ompared to their Spanish, Italian and French ‘Old World’ neighbors. However, over the past few years, German wine production has encountered somewhat of a renaissance, with fine Riesling wines becoming some of the finest and undervalued white wines on the shelves.
The origins of viticulture in Germany can be traced back to the Romans, at the first century. The earliest vineyards existed at the left bank of the Rhine, and plantings spread to the Mosel probably around the 3rd century. The wine industry reached a high point in the 15th century, mostly due to the influence of the church. The Benedictine monks helped to harvest a total area of vineyard approximately four times larger than it is today. During this time the wine producing region of Alsace was the most revered.
During these early times, the most important grape varieties were Elbling. Silvaner, Muskat, Traminer, Spätburgunder, and Trollinger. Riesling arrived later, being first documented in the Rheingau in 1435.
As German consumers became more wealthy and cosmopolitan more stylish French and Italian wines became more popular. The relatively sweet and cheap white wines were replaced by drier foreign varieties.
By the 1980’s the German wine producing industry was further under-fire due to the very sweet wines that were produced, being distinctly uncouth. Despite an increase in exports, particularly of the sweet mass-market Liebfraumlich variety, every self concerning wine drinker, weary of his reputation avoided German wines like the plague.
Partnered with the loss of any sort of style, German wines’ quality started to slip, since they weren’t selling enough bottles to warrant a high quality production process. Also, in order to combat the world’s disregard for sweet wines and lust for drier varieties, German vineyards started to produce a different style of wine that merely showed that the German climate and fruit could not match that of France or Spain.
In recent years the dead end of German wine production has become re-invigorated. Various ambitious smaller growers have rediscovered the superb potential of Germany’s best vineyards to produce unique wines. Good dry wines are being made, and are held in high regard by the more discerning consumers. Also, at the rare top end of production, the world wide demand is