THE STORY OF LIEBFRAUMILCH
One of Germany’s most famous wines is Liebfraumilch. However, its fame remains restricted to export markets and very few Germans would even consider buying bottle for even everyday consumption. This medium dry, fragrant, light, and quaffable wine is originally from the vineyards surrounding the Liebfrauenstift Church (Church of Our Lady) on the outskirts of the town of Worms on the Rhine River.
The fame of this wine can be traced back to charitable monks who made the wine and maintained the church. In centuries past pilgrims would call on the good monks, and received a glass of wine as refreshment. “Minch” which meant monk in Middle Ages gradually was corrupted to “milch” which means “milk” in German.
Eventually, with the help of thousands of pilgrims advertising the delicious wine’s properties and taste by word-of-mouth, the wine acquired a worldwide fame. Over time the name was usurped to Liebfraumilch. Soon demand outstripped supply and prompted unscrupulous shippers to blend wines that bore no resemblance to the original wine.
On April 29 1910 the Chamber of Commerce of Worms ruled that the name of Liebfraumilch could be used by any Hessian wine of good quality and really never specified the minimum requirements of good quality. This was the beginning of a rampage to produce Liebfraumulch, which had become a brand. The quality started to decline and watered down by the use of inferior grapes and products from other regions.
In the 1970’s, the German Wine Laws stipulated that the vineyard surrounding the Liebfrauenstift Church (Church of Our Lady) is a single vineyard and may be marketed as such under the name of Liebfrauenstift Kirchenstueck. The walled vineyard is owned by two shipeprs; Langenbach and Valckenberg. Both produce their own versions of the single vineyard Liebfrauenstift Kirchestueck and market, but the wine really is never great. The vineyard is on flatland, of river deposit soil, and the incessant traffic around the vineyard pollutes the air.
In 1989 authorities promulgated a law restricting permissible regions to four (Rheingau, Hessia, Nahe and Palatinate) and the wines must be made from Riesling, Silvaner, Muller-Thurgau and Kerner.
Hessia and Palatinate wines account for approximately 50 percent of the total output. Considering the fact that well over a million hectolitres (one hectolitre= 100 litres) were produced in 1990, the quantity represents a huge volume and income to shippers.
By law Liebfraumilch may contain a maximum of 18 grams of residual sugar per litre and if well made can be pleasant, fragrant and light. Today Liebrafaumilch is merely a brand name. The wine does not ages well and should be consumed within the year or two of harvest. Some shippers produce better quality than others. Blue Nun, Black Tower, Madonna and Hockprinz, are some of the brands available in export markets.
Liebfraumilch is really a refreshing thirst quencher that can be enjoyed on a sunny afternoon on the patio, or used to make a strawberry (blueberry, raspberry or pineapple) bowl for friends and family.
Summer fruit bowl recipe
1 bottle of Liebfraumilch of good quality
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 pint of strawberries, washed, hulled, quartered (raspberries, blueberries, or pineapple chunks)
1 oz Grand Marnier or Cointreau
1 bottle of Sparkling wine or sparkling water.
Dissolve sugar in wine.
Add berries and liqueur.
Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours preferably four.
Pour sparkling wine or water and serve.
Article contributed by Hrayr Berberoglu, a Professor Emeritus of Hospitality and Tourism Management specializing in Food and Beverage. Books by H. Berberoglu