If you’re a fan of German wine, chances are you’re familiar with riesling — one of the finest white wines on the planet, made from aromatic grapes just bursting with flavour. Which is fair enough; German riesling — which ranges from sweet all the way through to dry (see boxout on the right) — is an extremely terroir-driven, world-renowned wine that, when enjoyed chilled on a summer’s day, is about as close to perfection as we can imagine.
Everything happens for a riesling
The 5 types
The five types of German riesling are broken down by sweetness level: Trocken (dry); Kabinet (dry to off-dry); Spätlese (sweet); Auslese (sweeter); Beerenauslese (very sweet); and Trockenbeerenauslese (super sweet).
However, when it comes to German wine, riesling is only the tip of the iceberg. With a number of wine regions across the country, Germany has cultivated a collection of complex and sophisticated vino. From gewürztraminer, with floral notes akin to riesling, to luscious spätburgunder (German for pinot noir), German wines are some of the coolest in the world — in more ways than one.
Germany's cool climate, combined with its slow ripening grapes, make for some truly elegant and aromatic wines. The majority of wine is produced in the west of Germany, along the river Rhine, where moderate temperatures and rocky soils conspire to create wines with plenty of delicious acidity and good minerality.
"German pinot noirs are criminally underrated." — Peter Hammond, Sommelier at DaiLo
Though its winemaking dates back 2,000 years to the Romans, it's the ingenuity of younger winemakers that's putting German wine on the map today. From a revival of old traditions relying on nature to make fine riesling to the lesser-known (but no less exciting) sekt sparkling wine varieties, the German wine revolution is well and truly underway...
5 German wines to try
Germany is one of the world's leading wine producers. Here are a few of our favourite bottles.
Berlin's über wine and bar scene
Once known as a party city, Berlin is maturing into a wine capital and playground for vino lovers.
Think of Berlin and you'll probably conjure up images of historic buildings nestled amongst striking modernist architecture, diverse and distinctive neighbourhoods — and, of course, the hedonism of its notorious nightlife. Perhaps, though, what you hadn't bargained for was that the city of 3.7 million is a metropolis that's currently obsessed with all things vino. What was once considered a party city is slowly unfurling into an eclectic wine destination, energized by a dynamic community of oenophiles who are not afraid to shake things up.
Germany's grapes are highly sought after — and as such, Berlin has elevated its offerings to become a capital that's every bit as sophisticated as its wine. Impressive wine menus have been popping up across the city, from unassuming holes in the wall to Michelin-starred bistros. In place of the pretentious tastings of old, wine bars have created a space to excite the keenest of wine enthusiasts in virtually every 'hood.
31 Days of German Riesling
The month of July
It only takes 31 days to form a new habit, but we don't think it'll take that long to convert the uninitiated to a cool, crisp glass of riesling. 31 Days of German Riesling — which takes place during the month of July — was created to celebrate the beloved grape.
To honour the versatile, food-friendly wine, head to one of the restaurants and wine bars participating this summer. Pair a tropical fruit-forward glass with sushi from Skippa or try a zippy Rheingau riesling with goat cheese at Sips Toronto at Grand Cru Deli. DaiLo does the unthinkable by pairing Korean short ribs with the German grape. Crosley's on Ossington Ave. and Taverne Bernhardt's on Dovercourt Rd. will also be taking part.
Toronto's bottle shops are teeming with tasty rieslings. Grab a German bottle from Grape Witches Bottle Shop, Grape Crush, La Palette, Good Cheese, Peter Pantry, Archive, Happy Coffee & Wine, Paris Paris, Rosedale Diner or Midfield Wine Bar.
In the Friedrichshain neighbourhood, low-key, atmospheric wine bar Noble Rot offers a fantastic entry point to wine newbies with a strong selection of German red, white and dessert wines. Or if you're a seasoned wine drinker, their cellar is a veritable treasure trove of vintage German bottles. JaJa Bistro ('JaJa' meaning 'yes, yes' — or perhaps, 'more wine, please...') is a destination for natural wine and quality comfort food in Neukölln. Looking for old-world glamour? Check out Weinbar Rutz, the "mother" of upmarket wine bars, founded in the Chausseestrasse in 1999.
We might not be able to travel to Berlin right now, but thanks to a great wine scene of our own — and relaxed alcohol restrictions during COVID — you can try interesting German expressions, minus the jet lag. From Peter Pan Bistro, which pivoted to Peter Pantry on Queen West to Midfield Wine Bar-turned- international-bottleshop on Dundas West, it's never been easier to find unusual labels in Toronto. The Grape Witches recently opened a wine agency of the same name — find a mix of rare and delicious European imports at their Dundas West store, many of which use low-intervention and traditional methods of wine production.
Need more proof? Sommeliers are besotted with Germany's off-dry rieslings, as well as their more pioneering grapes, like Silvaner, Grauburgunder and Müller-Thurgau, all of which are food-friendly. It's no wonder so many are turning towards Deutschland for their next bottle — isn't it time you discovered the wonderful world of German wine?
Plus, Wines of Germany will be giving away a brand new bike, so you can cycle the city (safely) and make a riesling pitstop in the park. The contest will go live on July 1 — to enter, head to germanwinecanada.com and enter on the website.
For more information on where to find and try great German wine, head to germanwinecanada.com