German Wine: Not Just Riesling!

ProWein 2010 provides visitors with a unique opportunity to form an overview of the German wine scene. Key producers and all 13 growing regions are featured at the fair. Alongside Generation Riesling the German Wine Institute will also be presenting cross-winery products and marketing concepts including for instance Ecovin wines. Like every year, the joint stand of the leading wine estates association Verband der Prädikatsweingüter (VDP) with its around 150 producers is likely to be a magnet for visitors. This has been re-organised for its 100th anniversary, now enlarged to include a tasting zone featuring a cross-section of “100 years of the best wines from the best locations from creative winegrowers”. The joint stands of the different growing regions offer a variety of presentations.

Franconia includes wine producers from the “Frank + Frei” group. The Palatinate presents 25 producers at its joint stand featuring various tasting sessions hosted by world champion sommelier Markus del Monego. Rhine Hesse is represented with, amongst others, top-class wines from “Selektion Rheinhessen”. At its joint stand Baden also features numerous wineries alongside several cooperatives. In Baden cooperatives and private wine producers have joined together to form the Badischer Wein GmbH which not only promises a new website presence but also a new stand at the fair. The Württemberg producers’ stand will primarily be showcasing 2009 reds due to low white wine production this year. The Trolling–Württemberg speciality with its fresh, fruity and cheeky motto “frisch.fruchtig.frech” aims to appeal to young consumers. Even smaller growing regions like Saxony and Saale-Unstrut have interesting wines to offer. The Saale-Unstrut joint stand has new arrivals and is featured together with the Freyburg vintners’ association Winzervereinigung Freyburg and their new Bach wine series.

Those interested in “new” wine estates can visit Weingut von Winning (the traditional Deidesheim winery previously known as Dr. Deinhard). Presented under the Villa Heynburg heading at the Hex vom Dasenstein Wine Cellar stand is an ambitious start-up winery from Kappelrodeck now showcasing its first vintage (2008).

German Wine Business Patchy

“The economic crisis has also impacted the German wine market this year,” says Monika Reule, Managing Director of the German Wine Institute (Deutsches Weininstitut – DWI) summing up the current climate in the German wine business. “In the first three quarters of this year wine sales in Germany dropped by 3% across all points of purchase and areas of origin as compared with the same period last year. Turnover also fell slightly by 0.7%. Sales of German wines fell in the same period by 6.7% while turnover retracted slightly by 1.9%. However, with a 53.5% market share of total wine turnover German wines still clearly maintained market leadership at home ahead of Italy and France each accounting for 13%.”

Internationally, German wines have been enjoying increasing recognition – something that can be seen in the stable demand for such wines and their success in international competitions. VDP President Steffen Christmann is satisfied with the development for association members: “The extremely positive trend over the past few years has put us in a very good starting position in Germany and on many export markets. While not entirely unscathed by the general economic climate, business at German Prädikatswein estates is doing very well considering. It is true that quantities per order are decreasing and customers are reducing inventories and investing less in wines they cannot sell on immediately. Overall, however, this does not mean that substantially lower quantities of wine are being sold.”

2009 Vintage: “A Very Great Vintage” and Stable Prices

Less wine than in 2008 but excellent quality: the result is estimated at 8.8 m hectolitres – a figure 10% to 15% under the yield of the 2008 vintage and below the five-year average. Average harvest losses of 23% were the result of uneven flowering, a warm, damp period in summer and – especially in Saxony and Saale-Unstrut – heavy frosts in winter. In these two easterly growing regions producers suffered harvest losses of between 49% and 58%. Only Franconian vintners and their colleagues in the Palatinate were able to escape with fewer losses. Nevertheless, quality has compensated for any quantity deficits.

German Wine Trends in 2010

Spätburgunder Competitive Internationally – the “Best in the World”

Red wines are as popular with consumers as ever. The proportion of German red wines purchased has risen continually and stood in 2008 at 43% (white wines: 45%). Only ten years ago this figure for German reds stood at just 25%. Spätburgunder (German Pinot Noir), in particular, is attracting increasing interest proving its competitive edge with many international prizes. For instance, the Ahr-based winery Meyer-Näkel won the Decanter International Pinot Noir Trophy and the Austrian magazine “wein.pur” headlined that: “The best Pinot Noir in the world comes from Germany”. In the grand 2009 competition for this variety Mondial du Pinot Noir in the Swiss town of Sierre a total of 17 gold medals and two special prizes went to German Pinot Noir wines.

New Interest in White Wines: Riesling and Pinot Blanc

The red wine boom of the past few years has stopped in terms of new planting. The only varieties managing to expand in area were whites: Riesling alone posted a 700-hectare increase between 2008 and 2009. Riesling remains Germany’s most important grape variety while Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris were both able to post considerable area increases. Ever more consumers are turning to Pinot Blanc varieties with total vineyard area amounting to 8,212 hectares – putting Pinot Blanc in fourth position in Germany’s variety ranking after Riesling, Müller-Thurgau and Pinot Noir. The strength of the Pinot Blanc varieties lies in their agreeable acidity and excellent suitability as accompaniments to food.

Trend towards Light Wines

For the first time this year the German Wine Institute as part of the DLG’s national German wine awards gave a special prize for light, fruity and aromatic “summer wines”. According to a survey amongst wine producers, this category (including not only Rivaner but also white cuvée wines, rosés and light Rieslings with 10% to 12% alcohol by volume) generates more turnover and is promising for export.

Eco Wine Popular

The market for organic wine is developing as rapidly as ever, says Ralph Dejas, Managing Director of the largest organic wine association Ecovin: “Today we are enjoying a solid and stable climate. The largest consumer market in the EU is Germany. However, export is playing an increasingly important role for some producers.” Twice as many wine growers will be exhibiting at the ProWein joint stand in 2010 as last year. Two events will be featured at the DWI stand – including a presentation of this year’s eco prize winners. December 2009 saw the tradefair BioFach hold the first international competition for ecological wines in collaboration with the MUNDUSvini International Wine Award. According to Ecovin, 4,266 hectares are currently being used in Germany for organic wine growing (542 wineries). The majority of organic wine producers are located in Rhine Hesse (141 wineries) boasting the largest area of organic grape cultivation (1,699 hectares) followed by Baden (125 wineries with 650 hectares) and the Palatinate (95 wineries with 1,065 hectares).

Young Generation of Winegrowers

Many growing areas feature groups of wine producers presenting themselves on a joint platform. Many of these groups are also featured at ProWein with their own stand. These include: Message in a Bottle (young vintners from Rhine Hesse), Frank + Frei (wine producers from Franconia), Südpfalz Connexion and the Barrique Forum (wine producers from several growing regions specialising in barrique wines). An all-new feature is a trans-regional group of some 80 young wine growers plus “stakeholders in the wine business” entitled “Generation Riesling” (www.generation-riesling.de). Generation Riesling particularly highlights Germany’s well and internationally-trained, ambitious young winemakers. This group will be presenting itself at ProWein at the DWI stand. Commenting on this DWI Managing Director Monika Reule said: “The DWI called the Generation Riesling initiative into existence to give Germany’s young, highly-trained and internationally-oriented generation of wine producers a joint platform to present themselves worldwide. While the name does put Riesling, currently Germany’s trendiest grape variety, into the foreground, the group in no way excludes young vintners preferring to focus on other varieties like Pinot Blanc, Silvaner or Lemberger etc. For this reason at ProWein a wide range of top wines from Generation Riesling will be on offer for tasting.”

Author Dr. Rolf Klein is co-founder and former editor-in-chief of the wine magazine “Weinwelt” published by Meininger Verlag. Today Dr. Rolf Klein works as a freelance wine journalist.