More than just Riesling

Over the past two decades consumers have labelled the majority of German wines as affordable sweet Rieslings. However, the country’s winemakers are beginning to shake off this label with their high quality red and white wines

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By  Laura Barnes Published  December 6, 2006

|~|BODY-RIESLING.jpg|~|"Interest in German wines has increased greatly in the UAE due to the number of German nationals working in the hospitality industry," according to Marc Pohl, sales and marketing director, Wineconsale. |~|Over the past two decades consumers have labelled the majority of German wines as affordable sweet Rieslings. However, the country’s winemakers are beginning to shake off this label with their high quality red and white wines Think of wines from Germany and for most people, Black Tower and Blue Nun spring to mind; indeed in the UK — which is the biggest market for German wines — these are still the most popular. This has caused a problem for high quality German wine exports, and since 1998, exports of high-end German wines has dropped, with lost sales equivalent to US $47 million. The reason for this, is that people are looking to other countries for their quality wines. However, the German export market is beginning to reverse in certain regions, and particularly in the UAE, where high quality wines like Tesch and Duijn are now available. “The interest in German wines has increased greatly in the UAE due to the number of German nationals working in the hospitality industry,” comments Marc Pohl, sales and marketing director for exporters Wineconsale. “Also, consumers are not overly educated about German wines in the emirates, so it is a new market that is relatively untouched. That makes it easier for us,” he adds. Established in 2000, Wineconsale focuses on the export of premium German wines. Selling directly to 25 markets across the globe, the company exports a handful of wine estates to the UAE including, Schloss Sommerhausen; St Urbans-Hof; Tesch; K.F. Groebe; Schloss Vollrads; Dr. von Bassemann-Jordan and Duijn. Distributed in the emirates by Emirates Fine Wine, Pohl says that his company does not handle a large number of wineries. Instead, it wants to focus on a small number of companies, in order to be able to guarantee the winemakers that their wines are placed in the right locations. “We handle wines from seven wine estates in order to offer them a personal service. However, we offer a complete range of German wines, so it makes it easier for companies like Emirates Fine Wines to take our whole portfolio,” comments Pohl.||**|||~|BODY-RIESLING-2.jpg|~|The German export market is beginning to reverse in certain regions, and particularly in the UAE, where high quality wines like Tesch and Duijn are now available. |~|Predicting export sales of 6000-7000 bottles to the UAE market for 2006, this is only the second year that Wineconsale’s portfolio has been active in the Dubai market, but awareness of high quality German wines has increased as consumers are gradually moving away from the traditional idea of Germanic wines being sweet. And this has posed a challenge for German wine producers. They have had to gradually educate the market about their wine, as well as compete with other wine producing countries. “A lot of people prefer to drink Italian or French wine, so we have to try and find a niche. Also, we have 120,000 hectares of wine growing area in Germany. This is about the same size as Bordeaux alone, so the total production of wine is a lot less,” adds Pohl. Since 1910, German wine producers have established a wine association, Verband Deutscher Prädikats- und Qualitätsweinguter (VDP), which is dedicated to producing wines of the highest quality. Comprising 200 members, the VDP represents 3% of the entire German viticulture area. To ensure that only high quality wines are produced, in 2002, the VDP created an accord, detailing certain criteria for the production of wines within the VDP. This includes packaging, yields, and grape varieties, stipulating that VDP great growths can only be produced ‘exclusively from grape varieties that the regional associations have deemed to be traditional’. For example, Riesling in Nahe; Riesling, Lemberger and Spätburgunder in Wurttemberg; and Fruhburgunder and Spätburgunder in Ahr. “Wines that are part of the association all have an eagle logo on their labels. Only one wine in our portfolio is not part of the association, which is Weinut Duijn. However, this is still a high quality wine,” says Pohl. Founded in 1995, Duijn is located in Baden and produces only still red wines. Named as one of the best Pinot Noir producers in the world, in 2005 it won the Eichelmann wine estate’s “best red wine collection”. Cultivating eight hectares of Pinot Noir vines, the 2003 vintage yielded 30,000 bottles compared to 600 from its first vintage in 1995. Picked by hand, the maceration process lasts for 10 days with fermentation in stainless steel or wooden vats, before it is matured in French oak for 10-18 months. Not content with just exporting wines from well-established wineries in Germany, Wineconsale is also looking to the next generation of winemakers who have devised completely new ways of wine production. However, the winemakers all come from traditional estates, including Tesch, a family wine estate in the Nahe Valley. Established in 1723, in 1996 Martin Tesch joined the family business and overhauled the company, producing only dry Rieslings instead of medium dry and sweet Rieslings. “Martin Tesch really changed what was happening at his family’s wine estate. In 2001 he launched a new wine called Riesling Unplugged. The grapes were harvested and left in the cellar to convert from sugar to alcohol, so it is a pure dry Riesling without prior fining or filtration,” says Pohl. “Then in 2002 Tesch changed the rest of his collection, not only by changing the label, but also by reducing the collection to five single vineyard brands,” he adds. Using a stelvin lux cap since the 2005 vintage, the six different labels are, Unplugged; Königsschild; Löhrer Berg; Krone; Karthäuser; and St. Remigiusberg, and all come from the estate’s vineyards that are classified to be grosses gewächs (Grand Cru). The other vineyards in Wineconsale’s portfolio all have an illustrious background in producing high quality German wines whether from the Pfalz, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer or Franken. However, all are very specific in the grapes they use, with the majority using Riesling and Pinot grape varieties. “We are selective in the wines we have, but most importantly it is about making sure that the wines are placed in the right market and we do this by following the distribution chain right down to the customer,” comments Pohl. “Because of this we offer wine tastings and host winemakers. We are a small company working with a select number of wine producers, so it is important to keep this niche market,” he adds.||**||

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