German Red Wine is a Glass of Pinot Noir or Trollinger
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German red wine is primarily produced in the west of Germany, along the river Rhine and its tributaries, with the oldest plantations going back to the Roman era. Approximately 60 percent of the German wine production is situated in the federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, where 6 of the 13 regions (Anbaugebiete) for quality wine are situated. Germany has about 102,000 hectares (252,000 acres or 1,020 square kilometers) of vineyard, which is around one tenth of the vineyard surface in Spain, France or Italy. The total wine production is usually around 9 million hectoliters annually, corresponding to 1.2 billion bottles, which places Germany as the eighth largest wine-producing country in the world. German red wine accounts for almost one third of the total production.
As a wine country, Germany has a mixed reputation internationally, with some consumers on the export markets associating Germany with the world's most elegant and aromatically pure white wines while other see the country mainly as the source of cheap, mass-market semi-sweet wines such as Liebfraumilch. Among enthusiasts, Germany's reputation is primarily based on wines made from the Riesling grape variety, which at its best is used for aromatic, fruity and elegant white wines that range from very crisp and dry to well-balanced, sweet and of enormous aromatic concentration. While primarily a white wine country, red wine production surged in the 1990s and early 2000s, primarily fuelled by domestic demand, and the proportion of the German red wine vineyards devoted to the cultivation of dark-skinned grape varieties has now stabilized at slightly more than a third of the total surface. For the German red wines, Spätburgunder, the domestic name for Pinot Noir, is in the lead.
Viticulture in present-day Germany dates back to Ancient Roman times, to sometime from 70 to 270 CE/AD. In those days, the western parts of today's Germany made up the outpost of the Roman empire against the Germanic tribes on the other side of Rhine. What is generally considered to be Germany's oldest city, Trier, was founded as a Roman garrison and is situated directly on the river Moselle (Mosel) in the eponymous wine region. The oldest archeological finds that may indicate early German viticulture are curved pruning knives found in the vicinity of Roman garrisons, dating from the 1st century AD. However, it is not absolutely certain that these knives were used for viticultural purposes. Emperor Probus, whose reign can be dated two centuries later than these knives, is generally considered the founder of German viticulture, but for solid documentation of winemaking on German soil, we must go to around 370 AD, when Ausonius of Bordeaux wrote Mosella, where he in enthusiastic terms described the steep vineyards on river Moselle.
The wild vine, the forerunner of the cultivated Vitis vinifera is known to have grown on upper Rhine back to historic time, and it is possible (but not documented) that Roman-era German viticulture was started using local varieties. Many viticultural practices were however taken from other parts of the Roman empire, as evidenced by Roman-style trellising systems surviving into the 18th century in some parts of Germany, such as the Kammerbau in the Palatinate.
Almost nothing is known of the style or quality of "German" red wines that were produced in the Roman era, with the exception of the fact that the poet Venantius Fortunatus mentions German red wine around AD 570.
Before the era of Charlemagne, Germanic viticulture was practiced primarily, although not exclusively, on the western side of Rhine. Charlemagne is supposed to have brought viticulture to Rheingau. The eastward spread of viticulture coincided with the spread of Christianity, which was supported by Charlemagne. Thus, in Medieval Germany, churches and monasteries played the most important role in viticulture, and especially in the production of quality wine. Two Rheingau examples illustrate this: archbishop Ruthard of Mainz (reigning 1089-1109) founded a Benedictine abbey on slopes above Geisenheim, the ground of which later became Schloss Johannisberg. His successor Adalbert of Mainz donated land above Hattenheim in 1135 to Cistercians, sent out from Clairvaux in Champagne, who founded Kloster Eberbach.
Many grape varieties commonly associated with German red wines have been documented back to the 14th or 15th century. Riesling has been documented from 1435 (close to Rheingau), and Pinot Noir from 1318 on Lake Constance under the name Klebroth, from 1335 in Affenthal in Baden and from 1470 in Rheingau, where the monks kept a Clebroit-Wyngart in Hattenheim. The most grown variety in medieval Germany was however Elbling, with Silvaner also being common, and Muscat, Räuschling and Traminer also being recorded.
For several centuries of the Medieval era, the vineyards of Germany (including Alsace) expanded, and is believed to have reached their greatest extent sometime around 1500, when perhaps as much as four times the present vineyard surface was planted. Basically, the wine regions were located in the same places as today, but more lands around the rivers, and land further upstream Rhine's tributaries, was cultivated. The subsequent decline can be attributed to locally produced beer becoming the everyday beverage in northern Germany in the 16th century, leading to a partial loss of market for wine, and to the Thirty Years' War ravaging Germany in the 17th century.
At one point the Church controlled most of the major vineyards in Germany. Quality instead of quantity become important and spread quickly down the river Rhine. The Development ended when Martin Luther's activities initiated revolts leading to the death of millions and affecting culture for centuries. In the 1800s Napoleon took control of all the vineyards from the Church, including the best, and divided and secularized them. Since then the Napoleonic inheritance laws in Germany broke up the parcels of vineyards further, leading to the establishment of many cooperatives. However, there are many notable and world-famous wineries in Germany, which have managed to acquire or hold enough land to produce wine not only for domestic consumption, but also for export.German wine from Franken in the characteristic round bottles (Bocksbeutel)
An important event took place in 1775 at Schloss Johannisberg in Rheingau, when the courier delivering the harvest permission was delayed for two weeks, with the result that most of the grapes in Johannisberg's Riesling-only vineyard had been affected by noble rot before the harvest began. Unexpectedly, these "rotten grapes" gave a very good sweet wine, which was termed Spätlese, meaning late harvest. From this time, late harvest wines from grapes affected by noble rot have been produced intentionally. The subsequent differentiation of these late harvest wines into additional categories, starting with Auslese in 1787, laid the ground for the Prädikat system.
Most of the present German wine law was introduced in 1971, and definied the Prädikat designations as they have been since then.
The German wine regions are some of the most northerly in the world. The main wine-producing climate lies below the 50th parallel, which runs through the regions Rheingau and Mosel. Above this line the climate becomes less conducive to wine production, but there are still some vineyards above this line.
Because of the northerly climate, there has been a search for suitable grape varieties (particularly frost resistant and early harvesting ones), and many crosses have been developed, such as Müller-Thurgau in the Geisenheim Grape Breeding Institute. Recently there has been an increase in plantings of Riesling as local and international demand has been demanding high quality wines.
The wines are all produced around rivers, mainly the Rhine and its tributaries, often sheltered by mountains. The rivers have significant microclimate effects to moderate the temperature. The soil is slate in the steep valleys, to absorb the sun's heat and retain it overnight. On the rolling hills the soil is lime and clay dominated. The great sites are often extremely steep so they catch the most sunlight, but they are difficult to harvest mechanically. The slopes are also positioned facing the south or south-west to angle towards the sun.
The vineyards are extremely small compared to new world vineyards. This makes the lists of wines produced long and complex, and many wines hard to obtain as production is so limited.
The wine regions in Germany usually referred to are the 13 defined regions for quality wine. The German wine industry has organized itself around these regions and their division into districts. However, there are also a number of regions for the seldom-exported table wine (Tafelwein) and country wine (Landwein) categories. Those regions with a few exceptions overlap with the quality wine regions. In order to make a clear distinction between the quality levels, the regions and subregions for different quality level have different names on purpose, even when they are allowed to be produced in the same geographical area.
There are 13 defined regions for quality wine in Germany:
1. Ahr -
a small region along the river Ahr, a tributary of Rhine, that despite its northernly location primarily produces German red wine from Spätburgunder.
2. Baden -
in Germany's southwestern corner, across river Rhine from Alsace, and the only German wine region situated in European Union wine growing zone B rather than A, which results in higher minimum required maturity of grapes and less chaptalisation allowed. Noted for its pinot wines - both red and white. Although the Kaiserstuhl region in the wine growing region of Baden is Germany's warmest location, the average temperature in the whole wine region is a little bit lower than in Palatinate. One of two wine regions in the federal state of Baden-Württemberg.
3. Franconia or Franken -
around portions of Main river, and the only wine region situated in Bavaria. Noted for growing many varieties on chalky soil and for producing powerful dry Silvaner wines.
4. Hessische Bergstrasse (Hessian Mountain Road) -
a small region in the federal state Hesse dominated by Riesling.
5. Mittelrhein -
along the middle portions of river Rhine, primarily between the regions Rheingau and Mosel, and dominated by Riesling.
6. Mosel -
along the river Moselle (Mosel) and its tributaries, the rivers Saar and Ruwer, and was previously known as Mosel-Saar-Ruwer. The Mosel region is dominated by Riesling grapes and slate soils, and the best wines are grown in dramatic-looking steep vineyards directly overlooking the rivers. This region produces wine that is light in body, crisp, of high acidity and with pronounced mineral character. The only region to stick to Riesling wine with noticeable residual sweetness as the "standard" style, although dry wines are also produced.
7. Nahe -
around the river Nahe where volcanic origins give very varied soils. Mixed grape varieties but the best known producers primarily grow Riesling, and some of them have achieved world reputation in recent years.
8. Palatinate or Pfalz -
the second largest producing region in Germany, with production of very varied styles of wine (especially in the southern half), where German red wine has been on the increase. The northern half of the region is home to many well known Riesling producers with a long history, which specialize in powerful Riesling wines in a dry style. Warmer than all other German wine regions. Until 1995, it was known in German as Rheinpfalz.
9. Rheingau -
a small region situated at a bend in river Rhine which give excellent conditions for wine growing. The oldest documented references to Riesling come from the Rheingau region and it is the region where many German wine making practices have originated, such as the use of Prädikat designations, and where many high-profile producers are situated. Dominated by Riesling with some Spätburgunder. The Rheingau Riesling style is in-between Mosel and the Palatinate and other southern regions, and at its finest combines the best aspects of both.
10. Rheinhessen or Rhenish Hesse -
the largest production area in Germany. Once known as Liebfraumilch land, but a quality revolution has taken place since the 1990s. Mixed wine styles and both German red wines and white wines. The best Riesling wines are similar to Palatinate Riesling - dry and powerful. Despite its name, it lies in the federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, not in Hesse.
11. Saale-Unstrut -
one of two regions in former East Germany, situated along the rivers Saale and Unstrut, and Germany's northernmost wine growing region.
12. Saxony or Sachsen -
one of two regions in former East Germany, in the southeastern corner of the country, along the river Elbe in the federal state of Saxony.
13. Württemberg -
a traditional German red wine region, where grape varieties Trollinger (the region's signature variety), Schwarzriesling and Lemberger outnumber the varieties that dominate elsewhere. One of two wine regions in the federal state of Baden-Württemberg.
German red wine varieties account for 37% of the plantations in Germany but has increased in recent years.
Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) -
a much-appreciated grape variety that demands good sites to produce good wines and therefore competes with Riesling. It is considered to give the most elegant German red wines.
a "new crossing" that has become much appreciated in Germany since it is easy to grow and gives dark-coloured, full-bodied, fruity and tannic German red wines of a style which used to be hard to produce in Germany.
Schwarzriesling (Pinot Meunier)
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