With long, difficult to pronounce names, white Rhine wine from Germany may seem a bit intimidating. The truth is that the white wines from the Rhine Valley regions of Germany are typically delicious, well-balanced wines which have a devoted following around the world.
About Rhine Wines
Rhine wines are wines which come from the valleys surrounding the Rhine River in Germany. There are a number of tributaries to the Rhine River, and these tributaries make up the many different wine regions of the Rhine River valley. Some of the wine regions in this geographical area include:
It is said that you can taste the land where the grapes are grown in wine, and never is this truer than in the wines of Germany's Rhine River valley. The soil in the area is rocky and the weather tends to be fairly temperate. These conditions of soil and temperature give the region's wine its characteristic mineral notes, as well as providing the acidity that balances out the flavors of the wines.
White Rhine Wines from Germany
Perhaps the best known of the white Rhine wines from Germany is Riesling. While Riesling is the major white grape grown in Germany, it isn't the only one. The Rhine River valley also has a number of other grapes which are made into white wines including Müller-Thurgau and Gewürztraminer, as well as several other minor white wine grapes.
Riesling is the major white wine created in the Rhine River valley. There is a misconception that this wine, made from the Riesling grape, is always a sweet wine because many non-German Riesling wines are characteristically sweet. If you've never tasted a German Riesling before, then the first time you do will be a revelation. Even in the sweetest Rieslings, the sweetness is tempered and balanced by sparkling acidity and a pleasant minerality that causes the wine to taste crisp and refreshing on the palate. German Riesling wines are characterized by notes of apples, minerals and pear. The wines are bright, crisp, refreshing and sometimes sweet. There are several subcategories of German Riesling wines which range from dry to very sweet. The classification and sweetness depend upon when the grapes are harvested and how long the grapes are allowed to stay on the vine.
Kabinett wines are made from the grapes which are harvested the earliest during the season's harvest. The least sweet of the wines, Kabinett wines tend to be light, crisp and dry. They are usually the least expensive of the Riesling wines.
Spätlese wines are made from late harvest grapes. The grapes used in Spätlese wines are the first grapes harvested in the late harvest, and the wines tend to have a semi-sweet character. In spite of the sweetness of these wines, they are well balanced by acidity and the wines are crisp and refreshing. Sugar content is slightly higher in Spätlese wines, which makes alcohol levels somewhat lower than Kabinett wines.
Auslese wines are harvested later in the season than Spätlese, giving them more sugar and less alcohol. These wines tend to be considered a sweet, dessert style wine that still has a surprising crispness on the palate.
There are several categories of dessert Rieslings.
- Beerenauslese is made from late harvested grapes which have been affected by botrytis (also known as noble rot) which gives the wine a characteristic bouquet and flavor. These rich, sweet wines age well and have a relatively low alcohol level.
- Trockenbeerenauslese wines are intensely sweet and rich late harvest dessert wines which are made from botrytis-affected grapes.
- Eiswein is made from grapes which are harvested after they have frozen on the vine. This leads to very concentrated flavors, as well as high sugar and low alcohol levels.
In recent years, growers have been planting Müller-Thurgau grapes, which ripen much more quickly and have higher yields than Riesling grapes. The wines from these grapes are made in the style of Rieslings, but tend to have a milder, less interesting flavor profile than Riesling wines.
Wines from this grape tend to be aromatic and spicy. Gewürztraminer almost always has a heady scent of spice, florals and fruits. A well-made Gewürztraminer wine will also have strong flavors that match the bouquet of the wine.
A very small percentage of white wine grapes grown in the Rhine River valley of Germany are varietals such as Pinot Gris, Silvaner, and Pinot Blanc. These grapes are used in blends or as single grape varietals which are consumed mainly in Germany as food-friendly table wines.
Wines to Try
It is well worth it to try the delicious wines from Germany's Rhine River valley. There are a number of wineries which make excellent wines which you can find at your local wine shop.
- Dr. Loosen
- Joh. Jos Prüm
When trying Rhine River valley wines, sample different grapes and styles to find one that you like best. You'll be glad you did.