A Beginner’s Guide to Elbling: Germany’s Great Grape

Relatively unknown in the United States, Elbling is a grape grown in northern Germany and parts of Luxembourg. Coveted for its ability to grow in areas where more finicky grapes will not, Elbling produces refreshing white wines with balanced minerality, bright acidity, and verve. 

History of Elbling 

Elbing is an ancient grape and evidence for its use dates back to at least the Romans if not earlier. Originally found throughout Germany, today Elbling is found in the limestone rich river valley of the Upper Mosel. Related to Rieseling, Elbling has a crunchy fresh flavor, low sugar content, and high acidity that makes for crushable wines. Despite how delicious these wines are, Elbling is in decline. Until the early 20th century, Elbling was the most cultivated grape in Germany, but today is only a small fraction of the wine grape market. As of 2006, less than 1500 acres of Elbing were grown in Germany with over 98% grown in the Upper Mosel. 

Image Credit: Flicker user multipel_bleibenCC BY-NC-ND 2.0 )

With a fairly low sugar and alcohol content, Elbling was traditionally seen as the workman’s wine. Found in homes across Germany, Elbling was the casual table wine that few wineries thought to export. Today, however, that sentiment may be changing. Bright, tangy, low alcohol wines are becoming more popular and Elbling fits the bill. While the offerings of Elbling are low in the United States, there are a few companies importing this festive wine. Hild’s Elbling Trocken is bright and acidic with a slight effervescence that just feels fun. Furst’s Elbling is dry and sharp with a low alcohol content and price tag to match. 

If we had to bet, Elbling’s decline will not last. If anything, we would guess this wine will only become more popular. A wine that is refreshing, fun, low priced, and easy to pair with potato chips or grilled branzino? It’s probably time to order a case. As mentioned, Elbling can be tough to find, especially at chain stores or from big box retailers. Opt instead for small local distributors or wine stores that ship nationwide such as Kingston Wine. 

Feature Image: Manfred Richter from Pixabay 

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