In the public eye, the story of German wine usually begins and ends with Riesling.


  1. Setting the Stage
  2. Origin of the 1971 Germany Wine Law
  3. The 1971 German Wine Law Today
  4. The VDP
  5. The Grapes of Germany
  6. Winegrowing Regions of Germany

Sommeliers and wine critics, well acquainted with its charms and severity, perpetually fight its underdog status, waging a long information campaign to educate casual wine drinkers that not all German Riesling is sweet. It’s a versatile grape in terms of sugar: Riesling offers a little or a lot of sweetness—or lacks it completely. We announce its purity, its effortless expression of terroir, its usefulness as a foil for many styles of cuisine, its ability to age magnificently in the cellar. Certainly no country in the world is more tied to the fortunes of Riesling than Germany, which grows almost half of the world’s total supply. But even as the variety finally ascended to become the Germans’ most planted grape in the last days of the 20th century, the country has a richer field of varieties than the stereotype suggests—and the Germans love drinking dry wines! (From 1985 to 2015, the percentage of total German wines vinified dry shot up from 16 to 46%.) Today, a sommelier well-versed in Germany’s offerings should understand its trocken styles, its noble sweet wines, everything in between, red wines, Silvaner, Pinot Blanc, and other grape varieties coming from a diverse set of growing regions and soils, wrapped up in tradition, reclaimed by modern voices, defined in wine law but often exemplified in extralegal categories, rendered obscure by the fearsome constructs of its own language, and… Ah, well. Achtung!

Setting the Stage

Vitis vinifera arrived in Germany with the Romans, whose legionnaires crossed the Alps over 2,000 years ago and extended their eastern frontier to the Rhine River, far from the traditional bases of viticulture in their Mediterranean homeland. Germanic tribes adopted

  • This is confirmed and updated! Thanks Michael. 

  • Regarding the VDP section: "As of 2016, the Erste Lage category still does not exist in three Anbaugebiete—Mosel, Ahr, and Rheinhessen." It looks like all three now have Erste Lagen vineyard sites listed here (3 in Ahr, 2 in Mosel, and 26 in Rheinhessen).

  • All fixed! 

  • The irony.

    Second paragraph *in

  • Second paragraph is Hessische Bergstrasse has a "Over than half" that should be either "Over half" or "More than half"

  • Hey Kaleigh! German wine law defines selection in two ways: First as "A harmoniously dry wine of top quality made from a region’s traditional grape varieties." and then it is a style of wine in the Rheinhessen (Selection Rheinhessen) with the following requirements; produced exclusively from the region’s traditional grape varieties, vines are at least 15 years old,  always dry in style, maximum yield: 55 hl/ha, minimum starting must weight: 90° Oechsle, and the grapes are selectively harvested by hand. Neither of these terms are registered with the EU.

  • Chris Tanghe's 2018 presentation has the 2018 Selection category listed as no longer valid, but I'm having a hard time finding information regarding the elimination of this quality designation. The guide still discusses it as a category. Can you help clarify?

  • Hey Anthony! These were approved by the EU in 2018. The Guide is updated. Thanks! 

  • “Reinhard Heymann-Löwenstein has applied for Germany’s first three single-vineyard PDOs, for three separate parcels within Uhlen: Blaufüsser Lay, Roth Lay, and Laubach.” 

    Arent these approved as of now?

  • Hey CJ! Thanks for catching this. It is updated!