Wine and Beer of Germany

Information about German wines and vineyards, and the different German beers, ales, lagers and German breweries...

German beer is renowned throughout the world with between five and six thousand types being produced. Germany is also famous for its white wines, particularly Riesling and Liebfraumilch which have worldwide popularity.

Wines

Wine was first cultivated in Germany around 100 B.C. by the Romans. Monasteries in the Middle Ages continued the tradition, improving upon the methods until 1803, when Napoleon forced many monasteries to sell their vineyards to the government and private owners.  German wines are generally known for being light, with low alcohol content and high acidity.

There are thirteen wine growing regions, with the majority of Germany's vineyards in the western part of the country:

  • For a full list of the wine-growing regions: Click here
  • For a detailed description of German wines, including the history, geography and regional differences from website Wines of Germany, the US office of the Deutsches Weininstitutand: Click here
  • For an in-depth guide to German wines, including ratings, maps and discussion forums (in German and some English): Click here
  • For a guide geared toward the wine enthusiast: Click here

Grape Varieties

There are a number of grape varieties in Germany, the main ones being:

White:

  • Riesling
  • Müller-Thurgau
  • Silvaner
  • Kerner
  • Ruländer/Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris)
  • Weissburgunder/Pinot Blanc
  • Scheurebe

Red:

  • Spätburgunder/Pinot Noir
  • Dornfelder
  • Blauer Portugieser

White wine represents approximately 85 percent of German wine production. The most commonly produced is the Riesling, though Germany also produces a great number of sparkling white wines (Sekt and Prosecco). Germans consume more sparkling wine per capita than any other country in the world. This popularity means that many small vineyards in Germany produce unique and good quality sparkling wines.

Red grapes are not cultivated in many regions or in great quantities. They tend to produce a light and fruity wine, which is mostly consumed within Germany, though darker and more robust reds are becoming more common. Very little red wine is exported from Germany. The most popular variety is the Spätburgunder, which produces a velvety, full-bodied wine.

Classification of German wines

Classification of German wines stems from a 1971 law which divides them into the following groups:

  • Tafelwein: Table wine
  • Landwein: Country wine
  • Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete (QbA): Wine from a specific region
  • Qualitätswein mit Prädikat (QmP): Highest level of wine subdivided (from lowest to highest) into:
    • Kabinett
    • Spätlese
    • Auslese
    • Beerenauslese
    • Trockenbeerenauslese
    • Eiswein

Beer

There are so many sorts of beer (between five and six thousand) produced in Germany that it is sometimes hard to find a foreign import. Germany has approximately 1,300 breweries.

The German beer market differs from that in the rest of the world in that German brewers adhere to the Bavarian Reinheitsgebot which stipulates that German beer can only be made with water, hops, yeast and barley-malt (although sugar is also permitted). This law applies to all German brewers.

Most beers have an alcohol content of between 4.7 and 5.4 percent. However, certain beers such as the Bockbier have an alcohol content of 12 percent, stronger than some wines.

There are arguably between two and five dozen categories or styles of beer in Germany. However, the main categories are:

  • Helles Bier: Lager beer
  • Dunkles Bier: Brown ale
  • Weizenbier: Wheat beer
  • Hefeweizen: Wheat beer with yeast
  • Bockbier: Bock beer (dark and strong)
  • Bier vom Fass: Draught beer
  • Flaschenbier: Bottle of beer
  • Dosenbier: Can of beer
  • Alkoholfreiesbier: Non-alcoholic beer
  • Kölsch: Lager beer from the Cologne region, served in small 0.2 litre glasses
  • Pils (Pilsener): A light beer of the lager type, one of the most popular beers in Germany

Beer production and availability is very regional. However one beer is available throughout most of the country (and Europe as well): the Bremen-produced Becks beer is standard in most bars.

When ordering a beer in Germany, it is generally ordered by category or style. For example, one would order a "pils" or a "dunkle."

Oktoberfest

The now famous beer festival began with the marriage of the Crown Prince of Bavaria in 1810. This annual event takes place in an area called the Theresienwiese, in Munich, Bavaria over a two-week period usually at the end of September. Approximately six million people visit this festival every year and a special Oktoberfest beer is brewed for the occasion.

Other National Beverages

In addition to the well-known wines and beers, Germany produces many high-in-alcohol spirits as well, such as:

  • Weinbrand: A cheap alternative to brandy or cognac, drunk with cola or on ice
  • Korn: The German version of vodka is distilled from corn
  • Apfelschnapps: Schnapps distilled with apples
  • Kirschschnapps: Schnapps distilled with cherries

Further Information