In Germany, where wine preferences have long been swinging dry and drier still, the market is dominated by trocken, or dry wines made from Riesling, Pinot Noir (known as Spätburgunder), Pinot Gris (or Grauburgunder) and more. Among the very best are dry wines classified as Grosses Gewächs, or “great growths,” GG for short.
They represent standout dry expressions of exemplary single vineyards known as Grosse Lage, Germany’s version of the grand cru. These are recognized for historically producing wines of distinction.
GG wines are produced in each of Germany’s 13 wine regions. They must contain no more than nine grams per liter of residual sugar, adhere to strict quality and production guidelines and utilize only specific grape varieties classic to each region.
The VDP’s GG framework was formed by a coalition of enterprising Rheingau winegrowers known as the Charta. In the 1980s, the Charta advocated a region wide focus on high-quality, dry Riesling production and the resurrection of historic vineyard classifications that link wine quality with provenance, not sugar levels. At the top of this classification were the Erstes Gewächs, which are comparable to premier cru, or first-growth, vineyards.
In recent years, German wine lovers, particularly Millennials or members of Gen-Z, most likely associate Rheinhessen with its cult-status dry wines and rock-star winemakers like Klaus Peter Keller or Phillip Wittmann. Until the turn of the 21st century, however, Rheinhessen was best known as Germany’s heartland for inexpensive, sweet bulk wines.
Blessed with ample sunshine and a warm, dry Mediterranean climate, the Pfalz is a focal point for Germany’s most powerful, sun-drenched GGs. While Riesling is the dominant variety here, the VDP also permits GG Spätburgunder and Weissburgunder.
Baden, Germany’s sun-kissed southernmost wine region, boasts a remarkable diversity of GG grape varieties of Burgundian heritage. The region is most known for Spätburgunder, Weissburgunder and Grauburgunder, but it also produces GG Riesling, Chardonnay and Lemberger.
It’s ironic that Franken, one of Germany’s most eminent producers of predominantly dry, terroir-transparent wines, is one of its least known. The region excels in svelte wines that are often powerfully mineral. Most loved is Franken’s soft-edged, luminous Silvaner, but Riesling, Spätburgunder and Weissburgunder round out the region’s four recognized GG varieties.
The incomparable finesse and electric edge of the Mosel’s noble sweet Rieslings link them inextricably to the identity of the region—so much so that legendary winegrowers like J.J. Prüm and Egon Müller do not produce any dry wines whatsoever.
Yet, the Mosel produces Rieslings in an unparalleled stylistic range. In recent years, the region is increasingly lauded for dry, full-bodied and steely GG-style wines made exclusively from Riesling.