Wine tasting is a fun and delicious way to explore a region, and in Germany, the Mosel region, the most famous area for wine, as well as the Rheingau region, offer multiple options.
In the 1960s, the majority of German wine was the sweeter varieties, the edelsuss and lieblich varieties. In the 1990s, more trocken and halbtrocken dry wines began to be exported to the U.S. This gave many people their first taste of non-sweet German wines.
In Germany, most wine tours are self-guided and virtually all wine producers are small-scale, producing less than 5,000 cases annually.
Guided tours are much less common in Germany than in Italy or France, and generally emphasize the Mosel region, often even a specific varietal. If you don't speak German or have your own transportation, the guided tours are a great option. They range in duration from two hours to full eight-hour days. There aren't any companies specializing in English-speaking tours, but most guides do speak some English.
For those who prefer a self-guided tour, each region has a tourism board available to assist you, even if you don't speak German. Larger wine regions have their own wine-related tourism branches and can help you choose the wineries that best suit your taste preferences. At certain times of year, there are wine festivals that are open to tourists. They're held during harvest time, beginning in early fall and lasting through early winter.
There are two major wine-growing regions in Germany, the Mosel and Rheingau. The Mosel is the better-known region, and covers the Moselle, Saar and Ruwer rivers. The Mosel region produces primarily Riesling wines, which are generally low-alcohol, fruity wines that range from off dry to very sweet.
The Rheingau region runs alongside the Rhine River and produces wines that are commonly exported. Rheingau wines are also predominantly Rieslings, though about one-fifth of the grapes grown in the region are pinot noir.
There are 11 additional wine growing regions in Germany. The Baden is the most distinctive of them, located across the Rhine River from French Alsace. This region grows mainly pinot noir and is the only region in Germany that shares a temperature profile with France. The other regions include Palatinate, or Pfalz, best known for dry Rieslings, Franconia, known for its silvaner, and Saxony, known for its muller-thurgau.
Social drinking is a large part of the culture in Germany, and going during festival season may be the best way to taste the different regions, meet the winemakers and learn the culture of winemaking that is inherent in German tradition.
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