Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Wine region: Baden and Württemberg, Germany

Baden-Württemberg is one of the 16 German states that make up Germany. Baden-Wuerttemberg used to be one of the growth centers of Germany due to its booming export industries. Mercedes-Benz and Porsche are prime examples. Now, Baden-Württemberg is an area that is pulling Germany down due to the financial crisis and its impact. By contrast, the wine business is holding up.

Baden-Württemberg comprises two wine growing areas, Baden and Württemberg.

Baden is the most southerly German wine-growing area in Germany's southwestern corner, across river Rhine from Alsace. It is known for its pinot wines - both red and white. It is the only wine-growing region in Germany to belong to the ECs wine-growing zone B which results in higher minimum required maturity of grapes and less chaptalization allowed.

The Spätburgunder is the most widely grown variety in Baden and is extremely popular. In good years the wine has a dark fruity color and has scents of berries, the forest floor, sometimes also caramel and vanilla. The wine is full-bodied and typical in expression, with a cool bite and has a lot of character. But the white wines from Baden are also very respectable. The main wine variety grown in the Tauber valley is the Müller-Thurgau, a resilient grape which produces very notable wines with a fine bouquet and an earthy-flowery scent. The Grauburgunder also deserves mention; it can have scents of exotic fruits - apricot, mango and melon.

Wine from Württemberg is mainly red wine. The main production area is along the Neckar river between Stuttgart and Heilbronn and, more wine is consumed here than anywhere else in Germany - actually twice as much as in the rest of Germany. The German poet Friedrich von Schiller wrote already several centuries ago: “A Württemberger without wine--is that a real Württemberger?”

In Württemberg the Trollinger is the most important variety. The Trollinger, with its characteristic bright red color, is grown almost exclusively in Württemberg. It is a typical Vierteleswein (equivalent to a vin ordinaire and so-called because such wines are normally ordered by the quarter liter): fruity, bodied and fresh and goes well with all kinds of dishes. In exceptional years, the fairly ordinary table wine can become a top-quality, but it usually is a good table wine for every-day consumption. There is also Lemberger, which is a better wine.

I have discussed the wine Schiller from Wuerttemberg in an earlier posting. Schiller looks like a Rose, but is produced by blending red and white grapes before fermentation. Ideally, the red and white grapes are planted in mixed lots in the vineyards and are harvested and treated together. You can find Schillerwein only in Württemberg. The name of the wine has nothing to do with the German poet Friedrich von Schiller (although he is from Württemberg). The wine got its name from the verb “schillern”. The verb "schillern" means "to scintillate". Schillerwein is thus a wine with a scintillating color, reflecting the fact that the wine is a blend of red and white grapes.

Overall in the German wine market, sales have gone down in parallel with the declining economy. Not so in Baden-Württemberg. The annual turn-over of the wine co-operatives has remained stable in the past 12 months. Sles of sparkling wines have even increased.

Wines from Baden and Württemberg are hard to find in the US. This is partly explained by the production structure, which is dominated by co-operatives. Much of the wine sector in Baden and Württemberg is in the hands of local co-operatives. These co-operatives are known for producing top class wines. But they tend to be less aggressive in terms of penetrating new markets. Stuart Pigott, the German wine writer, believes that Württemberg is the area with the largest potential for quality growth in Germany.

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