German Wine: Flooded with confidence

04 April, 2019

Wine Intelligence chief operating officer Richard Halstead gives a UK perspective: “The story of German wines in the UK is growing evidence of metamorphosis after years of decline at the low end and efforts to reposition as a premium product.

“Awareness of German wines is steady at about 65% of monthly wine drinkers. ‘Recalled consumption’ is stable at about 15% of monthly wine drinkers but volume sales are still falling by about 10% year on year. But value is growing by about 5% year on year as a mix of product shifts from cheap Hock/Liebfraumilch to more expensive Riesling.

Halstead justifies this by the variance in the German wine-drinking population. “Awareness levels of German wines is much higher among those aged 55-plus (80%-plus), compared to under 35s (30%).

“The conversion rate [the proportion of ‘awares’ (WI profiles), who say they drink] is highest among 25-34s, remembering that awareness levels are low among this group compared with ‘olders’. Drinker profile skews to higher income (£50k-plus), ‘Generation Treater’ segment – ie younger, higher income, ‘involved and information-hungry’,” says Halstead.

GERMAN NICHE, USP

When it comes to Riesling, Loosen believes that Mosel Riesling, in particular, “captures the unique characteristics of our cool climate and slate soil”.

But, of course, there’s much more to Germany than simply its flagship. For Jones, Pinot Blanc “has good potential on the export market”. He adds: “It is already widely appreciated in Germany as Weisser Burgunder. Germany produces more Pinot Blanc than any other country and has the potential to become the definitive country for this grape.”

Langguth says: “The wines from the grape varieties Riesling, Müller-Thurgau, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc from German growing areas show a special profile and have become role models. Due to the strict German wine regulations, quality levels such as Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese and Eiswein stand for different degrees of ripeness and sweetness, which is German wines’ USP.”

He continues: “Riesling remains the leader in white wine grape varieties, after which the importance of Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris increases. Aroma varieties are also attracting more attention such as Gewürztraminer and Scheurebe.”

CHALLENGES

As Loosen points out: “We are in a period that prefers big, full-bodied red wines – and dry wines, in general. There is still a good level of appreciation for our classic, fruity wines, although it takes a lot of work to find those consumers. But we are now re-learning how to produce well-balanced dry Rieslings here in the Mosel, as our forebears had done it 150 years ago. With the preference for sweeter styles that dominated in the 20th century, and with the tragic interruption of the war, we lost sight of the drier style that existed before the advent of sterile filtration. But we are rediscovering the more patient winemaking methods of our great-grandfathers.”

And this can only be a good thing as climate change is meaning the country is becoming more interesting for red wine production, according to Langguth.

Jones agrees: “Warmer summers have offered a huge opportunity, allowing grapes to fully ripen and develop with full flavour and good balance, whether dry or sweet.

“The increasingly volatile weather patterns are forcing wine growers to be proactive in their vineyards and winemaking management. The 2018 vintage is a good example, with the earliest harvest in living memory and dispensation from the authorities to acidify wines where required. Generally the reverse has been permitted with de-acidification.





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