August 16, 2016


Trollinger is hands down the most ubiquitous speciality of Germany's southern region of Württemberg. This usually large-berried, thin-skinned variety is used to make vast amounts of simple, easy-drinking red that is extremely popular within the region, but rather rarely seen outside it.

This variety is better known as Schiava outside Germany – mainly in northern Italy, which is both the variety's home region and a place where it is most often encountered. There are, however, at least four different and genetically distinct Schiava varieties: Schiava Gentile, Schiava Grigio, Schiava Grosso and Schiava Lombarda. Out of these four varieties, the smaller-berried Schiava Gentile is considered to be of the highest quality, producing wines of more depth, concentration and structure. The larger-berried Schiava Grossa is, instead, the variety that is most widely planted, thanks to its vigor, high yields and ease of cultivation. This is also the variety that has made its way to Germany, where it is known as Trollinger – most likely a corruption of the word Tyrolinger, referring to Tyrol, the home of the variety.

The more up north you are in Germany, the more you are in the beer drinking part of the country; conversely, the closer you are to the south border, the higher the wine consumption goes, at the expense of beer. Württemberg is – along with Baden – the most southernmost wine region of Germany, and also the region where most wine is consumed per capita. Whereas most other German wine regions have made name with their wines throughout the world, Württemberg has preferred to drink up its own wines. Traditionally the local wines were cheap and of no real character, made exclusively for local consumption, not export; one of the most popular wine styles was Trollinger mit Lemberger a simple, semi-sweet red wine made mostly from simple Trollinger with some Lemberger (aka. Blaufränkisch) blended in to bring the wine some notion of structure. Only recently have local producers started to make attempts at making more serious, dry varietal wines out of Trollinger, but there is still a lot of work to be done: partly because people still associate Württemberg with cheap, uninteresting, low-quality wines; partly because it is nigh impossible to make anything of real interest of this variety.

Last May I had the privilege to visit many different wine producers in Württemberg, and what I learned was that Trollinger is not a variety made to shine bright: the large size of the berries results in high juice-to-skin ratio, and with its thin skins low in coloring polyphenols and tannins, the wines usually have a rather soft structure. The resulting wines are usually easy-drinking, fruity, medium-acid red wines that occasionally look more deep rosés than actual reds, with soft, easy tannins and both aromas and flavors of sweet red berries. The wines are normally fermented and aged both in stainless steel tanks and in oak casks, but usually older, bigger stück barrels are used because the variety does not go well with oak aromatics. Usually Trollinger's skins can be macerated quite extensively with the wine with no noticeable increase in color, tannins or extraction, which is why usually the skin maceration times are quite low.

Here is a selection of different Trollingers we tried during our trip:

Staatsweingut Weinsberg Trollinger Trocken 2014
  • Staatsweingut Weinsberg
  • Country: Germany
  • Region: Württemberg
  • Grape(s): Trollinger (100%)
  • Price: 5,90€ / 0,75 l
  • Tasted on: May 19th, 2016

The wine is made by Staatsweingut Weinsberg, the state-controlled winery and school for wine makers. This institute not only makes wines from its own vineyards and tutors future winemakers, but also makes groundbreaking work as experimenting with different varieties, creating new crossings. I have no details on the vinification of this wine, but it has 3 g/l of residual sugar and 4,9 g/l of acidity.

The translucent, pale raspberry color of the wine with its almost completely clear rims seems almost closer to a rather deep rosé wine than an actual red wine, typical of the variety.

The nose is fruity with aromas of raspberry marmalade, wine gum candies and some cherry jam.

In the mouth the wine has a light body with flavors of ripe red berries like raspberries, wild strawberries and some cherries with a hint of sour cherries. Smooth, medium-intense acidity with soft and easy mouthfeel.

The midpalate transitions into the fresh and somewhat lengthy finish with flavors of red berries, some sour cherries and a hint of tart lingonberries.

All in all, this is an easy-drinking, basic-level everyday red and nothing more. Light, soft, smooth and easily approachable – like practically every single Trollinger in the world.

Summary: Nothing of real interest, but priced accordingly. A textbook example of Württemberg Trollinger that is churned in ridiculous amounts every year in the region.


Weingut Singer Trollinger Steinreinacher Hörnle 2014
  • Weingut Singer
  • Country: Germany
  • Region: Württemberg
  • Grape(s): Trollinger (100%)
  • Price: 6,80€ / 0,75 l
  • Tasted on: May 20th, 2016

A bit atypical Württemberg Trollinger in the sense that this is a single vineyard Trollinger aged in old barrels. It is made by a small family winery located in the village of Korb; they cultivate 15 ha of vineyards and their annual production is in the range of only 50,000 bottles. The Singers have a Weinkorb ("wine basket"), a combined winery and local centre of wine culture, in Korb, that is worth seeking out if you happen to be in the vicinity. 4,7 g/l of acidity and 13% of alcohol.

Clear and translucent dark cherry color.

The nose is quite reductive with smoky aromas of ripe dark cherry, gunpowder, flint and pepper. Nothing that moderate aeration or more bottle age couldn't fix.

In the mouth the wine is light-to-mid-bodied with moderate acidity and soft mouthfeel. Flavors of smoke, pepper, flint and some cranberry-lingonberry giving the wine almost Pinot Noir-like feel. Underneath, a light undercurrent cocoa oak aromatics and a touch of floral nuances. The wine shows a nice combination of intensity and Trollinger's gentle approachability.

The finish is quite long and lively with flavors of wild strawberry, bitter spice, peppercorns, some smoke and a hint of dried wood.

This wine is a bit oakier than the Trollingers of the region generally are, but still very modest with its oak aromatics. In a nutshell this is a balanced effort and definitely one of the better Trollingers I've had – it is actually surprisingly serious an effort for the variety. I am positively surprised by its intensity, and additionally the wine is very modestly priced at 6,90€.

Summary: A bit more serious Trollinger sourced from a single vineyard, offering good intensity and faint old oak aromatics.


Weingut Heid Trollinger PUR Trocken 2015
  • Weingut Markus Heid
  • Country: Germany
  • Region: Württemberg
  • Grape(s): Trollinger (100%)
  • Price: 6,00€ / 0,75 l
  • Tasted on: May 20th, 2016

A wine produced by a small producer that has converted their production to organics. In pursuit of quality and recognition, the yields are kept in check, the wines are fermented with their own natural yeasts and old oak is preferred over new whenever oak is used. The producer is also recognized by the high quality of their sparkling Winzersekt wines and they are a member of VDP, the German quality wine association. The Heids have a wonderful winery / tasting room / wine shop right in the middle of the city of Fellbach; it is worth seeking out just because of the quality of the wines Markus Heid produces. PUR is Heid's simple, straightforward example of Trollinger, made to be drunk within a year or two; stylistically somewhere between a rosé and a red wine. Residual sugar 4 g/l, acidity 5 g/l, alcohol 11,9%.

Bottled in a clear bottle just to show the variety's typical, clear, luminous raspberry color.

The wine has a spicy nose with aromas of tart red berries, like cranberries and raspberries, supported by notes of red cherries and a touch of positive, herbal greenness.

In the mouth the wine is light, pure, lively and refreshing with lovely, bright acidity. Vibrant flavors of raspberry, wild strawberry, some gravelly minerality and a touch of sour cherry.

The finish is long and clean finish flavors of sour cherry, raspberry and tart red berries.

PUR is a really lovely, clean, refreshing and even surprisingly structured Trollinger – it lacks the soft and gentle characteristics of a traditional Württemberg Trollinger and has replaced them with nice crispness and intensity. On the surface the wine drinks like a care-free summer wine, but in reality it is a lot more serious and impressive effort than what other producers usually make out of Trollinger. Very lovely both on its own and with food. At 6€ this is a real find.

Summary: Exceedingly tasty and balanced Trollinger that lacks the variety's typical softness. Vibrant and refreshing wine that drinks like a simple table wine, but with impressive intensity and seriousness. Thoroughly recommended.


Weingut Heid Trollinger Erste Lage Fellbach Lämmler 2014
  • Weingut Markus Heid
  • Country: Germany
  • Region: Württemberg
  • Grape(s): Trollinger (100%)
  • Price: 9,50€ / 0,75 l
  • Tasted on: May 20th, 2016

A wine produced by the same producer as Trollinger PUR, Markus Heid. An attempt to make something more serious of Trollinger: an Erste Lage (equal to Premier Cru) -level single vineyard Trollinger that is fermented on its own natural yeasts and aged for 6–8 months in 600 liter oak casks. Residual sugar 1g/l, acidity 5,1 g/l, alcohol 12,6%.

Clear, dark cherry color that is something not unlike a Burgundy Pinot Noir – a bit darker what you'd normally expect from a Trollinger.

A little restrained, yet charming nose of raspberry, dark cherry, wild strawberry, some kirsch and a touch of blueberry.

Light, lively and acid-driven in the mouth with such intensity and body I've yet to taste in any other Trollinger; there's even some sense of concentration here. Juicy palate with vibrant flavors of dark berries, strawberry, raspberry, some sour cherry, a little dark cherry and a touch of tart cranberry. The structure is held together not only by the lively acidity, but with a light touch of tannins as well.

Dry, long, acid-driven and slightly tannic finish with focused flavors of ripe, raspberry-driven red berries and dark forest fruits.

Wow! This is really impressive and classy an effort for a Trollinger and definitely the best I've had from this usually rather bland variety. Stylistically not so far from a lighter Cru Beaujolais with similar mouthfeel, vibrancy and balance. Very serious, tasty and moreish; lovely on its own, easy to pair with a wide variety of foods. The wine has simply an incredible QPR at 9,50€.

Summary: Most likely one of the best Trollingers there is, if not the best. Remarkable intensity, purity and structure for a Trollinger with even some welcome sense of concentration. Very recommended for the fans of Gamay, Poulsard and the likes.


Weinmanufaktur Untertürkheim Trollinger Trocken *** 2013
  • Weinmanufaktur Untertürkheim
  • Country: Germany
  • Region: Württemberg
  • Grape(s): Trollinger (100%)
  • Price: 14,00€ / 0,75 l
  • Tasted on: May 20th, 2016

A wine made by the small, quality-oriented co-operative in the village of Untertürkheim, a hamlet of Stuttgart. This is their attempt at making something more serious out of Trollinger, designated by the stars in the label (* and ** stand for simple, basic-level wines). This is made from the grapes of approximately 25 years old vines. Extended maceration of 3 weeks with the skins, after which the wine is aged for 12 months in big, old oak casks. Residual sugar 2 g/l, acidity 4,6 g/l, alcohol 13,5%.

Clear, dark raspberry red color.

Dry, pretty aromatic, savory and slightly meaty nose with aromas of ripe red berries, sour cherries and some darker berries – definitely something more interesting than your average Trollinger with just sweet red berry aromas.

In the mouth the wine is medium-bodied and rather soft, but it has also some nice roughness due to somewhat pronounced spiciness and slight bitterness. Flavors of sour cherry, cranberry and hints of ripe strawberries. Low on tannins.

The palate segues into the spicy, medium length finish with flavors of dark forest fruits, allspice and some sour cherry.

This is a well-made, high-quality Trollinger that seems to be above the average Trollinger quality and a testament to the quality of the Untertürkheim co-op. However, this wine does not give challenge to those wonderful Trollingers made by Weingut Heid. Otherwise it is a surprisingly lovely, balanced and enjoyable effort showing that it is possible to make serious red wines out of this often overlooked variety. If you are iffy about the quality of South German Trollingers, this is definitely a wine that is worth a shot. Priced accordingly at 14€.

Summary: A serious and balanced Trollinger that manages to go beyond the regular Trollinger scope of soft, round mouthfeel and simple flavors of ripe red berries.

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