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Home | White Varieties | Muller Thurgau - The Elusive Family . . .

Muller Thurgau - The Elusive Family Tree (or Vine)

July 31, 2014

Even would be challenged by this German born white grape.  Its birth in 1882 at the Geisenheim Institute in Germany is well documented, but this child was brought into the viticultural world with no parents listed on its birth certificate.  The varietal (pronounced MOO leur TOOR gow) is a cross between two grapes, developed experimentally by Dr. Herman Mueller, who hailed from the Thurgau region of northeastern Switzerland.  Dr. Muller moved across the border to Germany, where the easily grown grape rapidly gained a foothold.  As the grape's popularity grew so did interest in its lineage.  But despite several research studies using the plant's leaf structure and shape, every suggestion of parents was quickly shot down by Dr. Mueller without giving up the true parents.  Finally, in 1997 after several rounds of testing, proof positive DNA typing pronounced Riesling, and a little known grape called Admirable de Courtiller as Muller's long lost parents.  End of the story?  Not so fast.  Given the lack of similar appearance between Muller and its new found parents, ampelographers (grape botanists) dug further and discovered that the samples used to establish parenthood were in fact themselves operating under an assumed name – not Admirable de Courtiller at all but rather another equally obscure grape variety called Madeleine Royale.  So by 2000 some 118 years later, Muller Thurgau was officially declared a cross between Riesling and Madeleine Royale.

Unfortunately this ancestral tale of intrigue may well be the most interesting aspect of Muller Thurgau.  After WWII, Muller Thurgau became the most widely planted grape variety in Germany, as it was easy to grow, early ripening, and produced high yields in the vineyard.  Often blended with Riesling or Silvaner, and kept with more than a touch of residual sugar, Muller Thurgau toured the globe masquerading in the famous blue bottled Liebfraumilch.  But this resurgence lasted just over a decade, and by the 1960's Muller Thurgau vineyard acreage had peaked, and its position of dominance was quickly lost to the more versatile Riesling.

Muller Thurgau Profile

Muller Thurgau wines are highly aromatic, medium bodied with modest acidity, and low alcohol.  Single variety Muller is usually vinified dry however, when used in blends the result may be a quite sweet wine.  The wine is a medium gold color and may have a slight greenish tint.  Aromas are numerous and varied; everything from wild flowers, dried herbs, cabbage, radish and fresh citrus.  Another common element is an earthy minerality often characterized as limestone, clay or chalk.

The grape continues its production decline and frankly, despite several attempts to broaden my palate, I just can't put Muller on my favorites list.  Today, even finding a Muller Thurgau in most wine shops can be a challenge.  But as I often say, the definition of a good wine is a wine you like, so feel free to experiment!






Green Apple
Wild flowers


Alcohol content
Low 12% - 13%

Acidity level: Medium

Tannins: None

Muller Thurgau is for the most part an affordable wine with most single variety wines less than $20.

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