This page covers a lot of information about German Wine and some of
my unprofessional opinion for good measure.
It seems to me that if I spend time describing some of the food things about
Germany, I should also address German wine and German beer in some detail. This
German wine page is divided into the introduction below, a little
History, a discussion of sweetness
classes, wine classification,
varieties, German Wine Regions
(Anbaugebiete), sulfites, some
tartrates, Acid in wine,
bottle sizes, and finally some miscellaneous
notes. (Click on the links above to go right to the section you want.)
To qualify myself, I confess that
I am no connoisseur of German wine or any other wine. I am perhaps to a wine connoisseur
what a gourmand is to a gourmet. I like to drink but I waste little time with words
like “fruity with a lingering earthy aftertaste.” Hey, if it’s drinkable I drink
it. If it’s undrinkable, I just hope I can use it as a salad dressing. If it’s drinkable
and inexpensive, more's the better. This is not to say that I would not like
to become more knowledgeable at some point. By the way, here is a quote from the
French author Edouard De Pomaine about the condition of being a gourmet: "For
a gourmet, wine is not a drink but a condiment, provided that your host has chosen
correctly." But, I think food takes up space in your stomach that wine, or
beer for that matter, could otherwise occupy.
Per capita, Germans drink an average of 32 bottles of wine per year. Following
the same logic I use for beer consumption (20% of the population are too young and
20% are either too old or they are giving their livers a well-deserved rest), if
only 60% of Germans drink wine, they must consume 53 bottles per year, that’s one
per week in my rough calculation. Keep in mind, that is in addition to the 35 gallons
of beer these same people must consume. They need all the help I can give them.
German wines are too sweet
and not worth much. Wrong! In the 1950's Several German vintners exported inexpensive
white wine to the thirsty American market. You may have consumed some of these under
names like Liebfraumilch or Zeller Schwartz Katz. These are Mosel wines from the
Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region but they do not represent the wines produced in that region
nor in the rest of Germany. Want to spend a lot on German wine? You can purchase
a wonderfully balanced Auslese wine from Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region for well
over €100. Sure it will be sweeter than a Chardonnay from California but it will
warm your heart.
Grape vines predated
people in Germany. From fossil evidence, we know that wild grape vines grew in current
day Germany 140 Million years ago. What we now consider the country of Germany is
part of a landmass that has seen tribes of people wandering around for many millennia.
Fossils of Neanderthals, a hominoid species closely related to us, were first discovered
in the Neander River Valley near Dusseldorf. (In German, Tal” means valley and they
string the words together into Neandertal. Some English speaking anthropologist
Anglicized it into Neanderthal. I think he was just proud of the fact that he could
pronounce the “TH” when German speakers couldn’t. Then later, I learned from Wikipedia
that it was the Germans who changed the spelling of Thal to Tal - why? Because Germans
did not pronounce the "h" so they changed the spelling to how they pronounced the
Early humans also occupied Europe as long ago as 200,000 years ago. Some of them
undoubtedly discovered that drinking distilled grape juice is more fun than eating
grapes. How long this discovery took is not known but I bet it only took one season
between discovering grapes and discovering wine, or I don’t know Germans.
The Romans conquered, occupied and colonized the river valleys of the Rhine,
Danube, and Mosel as well as the land south and west thereof. They hung out for
about 400 years beginning about 58 BCE. Besides trying to convert the restless natives
first into the Roman religion (a pagan religion) and then into Christianity and
imposing their systems of laws, culture etc., the Romans imported and cultivated
One of the vines they planted was Falernian, a white wine grape capable of aging
for up to 20 years. Its alcohol content was as high as 16%; high by today’s standards.
They shipped wine in barrels and amphorae along the Neckar, Mosel, and Rhine river
I was amused to learn that the Romans initially banned wine growing and wine
exporting into Gaul (today's Germany and France) because the natives became
so besotted from the drinking of it. You know, this besotting process continues
today; I have witnessed it myself. Mind you, I wouldn’t allow myself to drink anything
to excess; bikers just cannot do that because we have reputations to uphold. Since
the Third Century, Germans have improved the quality, quantity, and diversity of
wine but they were just improving on a science left behind by the Italians.
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Everyone has an opinion
on this issue. What matters most is your own taste. It is true that the colder the
wine the less a person will taste but wine is to be enjoyed and if you like red
wine served ice cold, go for it. If you want the opinion of one expert I came across,
consider the following table.
||9 - 12 degree C or 48 - 53 degree F
||9 - 14 degree C or 48 - 57 degree F
||14 - 18 degree C or 57 - 64.5 degree F
wines can be called trocken (dry) halbtrocken (half-dry),
Lieblich (somewhat sweet), or Süß (sweet). I am being too literal
with this translation. To me, a more accurate translation is very dry, dry, sweet,
and very sweet respectively. Trocken is like a crisp Chardonnay or a tart
Cabernet Sauvignon whereas Süß is like a dessert wine; the rest fall in
between. What makes wine dry or sweet is the sugar remaining after fermentation
stops, or is stopped. This residual sugar is measured in grams per liter (g/L).
Here is a quick guide to sweetness of German wine
||Residual Sugar: 4 g/L - 9g/L
||Residual Sugar: 9 g/L - 18g/L
||Maximum Residual Sugar: 45 g/L
||Minimum Residual Sugar: 45 g/L
Residual sugar is an interesting property. It is impossible for a wine to have
less than 1 g/L of residual sugar but it is quite common for wine to have more than
45 g/L. For example the famous dessert wine of France, Chateau d'Yquem has 100 to
150 g/L and one of the Tokaji from Hungry has over 450 g/L.
Sweetness is a function of the amount of glucose and other sugars or simply just
"sugar" in the grape at the time of harvest. Once the grape is crushed, the sugar
is attacked by the yeast and broken down into carbon dioxide (CO2) some of which
becomes carbonic acid and alcohol. When the alcohol content is somewhere between
10% and 14%, the yeast dies, thus stopping fermentation. (If all you had to drink
was wine, you would die too.) So, if the grapes have more sugar to begin with, there
will be sugar left over after fermentation making for sweeter wines. Of course,
sugar can be added but that does not happen often (see chaptalization below).
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Germany, since 2000, is
undergoing a bit of a revolution in the way they classify their wines. Some industry
members want to redraft how all German wines are classified to make it easier for
the consumer to understand the label. To make a long story short, they would like
to drop designations like Spätlese and Auslese in favor of a system
incorporating the words "Classic" and "Selection." The final chapter on this issue
has not been written yet so it might suffice to say that Classic wines will be a
little dryer and perhaps less expensive than Selection wines. With one exception
(Trollinger-Limberger Curvée from Würtemberger), Classic wines are wines of a single
variety of grape. Selection wines are higher in quality than Classic wines. Classic
wines will have the name of the vintner but not the specific vineyard. Selection
wines will have both.
From my perspective, I don’t want any more help from the German wine industry
to demystify their classification. It’s like asking the government to demystify
the tax laws.
For QmP (see below) and Eiswein wine classifications, you might
like to know a technical term. An Oechsle (named after the inventor, Herr Ferdinand
Oechsle 1774-1852) is a measure of the residual sugar in wine “must” using the specific
gravity of the liquid. This measure is taken at several points during the fermentation
process. It is used as one of the primary criteria for grading wine. What do you
suppose they use to measure Oechsle in the wine? Why an Oechslemeter, of course.
This is no big deal for casual drinkers like me but it does explain why some wines
are classed one way and others another. You may already know that “must” is the
messy, awful looking stuff that comes out of the grape press. And no, they don’t
stomp on the grapes with their feet anymore. I doubt that they ever did – it would
make the wine taste like an old tennis shoe. Although I did learn that port wine
(from Portugal) does sometimes use human feet to stomp the juice from the grape.
They like that method because it does not release any bitter essence from the grape
seeds. Some port producers use a machine that carefully replicates human foot pressure
so you get all the benefits except the tennis shoe taste.
Starting with the least expensive
wine here are the basic classifications: Tafelwein: Table wine is basic
blended stuff that the locals drink with dinner. These are frequently blended wines
but if it says Deutscher Tafelwein, it must be 100% German. Tafelwein
is even seldom shipped farther than the next city although Germans love to take
wine-buying trips to their favorite Weingut (vintner) to purchase wine
for their own consumption at home.
While Germany is divided into 13 wine growing regions for quality wine (Qualitätswein),
it is divided into only four areas for Tafelwein. They are; Rhine-Mosel,
Bayern, Neckar, and Upper Rhine. These wines are trocken or halbtrocken
(dry or half-dry) and lighter in character than their high brow cousins. Try them;
you might like them.
Landwein is a step better
than Tafelwein, and available in many grocery stores in Germany. These
wines are not exported outside the EU. When in Germany, this is what I drink. An
inexpensive Landwein will cost €3 per bottle. If you are familiar with
French labels, both Tafelwein and Landwein are the equivalent
of Vin de Pays. You will find the region of origin and the variety of grape
on the label. Landwein can come from any of 19 regions, which are simply
subdivisions of the four regions for Tafelwein.
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This is equivalent to France’s
“Vin d'appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC)” and meets with all
the EU standards. This is the minimum quality of wine you need to give as a gift
when you are invited to a friend’s house for dinner. The vast majority of all wines
produced in Germany are of this classification. This classification is broken down
into sub-categories as follows: QbA (Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete)
and QmP (Qualitätswein mit Prädikat).
: This is
region specific. A region is an Anbaugebiet and two regions are Anbaugebiete.
These are good wines but it is legal to add sugar to these wines in a process called
chaptalization. Chaptalization is only done before fermentation and then only when
the vintner knows that there is not enough natural sugar to produce the required
alcohol content. Some QbA wines have added sugar but most do not. These
wines vary from dry to semi-sweet.
mit Prädikat): Again, these are better wines than the QbA however,
no sugar can be added. In fact, the only thing that can be added to this level of
wine is other wine (sometimes done to blend the taste). Either the grape has sugar
in it or it becomes a dryer wine. A special number is added to the label of each
bottle testifying to its authenticity and official examination as per the wine law
of 1971. These QmP wines are further broken down into the following five
sub-categories: Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, and Trockenbeerenauslese.
Then, not on the hierarchy of the five previously QmP wine but sometimes
thought to be is Eiswein. Eiswein is in a class by itself.
These wines have a minimum must-weight of 70° Oechsle. Each step on the
rung indicates a better quality wine that is probably slightly more expensive than
the previous rung. They are good accompaniments to food and they can age ten years
The word Spätlese means late harvest. It is one step up and must have a minimum 'must'
weight of 80° Oechsle. Spätlese wines have more complexity and may age
between 25-30 years. Some will say that the “Classic” replaces this classification.
Then again, many do not agree.
Auslese (selected harvest): Harvested after Spätlese, producing even riper
fruit (90° Oechsle), is Auslese. Some will say that the “Selection” replaces this
classification. Or not. It seems to get curiouser and curiouser.
: Beerenauslese (select harvest berries): This wine and the next
are frequently served as dessert wines or consumed by themselves just for their
quality. With a minimum must weight of 120° Oechsle) and a deep golden coloring,
they are made from individually selected overripe grapes which are frequently botrytis
affected. At 20 years, many have just begun to reach their peak.
Eiswein (ice wine) Talk about late harvest wine, German Eiswein
grapes are harvested while frozen sometimes as late as January, thus the name “ice
wine.” The grapes must not be infected by the botrytis mold and the Oechsle of BA
(120°). Eiswein normally is not affected by botrytis (noble rot).
Prior to 1980, Eiswein was not considered part of the QmP Hierarchy however,
that has changed now.
Trockenbeerenauslese (dry berry selected harvest): The ripest (Oechsle
minimum of 150°, higher than Sauternes) and rarest of the Prädikats in
the QmP category. Trockenbeeren refers to dehydrated grapes shriveled
by botrytis (noble rot). Age these wines 30 years and more.
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Wine Grape varieties
||Portugieser and Lemberger
||Not a Gamay
||Not from Portugal but
from Austria. Also Bleu Portuegais
||A hybred: Silvaner x
Müller-Turgau with Chambourcin
||Schiava or Vernatsch
||From North Italy
||Hybrid of Silvaner,
||Weissburgunder x Müller-Thurgau
||Silvaner x Ruländer
|Gewürztraminer and Traminer
||From Austria but called
Johannisberger in Switzerland
||Swiss = Chasselas
||Gutedel x Courtillier
||Müller-Thurgau x Sylvaner
||Hybrid of Trollinger
||Silvaner and Riesling
||Silvaner and Weissburgunder
||Bred by Dr. Mueller from
Thurgau, Switzerland from Riesling and Gutedel
||Very old variety
||Hybrid of Silvaner and
||Müller-Thurgau x Siegerrebe
||Gewürztraminer x Müller-Thurgau
||Müller-Thurgau x (Madeleine
Angovine x Calabreser Frohlich)
||Originally brought to
Germany by Romans, perhaps from Wachau in Austria
||Silvaner x Riesling
||Pinot Gris or Pinot
||Hybrid of Silvaner and
Riesling typically dessert wine
|Weissburgunder (Weisser Burgunder)
Note: Red wines can be made to be rosé wines by altering what goes into the fermentation
process. For example, Heroldrebe is frequently made into a rosé wine. In Italy,
many German reds are sometimes sold as rosé because of their light color. The trick
to make a red wine lighter is to remove the red wine skins before fermentation.
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There are 13 different wine growing regions or Anbaugebiete what the French
call appellation. They are: Ahr, Baden,
Franken, Hessische Bergstrasse,
Nahe, Pfalz, Rheingau,
Sachsen, and Württemberg.
Along the Ahr River which flows into the Rhine just upriver (south) of Bonn. While
both red and white wines are produced today, this area is the home of red wine in
Germany which is mostly consumed in cGermanyountry. Ahr has only 1,300 acres under
This region is Germany's most southerly region, 41,000 acres in size, on the
east side of the Rhine between Basil Switzerland and a little north of Heidelberg.
In addition to Kaiserstuhl area close to Freiburg, which is probably the most famous
of the sub-areas, the Baden Anbaugebiet includes these sub-areas: Bergstrasse,
Bodensee, Breisgau, Kaiserstuhl, Kraichgau, Markgraeflerland, Ortenau, Tauberfranken,
and Tuniberg. White wine grapes produced here are Ruländer, Müller-Thurgau, Gewürztraminer
and Riesling and Spätburgunder for red wine.
Centered upon the upper Main River, Franken Anbaugebiet grows mostly Silvaner
and Müller-Thurgau wine that tends to be dryer than those of other regions. Wine
from Franken is bottled in a distinctive squat, green flagon called a Bocksbeutel.
This region contains 15,000 acres.
down the Rhine River and centered on Heppenheim is the Hessische Bergstrasse
Anbaugebiet which grows the same type of grapes as in Franken but they tend
to be a little sweeter, perhaps because the vineyards are more directly oriented
toward the south. Only 1,000 acres makes a small Anbaugebiet.
Continuing north down the Rhine from Hessische Bergstrasse and between Mainz and
Bonn is the Mittelrhein Anbaugebiet. Mittelrhein simply means Middle Rhine.
Mittelrhein soil contains much clay and slate, as does the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region.
The harshness of this soil stresses the vines causing them to yield wines of high
acidity which is desired by many. The majority of the grapes grown here are Riesling,
Müller-Thurgau and Kerner. Most of the production is consumed locally or sold to
visitors. This region is also small with only 1,700 acres.
This Anbaugebiet includes the northern part of the Saar River and the Mosel
River from Konz to Koblenz including the valley of the Ruwer River. In my opinion,
this is one of the prettiest regions in Germany and certainly one of the best areas
to ride bikes. Sub-areas here include names I have been familiar with since I started
drinking German wines almost 50 years ago. They have names like Bernkastel, Piesport,
and Krov. Just thinking about these names starts my mouth to water. This is one
of the larger Anbaugebiete with 32,000 acres. Mainly a white wine area,
some vintners have been producing red wine grapes in the last 20 years. Bottles
from this region are normally green with long tapered necks.
The Nahe River flows into the Rhine at Bingen and this 12,000-acre Anbaugebiet is
along the Nahe and its tributaries. Most wines are white coming from Riesling, Müller-Thurgau,
and Silvaner grapes.
The region west and southwest of Mannheim is sometimes referred to as the Palatinate
Region by English speaking peoples, this 59,000 acre Anbaugebiet is one
of the largest in Germany. It is also home of some of the sweetest wines. Vines
include Müller-Thurgau, Kerner, Silvaner, and Gewürztraminer but some of the sweet
wine grapes like Muskateller are also grown here. If it is a red from this area,
it is probably from the Portugieser grape.
On the right bank of the Rhine between Mainz and Lorch through what I and others
call the prettiest part of the Rhine lies 7,700 acres of vines in the Rheingau.
The most common vines are Riesling but Spätburgunder is also grown for red wines.
Bottles from this region are usually brown with stubby necks.
On the left bank of the Rhine, or more correctly on the plateau above the Rhine
and between Worms and Bingen is Rheinhessen. One of Germany’s largest Anbaugebiete
with 65,000 acres or Riesling, Müller-Thurgau, and Silvaner vines. To me, this region
is a misnomer because the state of Hesse is on the other side of the Rhine River.
Before 1945, Hesse extended to both banks. Oh well. Nierstein is one of the sub-regions
of this Anbaugebiet and among other wines and brandies they make Alte Gerhardt,
my favorite German brandy which they call Weinbrandt.
The small 1,000-acre, wine-growing region Saale-Unstrut is the northernmost of Germany's
wine regions. The first American rootstocks in Germany were planted in the region
in 1887 after the phylloxera disease affected vineyards there. This Anbaugebiet
is centered on the community of Freiburg.
Also one of the smallest Anbaugebiet with only 750 acres of mostly Müller-Thurgau
and Weissburgunder vines is Sachsen. This region is between Meissen and Dresden
along the Elbe River.
This region lies along the Neckar between Tübingen and Heilbronn and along the Enz
near Pforzheim. It includes 27,000 acres of vines and includes red wine grapes of
Trollinger, Lemberger, Spätburgunder, and Portugieser as well as white wine grapes
of Riesling, Mller-Thurgau, Kerner, and Silvaner.
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What about sulfites?
(Sulfite, sulfate - a rose by any other name would smell the same. I guess one is
a sulfur compound while the other a sulfur compound. I do not know the difference.)
All wines contain sulfites, OK, OK, not 100% of wine because due to accidents in
nature, there actually is the occasional bottle that is completely sulfite free.
But nearly 100% of all wine contains sulfites. It comes from two sources: First
it occurs naturally in the fermentation process; Second, most producers add just
enough to keep the wine from spoiling or oxidizing.
"White wines have almost twice as much sulfite than red wines."
And, 99.75% of people are not allergic to sulfite and have no reaction to the presence
of sulfites in their wine. If a person is asthmatic, there is a 5% chance that they
may have sulfite sensitivity. But asthmatics are only 5% of that population and
so we are talking about a maximum of 5% of 5% or 0.25% of us.
I know several people who insist that they get headaches from drinking American
red wine but they do not get the same when they drink European white wine. Given
that there is no difference, on average, in the sulfite content of American and
European wines, and that white wine (on average again) has twice as much sulfite
as red wine, these people must have a problem. Their problem stems either from drinking
too much wine or in misidentifying what caused their headache. They may be victims
of hysteria - believing in something that is not reality. I suspect the former.
I believe that when people drink too much wine, their memory and judgment are impaired.
Heck, they should not drive either. But that has nothing to do with sulfites, it
has to do with being drunk.
For nearly 200 years, wine-makers have been adding some sulfite to wine as a
way of keeping it fresh. The amount is controlled by local laws in most countries.
But more than anything, no wine producer would knowingly add more sulfite than was
necessary to keep the wine from spoiling or oxidizing. A few producers voluntarily
abstain from adding anything to wine except wine. That is all well and good and
they should advertise that. It helps sell their product to people who think that
all additives are bad.
I understand that since 1988 the US Food and Drug Administration, in an ill-advised
attempt to protect folks allergic to sulfa drugs, has required that wines sold in
the USA contain the words "Contains sulfites" if the sulfite level is
more than 10 parts per million. Naturally occurring sulfite in red wine is about
two to three times that level. So, nearly all wine sold in America must have those
words on their label. I do not know what the laws are in other countries but I know
they are different than US laws. So if you find a bottle of wine in Germany that
does not say that it contains sulfites, that’s not because it is free of sulfites,
it is only because it is free from the governmental requirement to say that it contains
sulfites. It is a silly law anyway. The public would be better served if the label
just said what the likely level of sulfites is. To require producers to say that
wine contains sulfites is akin to saying that air contains gasses.
I am not the only one who knows this stuff. Check out
The Organic Wine
Company or better yet, type in "sulfites in wine" in your favorite
Have you ever
opened a bottle of wine and noticed crystals on the cork? Or noticed gritty sediment
as you pour the last of a bottle into a decanter? In German, these are called Weinstein
or Tartrates in English. They actually connote later harvest and longer aging and
are harmless to your health. The wine, on the other hand, can be harmful if you
drink too much, are pregnant, operate vehicles, or discuss religion or politics.
A friend of mine learned not to discuss divorce settlements while drinking wine.
actually are built from acid molecules crystalizing and clumping together. When
they are heavy enough they settle to the bottom of the bottle. I guess they could
also settle to the bottom of a blatter filled box of wine too but I have never heard
of that happening.
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size does matter - especially in wine bottles. One of the readers of this site asked
if I knew the German names of the different size bottles used for wine and Champagne.
The German names are similar to what we use in English. The etymologies are probably
Latin, Greek, or Arabic - I do not know. There re a few name differences between
Champagne bottles and wine bottles so this list may not be accurate for Champagne.
Anyway, here are most of the possibilities.
||Piccolo / Viertel-Flasche
||Demi / Halbe Flasche
||Normalflasche / Imperial
||Melchior bzw. Goliath
||Souverain oder Sovereign
If you know the names of the blank spaces above, share them with me by
Who would buy the smallest bottle at one eight of a liter? One swallow and it
is gone. Now you have to dispose of the glass. Now a 98.5 liter bottle, that is
going to be hard to put in your pocket.
I did not list the 0.2 bottle size because it seems to only apply to Schnapps
bottles. When I get to drink Schnapps, I want more than 200 milliliters,
I want a Schnapps glass full.
The question for the day, just to see if you are a wine snob or not, is: What
is the name for the indentation on the bottom of the bottle? Send me an e-mail if
you need to know. If you do not know, just drop back 5 yards and punt.
In June, while riding along the Mosel (or Moselle if you prefer), we noticed people
of all economic walks of life working the vineyards as we rode past. We saw many
people of retirement age with twine and pruning shears in hand. Some of the men
seemed dressed nice enough for office work with nice pants and jackets, and some
of the women wore dresses. Perhaps these are tourists who work the vineyards for
fun and profit. An inexpensive adventure vacation perhaps.
About May 15, the vines start to grow. By June 20, vintners need to start the
“dropping” of the shooters. These shooters will not bear fruit in their first year
of growth and most are not needed for vine health so they are “dropped” in the summer
long before the grapes ripen. Too many of these shooters sap energy from the vine.
The workers prune off or drop all but two or three vertical shooters. These retained
shooters are tied to the trellis or wires with twine so they grow horizontally.
We also see younger people, some with darker skin as if they come from the Mediterranean
regions of Europe or Africa. They are doing the dropping or snipping the long shooters.
We noted that not only were some of the Mosel vineyards very steep, actually reported
to be some of the steepest in the world and that says a lot. We were taken by how
the vines were worked. One vineyard was being renovated. A yellow caterpillar crawler
type tractor was moved vertically down the hillside while being anchored at the
top of the row of vines (or in this case future vines) by a large winch machine
that played out cable to the tractor. If the tractor were to try to drive sideways
across the hill, it would certainly tip over but because of the winch-break system
of the machine at the top, it is capable of moving up and down in a vertical fashion.
My guess is the slope is 55% or steeper, almost too steep for a person to climb
without stairs. I cannot imagine how a person without such a winch arrangement to
help, can possibly “drop” the shoots or pick the grapes.
There are many thousands of acres under cultivation and obviously, the care and
feeding of a vineyard is arduous work. But we occasionally passed a vineyard that
had gone to seed. We were told that if you let a vineyard go even one year without
care, the vineyard is worthless as a wine producer and has to be replanted. We learned
that the wine business is not as profitable as it was a couple decades ago. Because
the work is hard and the profits are low, many young people are not following in
their parents' footsteps tending the vines. They opt instead for easier, perhaps
more profitable, work in the office buildings in the cities. If there is no one
left to tend them, the vineyards languish. Other normal circumstances can cause
a vineyard to go untended for a year or more, such as death or illness of the owner.
All vines grown in Germany today are grafted to rootstock, which at one point
came from America. Some but not all American vines are Vitis Labrusca which
is different from the European Vitis Vinifera vines. The Vitius Labrusca
is resistant to a parasite Daktulosphaira Vitifoliae also know as root
lice, which causes phylloxera. In 1881, Germans discovered that for years vineyards
had been under attack by this disease-causing diminishing harvests. Europeans learned
that grafting their vines to American rootstock helps resolves the problem. Every
fall, vineyards along the Mosel are inspected for the root lice mentioned above.
If found, that vineyard must be ripped out, remediated, and replanted.
As recent as 1993, it was illegal to raise red wine grapes in the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
region but that has now changed. We saw a few red wine vines and understand that
they are becoming more prevalent reflecting the ever-changing tastes of the wine
We also noticed little cryptic signs with only a 0 or an X or a 0 sometimes with
a strike through it. These signs are markers for helicopters who spray the vineyards
Did you know that grape vines are self-pollinating? They don’t need bees. How
do they do that? I have never seen a vine flower but that may just reflect on my
poor powers of observation.
As in France and some other European countries, irrigation of the vines is not
allowed during the growing season. Apparently, the idea is that if Mother Nature
wants it to be a good year or a bad year; don’t mess with her.
About yeast: Like beer, wine is made using the auspices of yeast. Yeasts are
not like people (except in a couple ways noted below) yeasts are a sort of a plant;
a sort of a single cell, mushroom-like plant. Yeasts are many and varied (about
600 different kinds) and they are everywhere. Home bakers, like my neighbor Lee,
make sourdough bread starter by setting a mixture of water and flour on the counter
for a few days until the wild yeast that floats around in his house (yours too,
by the way) have – ah – contaminated the mixture and start procreating. Unlike people,
this procreation is through a process called budding. A single yeast cell buds or
creates a bulge on its side. That bulge breaks away and quickly (in about 8.2 seconds)
becomes a new cell. A cell can do this about 14 times before it is too old to multiply
anymore. In people, this age is about 40 for females but in yeast (yeasts can be
considered all females) it is about 2 hours after starting life as a bud. Like people,
yeast needs to have the right conditions to procreate. They like the temperature
to be warm and comfy. Unlike people, they do like company when they do their thing.
In one gram of yeast, you have 30 billion individual yeast cells, and each one can
have 14 daughters, and each of those daughters can have 14 daughters and so on and
so on. They do all this in 2 hours or so, well mathematically speaking, that is
one humungous number of yeast cells. All the while they are happily eating all the
sugar they can. (For those of you interested in big numbers, I think the American
number is 4.78 octoquardragintillion. In German, it is 4,78 Quattuorvigintilliarde.
Of course, this parenthetical is so anyone Googling these words will find this page.)
Even if there is an ugly yeast cell among them, it can still procreate because yeast
does not need a partner to have offspring. They do not have to wait until closing
time either – unlike people.
Think of the wine-making yeast as a bunch of employees. Sort of like volunteers,
they come already attached to the skin of the grape when you harvest the grapes.
You don’t have to pay them but you do have to feed them. They eat the sugar in the
grapes and their waste products, partially akin to our own waste products, consist
of gas (CO2) and ethyl alcohol. I say partially akin because our waste products
do not contain alcohol that I know of. It is that alcohol that we wine drinkers
enjoy so much.
Except in the making of sparkling wine, the gas (again, like people's habits)
is discarded but the other waste product, alcohol, is retained (unlike people who
discard all waste). The alcohol is the key difference between grape juice and wine.
To compare yeasts to people again, if we lived in a confined area and did not get
rid of our waste, we would eventually drown in it. Well, the same thing sort of
happens to the previously happy yeast plants. Once the alcohol level reaches about
10% to 16%, the environment is too toxic for the yeast to continue doing what they
so happily did before and they die. Yup, they turn belly up. Pond scum! Tot!
toes up! Gone to that great pile of flour and water in the sky. Do yeast have a
heaven? In their passing, they have created a little heaven on earth for us living
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