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At first glance, Müller-Thurgau and Gutedel have little in common. Gutedel Chasselas, which is called Chasselas in Switzerland and increasingly also in this country, is the oldest cultivated grape variety of all and already had the reputation of being a particularly noble variety in Germany, when the Riesling was still considered an unpleasant sour grape. Müller-Thurgau, on the other hand, was not crossed with Madeleine royale until the beginning of the 20th century by the Swiss grape breeder Hermann Müller in Geisenheim from Riesling and then further developed at the Wädenswil Research Institute, where it received its name in 1913. It has always been considered an easy-to-cultivate variety for everyday wines without special demands.
© Ziereisen Winery

The reputation of the Müller has hardly changed to this day, but that of the Gutedel has - despite dedicated producers here and there. And this is where the similarities begin: because both are being done an injustice.

The Gutedel 's undoing was that it has so little acidity. Under earlier climatic conditions, this lack of acidity was a decisive advantage, as Chasselas wines were also enjoyable in cool years - and they were once the rule - without plenty of sugar. But over time, the variety was pushed out of most growing areas; only the winegrowers of the Markgräflerland between Freiburg and the Swiss border held on to it.

Müller-Thurgau, on the other hand, enjoyed a triumphant success in the 20th century as a supplier of cheap, uncomplicated, drinkable wines from mass yields, which made it the most cultivated variety in Germany for a time, but at the same time cemented its reputation as an inferior grape variety. Today, Müller still occupies more than 10 percent of the vineyard area in the country. But in the meantime, more and more producers have recognised its potential - and not only in Franconia, where its reputation never quite slipped as far as elsewhere.

For a long time, Chasselas production in the Markgräflerland was firmly in the hands of cooperatives that had little interest in pressing a sophisticated wine from it, which did not exactly help its reputation. Soon, this noble old variety, whose quality and ripening ability was never in doubt in Switzerland, had the reputation in Germany of being a supplier of banal wine with no potential for development. Even the German Wine Institute spreads the fairy tale on its homepage that Gutedel cannot mature because of its low acidity. In practice, the lack of ripeness was mostly true, but it was less due to the lack of acidity than to the commitment of the producers.

Today, excellent wines are produced from Gutedel in the Markgräflerland region and from Müller-Thurgau, especially in Franconia and Baden, but occasionally also in other regions, but unfortunately largely to the exclusion of the public. And, of course, under the suspicious gaze of Riesling apologists who believe they have the right to interpret the quality of wines in general and grape varieties in particular, and who often have nothing but derision for wines without a conspicuous acid bite, which one can be glad of if it is only mild. Because Müller doesn't tend to be overly acidic either. As with Gutedel, its strengths clearly lie in the quiet tones. Müller-Thurgau, nowadays also called Rivaner, can be vinified to a certain aromatic loudness, but the better qualities are basically based on delicacy, subtle aromatics and elegance.

The aromatic inconspicuousness of the Gutedel is inherent. This makes it the uncomplicated everyday wine for which the variety is known to some extent today. Its strengths, however, come from first-class terroir, low yields and, last but not least, long ageing on the lees, which ideally also gives it the ability to develop that is so often denied to it. It's a very similar story with Müller-Thurgau. Its demands on the location are not high - you can get a drinkable wine from it anywhere - but it rewards greater attention and better locations all the more; it can also be used to produce serious, independent, surprisingly complex wines by means of a long lees ageing.

And the two varieties have one more thing in common: first-class dry wines are produced from them even with relatively low must weights and thus low alcohol. Remarkable Gutedel often manages with as little as 11 percent by volume, sometimes even less. Müller - with a few exceptions - is perhaps not quite as frugal, but here, too, things can get exciting from 11.5% at the latest. Especially the wines that have been aged on their lees for a long time can achieve a power, depth and complexity that is hard to believe when you look at the alcohol content, and yet they often remain light-footed and delicate. Both varieties are thus also excellently suited for ageing as natural or orange wines, for which mash fermentation, long skin contact, low sulphur and the renunciation of filtration are obligatory.

Both have committed advocates again today. Winegrowers who care about making first-class wines out of these often misunderstood varieties. They often appear just as reserved as their wines, they rely on profundity and quiet tones and are therefore often still not heard enough. It is high time to change that.

Wine lovers should also look for these wines again, if only with an eye on their wallets. Remarkable Gutedel and Müller-Thurgau are often available for well under 10 euros. First-class examples can be had for a little more. Anyone who misses out on this is really only to blame.

We have tasted almost 100 Müller-Thurgau and Gutedel in the past few weeks, and we present the best of them here. Links to all the results, detailed tasting notes and the producers can be found at the end of each of the best lists.

In Focus: Gutedel and Müller-Thurgau Müller-Thurgau

In Focus: Gutedel and Müller-Thurgau Gutedel