Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) is the most- planted red grape variety in Germany, accounting for over 7% of all vines planted. Wines of this grape range from the light, fruity rosé called Weissherbst to the full-bodied, spicy, Burgundian-style wonder made in the western Rheingau, where the river shifts direction. The Pfalz has also had critical success with this grape for both still wine and Sekt, Germany’s sparkling wine.
Württemberg, considered to be Germany’s premier red wine region, produces light and fruity reds. Its Trollinger-based wines mostly stay in Germany, but Schwarzriesling and Lemberger make it across the ocean. Schwarzriesling, known as Pinot Meunier in France, is a mutation of Pinot Noir, though its wines are much simpler in nature. Lemberger is almost exclusive to Württemberg. Its finished wines are darker than other German reds, and run the gamut from light and fruity to rich, powerful and ageworthy.
Ahr is the smallest of Germany’s wine regions, and one of the most northerly. Nearly all of the wine produced in this area is red, and Spätburgunder grows very well here, as do Portugieser and Dornfelder. Portugieser is most often used to produce Ahr’s version of Weissherbst, but is also vinified as a light, easygoing red with bright acidity. Dornfelder is a relatively new variety, created in Germany in 1956. It has a bright future, with darkly pigmented, complex wines offering texture and pleasing aromas. Dornfelder is also grown in the Pfalz and Rheinhessen, and has become the third-most planted red variety in all of Germany.
Baden, just across the Rhine from Alsace, is Germany’s warmest wine region. Wines made here are typically fuller in body and higher in alcohol than those from other German regions. About half of the total vineyard acreage is dedicated to various members of the Pinot family, including Spätburgunder and Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris). White wine production still edges out red, but by an increasingly shrinking margin.
As demand increases, so too will production and exportation. The next time German wine is used generically in a conversation, don’t be surprised if the question “Red or white?” is posed.