Schillerwein-a German Specialty

Dr. Christian Schiller, McLean, Virginia, one of the i-WineReview’s subscribers has written this thoughtful note on Schillerwein in response to the April Featured Monthly Tasting on Rosë and the article on Techniques for Making Rosé Wine on www.i-winereview.com

There are basically two ways of producing wine that is in-between red and white wine and often called rosé wine. First, using red grapes, but limiting the skin contact of the juice during fermentation so that only a small part of the red color is extracted from the skin and the wine thus has a rosé color. Or, second, blending white and red grapes before fermentation or red and white wines after fermentation.

Most of the rosés on the market these days are wines that are produced 100 percent out of red grapes. The wines do not become dark red because the fermentation procedure is such that only part of the red color is extracted from the skin of the grapes.

Blending finished white and red wines is outlawed in most countries. Interestingly, it is allowed for producing sparkling wines in France and many rosé champagnes and other sparkling wines are produced by blending finished wines.

Finally, blending white and red grapes before fermentation to make rosé-type wines is a specialty in a number of countries and is indeed also being done in the United States.

In Germany, for example, there is a wine called ‘Schillerwein” that is produced by blending red and white grapes before fermentation. You can only find “Schillerwein” in the region of Württemberg in the south of Germany. Ideally, the red and white grapes are planted in mixed lots in the vineyards and are harvested and treated together.

The name of the wine has nothing to do with the famous German poet Friedrich von Schiller (although he is from Württemberg). The wine got its name from the verb “schillern”. The verb “schillern” means “to scintillate”. “Schillerwein” is thus a wine with a scintillating color, reflecting the fact that the wine is a blend of red and white grapes.

In my wine cellar in McLean/Virginia I have a few bottles of “Schillerwein” in a 1 liter bottle produced by “Weingut Dautel” in Boennigheim/Württemberg. This is a simple refreshing summer wine with a taste slightly different from rosés made entirely out of red grapes reflecting the different fermentation process. You let the color come out fully, but at the end of the day the wine is not red, but rosé only, because of the blending with white grapes.

More generally, the German wine law fully recognizes this kind of wine and distinguishes between 4 types of wine.

(1) “Weisswein” —white wine, made 100 percent out of white grapes;

(2) “Rotwein”—red wine, made 100 percent out of red grapes;

(3) “Roséwein”—rosé wine, made 100 percent out of red grapes, but with limited skin contact (often called “Weissherbst”); and

(4) “Rotling”—a wine made by blending red and white grapes before fermentation; blending red and white wine after fermentation is illegal.

“Rotling” wines produced in Württemberg are called “Schillerwein”. For those who read German, http://www.weingut-birkert.com has a nice section on “Schillerwein”. Birkert is one of the leading producers of “Schillerwein” in Germany.

Blending white and red grapes to produce rosé-type wines is a technique that is also used in Switzerland and in the United States. I have noticed that, for example, the rosé of the Woelffer Estate on Long Island is a blend of red and white grapes. It’s made with 40% Chardonnay, 35% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Cabernet Franc. I have seen other winemakers in the US with German roots producing such a blended wine too.

Dr. Christian Schiller, McLean, Virginia, 22101, July 12, 2008

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3 Responses to Schillerwein-a German Specialty

  1. miguel says:

    In Rioja (Spain), wines produced by blending white and red grapes are called “Clarete”.
    Its colour is like onion skin.
    The wine is fresh and fruity. Just to enjoy with salads and grilled lamb chops.
    And very cold.

  2. miguel says:

    In Rioja (Spain), the wines produced bay blending white and red grapes are called “Clarete”.
    This wine ys very fresh snd fuity.
    And it is very easy to recognize it because its “onion skin” or “salmon” color.
    Just to enjoy during spring and summertime with salads and lamb chops grilled with vineshoots.

  3. International Wine Review says:

    Thanks for the note on Clarete, Miguel. Last year we had an exchange of views about clarete in connection with our report on the wines of Ribera del Duero. Don had written the following:

    The traditional wine of Ribera del Duero was the “clarete”, a rosado that was served young, fresh, and chilled. Clarete was produced and consumed locally, with a significant portion of the production being consumed by farm hands wanting a cool, refreshing, lunchtime beverage. While clarete, or rosado, has been eclipsed by the big, international style wines that have won raves in the wine mags, I tasted some absolutely delicious rosados during our recent visit to Ribera del Duero. Perhaps Ribera del Duero rosado is Spain’s equivalent of Provence rose.

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