When you think ‘Wine Country’ you probably think of rolling vineyard-studded hills in France, Italy or California first. You probably don’t immediately think of Germany. But as of this year, you’d be wrong to count Germany out.
Indeed, as wine journalist Lettie Teague has recently written in her WSJ series, ‘How German Winemakers Are Quietly Conquering the World,’ German vineyards are growing many varieties of grapes and making many varieties of wines. And they are doing quite well.
Germany is best known for Riesling, but has long struggled to boost the style’s popularity abroad. Sweeter wines are often unjustly looked down on, particularly in the U.S. where we have seen Chardonnay fall in and out of favor, usually due to a market saturation of cheap, too-sweet Chardonnays. With the Rose craze, it can be hard for a crisp, sweeter, warm-weather-friendly variety to get a foothold stateside. But none of the varieties I’ve just mentioned need to be sweet. In fact, as more and more wineries have adopted stainless steel wine barrels, we’ve seen an influx in crisp, clean and understated Chardonnays, Rieslings and Roses.
In Germany, winemakers are not shying away from their beloved signature grape. According to Teague’s article, 80% of production at Weingut von Winning, a popular German winery, is still dedicated to Riesling. However, in order to capture a larger share of the export market, the Germans have begun to dabble in other whites, such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and others.
Weingut von Winning chose to focus it’s export production on the Sauvignon Blanc. They make three. And while their Sauvignon Blanc I is a rich, oak-fermented product, The Sauvignon Blanc II is crisp, lively, fermented in stainless steel, and perhaps the most ubiquitous in the states. Only 5% of von Winning’s vineyards are planted to Sauvignon Blanc grapes this year, and leveraging stainless steel wine barrels and tanks instead of costly oak they are able to turn this moderate investment into a solid profit in the export market.
Several different varieties of grapes flourish in Germany. By diversifying their vineyards, earning a larger share of the export market with more popular varieties and highlighting the flavor of these grapes in their stainless steel fermented batches, German wineries hope to open a door for their beloved Rieslings abroad.