Appears in
Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

Silvaner, called Grüner Silvaner, in Germany, is an early-budding white grape variety grown mainly in Germany and central Europe (see sylvaner for an account of it in France). Its very name suggests romantic woodland origins, and certainly it has a long history over much of eastern Europe, where it may indeed first have been identified growing wild. dna profiling in Austria established that Silvaner is the progeny of savagnin (Traminer) and Österreichisch Weiss, a variety often mistaken for Silvaner and yet another progeny of gouais blanc. The cross probably took place in what is now Austria (although hardly any true Silvaner is grown there today) and it certainly came to Germany from the banks of the Danube. A vine known as Silvaner was widely grown throughout the extensive vineyards of medieval Germany. Its arrival from Austria at Castell in franken in 1659 is well documented and the variety is still the second most planted in Franken where distinctive clay-limestone soils seem to play a defining role in making full-bodied, firm, if aromatically discreet wines. Silvaner enjoyed its greatest popularity in the first half of the 20th century, when it overtook elbling to become Germany’s most planted vine variety and established a dominant position in Rheinhessen. At 5,122 ha/12,651 acres in 2012, the variety is (just) a distant third among white wine grapes to the even more productive müller-thurgau, which rapidly surpassed it in area after the Second World War. Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris) has been catching up rapidly, however.