Dry is the name of the game for the new wave of German winemakers, writes Christine Austin

Last week I came across a delicious range of wines with fabulous flavours and personality.  They had a sense of place and they were made by a new generation of skilled winemakers who had travelled the globe and worked in wineries to learn what the rest of the wine world is doing. After that they had returned home, taken over their family businesses and are now working long hours to make the most of their vineyards.

But when I asked the question ‘Are your wines available in the UK?’ these same winemakers shook their heads and responded ‘the UK doesn’t want our wines.’  Why? When the UK has the most eclectic and comprehensive range of wines in the world, why do German wines have such a bad time?

At this point I must implore you not to turn the page.  German wines have become so unfashionable that it is almost embarrassing to read about them.  But the wines I tasted were not the over-sweet, over-sulphured wines of old.  This new generation has arrived and they have thrown out the old styles and they deserve our serious attention.

And just to prove how much things have changed, all the winemakers I met last week were female. This was not to show that women make better wines than men, I think all of those female winemakers would say they don’t.  They make wine that is equally good as wine made by men.  But perhaps they have a different style, determined by their skills and their grapes than by their gender.

Just in case you are now trying to remember the German wine classifications of Kabinett, Spätlese and Auslese, so you can feel at home reading about German wines, please stop. You really don’t need that information anymore.  Just look for the word ‘Trocken’ which means ‘dry’.  These days the best German wines on the shelves are dry wines and they go perfectly with food.

I started at Weingut Mosbacher in the Pfalz region.  This is a pretty region, with rolling hills and a dry, warm climate.  It is so close to Alsace that the range of hills that run down its length change into the Vosges mountains of France.

The main grape here is Riesling, and once again, this is often a trigger point for consumers to stop paying attention.  Pronounced Reece-ling, not Rise-ling, this grape seems to carry with it associations of the sweet wines of old.  But it can just as easily be made into dry wines, and that is what is happening.

Sabine Mosbacher-Düringer is typical of the new generation of wine producers in Germany.  She comes from a family of winemakers, so after studying viticulture and winemaking, she headed overseas to gain experience, then came home and eventually took over the family business. She works with her husband, also a winemaker, but it is Sabine who showed me round the vineyards and it is she who decides the direction of the company.  The vineyards are now worked organically, and of all the wines I tasted on my travels around Germany, this is one winery that has managed to get into the UK market.  Head to Waitrose for Mosbacher Riesling, 2017 at £14.99 for pure zesty flavours of crisp apple, honeysuckle and orange peel with a pure dry flavour minerally crunch on the finish.  Try it with grilled fish or a creamy chicken or pork dish.

Sabine is also pioneering a new grape variety, Cabernet Blanc which is a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and a whole bundle of other grapes.  Very new in the lexicon of grapes it is a white, disease-resistant variety that has absolutely nothing to do with sweetish Californian white wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.  Cabernet Blanc has soft, rounded, herb-edged flavours that goes well with food and one day may arrive on our shelves.

Close by, in the village of Weisenweg, still in the Pfalz region, another wine business is being transformed.  Yvonne Libelli, has taken over her family business known as Margarethenhof and she is making stylish wines from a whole range of grapes.

She has done the whole training and travelling experience and has come back home and taken over the family business. Her influence can already be seen in the simplified wine labels and screwcaps.

Her Margarethenhof Chardonnay 2018 is a fine example of a new style of great value, dry German wines now available, if only they could gain a foothold in our market.

Head closer to the Rhine river and Gesine Roll of Weingut Weedenbornhof has become somewhat of a Sauvignon Blanc specialist.  Just a couple of decades ago it was not legal to plant Sauvignon Blanc in this Rheinhessen region.  Now even German wine legislation has changed and she has selected the best clone for her red limestone soil, planted it on a blustery hillside and is making seriously good, minerally fresh Sauvignons.  Again these wines don’t make it to the UK, so you will just have to go there and buy them. They are well worth the detour.

It is the same story at Schlossgut Diel.  In the shadow of a 15thcentury castle, Carolin Diel has tucked winemaking experience in South Africa and New Zealand under her belt before coming back home to take over from her father.  I have known these wines for years and there is a freshness of style and concentration in them now.  Head to Crump, Richmond Shaw in London to find them.

To find this new wave of German wines you need to go look for them.  As well as the Mosbacher wine at Waitrose, Field and Fawcett in York has one of the best ranges of German wines including a dry, mineral-packed 2017 Villa Wolf Dry Riesling (£10.30) and a fresh peach and pear style 2016 Guntrum Dry Riesling (£11.70).  Both go well with fish and Asian style dishes.

Also well worth a try, for its label and its quality is a new-style, pineapple and green pepper style of 2016 Asshole Sauvignon Blanc from Emil Bauer in the Pfalz (Field and Fawcett £15.70).  As for all the other wines mentioned, please will someone start importing them?

 

About The Author

Christine Austin

Christine is a wine writer, broadcaster and a wine judge for several international wine competitions. She has a technical background and spent five years as a buyer for a major supermarket before moving to wine writing.She writes for The Yorkshire Post Magazine and organises the York Festival of Food and Drink. She has won both the Lanson and the Roederer prizes for wine writing.

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