The Story of... Germany's alluring fine wine markets

We've reported extensively on the 2009 vintage Bordeaux wines, this year, billed by many as the best crops of wines to come out of France's vineyards in decades. Robert Parker, the eminent wine critic, even extended his famous 100 points rating in confirmation of the hype.

Yet, while the attentions of the world's experts and media were turned to Bordeaux, Germany - which happens to be the world's third-largest producer of Pinot Noir - has also enjoyed a great 2009 in all 13 of its wine growing regions.

'This year will go down in history as a truly great vintage'

So said Norbert Weber, president of the German Wine-growers' Association in Bonn, of last year's wine growths. "Seldom have we been able to harvest such aromatic, healthy and fully ripe grapes as in 2009."

As with Bordeaux, the success of the German 2009s was down to great weather. Spates of uneven blossoming, as well as the sunny-but-dry late summer weather, led to a slight deficit in wine production (7% below the countries 10-year average according to the German Wine Institute in Mainz).

Nevertheless, quality and demand have ensured the German wine prices remain stable and unthreatened by foreign competition. But who is buying these German wines?

Germany's vineyards produced a
great selection of wines in 2009

According to industry sources, many of the most expensive German wines are being sold to collectors and dealers from the United States and Japan. Of the most active buyers, Dade Thieriot, happens to be based in California, the world's fourth largest wine producing region.

A 'trocken' run of success... The big sellers

The most expensive 'old' German wine on the markets, so far, is a single bottle of Erbacher Markobrunn Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese Cabinet 1937. The bottle was sold by dealer Schloss Reinhartshausen for €2,650.

Other successes include Weingut Egon Müller-Scharzhof, Scharzhofberger Eiswein 2004 and Oberhäuser Brücke Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese Goldkapsel 2005, whose prices are also ascending into the multiple-thousands.

Are they 'sweet' or are they 'ripe'?

Before you venture into the wine markets, it's also worth recognising one of the deepest misunderstandings which surrounds them: that they are "all sweet." This actually stems from confusion between ripeness in wines and sweetness.

Many dry wines can give an impression of sweetness, perhaps because the grapes they are made from are well-ripened or overripe grapes. In the case of German wines, the best always tend to be made from the ripest grapes.

This misunderstanding also surrounds "Auslese" wines are often thought to be sweet wines. This actually isn't true.

If "dry wines" are defined as wines without residual sugar, which rely only sugar from the grapes, then many Auslese wines are produced in a "trocken" (dry) or "halbtrocken" (semi-dry) style. Fortunately, these wines are often labelled as such.

A sumptuous bundle of Germany's
famous Pinot Noir

Aside from these technicalities, the intense and rewarding fruitiness of the finest Auslese wines should help you forget any issues of sweetness...

A 'global village' of festivals and auctions

If you're ever planning to journey out to German to sample their wines, September is the month to do it. Of Germany's five big annual wine auctions, four are held over consecutive days that month and attract collectors and alternative investors from around the world.

They include: Bernkasteler Ring and VDP Grosser Ring in Mosel; VDP Rheingau at Kloster Eberbach; VDP Nahe-Ahr, usually at Bad Kreuznach; while other wineries from Rheinhessen and Pfalz have also been getting involved in recent years.

And then there's the Stuttgart Wine Village, held in the productive Neckar wine region - itself boasting a 1000-year-old viniculture - each year when the German wine festivals season is in full swing.

Last year's Village presented over 250 regional wines, including Riesling, Trollinger and Müller-Thurgau, to more than a million wine buffs who'd travelled far and wide; testament to the ongoing national presence of Germany's wine markets.


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