Elbling is a German white variety grape that is mostly grown in the Mosel region of northern Germany, near the river Moselle.
It is a fairly old grape and occupies quite a lot of history of German winemaking. Once a time existed when Elbling occupied almost all of German vineyards starting from the medieval era till the 10th century, after which it has witnessed the gradual decline.
Today, some 1,440 acres of vineyards cultivated Elbling according to the 2006 data, that amounts to only 0.6% of German vineyards.
Historically pretty old and believe to have been introduced by the Romans, Elbling indeed is the oldest white variety in Europe, although it’s no more a dominant grape.
On the tongue, it is typical of sparkling wines and has a high acid content but low alcohol. Once the most populous grape in Luxembourg, it’s no more seen there.
As anybody might expect, Elbling gives off wines with low sugars and fairly neutral in character that can be paired up with a lot of sweet items.
History of Elbling
Elbling is quite an old variety, its history as most ampelographers believe, going back to Roman times. The area around Moselle itself is an ancient region, called back then as Gallia Belgica in Latin, from which ‘Belgium’ has been derived.
The river of Moselle was called back then as Mosella. Being a very fertile and a relatively peaceful province, Gallia Belgica was an agricultural province that used to supply wine and related products throughout the whole of Roman Gaul.
Henceforth, Moselle has been producing wines ever since. The exact origins of Elbling are missing, but there are some records in Latin that describe a grape called ‘vitisalba’.
Quite a few disagree that this is the same Elbling known back then as Vitis Alba, as described in great detail by Pliny the Elder in his De re rustica.
DNA analysis has shown Elbling is an offspring of Gouais Blanc and a cross between Traminer and an unknown variety.
This analysis is important since Traminer itself is an ancient grape and shares the parentage with Riesling. This parentage makes it very likely for Elbling to have been originated in the Rhine area, the same for Riesling.
Although Elbling occupies only 0.6% of German vineyards, it has, owing to its ancient lineage, earned quite a lot of names in Germany itself.
The list is long, however the most common synonyms include Alben, Albana, Burgauer, Elben, Elbling Weiss, HeunischGreuen, Grossriesling, Rheinelbe among many others.
Elbling’s viticulture can be described from the climate and topography surrounding the Mosel river.This area is characterised by a continental cool climate with steep hillsides surrounding the area.
Valleys and lush green farmlands populate the cold Mosel region and so does the moderate loamy soil that is characteristic of Mosel.
Elbling therefore, grows the best in such climates that have loamy soil. Being an offspring of Riesling, its growing conditions are pretty similar to the latter grape, preferring nicely irrigated vineyards, else the grape would turn out be extremely acidic if less irrigated or extremely bland and watery if over-irrigated.
The grape is not very resistant to viticulture hazards like pests and fungal infections, and winemakers keep a thing like the ‘noble rot’ away since that is desirable only for sweet grapes.
It is, however resistant to the cold climate of Germany because of centuries of adaptation. When ripe, Elbling gives off neutral wines with low alcohol and notes of several herbs and unripe fruits.
Caution needs to be observed, though because of the yield of the grape. It’s not very productive and this probably one of the main reasons why German winemakers have pretty much abandoned this once populous variety.
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