that it defies all stereotypes, even those pertaining to its vast drinks culture. Yes, the lagers are legendary. But so, too, are the Pinots and Müller-Thurgaus. Finding its footing in that happy medium between traditional and contemporary, Germany is iconic yet ever-changing. The same could be said of its incredible wine culture.
Thirteen unique wine regions dot the German landscape, set primarily in the European country’s southwestern expanses. From the historic and dramatic Mosel vineyards to the earthy wines of Franken and the rich reds of Württemberg, there’s something for every palate in Germany. Varied terrain and microclimates mean tremendous variety; about 140 grape types are grown there. The viticultural riches span a broad stylistic spectrum, touching on everything from still or fizzy — locals know the latter as sekt — to bone dry or exceptionally sweet.
When most picture German wines, varieties like Riesling jump to mind. While white wines like Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc continue to grow, there are plenty of reds, too, accounting for more than one-third of all the nation’s vineyard area. In Germany, reds like Trollinger and Lemberger thrive and are finessed into highly approachable wines. None, however, is as famous as Spätburgunder, which you may know as Pinot Noir. This medium-bodied red, which only reaches its heights in select pockets throughout the planet, is extremely food-friendly and known to entrance tasters with its depth of character.
Germany’s northern positioning actually helps its cause from a wine-growing standpoint. While it may not take in as much sun as, say, the Mediterranean, German wine country boasts the temperate climate and low- and slow- ripening schedule for which cool-climate grape varieties pine. These conditions yield wines that are not only immediately accessible, but age well and can accompany all kinds of snacks and dishes. The graceful gymnasts of the enology world, German wines move seamlessly from cuisine to cuisine, season to season.
As you aim to sip like the Germans do, keep these four trusty varieties in mind, along with the many foods that deserve to share the table — and help make magic happen.
Weissburgunder [Pinot Blanc]
With its signature nutty nose and tendency to show pleasant minerality, Pinot Blanc might be your new favorite white wine. A sibling of Pinot Noir, this wine offers plenty of body and orchard fruit flavors like pear and peach. Pinot Blanc also loves the company of some richness.
Grauburgunder [Pinot Gris]
Second only to Italy in terms of total vineyard land devoted to the grape, Germany loves its Pinot Gris. Also known as Grauburgunder, this wine tends to offer generous amounts of fruit flavors and fresh, floral aromatics. It’s as reliable slightly chilled mid-summer on the deck as it is served mid-winter with some cheesy pasta.
Spätburgunder [Pinot Noir]
A good Pinot Noir offers a deep dive into a wild berry patch. You’re treated to brambly flavors, accented by earth and spice. The best versions finish slow and memorably, etched into your palate in the best of ways. This versatile red carries the ideal amount of weight and complexity, able to take on everything from fish and wild mushrooms to grilled meats.
Often assumed to be solely sweet, Riesling is often fully dry as well. Germany brought fame to the white wine, adored for its singular aromatics, racy acidity, and tremendous texture. Try a slightly sweet version (look for Kabinett or Spätlese on the label) with some spicy food or enjoy a trocken, or bone dry, option alongside classic comfort food like fried chicken.
This article is sponsored by Wines of Germany.