You can be a little dismissive about Liebfraumilch, but there is no denying that it is one of the top-selling wines in many countries and a famous product of Germany. Though the wine may be famous abroad, it does not hold the same kind of stature back in Deutschland, and you will rarely find wine drinkers that buy it even for the occasional drink at home.
Liebfraumilch is mainly produced for the export market and comes from the regions of Palatinate, Rheinhessen, and Nahe. The word was originally spelled as Liebfraumilch. It is a name that was given to all wines produced in the Liebfrauenkirche vineyards in the city of Worms in Rhineland-Palatinate.
The name is now used as a generic term to market vintages produced in the major winemaking areas of Germany, the only exception for this classification being Mosel. Wine made from a higher quality of grapes but with the same characteristics is labeled as Auslese or Spatlese. One of the main examples of this is the Blue Nun that is not referred to by the Liebfraumilch term anymore.
Be sure also to check out “Uncorked: Auslese Riesling” for a look at the Auslese Riesling as well.
Liebfraumilch: The Story
Liebfraumilch is one of those cheap sweet wines that go well with dessert. For a wine to be named as such, the grapes used to make it should be strictly Muller-Thurgau, though winemakers also use Silvaner and Riesling. The nose is not complex and has an aroma of apple. The palate is mellow and tasty. The wine as a flavor that is creamy and sweet with little acidity and a light body. The aftertaste is of a honey finish, with a bit too much residual sugar. Check out what kind of grapes go into a bottle of wine in “Best Grapes for Making Wine“.
Liebfraumilch was not always the kind of wine we now know it to be. At the beginning of production, the wine fetched a good price and sold cases in the millions. It first rose to prominence in the 1700s. During this time, the charitable monks that watched over the church would make this wine and serve it to pilgrims who visited the area. It was a wine that was exclusive to the vineyards of Leibfraunkirche (Church of The Beloved Lady). In the middle ages, “minch” was used to refer to monks but this was gradually changed into “milch”, which is German for milk.
Quality of Liebfraumilch
Eventually, word spread around about the delicious and high-quality wine of the Rheinhessen region. This growth in fame was mostly through word-of-mouth endorsement by pilgrims. Over time, the wine achieved worldwide fame. With this newfound prominence came a change of the name from Liebfrauenmilch to the name we now use which is Liebfraumilch, which translates to ‘the Beloved Lady’s milk’, a reference to the Virgin Mary. The increased demand for the wine soon surpassed supply, opening the floodgates for lower quality wines that would be passed off as the original. Unscrupulous shippers mixed the original with other blends of wine in order to cash in on the new demand. Interested in knowing how long it takes to produce a bottle of wine? Check out “How Long Does it Take to Make Wine?” for more.
Though the wine is shunned by many wine professionals as being of poor quality, it ranks decently in German quality standards. In 1989, a law was promulgated, making Liebfraunmilch a QbA wine (Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete). This is the largest category of wines made in Germany, accounting for 95% of the annual vintage from the country.
The number of regions was restricted to four; Rheinhessen, Nahe, Pfalz, and Rheingau. It should be of medium sweetness with residual sugar set at not less than 18 grams per liter. 70% of the wine should also be made from Müller-Thurgau, Riesling, Kerner and Silvaner grapes. In reality, most of the wineries producing the wine use Müller-Thurgau, which is the safer option of the grape varieties, and add unfermented grape juice to soup it up.
Make sure also to check out “How Many Grapes are Used for One Bottle of Wine?” to see what goes into your bottle of wine.
Production of Liebfraumilch
In the mid-19th century, Liebfraumilch was produced mainly from Riesling grapes. When he came up with his brand of the wine during this time, PJ Valckenberg intended to create a respectable wine that would be a representation of German winemaking across Europe.
The wine became so popular in England that the demand could not be satisfied by the single-vineyard around the church. The demand was such that wine bottles would sell based on the label rather than the particular vineyard the wine was produced from or the type of grape used. This introduced more wines into the market such as Blue Nun, Black Tower, Leonard Kreusch, and others. Some of them were great and upheld the quality standards but among them were bottles of substandard wines.
The downward trend in terms of quality came with the end of the First World War. In this time, there were two brands of Liebfraumilch competing for market share, Valckenberg’s brand of Liebfraumilch and Blue Nun, which no longer subscribes to this description. The two were also intent on coming up with a bottle of wine that would be the ultimate best selling brand. In this period, the total annual sales had peaked at 2 million cases. With a continued decline in quality, sales dropped by half by the mid-nineties. The most well-known brand of German wine had come to be placed in the category of cheap sweet wines.
A Favorite in Brazil
Liebfraumilch is one of the oldest brands of wine in Brazil. This is due to the fact that it is cheap to make and thus can be accessed at a low price. The low alcohol level is also another reason the wine is preferred in many homes as the perfect table wine. It is typically served with fish dishes and some types of light cuisine. The Brazilian version of Liebfraumilch is produced using Riesling grapes. The grapes were introduced in the country in 1910 when German immigrants set up wineries in the South American nation. Want to know more about “table wines”? Take a look at “What is Table Wine?“.
Though Liebfraumilch has enjoyed time as one of the top brands and downgraded to a much lower standard, there is still hope for better quality. The best thing is that wines such as Blue Nun are improving. The influx of Liebfraumilch wines has also pushed the more distinguished ones to do better in order to keep their clientele and quality as high as possible.
Thank you for reading with us today! Let us know in the comments below if you have ever tried a bottle of Liebfraumilch.
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Bottoms up! We’ll uncork ya later!! 🍷