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(Synonyms: Alzey S. 88, Dr. Wagnerrebe, S 88, Sämling, Sämling 88, Scheu, Scheu 88, Scheu Riesling)
Scheurebe is a white-wine grape originating in Germany in 1916 as a deliberate crossing of Riesling with another wine grape (now unknown) by viticilturist Dr. Georg Scheu, after whom the type is named (it is also commonly called Sämling 88—Seedling 88—from its designation in his experiments). The grape is now grown widely in Germany and Austria, to a much lesser extent in Switzerland, and to a small extent in parts of the new World: the Pacific Northwest of the U.S., and Western Australia.
Scheurebe wines bear some similarity to Riesling, but typically have a distinctly more intense flavor. A quotation widely repeated about "Scheu" (as it is informally and commonly called) is from noted importer Terry Theise:
Scheurebe is Riesling just after it read the Kama Sutra. Put another way, Scheu is what Riesling would be if Riesling were a transvestite. If Riesling expresses all that is Noble and Good, Scheu offers all that is Dirty and Fun. It is Riesling's evil, horny twin.
As with any grape, Scheurebe needs to be treated well to produce its best wines. The chief common flaw is making the wine from under-ripe grapes. Like a number of white-wine grapes, the challenge in the vineyard is balancing ripeness (for flavor) with sugars (which determine alcohol content); Scheurebe, like most such grapes, is thus conveniently made into an off-dry or outright sweet wine by stopping fermentation before all the sugars are converted to alcohol (if they were, the alcohol content would be too high). Making a high-quality but dry Scheu is a challenge, but, when met, produces some thoroughly outstanding wines.
Typical descriptions of the better wines from Scheurebe include a definite grapefruit aroma and flavor, plus an overlay of black currant. The off-dry types also, unsurprisingly, exhibit a honeyed quality. It is, as noted, in many ways like Riesling with more intensity.
Scheurebe's planting acreage had been slowly declining, but that trend may now be reversing, owing to the gradual but definite shift in world tastes away from sweet wines and toward dry table wines. First-class dry Scheurebe is one of the world's great white wines (and, like other high-acid whites, it can and will age very well).
Factoid: Scheurebe's other parent was long thought to be Silvaner, but DNA analysis eliminated that possibility; it is possible that the unknown parent was a wild vine.
Some Descriptions of Scheurebe Wines
"When produced from fully ripe grapes, Scheurebe wines are dominated by rich blackcurrant aromas supplemented by grapefruit. Well-made dry Scheurebe wines can be quite full-bodied, but dry wines made from not fully ripe grapes tend to be dominated by the grapefruit component, and display it in an aggressive manner which makes for a clumsy, unattractive wine. Scheurebe therefore tends to be easier to use for sweet wines made from grapes that are fully ripe, overripe or affected by noble rot. Well-made sweet Scheurebe wines can show intense aromas of blood grape and honey. It has been pointed out that Scheurebe retains quite a bit of Riesling character, although it is somewhat less acidic and can tend to be more clumsy. Just as Riesling, its wines tend to show terroir variation, and it has been called the single new breed variety of German origin that deserves serious attention for the quality of its wines."
"Scheurebe wine yields grapefruit, sage, and cassis notes, with varying degrees of mineral, acid, and sugar. You can sometimes find aromas of lemongrass, passion fruit, and papaya, as well. It’s a beautiful pairing with Asian food and cheese, or just as a summer refresher. . . Bartholomew Broadbent, CEO of Broadbent Selections, explains: 'It is a lovely wine, extremely appealing to the Riesling drinker who claims not to want to drink Riesling. Its biggest barrier is that the name is difficult to pronounce for the average consumer and it is little known. However, to the wine geek, this wine is an extremely exciting discovery.'"
- Jancis Robinson
"If the site and weather are such that the grapes ripen fully the wine can taste most appetisingly of blackcurrants or even rich grapefruit. Some Pfalz producers are prouder of their 'Scheu' than their Riesling. Acidity levels are very good, although the wines are unlikely to age as well as Riesling. Yields are not as high as most new crossings but the right site can yield BA and TBA wines as often as Nature obliges, and Spätlese trocken examples can also be very fine. Burgenland in Austria also produces some successful late picked examples from the variety, known here as Sämling 88."
- Wine Searcher
"It is most commonly produced as varietal white wine that may sit anywhere on the sweetness spectrum, from bone dry right through to lusciously sweet Trockenbeerenauslese. . As a wine Scheurebe typically either displays blackcurrant and herbal flavors with a hint of citrus, or more obvious pink grapefruit, lemon and honeysuckle characteristics. . In the vineyard Scheurebe is high yielding with slightly less acidity than Riesling. The best wines come from vines that have reached full maturity, as Scheurebe picked early can be quite unpleasant. It is an aromatic variety with good aging potential."
"Wines from the Scheurebe grape are offered in all quality levels and styles. Especially young vintners like to make dry Scheurebe wines, using this variety to showcase their origins. Scheurebe wines are noted for their pronounced varietal bouquet and a harmonious combination of stimulating acidity and fine, fruity sweetness. The variety's aroma is reminiscent of black currants (cassis), less frequently of mangos, tangerines, limes, peaches or very ripe pears. The noble sweet versions are noted for their long storage life and show an imposing peach or intense rose bouquet after several years. "
"It makes wines that are crisp due to its lively acidity, very aromatic and are very fruity. Wines made from Scheurebe are often described as having a hint of blackberries in flavor."
- Wine Geeks
"Scheurebe, or Scheu as it often called, is one of the greatest and most successful of all the German hybrid grapes. It has the productivity of Silvaner, is resistant to frost and cold, and when fully ripe can produce lovely wines with a balance of fruit, sugars and acidity. Scheurebe can improve for many years in bottle and takes well to Noble Rot. Because it can grow on slightly less favorable sites than Riesling it is often less expensive, even in Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese form. Dry versions of Scheurebe are high in natural acidity and heavy with aromas and flavors of stone and citrus fruits, though it retains a high level of ripeness and therefore residual sugar."
- Your Wine IQ
"The best dry Scheurebes are flavor bombs, filled with aromas of deep, red-winey currant and, ideally, just the right amount of grapefruit. In bad vintages, though, Scheurebe can be too grapefruity, and so many producers often prefer to make sweet wines. Botrytized Scheurebe is among the sweet styles made from this grape; these examples often show strong honey flavors."
- Wines of Germany
"Its intense bouquet is reminiscent of black currant, peach or ripe pear. Scheurebe wines go very well with aromatic, spicy foods from appetizer to dessert."
- California Winery Advisory
"Scheurebe makes wines that are crisp due to its high acidity, very aromatic and are very fruity. Wines made from Scheurebe are often described as having a hint of blackberries. It is grown almost exclusively in Germany and represents less than 5% of the vines there. Small blocks of Scheurebe can be found in Napa Valley, Virginia, southern Ontario and on a very small scale in British Columbia. Scheurebe ripens in early October, but the late-harvested wines of this grape are those that are treasured most. Scheurebe wines have full body, pronounced acidity and a bouquet and taste reminiscent of black currants."
Some Scheurebes to Try
(About this list.)
Even within our price range of under $20, there are numerous Scheurebes to be found, though many of them are only in limited availability. There is also the issue of sweetness. In principle, the lable will indicate that, but as Martin Amis famously observed, "A German wine label is one of the things life is too short for." And the complexities of how various terms are applied on those labels doesn't help. We recommend that you pay especial care to the various descriptions we present for each wine for clues as to its sweetness, remembering that such judgements tend to be rather subjective: one person's "slightly off-dry" is going to be someone else's "cloying". We have tried to stick to wines that can be drunk with food, which is to say wines that may or may not have a touch of sweetness, buat are definitely "table wines".
We should note that for many of these wines, there is very little press. In part, that is because there isn't much press—in English—for Scheurebe in general; but beyond that, most of the really good specimens are, as with many middle-European whites (such as Riesling) not inexpensive, so the ones that get write-ups are largely the ones beyond our adopted upper limit of $20. So don't equate quality with extent of coverage.
The quotations below are excerpts; we strenuously urge you to click on the green diamond ♦ symbol by each quoted review to see the full article.
- Weingut Louis Konstantin Guntrum Scheurebe, $11 - $16.
(Guntrum seems to have two Scheurebe bottlings; judge by the price level.)
($11.94 at Saratoga Wine Exchange).
Some quotations and facts:
The appealing nose of lemony-lime aromas features a hint of honey. This medium-sweet wine with a gripping crispness is fairly light-bodied and slightly loose-knit, but refreshing, with moderately intense flavors of citrus cocktail. A nice earthy kick chimes in on the finish. 88 points.
It's 8.5 percent alcohol and has a medium ring-gold hue. The aroma is lychee fruit with a little cabinet spice. The taste is light, clean and slightly sweet. I suspect that it's harder to find, but with its naturally sweet and exotic character combined with a little extra age, it's a fascinating choice for this food fight. 85 points.
My concert companions seemed to enjoy the wine, though one remarked, “It does its business and it skitters off.” Certainly not condemnation, but not high praise, either. I sniffed it with some suspicion, but the fresh, apply aroma mixed with something tropical drew me right in. On the palate, it started sweet and apply before showing a distinct prickle on the tongue. It was almost sparkling. As it developed, it became more and more tart, with grapefruity acids, until it resolved into a tight finish. This Scheurebe was a little too acidic for my taste, but at only 10.5% alcohol, it was easy and fun to drink. It certainly felt refreshing in the heat. . . I’m not sure what Louis Guntrum was going for with this Scheurebe, but I can tell you that it’s worth trying if you come across a bottle. If you find a sweeter version, by all means, buy it! The drier versions, such as the one described above, won’t appeal to everyone, but if you enjoy Portuguese Vinho Verde, for example, this will be right up your alley. Grade B-
Nose with stone fruit, apple and spice. Some residual sugar on the palate. More than I would have expected from looking at the specs, but it is not overwhelming and the finish is fairly dry. Apple, peach and apricot on the palate with a touch of spice with good balance and a touch of sweetness. Great aperitif that will lay down for years, likely picking up some additional sweetness, but certain to develop some interesting flavors.
The perfect bottle for [Valentine's Day] is Louis Guntrum's Scheurebe. Not only is it a very good white wine but it comes in the quintessentially perfect Valentine presentation of a bright red bottle! The Scheurebe grape is similar in character to Riesling but perhaps more food friendly. It is the right price at $16.99 to gift along with a lovely box of chocolates. So, not only does this wine go well with a lovely dinner but it has enough richness but a dry enough finish to pair well with chocolate!
- Weingut Oekonomierat J. Geil Bechtheimer Heilig Kreuz Kabinett Scheurebe, $12 - $19.
($14.64 at Saratoga Wine Exchange).
Some quotations and facts:
This is a highly aromatic wine – with fruit coming into precise focus. Where a Riesling might tend more toward apple, pear and peach – this was so obviously orange Creamsicle and red currant. The profound expression of red currant here is moreso than any red wine I’ve ever had. Some jasmine too. On the palate the wine is a swell ride: it moves from the well-concentrated, ripe fruit through a touch or orange-pip-bitterness and comes to a close with firm acidic lift. It’s definitely on the riper side, but Geil nailed the balance. . . This is definitely not a curiousity – This this is real, solid wine that I will certainly revisit and experiment with.
Fruity and herbal, varietally correct Scheurebe. A little sweet, but not in any way cloying or sticky. Easy to drink on a summer afternoon. Honestly this is pretty much what a basic bottle of wine is all about - refreshing and pleasing as an accompaniment to the sun breaking through a weekend's worth of clouds.
Wine Advocate 9date unknown), 87 points.
The 2007 Bechtheimer Heiligkreuz Scheurebe Kabinett smells of lemon, pink grapefruit, blackcurrant, and mint (in short, the full Scheurebe retinue), skips lightly and bracingly across the palate, and finishes with succulence and subtle sweetness, tangy pineapple joining the earlier cast of flavor characters. While a bit sweet to serve as a Sauvignon substitute (a suitable role for dry renditions of Scheurebe – to the extent you can find any), this will nevertheless prove highly versatile at table for anyone who retains an open and experimental mind.
Fun nose of almonds, peaches, mango, dry hay, stones, and a little watermelon jolly rancher. Creamy and full with a nice backbone. Delivers the fruit on the front end and brings chalk and stone with a nice herbal quality into it's moderately lingering finish. This will drink well with just about anything during the grilling season and at 11% why would you not have a few in the fridge, cooler, yada.. (90 pts.)
[T]he first bottle I got into myself was one that has been a favorite of ours for awhile, the Geil Scheurebe Kabinett. It was every bit as refreshingly different and new as I remember it. I think of it sort of like a palate reset button…it’s really like nothing else, but still familiar…different without being so far out in left field that you wonder if it’s a lab-grown muscat clone from Turkmenistan. . I could not help but find it deliciously compelling. For me it was like a blend of Gruner Veltliner and Muscat, having the spicy almost spritzy sensation on the palate that Gruner can give, like acupuncture on the tongue to reawaken its life, standing it up to be accompanied by the white spring flowers and honey suckle dew sprightliness of a sort of Muscat like flavor sensation. Odd when in fact Scheurebe has nothing to do with either of these two other grapes. It is delicious, it is lively and it is a little more serious than simply fun.
Exotic fruit cocktail of a wine, sweet oranges, mangoes, a limey note from the excellent acids. Not very long, but very good for $12-13 I paid for this. B+/B
Light yellow color; tart apple, chalk nose; delicate, tart apple, chalk palate; medium-plus finish. 90+ points.
I enjoyed the 2009 Johann Geil Bechtheimer Heilig-Kreuz Scheurebe Kabinett more for less than half the price [of another Scheurebe].
- Weingut Gernot Gysler Halbtrocken Scheurebe, $13 - $20 (1 litre).
($16.34 at Saratoga Wine Exchange).
Some quotations and facts:
The nose was aromatic with herbs then became somewhat tight. The flavors were vibrant on the tongue then sweet sage and fruit came out. The flavors of fresh herbs continued as the wine took on some glycerine. Unique!
This is like QPR squared. . . Mango, green mango, papaya, a hint of apple, lots of limestone. Medium-light bodied medium-light bodied in the mouth with a sense that the wine is crisp, but then there is a surprisingly long finish. Hint of sweetness and residual sugar, but not a sweet wine by any means. Tasted and bought a half-case. Will surely buy another half-case before mid-summer. 88 points and a bafflingly good QPR.
It has essentially a Riesling structure with good firmness and citrusy notes. Start with pink grapefruit notes, add cassis, sage, lemongrass, passion-fruit and papaya, and you have one sassy Schreube. That citrusy sweetness is a great match for spicy food. Halbtrocken is German for “half-dry” or “medium-dry,” pertaining to wines that are sweeter than Trocken (dry) wines.
The 2012 Gysler Scheurebe from Germany’s Rheinhessen region is another of those one liter bottle cheapies meant to appeal to the value consumer and actually deliver great wine at the same time. For a Halbtrocken it could have a little more residual sugar for the fun factor but no real complaints, quite nice for the $17 paid.
The ripeness window for Scheurebe was wide open in 2004; this has more acidity than typical ripe Scheurebe and it has riper fruit than typical Scheurebe that is sufficiently acidic. The effect is a mass of opulent grapefruit flavor that invites favorable comparisons to costly, tricked-up New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
After pouring a cellar-temperature glass in my warm home office with the fan running, I finally experienced that "cat pee" odor in the air that others have so eloquently described in other varieties [such as Sauvignon Blanc]. Oddly pleasant even though I'm not a cat owner! Tangy scent of grapefruit and that "pee" on the nose. Full, minerally, grass and lime fruit on the palate. Just enough acidity to balance the fruit and minerals. Nice length. Not sure how to match this one up with food. This is a very well-made wine for the price. A bit of a surprise with regard to intensity and flavor profile for a shoo. Sense of sweetness: two out of four.
THE MOST DROOLINGLY STUPID_TOTAL_FUN WINE: Gysler Scheurebe Halbtrocken LITER
- Weingut Pfeffingen Dry Scheurebe, $16 - $20.
(Pfeffingen has several Scheurebe bottlings; this is the one expressly labelled "Dry". The others are also good, but more expensive.)
Some quotations and facts:
Published reviews (at least in English) talk much about Pfeffingen's Scheurebe wines, but mostly about the somewhat more upscale bottlings, notably their Spätleses; the "Dry" gets little press, though Weingut Pfeffingen is reknowned as a grower and maker of Scheurebe. We have presented below what comments we could glean. You could also check CellarTracker.
Who makes the best? I think you can obtain Pfeffingen/Pfalz in the United States.
I tend to like the more tamed and disciplined versions. Stuff like Pfeffingen's Scheurebe Trocken with its layered herbs and jaggedness.
Vinny Eng of Bar Tartine came [for Thanksgiving dinner] bearing unicorns: that is, the unicorn label on Pfeffingen 2011 Dry Scheurebe, a crazy-aromatic tropical-scented wine from the Pfalz in Germany that sells for under $20. "What I love about this wine is how piercing the minerality is," said Vinny. "Floral wines can get weighty, but there's an angularity to this that makes it versatile with food, plus it has just a little residual sugar, which means it will be good for dishes that have more sweetness, like the sweet potatoes." Though some found the pineapple scent of this wine a little distracting, the flavors were a slam-dunk with sweet potatoes and it really popped with orange and cranberry relish. "The citrus and scheurebe combo is wild," noted one guest, "It kind of screams holiday, in a psychedelic way." Some wondered if a Scheurebe with a touch more sugar would work even better.
lychee, pineapple, yellow plum, white pepper
It yields a wine that is creamy and fruity at the same time. . . I find this wine fascinating; it shares so many nuances similar to Riesling, yet is a bit fuller and creamier.
- Darting Dürkheimer Fronhof Kabinett Scheurebe, $15 - $20.
(This is not the same as their Ungsteiner Honigsackel Spätlese bottling.)
($17.54 at Saratoga Wine Exchange).
Some quotations and facts:
This is another maker with a strong following but little press, at least for this particular bottling.
Kurt Darting’s 2006 Dürkheimer Fronhof Kabinett halbtrocken, from the Pfalz, seemed to me to be a classic example of scheurebe as a table wine: rich in texture, fairly high in alcohol and slightly botrytized, with a crisp core of acidity holding everything in place.
The nose was expressively floral with honeysuckle, honey, apricot, peach and grapefruit aromas. On the palate, the wine was full bodied with a rich, oily texture. It was off-dry (you can see that the label specifies "halbtrocken" or "half-dry" in German, though this was a hefty 12.5% alcohol) with nice acidity. There were ripe stone fruit flavors of apricot and peach with very ripe grapefruit and honeysuckle flowers. If I didn't know better, I would think that these grapes may have had a botrytis influence, but it's hard to get that in a Kabinett level wine. This was so rich and luscious though just barely sweet. It was somewhere between a German Riesling and fully ripe Alsatian Gewurztraminer and I thought it was just phenomenal.
Wonderful wine! Hint of sweetness! Touch of spiciness - this is Scheurebe trait! Lots of fruit flavors and aromas - citrus, pink grapefruit, apricot and even blackberries. The spiciness is peppery. Crisp. Refreshing. . Halbtrocken means "half- dry" or "off-dry." "Halbtrocken - more often achieves the right balance of fullness and bite," Hugh Johnson wrote in his Modern Encyclopedia of Wine.
- Hans Wirsching Kabinett Iphöfer Kronsberg Trocken Scheurebe, $19 - $25.
(Like many makers of Scheu, Wirsching has several bottlings, so mind which is what.)
Some quotations and facts:
This was a pale straw color in the glass. The medium-strength nose pierces through with aromas of dry herbs and minerals. In the mouth, the lighter white fruit attacks the tip of the tongue with acidity, citrus flavors, minerals, and a touch of spice as it warms up. The finish puckers the mouth making for bracing stuff! Finished with a screwcap and at 12% ABV.
Hans Wirsching's version is dry and crisp. Fresh and light, with lots of flowers—honey suckle, orange blossom, citrus flowers, then the grapefruit, lemon, and fresh apricot on the palate with lots of minerality.
For me, this is a great expression of Scheurebe to work with because of its approachability for the myriad of guests who've never been exposed to this varietal. On the nose, it's a bit restrained, showing only muted citrus skins and a ton of minerality. On the palate, it gives it all up: fresh citrus juice, delicate high-toned menthol qualities, a surprising bit of weight on the mid-palate, and a slightly lees-y, hoppy finish, while still maintaining all that pure fruit. It's incredible and delicate yet still layered gorgeously.
Currants, citrus and minerals on the nose. Really awesome nose. Great acids on this. Lively and elegant and oh so appealing.
An interesting nose with grapefruit and lemon sherbert notes. Zesty and zingy on the attack. Fills out nicely into quite a rich palate. Very good length.
For a Splurge
If one puts aside the many much-praised (and profoundly expensive) dessert wines from Scheurebe, there remain several bottlings that come much recommended but above our nominal price limit of $20. Of those, one that seems generally accepted as a real champion is
Müller-Catoir's Haardt Scheurebe Kabinett Trocken, which retails in the wide range of $22 to $37. It is generally described as having "no discernible sweetness".
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