May 2013
fter years of being content to
sell Americans a river of elegant,
sweet Rieslings, which made
the U.S. Germany’s #1 wine ex-
port customer, German wine producers
are now exhorting us to please try their
other wines.
Sample the dry and semi-dry German
Rieslings. Or try German Pinot Noir,
the one with the funny name. Perhaps
Dornfelder, Germany’s other red wine?
And then there’s Pinot Blanc with its own
funny name (Weissburgunder) and Müller-
Thurgau and Silvaner. And don’t forget
German sparkling wines.
For decades, Germany built a loyal fol-
lowing in the United States by repeating
one simple message: We make white wines—
the world’s most delicious, rich sweet Ries-
ling wines, such as Beerenauslesen, Trock-
enbeerenauslesen and Eisweins. “Germans
spent the majority of the 20
happily exporting almost exclusively their
sweet wine, cementing that identity,” ex-
plains Julie Swift, U.S. marketing represen-
tative for Valckenberg International, who
is now among a growing coterie working to
broaden that image.
While the approximately 3 million
cases sold annually to the U.S. is certainly
dwarfed by numbers posted by European
wine-producing giants Italy, France and
Spain, Germany’s share of the American
market has grown slowly but steadily
over the past decade, while those of Italy
and France have dipped. For
decades, it was as if
Europe had one combined marketing
strategy: Germany would sell Americans
white wines, and France, Italy and Spain
would provide us with classic red wines.
So why change now?
For one thing, New World producers
have dealt themselves into the U.S. market.
Australia, Chile and Argentina all swept
past Germany in satisfying America’s
growing thirst for wine. And, based on
value of shipments, even New Zealand has
edged ahead, putting Germany at number
eight on the American hit list. Additionally,
Riesling now accounts for only about one-
fifth of Germany wine production, as
domestic drinkers have broadened their
own wine interests and as global warming
and better vineyard management have
permitted Pinot Noir and other red grapes
to produce better wines. Finally, Germany
is making more wine from more places:
Production is up about 13% since 1990,
the only European country not to decline
in volume during that period. German
winemaking regions now total 13.
Germany’s Wine Buffet
Tired of Their Sweet American Image,
German Producers Continue to Broaden Their Offerings
One signature of German viticulture is
steep-sloped vineyards; seen here, vines
at Weingut Hermann Dönnhoff (est. 1750)
in the Nahe region.
Undone brand
reflects an effort by
some suppliers to
simplify German wine
packaging for
the U.S.
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