German wine: Making Waves

“German wine lovers are either connoisseurs of fine Riesling wines or people who like to drink wine that is fresh and fruity with lower alcohol. The main trends we see are authenticity of wines, diversity of regions and lower alcohol content,” says Langguth.

Motion has another spin: “Someone who loves food and wine and is fascinated by the sensuality, complexity and variety of German Riesling and Pinot Noir. Someone who thinks for themselves.”

Unsurprisingly, Reh Kendermann is equally bullish about German wine prospects. Kendermann claims to be the largest exporter of branded wines in Germany, specialising in branded business and premium own-label for the off-trade sector. Black Tower is the number one wine brand from Germany with sales of more than 14 million bottles last year around the world.

Managing director Nik Schritz, says: “The UK is undoubtedly our most established and successful market, with one in three bottles of wine sold in the German segment in the last quarter being from Reh Kendermann and with our 5.5% abv brand B by Black Tower outselling the lower-alcohol market leader in the week of Christmas 2013 (Nielsen MAT 4/1/14).

“We still see potential for further growth in our established markets – the UK and Scandinavia in particular. Moreover, Riesling has been booming in Norway for some time and we see a growth opportunity for our food-friendly drier style of Riesling,” he says.

Export sales director Alison Flemming MW, says: “In our leading export market, the UK, we continue to see outstanding growth of 6% volume and 8% value for Black Tower and 12% volume and 14% value for Kendermann against a declining off-trade market (Nielsen MAT 4/1/14), with our recent NPD Black Tower Pink Bubbly and B by Black Tower 5.5% making particular waves.”

She says Black Tower is also faring well internationally, particularly in Scandinavia and Canada. The brand is the best-selling German wine brand in Scandinavia, powered by a redesigned bag-in-box line. Black Tower White Bubbly is being launched simultaneously in Sweden and the UK. Kendermann hopes it will do as well as Pink Bubbly did past year.

Turning to sommeliers, Romain Bourger is head sommelier at The Vineyard at Stockcross in Berkshire, UK, a well-known wine-oriented hotel and restaurant. He says: “German wines are underestimated and are, for me, some of the greatest wines which age very well.

“In term of on-trade German wines have great potential. I realise more and more sommeliers love Riesling for example. I do too. For me it represents the wine identity of Germany, even if other grapes produce amazing wines. It is by that way that German wines are upcoming.

“Consumption is growing, very slowly though. It is rare to have a guest ordering a bottle of German wine straight from the list. What’s interesting is that, often, it suits the guest’s palate. Lots of young people would prefer a slightly sweeter style of wine. You can then easily recommend a Riesling Kabinett or Spatlese Trocken to them. If they want a light red, why not go for a Pinot Noir from the Ahr or Baden,” says Bourger.


Michael Raebel is a sommelier at Pearl in London. He says: “German wines are still not selling by themselves. You need a sommelier to recommend those wines. It is easier to sell German wines to older people as they usually have more experience and knowledge. I usually find English customers very open-minded, besides the cliché that German wines are sweet, and the off-trade is not very helpful as you will find just sweet German wines in supermarkets.

“Most people think Germany is Riesling and are surprised to find high quality Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and other grape varieties. Some of the grand cru Rieslings are quite expensive, but as prices mostly depend on popularity they could achieve higher prices in the future. The quality definitely justifies the cost, the same for Pinot Noir,” says Raebel.