The 2017 Rheingau Weinfest, hosted on the Freßgass' in Frankfurt, is a great opportunity to familiarise yourself with classic German wines. Put any preconception of sweet wine out of your mind. Good German wine is a whole new World waiting to be appreciated, however the German wine classification can feel complicated to novices so, to get the most out of the wine festival, below are some hints and tips to launch you into your voyage of wine discovery.
Dry or Sweet
Trocken is the word to look for if you want a dry, crisp wine. If you find the wine too crisp and minerally you might want to try a halbtrocken or feinherb wine which contains a small amount of residual sweetness, but are not sweet wines! Lusciously sweet wines, the ones you associated with dessert wines, carry the labels Auslese, Beerenauslese, Eiswein or Trockenbeerenauslese.
The Rheingau is renown for it's riesling, the king of grape varieties. Many people underestimate riesling however Masters of Wine highly rate it for it's complexity and amazing ageing qualities. Gently sniff the bouquet of your riesling and you'll be amazed at the variety of scents ranging from floral, fruit, honey, herbs and the very distinct 'petrol' nose of an aged riesling. The Rheingau offers some other grape varieties which might be more familiar once you recognise their English names: Grauburgunder = Pinot Gris and Weissburgunder = Pinot Blanc. If you have the chance also try a Scheurebe a truely unique German grape created in 1916 by Dr. Scheu. He combined two grape varieties, riesling and bukettraube (of silvaner heritage) resulting in a wine which is dry with gentle fruit overtones.
Spätburgunder, aka Pinot Noir, dominates red wine production in the Rheingau. The style produced varies from a light finesse, which reflects the cool climes of the Rheingau area, to a richer, darker wine from grapes nurtured in the vineyards using select harvests. The difference is easy to spot in the glass, a light transparent red wine of the old style and a rich deep red of the new style.
Some producers belong to the elite VDP association. VDP (Verband deutscher Prädikatsweingüter) started in 1910 and serves to promote quality viticulture focussed on regional grape designation, quality production and vineyard management working in harmony with nature. Wine producers have to meet with strict requirements before they can carry the VDP eagle on their bottles. There are a few VDP producers at the Rheingau Weinfest. One repeat visitor is F. B Schönleber and Weingut Hamm is another renown producer which has also achieved the organic certification.
This is a list of this years participants, and all offer great quality wines. All along the Freßgass will be the wine stands interspersed with food stalls making it a great place to head for an evening out with friends.