Rediscovered: Germany´s aromatic grape varieties
Overview of the most important German aromatic varieties:
In 1916 the grape-breeder Georg Scheu, working at the research institute in Alzey, produced an impressive new variety by crossing Riesling and Bukettraube. It became known as Scheurebe.
Of the approx. 1,400 hectares of German vineyard currently planted with Scheurebe, more than half (725 ha) lies in its “motherland” Rheinhessen, roughly 350 ha in the Pfalz, 150 ha in Franken and 100 ha in the Nahe. This makes it in terms of cultivation one of the most important of Germany´s aromatic varieties.
The pronounced aroma is typically reminiscent of blackcurrant (cassis), occasionally also of tropical fruits such as maracuja or mango. The noble sweet styles stand out for their long cellaring potential and great finesse. The different styles and quality levels make Scheurebe wines a versatile choice for many occasions. Light Kabinett wines are ideal for a social get-together, dry to medium-dry styles pair beautifully with aromatic and spicy Asian dishes and luscious Auslese or Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese wines are excellent partners for fruit-based desserts.
Sauvignon Blanc is the shooting star of German white wines and can safely be called a fashionable grape. Total vineyard area in Germany has more than doubled from 2007 – 2015 to approx. 900 ha – with further potential upwards. Plantings are distributed mostly around the wine-growing regions of the Pfalz (380 ha), Rheinhessen (240 ha) and Baden (120 ha).
This white variety was actually most common in southwest France, where it was first documented in 1710. But in the last few decades it has spread widely around the globe.
The signature feature of Sauvignon Blanc is its powerful aroma of grass, herbs, gooseberry and green fruits. It pairs excellently with asparagus, fish dishes and seafood, or even pasta with cream sauces.
Gewuerztaminer is a monument of German wine culture that has survived for centuries. In the Pfalz wine village of Rhodt there is a Gewurztraminer vineyard with approx. 400-year-old vines. This cultural monument alone indicates that Gewuerztraminer is one of the oldest varieties still cultivated today. Historical documents in Germany provide proof of its existence in the 16th century; at that time there was a planting recommendation for the variety.
Gewuerztraminer was cultivated on approx. 940 ha in Germany last year and has experienced a bit of a comeback in the last few years (2010: 690 ha).
The largest areas under vine are in the Pfalz (400 ha), in Rheinhessen (170 ha) and in Baden (150 ha), with the emphasis on the Kaiserstuhl. In Sachsen, Gewuerztraminer is considered a regional speciality and is grown on 6 per cent of the vineyard area.
Gewuerztraminer seduces the wine drinker with its scent of roses and sometimes one also finds notes of violets, honey and marzipan. Noble-sweet Auslese wines are suitable for long-term cellaring. As a vintner Sekt (bottle-fermented sparkling wine) or pomace brandy, it is a very special treat.
The intense aroma, complemented by a spicy fruit flavour, makes Gewuerztraminer a variety for lovers of aromatic wines. Dry and medium-dry styles go well with Asian dishes or game paté and spicy, aromatic ragouts. Mature and luscious examples are popular as an aperitif. Sweet Spaetlese and Auslese wines are excellent with aromatic desserts, as well as those made with marzipan or chocolate. The combination of Gewuerztraminer and the Alsatian Munster cheese or blue cheese is a particular delight.
Muskateller is one of the oldest white wine grapes, whose origins can in all probability be traced back to Asia Minor. The Muskateller family has many variants – there are more than 200 distinct varieties worldwide. In this country Gelber Muskateller is the most common variant, with 310 ha of vines found mostly in the Pfalz, Baden and Wuerttemberg. Other well-known variants include Roter Muskateller, Goldmuskateller and Rosenmuskateller.
Muskateller derives its name from the typical musky aroma that is characteristic of the taste of the grape. However, the aroma spectrum of Muskateller wines goes much further and ranges from elderflower to exotic fruits. Its lively fruit acidity means that it can still taste fresh when it is made in a lusciously sweet style. Similar to Gewuerztraminer, it is an excellent partner for Asian and Indian dishes, as well as spicy cheeses.
See also the report: Wine Institute honours best aromatic wines