The grape is an old variety, with its DNA fingerprinting dating it back to as old as the middle ages, around the 1600s when its first ever written records have been found and uncovered.
Being an old grape, and going through a lot of historical events of all these years, Sylvaner suffered several setbacks as well as economic booms and golden ages throughout its existence.
It is now one of them most well known and popularly grown white grape varieties in the world and some of the biggest exporters include Australia, France, Germany and the US, including of course other notable regions like Slovakia, Romania and Croatia among others that produce Sylvaner to an appreciable number.
When fully ripened, the grape produces rather fine wines that can reach to almost blandness when not controlled as far as its yields are concerned.
However, during good yields, the grape gives off some good quality grapes that have excellent musts. Sylvaner, because of this reason, and its high acidity, is preferred and used to a considerable extent as a blending grape.
History of Sylvaner
Sylvaner is an old variety that has been in cultivation in Central Europe at least since the ancient times, however, its first ever records go back to the middle ages.
Certain DNA analysis has given proofs that the grape was a cross of Traminer and Osterreich-Wiess, the ‘Austrian white’ variety.
For how long it has existed since then, we cannot be specific about it, however, since ‘hunnic’ varieties, which in this case is the Osterreich-Weiss, are ancient varieties, first being introduced by the Huns when they started settling down after pushing back Eastern Roman Empire’s territories around Romania and Hungary, we can thus be quite certain that the grape is of ancient lineage.
Sylvaner’s real history however, starts from the middle ages, around 1600s, during the existence of thirty years war that included a lot of Germanic states as its participating combatants.
During this time, since Austria was one of the main participants in the conflict, the grape seemed to have been transferred to such territories where it could be grown in comparatively safer environments.
It is thus thought, without any credible evidence really, that the grape came to Germany after the war ended, since there are records that state that the Country of Castell in Franconia, dated 5 April, 1659, cultivated the Sylvaner grape.
In the coming decades, the Sylvaner grape witnessed ups and downs through its German winemaking history. Being cultivated in a colder country than its southern European counterparts, the Sylvaner could never really be affected by the phylloxera epidemic that wrecked havoc with European vineyards in the 1880’s.
However, the grape underwent some major economic declines in the 1970s, when, after being Germany’s most planted wine variety; it got replaced by such varieties like the Muller-Thurgau.
The grape suffered a drastic decrease in its popularity during this time as other events started piling up; the grape lost its preference due to certain yields being over productive, resulting in the grape losing its characteristics and ultimately, changing tastes led to several of its wines being stopped arriving at a full stop.
Only some regions, however, like Franconia, still produce Sylvaner, its blending into Liebfraumilch being appreciated even today.
Ever since the disastrous 1970s, Sylvaner has, however, kept up its popularity index, simply because of the high quality characteristics it produces when cultivated in a proper manner and when its yields are set under control.
In recent decades, however, the Sylvaner has seen some resurgence in the Alsace region, especially with its varietal purpose being produced more rather than its blending one. In 2006, the grape was officially recognised as the first to be designated an Alsace Grand Cru.
Sylvaner wines can have certain differing traits and characteristics according to the region and soil the grape has been cultivated in.
Italian and Swiss Sylvaners typically have much lighter and crisper flavours than their Alsatian and Franken counterparts, and these can be paired up well with a lot of items from Germany and Italy.
An Alsatian onion tart or even simple desserts are things that should definitely be consumed well with a Sylvaner wine.
Editor-in-Chief and Wine Writer
Michael is an online enthusiast, with a lot of knowledge about online marketing. Traveling around the world to hunt for the perfect wine. Latest on Sicily, where Etna has a huge impact on the taste, which is strong with a bitter aftertaste for the youngest wines, but older wines are fantastic. Drinking wine, and writing about them, are one the passions. Remember to drink responsibly 🙂