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 vintages. 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 in Oktober and November 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 yards and 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 winebars offers plenty of opportunities for wine lovers to discover city and wine. Also, from here top wine regions such as Rheingau, Rheinhessen, Nahe, Mosel (Moselle) and Pfalz (Palatinate) are just a daytrip away.
Know which region you'd like to see, which winemaker you want to visit. Germany has 8,000 wine makers - choices can be overwhelming. While the majority produce beautiful wines you still might want to consider visiting winemakers that stand out for their wines. It is also more likely that winemakers at the top have the language capacities to accommodate English speaking visitors.
Also, feel free to contact insiders for advice on your route.
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 receptions or estate restaurants are rather rare. Still, visitors are welcome - if you ring or knock during work-hours you are likely to get invited in for a tasting. Many winemakers appreciate a call in advance. Tastings are usually free of charge, yet its 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 (Winefest), 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') 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 wineries own wines and limited 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 of. There are few other white wine varieties that can rival the Riesling's spectrum of styles, aromes and tastes, all the way from bone dry to noble-rot 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.