Ask almost anyone and Riesling is usually the only wine they seem to think comes out of Germany. You can’t really blame people for this assumption, since Riesling is the wine that truly put Germany on the map; they’re considered to make it better than anyone else and it represents 57% of all the wine produced in the country. But Germany is much more than just Riesling, and we’re not talking about their beer, though that’s delicious too. Germany has a rich history of winemaking, and they make several other wines you should give a try. Even if you have trouble pronouncing their names, you may be surprised to learn you know more about the other German wines than you think. Here are four German wines most people don’t know, and should:
If you look at this name and have no idea how to pronounce it – it’s SHPAYT-bur-GUHN-der if you must – have no fear, it’s just Pinot Noir! Spätburgunder means “late Burgundian” in German, and it’s the most widely planted red grape in the country. While the wine can be a bit hard to find in the U.S., consumption of it in Germany is rising, which means more is making it to our shores as well. Look for Spätburgunder made in the wine regions of Baden, Ahr, and Pfalz, whose regions, thanks to global warming, are producing fantastic versions of the wine that many are comparing to and even pitting against great Burgundies.
Another tongue twister – this one is pronounced VICE boor-gun-der – Weißburgunder is simply Pinot Blanc, a grape that is thought to have originated in Burgundy, which is why the wine’s name literally translates to “white Burgundy.” While this white wine will never eclipse Riesling in its popularity, it’s quickly growing a following with current numbers showing it as one of the top five whites produced in the country. Weißburgunder creates a light, tart and refreshing wine that’s perfect for food and just like Spätburgunder, two of the regions to look for it are Pfalz and Baden.
This ancient grape is incredibly easy growing, which is probably why it’s the third most planted white grape in Germany. While it isn’t as revered as Riesling, the wine has its loyal fans. The knock Silvaner receives most often is that it can be boring and bland, but when made well it has a great minerality with nice floral and herbal notes. It’s a great wine for warm weather sipping, and is usually pretty affordable. The region most famous for producing great Silvaner is Franken, which is located in Bavaria and makes Silvaner the go-to wine for Oktoberfest.
Out of all the grapes we’ve mentioned, Dornfelder is the clear baby, having only come into existence in 1955. Created by scientist August Herold, the grape is darker in skin color than the other red grapes being successfully grown at the time of its invention, and its cultivation allowed German winemakers to create darker fuller-bodied red wines. Currently the wine is second only to Spätburgunder in German red wine production, with the best wines coming out of Pfalz and Rheinhessen. The grape usually produces a wine with lovely floral notes that also ages very well in oak, taking on the wood’s spicy and vanilla characteristics.
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