A sketch of four German wine regions

I went over to Germany a few weeks ago to get a feel for the different regions and what was happening over there. Although they are mostly bunched together around the border with France, each region has a very different identity.


Rolling low green hills and golden fields of wheat. Fertile arable land, with various crops planted amongst the vines. Pretty villages amongst lush pastures, encircled by the flowing Rhine. Lots of different grapes planted here in the largest wine region of Germany, mostly Müller-Thurgau still, but increasingly Riesling is taking over. The typical style is plump, rich and full, with lots of apricot and peach among the citrus flavours.


To the north of the Rheinhessen, looking down on its neighbour from slate cliffs across the Rhine. Pleasure cruisers slowly slide up and down the river, and you’re never more than a stone’s throw from a castle and two churches. This vertiginous south-facing slope is incredibly steep, and covered in vines wherever possible. Made up of crumbly grey and brick-red, brick-hard slates, both studded with pure white quartzite. The wines are sculpted from emeralds.


Almost like a German Burgundy, the Pfalz is a patchwork of ancient vineyards amongst small wealthy villages with low spires. An 80km stretch of sunny, dry vineyards on the slopes of the Haardt Mountains (a continuation of the Alsatian Vosges). This warm region was once teeming with Müller-Thurgau, which has since been slashed back in favour of the regal Riesling (often dry) and a scattering of other more unexpected grapes. Powerful wines, explosive flavours.


The Mosel is the most beautiful of all. Endless rows of manicured vines cover every slope around each fairytale village. And there are some stunning slopes; layers of grey, red or blue slate suddenly rising hundreds of feet from the houses below. Six-foot tall vines stand precipitously on the sides of these cliffs on wooden stakes clutching hard bunches of bright green grapes. It would be easy to lose your footing on the shingle. Whereas the other three regions are forward-looking and keen to modernise, the Mosel remains more traditional and conservative. The Riesling here is fruity, fresh, clean and mineral whatever the level of sweetness.

Not only is Germany a beautiful and varied country, but they make some of the greatest white wines in the world. I’ll post an article next week about what’s happening with the new generation of winemakers.

Thanks to Wines of Germany for organising the trip.