Top 15 German white wines, from Riesling to Silvaner

Wine news

Fri 26 Mar 2021

By Stuart Peskett

Germany is home to some of the finest wines on the planet but its vinous charms have remained a secret to many, especially in the UK.

There are numerous reasons for this: the labels are often indecipherable (unless you speak the language); it’s not immediately obvious whether the wine will be dry or sweet, which deters some; and the flood of sub-standard German wine into the UK in the 1970s and 1980s (think Blue Nun, Hock and Liebfraumilch) tarnished its reputation, creating an impression that its wines were cheap and not particularly cheerful.

But people are finally starting to realise what Germany has to offer. It makes incredible Riesling in a range of styles, the best of which can age for decades; its Pinot Gris (aka Grauburgunder) is a world away from the vapid Pinot Grigio found elsewhere; and its Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder) is highly underrated, offering similar red-fruited elegance as its lauded neighbour in Burgundy but at a considerably cheaper price.

Compared with the big bruisers of the wine world, German wines are at the lighter end of the spectrum, making them elegant, aromatic and food-friendly (they work wonderfully well with Asian cuisine, for example).

Max Mann winemaker Dominik Meyer. Read our interview with the trophy-winner

The list of German IWSC award-winners gives an ideal snapshot of what the country is capable of. Trophy winner Ungsteiner Weilberg GG Riesling 2017 from Karl Schaefer is a textbook Riesling; Max Mann’s Pinot Blanc 2019 shows off the grape’s floral, fruity character; and Villa Wolf’s Library Release Wachenheimer Goldbächel Riesling 2012 is a perfect example of how this first-rate variety blossoms with age.

Best German wines as rated by IWSC experts

Nordheimer Vögelein Orange Silvaner 2014iwsc-top-german-wines-1.png
Divino Nordheim Thüngersheim

A gingery cider nose with rounded notes of sap, honey and peach skin balanced with distinctive smokiness. Clearly defined, the citric palate is concentrated and spicy, with tannic grip and engaging undertones of English golden ale on the enduring finish. 13.3%

Pinot Blanc 2019iwsc-top-german-wines-2.png
Max Mann

A supremely elegant nose of white flowers and orange zest with malty characters, focused mineral top notes and scant salinity. Fully realised palate displaying ripe stone fruits, apple, lime juice and delicate spice balanced by fresh acidity and yeasty undertones. 12%

Ungsteiner Weilberg GG Riesling 2017iwsc-top-german-wines-3.png
Weingut Karl Schaefer

Intent, confident and perfectly paced, nose shows the way with citrus and tropical notes then palate embraces in lavish, glowing ripe peach and mango richly balanced with Christmas cake and sparklers of acidity. Poised with handsome typicity. 13.3%

Charakter F. Nordheimer Vögelein Muskat Silvaner Spätlese 2015iwsc-top-german-wines-4.png
Divino Nordheim Thüngersheim

Sensational waxy petrol characteristics highlighting beautiful typicity. The palate is vibrant and fresh with intense minerality, kerosene and a streak of lime sharpness. 13.5%

Charakter F. Nordheimer Vögelein Silvaner Spätlese 2011iwsc-top-german-wines-5.png
Divino Nordheim Thüngersheim

Ripe exotic fruits revealing lifted aromatics and honey blossom. Textured and ripe with a savoury biscuity palate, dense dried apricot and peach richness with a spicy bite. 14%

Spätlese Rieslingiwsc-top-german-wines-6.png
Reh Kendermann

Autumn baked apples with delicious spice weighs down fleshy body accented with ripe peach nose and cherry hints. Complex and rounded, traditional style. 9%

Library Release Wachenheimer Goldbächel Riesling 2012iwsc-top-german-wines-7.png
Weingut Villa Wolf

This wine has big dimensions and maturity with gorgeous frangipane fanning out alongside honeysuckle brushed red apple. Steady, weighty development marches towards lengthy finish. 13%

Charakter F. Steillage Escherndorfer Lump Riesling Spätlese 2016iwsc-top-german-wines-8.png
Divino Nordheim Thüngersheim

Forward ripe red apple on intense fruity palate with shimmers of fine maturity. The mouth is vibrant with gentle, mid-length finish. 14%

Charakter F. Steillage Escherndorfer Lump Riesling Spätlese 2017iwsc-top-german-wines-9.png
Divino Nordheim Thüngersheim

A gently complex nose opens out to crisp, fresh palate with good concentration of fleshy, stone fruit and generous ginger. Exquisite style with focus and character. 12.7%

Kleine Kapelle Pinot Grigio 2019iwsc-top-german-wines-10.png
Peter Mertes KG Weinkellerei

A delicate nose of white stone fruit and passion fruit, showing beautiful typicity. Elegantly balanced displaying fresh savoury acidity and juicy fruit with an engaging finish. 12%

Ungsteiner Herrenberg GG Riesling 2017iwsc-top-german-wines-11.png
Weingut Karl Schaefer

Confident candied lemon peel leads with succulent tropical fruits adding restrained weight to the palate. Well balanced with fine acidic backbone in elegant style. 12.3%

Charakter F. Alte Reben  Thüngersheimer Johannisberg Riesling Spätlese 2018iwsc-top-german-wines-12.png
Divino Nordheim Thüngersheim

Vibrant lemon-forward smoky citrus expresses against ripples of minerality and background of satisfying chalk texture. A crisp, compact wine with a smart, short finish. 14.2%

Charakter F. Sponti Nordheimer Vögelein Silvaner Spätlese 2014iwsc-top-german-wines-13.png
Divino Nordheim Thüngersheim

An alluringly floral nose of sweet apricot, waxy honey and hints of white truffle. Rich and full, with balanced acidity and a white pepper finish. 13%

Riesling 2019iwsc-top-german-wines-14.png

Ripples of big, pineapple and lush stone fruit marvellously balanced with gently gritty minerality and silky acacia honey. Intricate nose and good weight throughout. 11%

Ockfener Bockstein Alte Reben Riesling 2018iwsc-top-german-wines-15.png
Weingut Reverchon

Clean citrus nose with tropical undertones and powerful yet reined in palate of fresh pink grapefruit, peach and quince. Delightful light florals and glittering acidity. Skilfully balanced with nice finish. 12.6%