German wine industry in transformation
TWIG - German wine exports are reaching levels unseen in the last 20 years, leading wine experts around the globe to herald a "Riesling Revival," a "Riesling Renaissance" and even a "Riesling Revolution," for the past three years.
As other industries flounder in the wake of a grueling recession, German wine exports grew 11% in the year to April, to 421 million Eur (US $517 million), the German Wine Institute has reported.
In the United States alone, now the second largest market for German wines, the German industry has grown to 14.5%. In 2003, the cost of German wines on the U.S. market grew 34%, according to the German Wine Institute.
The new figures are good news for an industry which has re-established its image internationally. For years, German wine had reputation characterized by inexpensive export vintages such as the shockingly sweet spaetlese and beerenlese varieties.
The sugary, relatively inexpensive wines, shunned by connoisseurs, came to be seen as representative of all German wines, an image the industry has overcome in the past half decade by actively marketing its wines to today’s tastes and to the world’s top restaurants.
For German wines today, any lingering sweetness has all but dissipated with the new fine quality German dry whites. Wines derived from Riesling grapes are increasingly seen as the best around. More and more, the country is being recognized for the breadth of their product, which stems in part from the structure of the German wine industry itself.
The fragmented German wine industry is comprised mainly of Mittelstand companies, the small- to mid-size family-owned vineyards that form the core of Germany’s wine production. Almost 69,000 of these firms exist, allowing for countless subtle variations among wine grapes grown in the country.
And wine connoisseurs, a term no longer exclusive to those epicurean lifestyles alone, are basking in this new breadth as it reaches their markets.
Quality of climate, of course, is another factor of German wine’s recent success. Steffen Schindler of the German Wine Institute attributes the great quality of 2001 and 2002 German wines to the location of vineyards in Germany, which are often found hugging slopes of German hills much farther north than vineyards found in neighboring wine-growing nations. Germany’s latitude and climate lend the grapes a longer ripening period, which results in fruitiness and full aroma characteristic of German wines, Schindler told the Financial Times.
Last summer’s heat wave only catalyzed the ascension of
recent German wines to fame, leading experts to speak of summer 2003 as
"Summer of the Century" for German wine producers.
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