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Müller-Thurgau


International Varieties: Chardonnay   Gewürztraminer   Muscat   Pinot Gris   Riesling   Sauvignon Blanc

Major Varieties:   Airén    Chenin Blanc    Grüner Veltliner    Müller-Thurgau    Pinot Blanc    Sémillon    Silvaner    Trebbiano    Viognier

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Muller-Thurgau grapes

Müller-Thurgau grapes.
Photo by Rosenzweig on Wikipedia.
Licensing information can be found here.

One of the more prominent modern grape crossings, Müller-Thurgau is a blend of Riesling and a lesser-known grape called Madeleine Royale. Named after Thurgau, Switzerland, by the Swiss botanist Hermann Müller, the grape is in decline in Germany. However, plantings of Müller-Thurgau have spread around the world.

A bit of history is necessary in the introduction of the grape. Müller, a botanist, created it to combine the acidity and intensity of the Riesling grape with the early-ripening, versatile tendencies of Silvaner-like grape Madeleine Royale. (Madeleine is so similar to Silvaner that most people thought Silvaner was Müller's parent--until recent DNA testing confirmed it isn't.) This idea was largely successful, despite the sacrifice evident by blending the two grapes. Winemakers loved the grape's versatility, and it became Germany's most planted--until 1979. That year, a freeze wiped out Müller plantings (for some reason, the grape is more sensitive to freezing than Riesling and others) and heralded a return of older, more durable grapes.

The early, high yields make Müller-Thurgau a fantasy for winemakers, as they can keep costs down and bring profits up. The high-quality examples combine medium acidity with a refreshing fruity bouquet. But the grape still has reputation problems due to its use in poorly-regarded Liebfraumilch.

The grape is second to Riesling in German plantings. Müller-Thurgau is found mostly in the Rheinhessen, but has a good hold in Franconia and Mosel as well. The high hills of Switzerland can produce some good examples. Trentino, Italy has had surprising success with the grape. England often produces good examples, as the chilly climate can make Müller into a quality wine. Other growers include the Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Hungary, Austria, Slovakia, and Croatia.