Austria is celebrated not only for its arts and culture, but also for the quality of its wine, which is subject to some of the strictest laws in Europe. “Will it be any good?” almost isn’t a question in Austria. In the past, you could assume that an Austrian wine would be white, made from either Grüner Veltliner or Riesling grapes, but today the country is also turning out some very appealing reds from Blaufränkish and Zweigelt.
Germany is best known for white wines, particularly Riesling, which thrives in the southwestern part of the country. There are four quality classifications, from lowest to highest they are: Tafelwein (table wine), Landwein (state or country wine), Qualitätswein (quality wine from specified regions) and Prädikatswein (quality wine with special attributes). The higher the quality level, the more restrictions there are concerning geographical boundaries, ripeness levels and yields.
The wines are distinguished by their mineral flavors, acidity and light body, in dry to sweet styles. Notable vineyards include Bernkasteler Doctor, Piesporter Goldtröpfchen, Wehlener Sonnenuhr and Scharzhofberger (in Wiltingen). Key white varieties are Riesling and Müller-Thurgau.
Further south, drier, and warmer than the previously mentioned areas, the Pfalz is Germany’s second-largest region. Its soils contain sandstone and volcanic deposits, producing wines of fuller body and spice, and the Pfalz has been more successful with dry-style wines than some other more northerly regions. Sites of note are Forster Jesuitengarten, Forster Ungeheuer, Deidesheimer Herrgotsacker, and Deidesheimer Kirchenstück. The key red varieties are Spätburgunder and Dornfelder, while the primary white varieties are Riesling and Scheurebe.
On the right bank of the Rhine where the river takes a western turn, the south-facing slopes provide great growing conditions for Riesling. The wines here offer fruity flavors and more power than wines of the Mosel, and run from dry to sweet. Top sites are Erbacher Marcobrunn, Rüdesheimer Berg Rottland, Schloss Johannisberg, and Rauenthaler Baiken. Look for reds produced from Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) and whites from Riesling.
Germany’s largest region is also the original home of Liebfraumilch. Wines of this part of Germany tend to be light and mild, and can be dry to very sweet in style. Undulating hills and a slightly more southern location provide a hospitable home for both white and red varieties. Vineyards of importance are Niersteiner Pettenthal and Oppenheimer Schlossberg. The primary red grape is Dornfelder and white wines are made from Müller-Thurgau, Riesling and Silvaner.