As you know, I love German wine. I think the wines produced in Germany are some of the world’s best kept secrets and I’d like them to stay that way.
The Germans produce some of the best white wines in the world, on top of that, they’re about the only people in the world to charge realistic prices for high-quality produce.
But exactly that is a problem. Availability is pretty scarce, you’ll have serious trouble finding good German wine in a supermarket near you (unless you live in Germany or Austria), even if you have a good selection the complicated grape names and bottle descriptions often don’t do the bottles’ content any justice and the design on the bottles looks like it came from a local restraurant advert from the 1980s.
Imagine as well that first date: “Hi, I’ll have the poached haddock with grilled asparagus please and can we have a bottle of Michael-Schneizer Müller-Thürgau Qualitätswein Halbtrocken please?” It doesn’t roll off the tongue so romantically like Chablis, Chardonnay or Châteauneuf.
Some of the producers have recently invested a great deal of money in trying to make their products sound less Germanic. A lot of producers have started to rename the wines that they produce substituting words like Spätburgunder, Weißburgunder and Grauburgunder for the French and Italian equivalents: Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris/Grigio. Label designs have become more modern and even those that retain the traditionalistic element have been given a bold new colour scheme or a simpler font to make them more accessible to those who choose wines simply by which one has the most attractive label.
So here is a list of the troubles that German Wine faces, whether or not the industry will work out a way to solve them is another issue.
Apart from in Germany, German wine is pretty hard to find. Some larger supermarkets and specialist wine stores might have a “Germany” section but this is usually close to the floor, locked between Greece and Macedonia. These wines are usually sweet Rieslings with less than 10% alcohol. They tend to be low in quality and high in quantity. Expect to find Hock, Piesporter and Liebfraumilch – three wines that don’t represent modern German winemaking.
2) Romance factor
German isn’t a romantic language and, although many producers now adopt generic names for their wineries and use the French grape names, German wine is seen by some as a bit harsh, a bit too powerful – none of which has anything to do with romance. Also, labels are usually emblazoned with wild animals, old bishops and princes, not attractive.
3) The New World
The new world has stolen most of the UK wine scene and consumers are more aware of Australian Shiraz and Californian Chardonnay than they are of Mosel Riesling and Pinot Noir from Baden. By being aware, most consumers don’t bother trying anything they don’t know and often supermarkets and wine dealers are forced to reduce on their old-world assortments because people don’t buy them as often.
4) It being German
The German image overseas is one of German efficiency an people with humour and/or soul. How can people that have no enjoyment in taste make good wine? Well, the fact is that Germans do have a sense of taste, sense of humour and when it comes to wine, bar a few exceptions, it is all away quality and not how much a single Weingut can pump out.
So boycott these rules, get out there and buy yourself something German and good! Forget the unsexy names, the awful labels and the stereotypical German image – German wine is great and it is waiting to be discovered.