Thu 23 Feb 2017

German wine for beginners: 4 things we learned from wine maestro Konstantin Guntrum




Until recently, German wine had an image problem.

Not for those in the know of course; savvy drinkers have been stashing their cellars full of fragrant riesling and pinot noir for decades, while many of us had been too busy having new world love affairs to notice.

And that’s the problem; to the average supermarket-buying booze-hound, the region continues to conjure images of weissbeer, pilsner and, less deliciously, Blue Nun. Fruity, full-on New Zealand sauvignons and Italian pinot grigios have been filling our baskets while Germany’s gems have been left languishing on the shelves.

One man who knows this all-too-well is Konstantin Guntrum, owner of legendary winemaking dynasty, Louis Guntrum. His family have been growing grapes on the left bank of the Rhein since 1648, before marauding French catholic occupying forces compelled them to flee to the Left side of the Rhein in 1792. It took nearly a century for the Guntrum family to get back to their homeland, buying up vineyards and wineries in Nierstein and Oppenheim where they remain to this day. Today, and 11 winemaking generations on, the dynasty continues to thrive, making award-winning riesling, pinot noirs and sweet wines. The next challenge? Switching today’s discerning young wine-lovers onto the aromatic delights of Germany’s sweeter wines.

Konstantin GuntrumKonstantin dropped by The Society to give us a quick lesson in history, food matching and to share his phenomenal German wines.

1. German sweet wine is great for tough-to-match food Cheese and German sweet wines go together like Bogart and Bacall, the nectar-like qualities of Auslese or Kabinett perfectly offsetting sharp, savoury cheeses.  Fiery foods also make a great match. As Konstantin says ‘eat something hot and try to wash it down with a fruity red and…well, have fun with that! It’s like putting fuel on the flames’. Sweet wines however counteract spiciness, in turn knocking any over-sweet edges from the wine.  Puddings also apply here, so try a ‘riesling Kabinett’ which is made without additional sugar to perfectly balance the sweetness.

2. Grauburgunder is known as pinot grigio in Italy and pinot gris in France. The 2015 vintage of grauburgunder is especially delicious, a combination of baking summer days which add a tropical fragrance and cool nights which lend refreshing acidity to the fruit. This acidity also acts as a natural preserving agent, so the wine will get even better with age.

Guntrum Wines

3. Weissburgunder is better known as pinot blanc and German examples display lively floral flavours. This slightly sweet style fell out of favour in the latter-half of the 1980s following its 1970s heyday but is gaining in popularity again. Modern examples show perfectly balanced sweetness and freshness, so give it a try if you’re looking for a delicious conversation-starter.

4. Chilled German reds such as dornfelder make great summer barbecue wines. With cherry, cranberry and herbal notes, dornfelder is light and fresh but has enough body to take on boldly savoury flavours of bangers, burgers and other British summertime staples.


Find Louis Guntrum wines on our website here

Categories : Germany, Wine Tastings


  1. Peter Brennan says:

    I agree with virtually all of these recommendations. The main problem is that all of the wines from this domaine (and Germany in general) listed by the Society are from the 2015 vintage, and therefore will require considerable ageing to be at their best. Will people be ‘switched on’ to these wines if the producers do not offer them when they are at – or close to – their peak?

    • Rosie Allen says:

      Hi Peter, thanks for your comment. I asked our buyer for Germany, Marcel Orford-Williams, for his thoughts:

      ‘This comment is true, but is mainly applicable to the top-end bottles. Most of the wines can be enjoyed young and already give much pleasure.

      This is for two reasons: first 2015 which produced very well-balanced wines that were lovely from day one. Secondly, winemaking is getting better and is less reliant on sulphur, meaning that the white wines need less time to develop.

      Growers are also aware that fewer people keep their wine for ageing, so modern whites tend to be made to be enjoyed young. Some growers do hold back some of their best wines in cask and therefore some 2015s won’t be bottled until the spring. This is often the case with Grosses Gewächs wines where there is a minimum ageing requirement.

      Ernie Loosen will also keep back a few wines and age them for two years in cask as his forebears used to do. But by and large, once the new vintage becomes available in the spring, wines are on sale and market forces take over.’

  2. RobinSmith says:

    I recently bought some 2015 wines and will keep them in the Society’s cellar for the time being. However, the challenge for Germany in my view is the price/quality point. Whilst I love the wines, the prices push me to other regions for regular drinking. Whilst ther are German wines at lower prices on the shelves, they rarely have the characteristics that Konstantinos so adeptly describes.

  3. Jerry Burridge says:

    I have often enjoyed exploring the mixed cases of German Rieslings (Kabinett or Spatlese) from the society, but when I have found a bottle I particularly like it is frequently not available to re-order in larger quantities. Any suggestions?

  4. John Stork says:

    I have recently spent time in the west of Germany and, as my wife only drinks red wine, thought I would be hard pushed to find anything suitable for us to enjoy. I am not a fan of Dornfelder.

    However we discovered some of the Pinot Noirs in the Ahr valley to be quite superb. They seem to be almost unknown outside Germany and it would be good if the Society could find one or two for the list. The best are quite different from the Pinots from along the Rhine further south and east, possibly because of the climate and the terroir.

  5. Julian Osborne says:

    I am also a fan of German Pinot Noir. I have not tried the wines from the Ahr, but I do recommend trying those from Assmannshausen (near Rüdesheim) in the Rheingau. This small town has one hill suitable for Pinot Noir, and is well known in the region for this. Its a lovely place to have a meal and watch the river drift by. I have not seen these wines outside of Germany unfortunately.

  6. Mike Addison says:

    I am a great fan of German wine, especially those from the Mosel and Nahe. I have visited the area many times and bought wine direct from winemakers in Trittenheim, Brauneberg, Erden and the Nahe. I avoid wherever possible wines from the big names which feature on every UK list including the Wine Society. A great deal of pleasure can be got from tasting the wonderful wines from the smaller vineyards and the prices are very reasonable. It would be nice to see more wines from these smaller producers on the Wine Society list. It is great to see at least one wine from Peter Crusius on the current list.. And yes a lot can be drunk young as the Germans adapt to modern tastes.

    There are fantastic restaurants on the Mosel as well

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