Once upon a long time ago, when I was studying for my WSET qualifications, Germany was very high up in the priority of regions and countries that we had to study, due to its huge influence on British wine drinking; the lakes of Blue Nun, Piesporter, Rieslings of all types, the QMP and QBA quality scales, the labelling, the Germanic vineyards.
I mention this now to younger colleagues and they look askance as Germany is no longer as important to the UK drinking public. The search for lighter, brighter, more vibrant fruit flavours, the freshness and elegance of a crisp Sauvignon, Picpoul or Pinot Grigio is what most people seem to want...yet these are exactly the sort of wines that Germany produces. Germany can be split into 13 separate wine regions with the majority in the southern half of Germany, and all are based around rivers.
The Rhine encompasses the regions of Pfalz, Rheingau, Nahe, Rheinhessen and Mittelrhein, whilst the Mosel, Saar and Ruwer rivers all contain major wine regions - as does the Ahr, Unstrut, Mann and Elbe. The principle grapes are the noble Riesling and Muller Thurgau, with Sylvaner, Kerner, Scheurebe and Pinot Blanc planted alongside with small quantities of red Spatburgunder ( Pinot Noir ) and Dornfelder. The climate is semi-continental on the Alsation border, rising to a more Continental climate as you travel east toward Sachsen and Saale Unstrut in the East.
The style of German white wines can vary from bone dry ( Trocken ), to Halbtrocken ( off dry ) to semi sweet, all the way to gloriously, richly sweet, with an intensity of acidity and sweetness. Such Quality wines fall under the QMP category of quality and their sweetness is defined by a scale that rise from Kabinett ( semi sweet, ripe grapes ) to Spatlese ( late picked ), then Auslese ( very late picked ), Beerenauslese and finally Trockenbeerenauslese ( very, very sweet, and often picked in December ). A separate category for Eiswien calls for grapes that are picked when frozen solid midwinter. These are very rare, very sweet ( and very Expensive ) examples of some of the World's most sought after and delicious dessert wines.