Description 1 of 2
Parentage of the grape: Muller-Thurgau is a cross between Riesling and Madeleine Royale.
History of the grape: This variety was developed by Dr. Hermann Muller in 1882. When naming the new grape, he added the name of the Swiss canton in which he was born to his own surname. Dr. Muller’s goal had been to create a variety with the finesse of Riesling and the reliability and early ripening of Silvaner, which is what he thought he was using. Genetic testing later proved that the second parent of Muller-Thurgau was in fact a lowly table grape called Madeleine Royale, which was the result of an unknown crossing in 1845. Decades later, after Germany’s wine industry was devastated by World War II, growers finally embraced the variety, which does indeed ripen very early and yields as much as twice what Riesling does. Unfortunately, the result was an ocean of dull, flabby wines. The common way to use it was to pump it up with some Sussreserve, blend it with some more aromatic varieties, and sell it as Liebfraumilch, sending Germany’s winemaking reputation down the toilet. By the 1990s, German growers had woken up and once again devoted themselves to Riesling, but Muller-Thurgau still covers about 16,000 ha of vineyard area.
After all that, one would think simply that the world is best rid of this variety. Not so. In Italy’s Alto-Adige, as well as in New Zealand, of all places, Muller-Thurgau actually makes good and interesting wines that are more than worth drinking. In the latter country, it was introduced as a replacement for the far worse hybrids that the Kiwis tried when they first started making wine.
Muller-Thurgau is also planted, as Rivaner, in Austria, as well as in Switzerland, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Italy’s Friuli and Emilia-Romagna.
Characteristics of the grape: At its best, Muller-Thurgau is mineral-driven and refreshing.
Regions where the grape currently is important: Germany, Austria, northern Italy, Switzerland, and New Zealand
Type or types of wines the grape produces: In Germany and in New Zealand, Muller-Thurgau may be sweetened with Sussreserve. Dry, interesting versions from Alto-Adige are worth seeking out.
Description 2 of 2
Muller-Thurgau (aka. Rivaner, M-T, Riesling-Sylvaner)
Most New World growers do not yearn for early-ripening varieties like Muller-Thurgau. In fact, they would find the flab in its wine to be a distinct disadvantage. However, some Oregon growers have experimented successfully with this white grape, and fine examples have been produced in the Puget Sound vineyards of western Washington State. The variety thrives all over central and Eastern Europe.
The crossing was developed in 1882 by Dr. Hermann Muller, born in the Swiss canton of Thurgau, but then working at the German viticultural station at Geisenheim. It is widely believed that Dr. Muller's intention for this cross was to combine the organoleptic quality of the great Riesling grape with the viticultural reliability -- particularly the early ripening -- of the less noble Silvaner. Yet, recent DNA testing suggests that the variety is actually the result of a Riesling x Chasselas de Courtillier cross, not Riesling and Silvaner. Whatever the ingredients, the recipe resulted in a variety that is all too short on Riesling characteristics. Indeed, it is much shorter on elegant raciness than the more recent crossings Ehrenfelser, Kerner and well-ripened Scheurebe. Muller-Thurgau, which could fairly be said to have been the bane of German wine production, is at long last on the wane. The vine certainly ripens early, even earlier than Silvaner. Unlike Riesling, it can be grown anywhere, producing prodigious quantities -- sometimes double Riesling’s common yield range -- of extremely dull, flabby wine.
You are the abused progeny of a scientist’s good intentions, the product of Dr. Muller’s laboratory union of Riesling and Chasselas. Despite the pedigree of this arranged marriage, you were not the brightest of your generation. But in a generation more concerned with making money than the intellectual pursuits of your parents, you would flourish. Your financers backed you wholeheartedly and secured your position as the leader of a German wine machine that would dominate the world with mass production. But alas, your flabby body and dilute character would ultimately lead to your downfall, as the people’s desire grew for a leader with a sharper personality. – Description from Appellation America (view original content)
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