Wine Guide
Bernhard Huber
German Fine Wines
As a producer of high-quality wines, Germany, is a well-oiled machine. Its equipment and administration is the envy of the world, its precisely assigned numbers make every batch easy to find and its residual sugar levels are measured with simplicity. Its dry Rieslings are the benchmark to which other countries aspire to. Its labelling laws are one of the most complete and comprehensive (not to mention confusing) in the world. And in terms of investability options, its potential is through the roof.

In order to fully understand why German wines have taken off as a viable investment since 2016 (an unbelievable 576% increase on 2015), we must first try and understand the changing history of its wine regions. What had once been an industry that prided itself on its engineering excellence had fallen out of favour on the fine wine circuit, and languished behind its European neighbours post-War. This was mainly due to the uniformisation of wines in the 1970s that decreed that in order to qualify for the coveted “Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete” (QbA) ranking (similar to France’s Grand Cru or A.O.C. rating), wines had to be sweet (the sweeter the better) so all producers did was up the percentage of ultra-ripe grapes. This meant the export wines of Germany became synonymous with producers such as Blue Nun and Liebfraumilch. It also meant that Germany’s difficult to ripen star grape - Reisling - lost out.

Thankfully this began to change in the mid-1980s. A new generation of wine producing enthusiasts who didn't care about the QbA started limiting yields and fermenting in oak as opposed to the traditional stainless steel vats of their ancestors. Global warming has played its part too and warmer summers allowed producers to experiment with Pinot Noir and in some cases Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. These changes gave rise to the dry styles that make up 70% of German fine wine today. According to Jancis Robinson, the country is responsible for “some of the world’s lightest, finest, longest living whites and some increasingly respectable reds”.

However, it is, of course, the Riesling grape that is destined for greatness in Germany. It’s naturally high acidity allows for practically limitless ageing (up to 100 years in some cases if properly cellared), while its delicate floral, fruity aroma makes it a favourite for drinking (although the noble sweet varieties of German Riesling have been hard to sell in the United States, an audience which in general prefers a dry wine). The regions can be boiled down to three different types: The good (Mosel), the not-quite-so-good (Rhinegau), the bulk (Rheinhessen) and the one to watch (Ahr).