To put it simply: that depends much on your preferences and the regions you visit. Generally we find the nature and the sceneries of the wine regions most beautiful in spring. This is also when winemakers release their latest vintage. We enjoy tasting crisp dry white wines most in summer - but you might have to share the pleasure with many other tourists, especially in the most popular regions such as Mosel or Rheingau. In autumn the colours of the vineyards can be spellbinding. Generally harvest time - throughout September and Oktober - is one of the busiest for German vintners though. And winter has a charm of its very own with many winemakers teaming up regionally to create intimate Christmas markets at their historic estates and wine cellars.
You have just a couple of days? Plan a stop in Mainz, which earned the title Great Wine Capital in 2008. Mainz, surrounded by vineyards and full of historic wine bars offers plenty of opportunities for wine lovers to discover a historic city and German wine. Also, from here top wine regions such as Rheingau, Rheinhessen, Nahe, Mosel (Moselle) and Pfalz (Palatinate) are just a day tour away.
Know which region you'd like to see, which winemaker you want to visit. Germany has 8,000 wineries - choices can be overwhelming. While the majority produce beautiful wines you still might want to consider visiting winemakers that stand out for their wines. That's about still about 1000 estates. Select well: not all estates have the capacity to accommodate English speaking visitors.
Also, feel free to contact insiders - for instance BottleStops - for advice on your itinerary.
As one of the biggest difference to Australian, U.S. or New Zealand wineries very few winemakers have a permanent setup to welcome visitors. Large reception areas or estate restaurants are rare. Still, visitors are welcome - if you ring or knock during work-hours you might get invited in for a tasting. Many winemakers appreciate a call in advance though. Tastings are usually free of charge, yet it is expected you do make a purchase.
Want to taste wine on a broader scale? Want to enjoy a glass the way locals do? Attend a Weinfest, and/or visit a Strausswirtschaft.
Weinfests take place throughout the wine regions almost every weekend. In a healthy competition to each other they show off the best the hosting wine villages have to offer. Making their way from stall to stall visitors can taste their way through the immense range of varieties at very little costs per glass. A Strausswirtschaft (also known as 'Gutsausschank', 'Besenwirtschaft', 'Heuriger' in Austria) is a temporary tavern set up by a winemaker within his own estate. Typically open in summer and early autumn these family catered taverns offer the winery's own wines and a range of authentic, homemade food.
Riesling! The culture of making great wines from Riesling reaches back into Germany of the 11th century - this is the grape that the most famous German wines are being made from. There are few other white wine varieties that can rival Riesling's spectrum of styles, aromas and tastes, all the way from bone dry to noble sweet. Taste them at their best in Rheingau, Moselle, Nahe and Rheinhessen.
Pinot Noirs: insiders have noted it for a while, Pinot Noirs are making a huge comeback on an international level. In the past decade winemakers have had a close look at the Pinots from Burgundy only to now create fantastic reds of their own. Rheinhessen, Ahr and Baden produce some beautiful Pinot Noirs
Another grape variety that has enjoyed much attention in recent times are Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Germany's very own Silvaner.