This week’s column comes from James Ratcliffe – The Black Bull, Sedbergh

When we think of German wines, Blue Nun probably springs to mind, cheap, sweet wine, popular in the 1980’s. But that’s no surprise, because like many wine producing countries Germany tends to keep the best, export the rest and hides the fact that it actually has a fantastic wine industry.

In fact, one winery dates back to the Carolingian dynasty and is one of the oldest wine companies in the world, Staffelter Hof, which was bought by the present family from Napoleon Bonaparte’s flunkies.

Riesling is the main grape used in German wines, with Müller Thurgau a close second followed by Pinot Noir and Dornfelder when it comes to reds.

Riesling is known as the sommelier’s grape, is a personal favourite and Germany make some of the best. Balthasar Ress produce some great examples from super, crisp dry Grand Cru’s to superb off-dry versions that are great with spicy food, some pork dishes or oily fish.

Pinot Noir is the red of choice across Germany, actually the world’s third largest producer! The demand in Germany for reds was so high that few escaped to export, but this has changed with producers like Enderle & Moll exporting some classic German Pinot to our shores.

Sylvaner used to be Germany’s favourite grape, and for good reason. It’s difficult to source but it is available online (the stuff from Alsace ain’t bad too). An overlooked grape producing some sharp, zesty and exciting ‘spring’ wines.

Traditionally German wines weren’t produced using organic or bio-dynamic methods. Many winemakers preferred to create efficient, controlled, precise wines with few inconsistencies making use of sugars, sulphites, finings and stabilisers.

However, there are some real mavericks in the Natural Wine world. With none finer than Rita & Rudolf Trossen, who have been pioneering their biodynamic approach to winemaking since 1978, creating some weird and wonderful Rieslings, Pinot Noirs, Dornfelders and Pinot Blancs.

Surprisingly the newest member of the family running Staffelter Hof has jumped feet first into the natural wine world too, making an awesome blended wine called ‘Little Bastard’ which has a little fizz and contains Muller Thurgau, Muscat, Riesling & Sauvignon Blanc.

Enjoy yourself, explore and dive into one of the best winemaking countries of the world.

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