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Germany

The German wine industry is notable for two contrasting reasons: producing some of the finest white wines in the world and spectacularly shooting itself in the foot in the last quarter of the 20th century. 

The German wine industry is notable for two contrasting reasons: producing some of the finest white wines in the world and spectacularly shooting itself in the foot in the last quarter of the 20th century. 

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In the '70s and '80s it released into the world a torrent of cheap and not very cheerful wines that continue to colour its reputation and do no justice to the excellence routinely on offer.  For Germany can craft wines from the Riesling grape that are inimitable and many less familiar vines, such as Silvaner, Müller-Thurgau and, for red wines, Portugieser and Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir), can achieve exceptional quality and value for money.

History

Neither the Phoenicians nor the Greeks made it to Germany and so the Romans, who never missed such an opportunity, pioneered the cultivation of the vine and the making of wine on its soil.  Charlemagne, the Church and a wine-loving aristocracy encouraged viticulture to thrive throughout the Middle Ages, but the Thirty Years War in the early 17th century ripped out its heart. In the aftermath, however, Riesling was planted in abundance to ensure that where there was no longer quantity there was quality instead.This legacy remains to this day.

Climate and Conditions

Both topographically and climatically, Germany produces wine on the edge. Vineyards are traditionally located on land unsuitable for other agriculture, chiefly the steep slopes of river valleys, and are usually south-facing to take maximum advantage of the sun. For the climate is marginal and whether the grapes will ripen is the main concern of the German winemaker. This creates problems, and requires great skill in production, but can result in unique wines of exceptional character.

The Classification System

Unlike other countries, where quality, geography or history tend to dominate, Germany has created its own nationally relevant standards of classification.  This is based upon the ripeness of the grapes at the time of the harvest.  It makes perfect sense in the light of their climate, and ensures that every vineyard has the chance to achieve the highest classification with every new vintage, yet this common sense and equality has come at a cost.  Not only is a German wine label an arduous task to decipher, but an average bottle can achieve the same classification as the finest of wines.

Wines of Today

The German wines of today are amongst the finest in the world, just as they always have been. The essential difference between now and the apparently dark days of the seventies and eighties is the quality of the wines that Germany exports. We are no longer awash with the characterless plonk of mass production cooperatives, though these do still exist to entrap the unwary, and are able to find the finest of Rieslings along with the other great wines that the country produces.  Above all, once the pitfalls are sidestepped, Germany produces wines that are incomparable in style to anywhere else in the Old World or the New.

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  1. Bernkasteler Lay Riesling GG Grand Ley, Mosel

    Bernkasteler Lay Riesling GG Grand Ley, Mosel, 2011 75cl

    Intense aromas fill the nose with concentrated fruit and a touch of minerality detectable. This is a full bodied dry Riesling with stone fruit character supported by a touch of melon and slate-like dryness to the complex finish.

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    £30.30
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    £34.00
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    £25.25
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    £28.33
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  2. Furst Pur Mineral, Silvaner

    Furst Pur Mineral, Silvaner, Fraken, 2012 75cl

    A stunning wine, an unusual style for the area. Almost herbaceous on the nose with mown-hay character. Fairly dry with a minerally palate balancing the finish. A must to try.

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    £19.26
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    £21.65
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    £16.05
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    £18.04
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  3. Red Slate Dry Riesling, Dr Loosen,

    Red Slate Dry Riesling, Dr Loosen, Mosel, 2015 75cl

    Classic dry German Riesling with plenty of citrus and peach flavour on the palate followed up by generous minerality. The complexity arrives in the form of the spice and floral notes that are detectable and the depth of the finish.

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    £11.64
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    £13.00
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    £9.70
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    £10.83
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  4. Solitär Riesling Troken, S A Prüm

    Solitär Riesling Troken, S A Prüm, Mosel, 2015 75cl

    A dryer style of riesling, with peachy aromas. Stone fruit and fresh apple in the mouth balanced with mineral flavours and a hint of petrol.

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    £10.74
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    £12.00
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    £8.95
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    £10.00
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  5. Liebfraumilch, Dr Zenzen, 2013

    Liebfraumilch, Dr Zenzen, Rhine 75cl

    Containing a proportion of Riesling, which adds delicacy and freshness to this medium-dry wine.

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    £6.42
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    £7.00
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    £5.35
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    £5.83
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  6. Niersteiner Johannes Egbert

    Niersteiner Johannes Egberts, Rhine, 2016 75cl

    Vibrant and fresh. Ripe, with full floral aromas and a dash of sweetness.

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    £7.08
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    £7.85
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    £5.90
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    £6.54
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  7. Piesporter Michelsberg, Franz Reh & Sohn

    Piesporter Michelsberg, Franz Reh & Sohn, Mosel, 2015 75cl

    From the Mosel valley in Germany, delicate floral aromas and generous fruit give this medium style wine a fresh and harmonious character.

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    £7.08
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    £7.60
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    £5.90
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    £6.33
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  8. Villa Wolf Pinot Gris

    Villa Wolf Pinot Gris, Pfalz, 2014 75cl

    Citrus flavours, predominately lemon, on the nose and plenty of stone fruit on the palate. The two combine wonderfully for a full flavour that has a satisfyingly crisp finish.

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    £8.88
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    £10.00
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    £7.40
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    £8.33
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  9. Bernkastel Lay Riesling Kabinett, S A Prüm

    Bernkastel Lay Riesling Kabinett, S A Prüm, Mosel, 2010 75cl

    A lovely example of a Mosel riesling, well balanced fruit and mineral flavours in the mouth and a refined finish.

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    £19.14
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    £22.00
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    £15.95
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  10. Moselland Riesling Kabinett, 2014

    Moselland Riesling Kabinett, Mosel, 2015 75cl

    A charmingly floral, medium-style wine from the glorious Mosel valley in the heart of this famous wine-producing country.

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    £8.10
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    £8.90
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    £6.75
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    £7.42
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  11. Kreuznacher Kronenberg Riesling Kabinett, Feinherb

    Kreuznacher Kronenberg Riesling Kabinett, Feinherb, Nahe, 2014 75cl

    Delicate, floral and perfumed wine presented in a distinctive blue bottle.

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    £7.80
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    £9.00
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    £6.50
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    £7.50
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  12. Sebastian A Riesling Kabinett, S A Prüm

    Sebastian A Riesling Kabinett Halbtrocken, S A Prüm, 2014 75cl

    An earthy aroma with apple flavours coming through. A weighty depth of flavour makes this a versatile companion to many food types.

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    £14.82
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    £16.94
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    £12.35
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    £14.12
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