Ratings: There’s a Dry Wine Revolution Happening in Germany Right Now
Many people might still associate Germany with sweet Riesling and sweet Riesling only, but that’s officially an antiquated way of thinking. Yes, high-quality bottlings of off-dry and sweet wines are still very much around. But over the last decade, Germany’s newer, dryer offerings—especially amongst the country’s high-end Rieslings—have sparked a dry wine revolution.
The credit for this goes primarily to the Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweingüter (VDP), an association of over 200 growers from all over Germany. Through collaborative work, the organization encouraged the production of dry wines and developed a classification system for recognizing the country’s best vineyards, similar to Burgundy’s quality pyramid. As a result, dry wines evocative of these top vineyards’ terroir have proved ascendant.
The best of the bunch, in my opinion, is the Grosses Gewächs, or GGs. These are dry wines produced from grosse lage or grand cru vineyards. GGs must be made from grapes with a must weight (the amount of sugar in the grapes at harvest) that’s at least as high as that required for spätlese bottlings, which are semi-sweet to sweet wines made with grapes harvested later in the season. Essentially, this means that GGs are made with perfectly ripe grapes from arguably the best vineyard sites in the country.
Simultaneously, the recent shift toward natural wine has also vastly contributed to dry wine production. Since leaving residual sugar in wines that are bottled unfiltered and without the addition of sulfites makes for a risky endeavor, all vintners who work in this style ferment their wines until there’s very little sugar left. For what it’s worth, a few of these producers are also VDP members, such as Schätzel and Odinstal. But for the most part, these makers work independently, outside of any grower association.
These days, Germany’s dry-style natural wines and GGs are, I believe, the country’s most exciting bottlings. Although Riesling remains the king, reflected in both planting percentages and reputation, many other grapes are popping up, too.
Eager to try some yourself? The following dry German wines are worth exploring.
The Best New Dry German Wines
Schnaitmann 2019 Lämmler GG Dry Riesling (Württemberg)
The light-golden color of this Riesling hints at some development, and that is exactly what sets this GG apart from its peers. The extra aging only benefits the terrific mix of intensely spiced and mineral-laced elements to come out as the acidity integrates and beams on the rich lemon meringue, white raspberry and baked apple. The succulent, yet fresh finish flows on the palate. Drink now through 2035. 97 Points — Aleks Zecevic
Salwey 2018 Eichberg GG Pinot Gris (Baden)
This is a showstopper, especially for this variety that is often misinterpreted. It shows leesy reduction on the nose, which actually adds to the charm as it meets the complex palate filled with beautiful white raspberry, jasmine, flint and thyme notes. It is a mouthful, unraveling a layer after layer, while remaining graceful and silky. Lip-smacking finish will invite you for more. Drink now through 2030. Editor’s Choice. 95 Points — A.Z.
Piri Naturel 2020 Pinot Noir (Germany)
Stunning showing of Pinot Noir, this is vivacious, yet deep and complex. Velvety in texture, with ripe tannins and bright acidity creating a vivid structure, to support vibrant fruit flavors. It feels incredibly open and free, yet with enough muscle to hold this momentum for years to come. Drink now through 2032. 94 Points — A.Z.
Kühling-Gillot 2021 Nierstein Trocken Riesling (Rheinhessen)
Harmonious and finely crafted, this delivers a vibrant minerally core to the crisp apple, dried sage, nectarine and quince flavors. The acidity seamlessly flows through, fueling the flavors. Flint and sea salt accents emerge on the long finish that keeps inviting you for more. It feels more approachable than most 2021s. Drink now through 2033. 93 Points — A.Z.
Wittmann 2021 Westhofen Kirchspiel Trocken GG Riesling (Rheinhessen)
This silky-textured Riesling is a delightful representation of the vintage, showing piercing acidity that is buffered by a lot of substance. It is aromatic, filled with chamomile and chrysanthemum on the nose, while the palate exhibits an impressive showing of guava, dragon fruit and lime. Hints of spice and savory elements lurk on the finish. Although it is quite inviting right now, if you’re patient, this will sweep you off your feet in seven to 10 years. Editor’s Choice. 95 Points — A.Z.
Carl Loewen 2021 Maximin Herrenberg GG Riesling (Mosel)
This is compact and tightly knit, with a herbaceous frame of sage and spearmint framing the core of nectarine, succulent quince and wild orange oil. It is juicy and crunchy on the palate with powerful acidity flowing through connecting the elements, leading this to a mouthwatering finish. It shows potential, but needs a bit more time. Best after 2026. 93 Points — A.Z.
Last Updated: September 12, 2023