Germany – famous primarily for the world-class Riesling produced in its Mosel region – is entering a new stage of its wine history. In the early 21st Century, the country’s winemakers are proving convincingly that they are good for more than just Mosel Riesling. Top quality German Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) is now emerging from various regions, particularly Baden, Pfalz and even the tiny Ahr Valley.
Overlooking a period of decidedly lesser glory – during the 1970s and 1980s – Germany has a long and illustrious history of winemaking. During the Middle Ages the Christian church, particularly the Cistercian and Benedictine monasteries, was very influential in the development of wine growing and in the production of quality wine in Germany. Two of the most famous names in German wine – the Rheingau wineries Schloss Johannisberg and Kloster Eberbach – were established as monasteries, and have been producing wine for almost 900 years.
Germany’s greatest variety, Riesling, is first documented in the Rheingau in 1435, and found its way to the Mosel shortly thereafter. In 1720, Schloss Johannisberg became the first major vineyard to be planted exclusively to this ‘superior’ variety. The mid to late 18th Century saw the development of botrytized wines, and by the 19th century Rhine wines were selling for prices above those of the first-growth Bordeaux.