Is there any greater food-friendly white wine in the world that's appreciated less than dry German riesling? The time-honoured prejudices are a roll-call of shame: the bland legacy of liebfraumilch, the non-rieslings of laski and olasz riesling, the complexities of German labelling, the battery-acid wines of yesteryear and the archaic view of German riesling as granny's favourite sweet wine. None fully explain why we're not totally in love with the charms of a uniquely delicious dry white that runs the gamut of flavours from peach, mango and apple to lemon, lime and pineapple superimposed on the individual character of its location.
Explaining our long-held fixation with the sweet stuff, Ernie Loosen, producer of Dr Loosen in the Mosel, says: "After the war, people wanted sweet wines and so they were much easier to sell than dry; everyone jumped on the bandwagon, so we forgot the art of making dry wines".
Without abandoning their luscious sweet Prädikat wines, the return to mouthwatering dry styles, mainly rieslings, is a comparatively recent development.
In an effort to change perceptions, the VDP, the exclusive club of 202 of the top estates from Germany's 13 wine regions, has today grasped the location nettle. Two years ago, a four-tier pyramid was created on similar lines to Burgundy, linking quality to location in a four-tier pyramid. Grosse Lage is the grand cru vineyard apex and below that come the three levels of Erste Lage, Ortswein and Gutswein. According to Constantin Guntrum, "The bottom line is that Germany is moving away from classification by sugar level to classification by terroir".
While 22.7 per cent of Germany's vineyard area is planted with riesling, the figure rises to 55 per cent in the case of the VDP from its joint riesling vineyard holdings of 2,700 hectares. Showing the product of the 2013 vintage in top dry whites and reds, the VDP put on a tasting of 375 white and 127 red wines in Wiesbaden. Although the 2013 vintage was small and beset by problems of rain and late ripening, the resulting natural acidity was a bonus for the best made wines, ensuring freshness, delicacy and long life. As the Nahe's Helmut Dönnhoff says, "It's not outstanding, but it's very good with high acidity that's ripe but not green".
VDP produced one million bottles of these grand cru wines, or Grosses Gewächs, last year. The fact that they command an average price of €29.3 per bottle shows that at least in their own country, the top German dry wines are appreciated. The worrying trend for German wine lovers, however, is that as the world wakes up, these prices will start to look reasonable.
Something for the weekend
Berry Bros & Rudd Reserve Red, IGP, Pays d'Oc
BBR comes up trumps for a southern French blend whose exuberant liquid-cherry juiciness keeps you coming back for more. £8.45, Berry Bros & Rudd (bbr.com)
2012 Abbotts & Delaunay Limoux Chardonnay
Behind the subtle veneer of toasty oak sits a stylish dry Burgundian-style white in which peachy fruit and nutty lees-derived characters intertwine. £17.99, averys.com
2010 Château de Vaudieu, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
A classic, violet-scented southern Rhône blend with spicy blackberry and plum fruit richness. £26.04-£33.99, The Drink Shop, Halifax Wine, Davis Bell McCraith, Loki WineReuse content