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German wine is produced mainly in the west of Germany, along the river Rhine and its tributaries, with the oldest plantations going back to Roman times. As a wine country, Germany has a mixed reputation internationally, with some consumers on the export markets associating Germany with the world’s most elegant and aromatically pure white wines while others see the country mainly as the source of cheap, semi-sweet wines such as Liebfraumilch. For the red wines, Spätburgunder, the domestic name for Pinot noir, is in the lead.

Germany produces wines in many styles: dry, semi-sweet and sweet white wines, rosé wines, red wines and sparkling wines called Sekt.

White WineRed WineClimateClassifications
Overall nearly 135 grape varieties may be grown in Germany – 100 are released for German white wine production and 35 for German red wine production. According to the international image, Germany is still regarded to be a region for white wine production. German Riesling is by far the most widely planted grape variety in the country, and is the benchmark grape in Germany. It is an aromatic variety with a high level of acidity that can be used for dry, semi-sweet, sweet and sparkling wines. The main drawback to Riesling is that it takes around 130 days to ripen and, in marginal years, the Riesling crop tends to be poor.
From around 2005, the proportion of red varieties has stabilized around 37%, about three times the 1980 level.
Due to the northerly location of the German vineyards, the country has produced wines very different to any others in Europe, many of outstanding quality. The wines are all produced around rivers, mainly the Rhine and its tributaries, often sheltered by mountains. The soil is slate in the steep valleys, to absorb the sun’s heat and retain it overnight. On the rolling hills the soil is lime and clay dominated. The great sites are often extremely steep so they catch the most sunlight, but they are difficult to harvest mechanically.

There are 13 defined regions (“Anbaugebiete”) in Germany, the most well known being Rheingau, Rheinhessen, Mosel, Nahe, Pfalz, Baden and Franken.
In general, the ripeness classifications of German wines reflect minimum sugar content in the grape at the time of harvest. They have nothing to do with the sweetness of the wine after fermentation, which is one of the most common misconceptions about German wine.

Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete (QbA) wines from a defined appellation with the exception of Liebfraumilch, which can be blended from several regions and still be classified as Qualitätswein.

Prädikatswein, renamed in 2007 from Qualitätswein mit Prädikat (QmP): wines made from grapes of higher ripeness. As ripeness increases, the fruit characteristics and price increase. Categories within Prädikatswein are: Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese and Eiswein. Wines of these categories can not be chaptalized. The categories within Prädikatswein are solely linked to minimum requirements of potential alcohol. While these may correlate with harvest time, there are no legally defined harvest time restrictions.

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