Müller-Thurgau was created in 1882 in Geisenheim by Professor Hermann Müller from Thurgau in Switzerland. It was long assumed to be a cross between Riesling and Silvaner (hence “Rivaner”), however, this was disproved by genetic analysis some time ago. The real “parents” are Riesling and Madeleine Royale.
Müller-Thurgau wine grape is a white variety used predominantly in Germany. Also commonly known as Rivaner, Müller-Thurgau is the second most planted grape in Germany.
Few wine experts have kind things to say about Müller-Thurgau, and the variety is consistently blamed for producing the bland, off-dry style of white wine that dominated Germany until the 1980s.
At one point more Müller-Thurgau came out of Germany than any other wine, but in the 1980s and 1990s commercial tastes changed and the variety became massively unpopular. Consequently, much of Germany’s Müller-Thurgau has been pulled up and replaced with higher-quality varieties such as Riesling and Silvaner. Though Müller-Thurgau is a much-maligned wine grape, its role in rebuilding the German wine industry after World War II should not be overlooked. With the economy and infrastructure in tatters, post-war Germany needed an easy and productive vine to reinvigorate viticulture production.
It yields about 30% more than Riesling and ripens quite early - usually in the beginning of the harvest. While it requires less sun and makes few demands of the climate, it does need more rain than Riesling, as well as soil with good drainage. They generally thrive best on the east facing slopes of the vineyards which are at a height of 550-650m above the sea level and have calcareous soils. The grapes are carefully picked and de-stemming of the ripe and healthy grapes is done. The grapes are slowly pressed to extract the must.
They are then allowed to undergo fermentation by the process of natural staying in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature of 16°C. They are then allowed to age for 4 months on fine lees.
Müller-Thurgau was that variety, and although it ultimately led to four decades of cheap and sweet German wines, the impetus provided by Müller-Thurgau gave Germany the opportunity to rebuild its vinous reputation from the ground up. Varietal Müller-Thurgau wines often have sweet peach aromas with low acid and a range of fruity flavours. They are almost always best consumed young, with the notable exception of those in northern Italy, where the combination of old vines and steep, elevated vineyards make for more serious expressions with greater ageing potential.
Müller Thurgau has found its ideal habitat in Trentino-Alto Adige, but also in Adige Valley and in the Isarco Valley. The main denominations in Italy are: Alto Adige Müller Thurgau DOC, Trentino Müller Thurgau DOC, Vigneti delle Dolomiti Müller Thurgau IGT.
Trentino Müller Thurgau DOC is one of the designations that best represents the homonymous grapes of German origin. The production is mostly concentrated in the narrow Val di Cembra which, with the typically alpine thermal excursions and always optimal solar exposure, has become the ideal habitat for its cultivation. Here the slopes are high, indeed very high: the 900 hectares of vineyards are necessarily organized in terracing between 500 and 700 m above sea level, in a strip that, from the climatic point of view, can easily be defined as a mountain.
Müller-Thurgau pairs well with light dishes, vegetable dishes, and salads. It also does an excellent pairing with spicy Asian and tropical food, sushi, seafood, plain fish, grilled fish, grilled chicken or pork and of course, pasta with light sauces.
It tastes best when served at a temperature of 10°-12°C and can also be paired with soft cheeses, onion tart mushrooms with coconut, lime leaf, ginger and lemongrass etc. It serves as an excellent aperitif.