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The Scheurebe Grape


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About Scheurebe

(Synonyms: Alzey S. 88, Dr Wagnerrebe, Sämling 88, Scheu 88)

Background

Map showing Scheurebe’s growing region in Europe

Scheurebe is a white-wine grape originated 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 but 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.

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Some Descriptions of Scheurebe Wines

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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. But there is the issue of sweetness. In principle, the label 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. Moreover, judgements about sweetness 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”.

In the end, by cutting away successively with the knives labelled “quality”, “price”, “availability”, and for this one “sweetness”, we wound up with only a couple of samples to suggest. If you have a taste for well off-dry “table wines”, you might find your personal scope rather more expansive.

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.


Pfeffingen Trocken Scheurebe
(They have several more-expensive Scheurebe bottlings; this is the one expressly labelled Trocken, meaning “Dry”.)

• This wine’s Wine Searcher “Tasting Notes” page.
• This wine’s CellarTracker review pages.
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks



J. Geil “Bechtheimer Heilig Kreuz” Kabinett Scheurebe

• This wine’s Wine Searcher “Tasting Notes” page.
• This wine’s CellarTracker review pages.
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks

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For a Splurge

We found no reasonably available Scheu wines better enough than those listed above as to justify a “splurge” price.

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This page was last modified on Monday, 23 March 2020, at 3:52 pm Pacific Time.