German crosses

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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German crosses, an important group of vine varieties that are the result of vine breeding, an activity that was particularly vigorous in the first half of the 20th century but which continues to this day, most notably at geisenheim and geilweilerhof.

The man who bred Germany’s first commercially successful modern cross was in fact Swiss, Dr Hermann Müller (see müller-thurgau), whose eponymous vine variety was to become the most planted in Germany in the second half of the 20th century, almost 100 years after it was developed. A succession of new crosses followed in the 20th century, notably from research institutes at Geisenheim, Geilweilerhof, Alzey, Würzburg, and Freiburg, producing a large number of new varieties usually designed to achieve the high must weights encouraged by the german wine law. The most successful white wine varieties, in descending order of area planted in Germany at the beginning of the 21st century, are kerner, bacchus, scheurebe, faber(rebe), huxelrebe, ortega, morio-muskat, reichensteiner, ehrenfelser, siegerrebe, optima, and regner. Others include perle, nobling, würzer, kanzler, schönburger, freisamer, findling, rieslaner, juwel, albalonga, and, more popular in England than Germany, gutenborner and phoenix. Few of these crosses make distinctive, attractive, and characterful wines, although Kerner, Ehrenfelser and, particularly, Scheurebe and Rieslaner can make fine wines if sufficiently ripe. More typically, the vines have been planted to yield good quantities of high must weight wines.