Monday, June 16, 2014
Vineyards and Germany
There are 252,000 acres of land dedicated to grapes in Germany. Size-wise....that's twice the size roughly of New York City (with the various boroughs).
Most of this is all centered in the mid-section....along the Mosel and Rhine Rivers.
What the experts say is that Germany....on a yearly average....will produce roughly 1.2 billion bottles of wine. Some on the expensive side.....some on the cheap side.
What history generally says is that wine and grapes weren't exactly a big-time goal of the local German tribes until the Romans arrived. And for some reason....the Romans just fell in love with the slopes, the great weather, and the grape production of the local region.
Within a twenty-kilometer circle of Wiesbaden....I'd take a guess that there are at least three thousand folks....men and women....who claim to be an authority on wine. They can just barely taste it, and spout ten characteristics of the wine, and might even be able to tell you the brand name.
After the Roman era....wine interest kinda drifted downward. The peasant class went more for beer production. Toss in the mini-ice age episode, and wine wasn't exactly a big-time player in German culture for several hundred years. Then toss in the Thirty-Year War episode, and it's just not worth discussing much. Up until the 1700s....the Catholic Church ended up controlling the vast amount of wine territory in Germany....strangely enough.
All that negative stuff came to an end in the early 1800s as Napoleon drifted through....seized property owned by the Catholic Church and dispensed it to the public. Various private vineyards then existed, and were developed to a great extent. The major business in wine production today? It mostly owes itself to Catholic Church determination to produce better grapes, rather than more grapes....and the arrival of Napoleon to make private ownership of grapes possible.
An American, if asked about varieties of grapes....will simply say there's there's red and green. That's usually what gets us into being classified as ignorant on culture and wine production. Altogether....there's around 135 varieties of grape in existence in Germany (yeah, I know.....God really freaked out on grapes when devising the master plan). From these 135 varieties...only thirty-five relate to the red grapes. The rest? White wine.
From the German university program.....you could go and spend four to five years, and get a degree in wine. It's hard to imagine, but it is that complicated. There's an entire science and business structure to wine. A guy just walking in and saying he's got cash to buy some vineyard is not enough.....you'd have to spend years reading up on the stuff, and grasp an awful lot of strategies on wine, the weather, the selling activity, and how to talk wine.
So, when a German starts spouting off and talking up character of the wine you are sipping.....you might want to just lay low and hear the guy out. Don't offer any commentary....just listen....and sip a little. You might learn something.
at 3:07 AM