German wine: Making Waves

German Wine Institute marketing director Steffen Schindler takes up the theme. “Last year domestic sales of German wine increased by 2.5% compared to 2012. While we are still gaining back market share that was lost due to the smaller 2010 vintage, we have now reached the level of 2011 again,” he says.

“With just over 100,000ha of vineyards and an annual production of about 9 million hectolitres, Germany is a relatively small wine-producing country with a very large and competitive domestic market.”

He points out that Germany is one of the biggest wine-importing countries in the world at about 18 million hectolitres. So, wine consumption is more than twice as high as production.

“In terms of quality we are certainly among the top wine producers of the world,” says Schindler. “Due to limited yields our aim is not to export more but to export better quality wines and the increase in the average price of German wine globally in recent years demonstrates that we are on the way to achieving this.”

In terms of hectarage, German vineyards have hardly changed in 25 years. The planting trend, according to the institute, has veered towards the Pinot varieties, especially Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris or, in German, Weissburgunder and Grauburgunder. The share of 64% white and 36% red wine varieties has not changed since 2006.

Things are more gloomy in the Mosel, Loosen reports. “Our region of the Mosel is on the decline. If you have ever been here you know how steep the vineyards are and for the low prices that some producers are only able get for their wines it is difficult to stay in business.

“If you are close to retirement and your children do not want to take over as it is too much work then the vineyard is either sold or left unattended. We have people asking us if we would like to take their vineyards. If the parcels are neighbouring our vineyards and are big enough, we still buy, but if they are in so many different places (a few vines here and a few vines there) that it just is not an option for us,” said Loosen.

Motion agrees. “Several growers we work with have bought more parcels in favoured locations as they become available. I do see parcels abandoned on the Mosel, although not in famous vineyards, as elderly growers feel they
are no longer able to work the very
steep slopes.” 

Bullish approach

But Motion is extremely bullish about German wines. “In my opinion, dry German Riesling is the finest dry white wine on the planet and Pinot Noir/Spätburgunder is right up there with Burgundy.

“In our shop dry German wines, 75% dry Riesling and 25% Spätburgunder, has grown to a third of our range and a third of our sales. Customers seek us out specifically for these wines.”

Patrick Langguth, international sales director of FW Langguth Erben winery, based in Traben-Trarbach, also agrees about declining vineyard ownership but he is, nevertheless, optimistic. Langguth has one of Germany’s oldest and best-known brands.

“German wines are very well received internationally and known for their authenticity, quality and fresh taste,” he says. “With our brand Blue Nun we have a long-time experience and long-standing tradition of classic German white wines and red wines sold in nearly every market on the planet. Innovation in packaging and design as well as new varieties such as lower-alcohol options, are our ways forward.