Wines Of Germany
( Originally Published 1907 )
IT cannot be denied that some of the finest and most esteemed wines in the world owe their origin to the famous vineyards of Germany, and for this reason, and also on account of the generally high standard of excellence of its produce, the Fatherland is entitled to a very prominent place in the roll of wine-making countries.
The most renowned growths are found in a district called the Rheingau, which is a most prolific stretch of vineyards extending for about ten miles on the right bank of the Rhine between Mayence and Rudesheim. It is said that the vine was first cultivated in these parts as early as the third century, and was subsequently very greatly extended by mediaeval monks, particularly those of the monasteries of Johannisberg and Eberbach. The principal vine-yards lie between the Taunus mountains in the north and the Rhine in the south. They are well sheltered from cold winds, and though the climate is not always all that could be desired, the locality is, on the whole, favourable for viticultural products. Here towns, villages, and castles give distinctive names to a host of different wines, the most famous of which come from the vineyards of Schloss Johannisberg and Steinberg. These two celebrated wines are made with the utmost care from specially selected grapes, and they are universally renowned for their wonderful richness, delicacy, and fragrant bouquet. Other choice growths to be found in this neighbourhood are Rudesheim, Marcobrun and Rauenthal, and on the opposite side of the river we find the well-known Liebfraumilch, a wine of fine bouquet and flavour, which, possibly on account of the singularity of the name, is about the most popular wine in Germany. A famous vineyard on the banks of the Main supplies the celebrated Hockheimer, said to have been the earliest Rhenish wine known in this country; hence the corrupted name "Hock," under which the Rhine wines have been classed ever since.
There are numerous other good white wines made in this district, but comparatively few red ones; Assmanshauser, an interesting wine of a Burgundy character, being the only one that is much known.
The general characteristics of Moselle wines are very similar to those of the Rhine, but they are, as a rule, rather more acid, and have less body. Among the best known are the famous and legendary Berncastler Doctor, Scharzhofberg and Brauneberger, but, as in the case of Hocks also, a great number of first-class varieties come to this country under various names, and figure in more or less profusion in all wine lists.
As a result of the comparative coolness and uncertainty of the climate in the Rhine and Moselle districts, the grapes frequently do not attain a proper degree of ripeness, and in consequence, the wines are often found to contain an excess of acid. On the other hand it is the presence of a comparatively high degree of acid, in combination with the alcohol, which contributes so largely to the formation of the ethereal products distinctive of these wines. These ethers go to make up the exquisite bouquet which pervades the finer Hocks and Moselles, and which is often so conspicuously absent from wines made in more southern countries, where the grape arrives at a greater degree of sweetness.
In good years and when they are well-made, the wines of Germany are exceedingly pleasant and wholesome beverages, particularly suitable for hot weather, and to have drunk a deep draught of cool Rhenish on a blazing day in a vine-clad bower on the banks of the romantic and legendary river, or under the shadow of one of its crumbling towers, is to have laid up a memory which does not soon pass away. Owing, however, to the practices of certain enter-prising firms who periodically inundate this country with circulars, setting forth, among other things, the advantages of "buying direct from the grower," and offering well-known wines at ridiculously low prices, it has become especially necessary of late for purchasers to be on their guard as to the source of their supplies. The wines so advertised are generally worthless, if not positively injurious, and if the receivers of these circulars would take the trouble to make a few inquiries before giving their orders, they would probably find that in the majority of cases the firms in question were neither growers themselves nor people with whom any respectable grower would care to have any dealings. To avoid disappointment and loss, therefore, it is advisable to abstain from taking advantage of the " bargains " which are brought to one's notice in this way, or indeed in any of the many other ways with which modern ingenuity and fraud seek to impose upon the ignorant and unwary, and to deal only with respectable wine-merchants whose reputation and experience are guarantees as to the genuineness and quality of whatever comes from their cellars.
In addition to Hocks and Moselles, Germany produces a great many other good wines, but they are not much known out of their own country.
Hock and Moselle Vintages