At the time of writing I have virtually completed the lengthy selection of wines and winemakers to exhibit at our forthcoming (and tenth) Annual Trade Wine tasting here in Norfolk. The process is often fraught and exciting in equal measure. With fashions in wine drinking oscillating almost annually and high street pricing suffering a coalition of global effects forcing some wines into stratospheric price points whilst allowing formerly unfashionable grapes back on to the menu, the process of selection becomes even more critical. In addition it is noticeable that customers are becoming increasingly demanding and educated as to their choice of wine with certain cuisines, and desirous of a link to the seasonal aspects of their chosen tipple.

When a selection of German co-operative winemakers suggested I represent some of their output here in the NR postal district I was initially sceptical. I have long since tried to champion the wines of both Austria and Germany but my audience here had previously chosen a response that made lukewarm feel more like a polar exploration. It is certainly true that the relationship between the British and the German wine industry has been evidenced by an early love affair, Queen Victoria’s favourite tipple from Hockenheim created the Victorian’s fervour for ‘Hock’ 150 years ago but regrettably now borders on divorce.

Some of the issues are clearly self-inflicted. One such affair and the butt of years of derision thereafter ,begun by the wine producing company H Sichel Söhne in Mainz. Their Liebfraumilch Spätlese broke new ground worldwide by becoming an early branded wine made available commercially. Ironically, in the 1930’s and 1940’s, their wine must surely have challenged trade description legislation as the now familiar name of Blue Nun was illustrated on the label with two such apparitions dressed in Brown!  Rapid colour changes and a reduction in the Holy order in the 50’s and 60’s culminated in the wine label we know today.

But here’s the rub, a brand that has been consistently as much part of the wine scene as Coca Cola is to fizzy pop, has sown the seeds of its own national destruction. A wine that has endured and is still maintaining such enormous commercial success, reduced our interest and respect in the vast eclectic German wine industry to an all time low.

As one who relishes a challenge I hosted a small but quirky interim tasting to test both my prejudices and their wares. Admittedly the flight of the wines I tasted was one of the best available in Germany – often not frequently found here as yet – and from the best vintages. Nevertheless, these wines do exist in the commercial market place and were in no particular order sublime, delicate, racy and delicious. Almost all were of the new breed of crackling dry styles and all had great depth and slightly higher alcohol level than were previously available. If Liebfraumilch and Niersteiner were once the Gripe Water of my university years, I now tasted the Riesling and Scheurebe grapes of a middle age.

Both these grapes, Germany’s finest vinous assets by the way, had added dimensions of fine acidity and refreshing minerality – the antithesis of many unrefreshing Chardonnays on today’s high street shelves. This commonality of the wines of Germany clearly makes for a much more food friendly match and there would be no doubt as to which wines I would pair with Sushi, Chinese or Thai cuisine.

Labelling too has been brought into the modern wine world of Europe with grape varieties clearly visible, and thankfully a reduction in Post-war Gothic script littering the labels like a Hammer horror movie.

The foremost regions which cluster around the rivers Rhine and Mösel, are today’s hot-spots (not literally as some latitudes run to a cooler North than Dorset) and the categorisation of wines have at last begun to favour English interpretation.

If you’re in the mood to experiment or even retry some German offerings I would skip past the Tafelweins and the Landweins and head straight for the six quality ratings within the fine wine category of Qualitätswein mit Pradikat (QMP to you and I). Starting with Kabinett as the lowliest through to Spätlese, we then moved on to the Auslese, this category being my favourite on the tasting day with bags of newly fashionable dry examples bursting with floral aromas and packed with modern rich flavours. To complete the tasting we tried the remaining three sweeties, Beerenauslese, Tröckenbeerenauslese and the fabulously rich and often hideously expensive Eisweins made from rotted, dry and frozen grapes picked well into the next harvest year.

Wines such as Blue Nun may well make up for 50% of the export market but sadly a few per cent of the taste spectrum we have come to expect. For those seeking alternatives to our fashion led wines such as Chardonnay (formerly) and Pinot Grigio (latterly) then maybe it’s time, like the Blue Nuns, for us to change our habits as well.