Saturday, September 23, 2023

Red and White Grape Varieties in Germany - Trends (September 2023)

Red and White Grape Varieties in Germany - Trends (September 2023)

The Association of American Wine Economists, of which I am a member, published 3 most interesting charts concerning the structur of German wine over the past 30 to 60 years.

In terms of the mix between white and red grape varieties, up to the turn of the century, Germany  as the share of red grape varities was increasing rapidly, reaching almost 40 percent of total output. This development, however, has stopped and in the last 20 years the share of red grape varieties in the total is falling again, although only very slowly. 

Today, red grape varieties account for about 35 percent and white grape varieties to about 45 percent of total production.

Within this overall trend, Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder) is the most important red grape variety in Germany. It has increased from hectars 2.000 to hectar 12.000 in the past 60 years. Germany has become the #3 producer of Pinot Noir in the world, after France and the USA. 

Dornfelder was also on the rise, but has started to decline in 2010, reflecting the shift to premium and ultra-premium red wine production. The other rising red grape variety is Lemberger/ Blaufränkisch, but its production is limited to Württemberg.

On the white wine side, the dominat grape variety is Riesling, accounting for a large part of the total and growing. Müller-Thurgau and Silvaner, both important white grape varieties in the 1960s, are rapidly loosing their weight. While decling overall, in Franken, Silvaner continues to be on the rise, as Silvaner is increasingly becoming the signature grape variety of Franken. The other grape varieties to watch are Pinot Gris (Grauburgunder) and Pinot Blanc (Weissburgunder) both displyaing steady growth for the last 30 years. Germany is now the #1 producer for Weissburgunder and the #2 producer for Grauburgunder in the world.

Until the early 20th century, Elbling was Germany's most planted variety, after which it was eclipsed by Silvaner during the middle of the 20th century. After a few decades in the top spot, in the late 1960s Silvaner was overtaken by the high-yielding Müller-Thurgau, which in turn started to lose ground in the 1980s. From the mid-1990s, Riesling became the most planted variety. 

Nicolas Quillé (MW): Overview of German Wine - Regions, Grape Varieties and New Labeling Rules

...German vineyards are planted with 2/3 white grapes and 1/3 reds grapes but be aware that there is a strong movement towards more red grapes, and especially Pinot Noir. Germany is the home of the Riesling grape (35% of global production) and it accounts for 24% of all German plantings. The other varieties that Germany can claim global leadership include Pinot Blanc (Weissburgunder), Muller Thurgau, and Silvaner. Other quintessential northern European varieties planted in Germany includes Pinot Gris (Grauerburgunder), Pinot Noir (Spatburgunder), Trollinger (aka Schiava Grossa) & Lemberger. Germany has an historical interest in grape hybridization (many developed domestically) and among the most popular are red grapes that were planted because of their high yields during cooler times such as Dornfelder (complex cross of Pinot Noir, Trollinger, Blaufrankish: dark and floral), as well as productive white crosses such as Muller Thurgau (Riesling x Madeleine Royale), Bacchus (Silvaner, Riesling, Muller) and Scheurebe. Finally, a few French international varieties are starting also to be planted such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot.

Of all German wines, it is Riesling that captures the attention. Its great versatility allows for the making of different wine styles, from dry to sweet, from still to sparkling. Riesling’s intense aromatic (citrus, jasmine) and polarizing balance of high acid and residual sugars create some of the most exquisite wines in the world: There cannot be a serious German wine tasting without a Riesling!...

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