Dreaming of Summer
I recently attended a delicious wine tasting in Germany-virtually, of course-to kick off a new season of wines that will be poured at various weinbars throughout the country, from Berlin to the Black Forest. While tasting the wines I began to dream of sitting in one of those beautiful plazas you find in Germany, and all over Europe, the lively civic and retail center of small towns, or one of many in big cities. While we might not be able to get back to Europe in time to behold Summer in Munich’s Marienplatz, we can try to drink what they’re drinking right here, because there are many great German wines hiding in plain sight at our local retailers.
I recently attended a delicious wine tasting in Germany-virtually, of course-to kick off a new season of wines that will be poured at various weinbars throughout the country, from Berlin to the Black Forest. While tasting the wines, I began to dream of sitting in one of those beautiful plazas you find in Germany (and all over Europe) – the lively civic and retail center of small towns, or one of many in big cities. While we might not be able to get back to Europe in time to behold Summer in Munich’s Marienplatz, we can try to drink what they’re drinking right here, because there are many great, German wines hiding in plain sight at our local retailers.
“How do you spell sommelier? R.I.E.S.L.I.N.G!”
As temperatures rise, we often crave acidity in our wines for refreshment. It’s easy to imagine that there are a myriad of grapes and styles of mouthwatering white wines from Germany that fit the bill. Riesling, of course, is synonymous with German wine, and as tastes continue to evolve globally, you’ll find more and more crisp, dry styles of this amazing grape pushing aside the sweeter styles of yesteryear.
“Riesling,” you say? “I hate sweet wines!” I hear you, and it’s not your fault of fearing them. Thanks to the damage done by bottles featuring nuns in blue habits and electrified cats, most people see the iconic tall, thin bottle and think: Sweet! But it’s not true! In my geeky world, we joke, “How do you spell sommelier? R.I.E.S.L.I.N.G!” That’s because it’s the one grape that can be vinified in so many styles: from bone dry to tooth-achingly sweet. In between those styles are a gazillion delicious variations. Which Rieslings to consider? The regional choices are many, as it is grown throughout Germany, so you might start out looking for three of the easiest to find regions in this country: Mosel, Pfalz and Rheingau. When buying, you should ask a retailer or wine steward to explain which bottles meet your expectations of dryness or sweetness, because the labels can be utterly confounding.
While Riesling is Germany’s most important white wine grape, it is surely not its only one. Look for Müller-Thurgau for a fuller-bodied wine with lovely floral aromatics; Grauburgunder (aka Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio) and Weissburgunder (aka Pinot Blanc/Pinot Bianco) offer softer acidity and delicious stone-fruit flavors; and Silvaner is a wonderful outlier that straddles stone-fruit lusciousness with savory herbaceousness.
You may think I’ve forgotten to mention Gewürztraminer, especially if you’re a fan of the spice-driven cuisine and spicy take-out dishes with which it pairs perfectly. Alas, the majority of Gewürz grown around the world hails from Alsace, a region in north-eastern France that has been passed between French and German control several times since the Seventeenth century, and currently is a part of France. As a result, Alsatian culture is a unique mix of French and German influences, but Gewürz most definitely speaks with a French accent; though it also grows well in Moldova, Italy, California, and Washington State.
ROSÉS ALL DAYS You might be surprised to hear that Germany ranks third worldwide in Pinot Noir plantings, where it’s known locally as Spätburgunder. It makes sense, then, that Germany produces delicious dry Rosés that feature tart, red fruit flavors and crisp, bracing acidity, many of which are available here in the U.S.
SEKT IS SEXY (in German) In Germany, where they, apparently, bottle more sparkling wine than in all of France (who knew?!), the word “Sekt” appears on practically every bottle of wine that fizzes. But, only the best of Sekt is made in the traditional method, or Klassische Flaschengärung. Zoom in for bottles that say Sekt b.A., which is German shorthand for quality sparkling wine from a protected designation of origin. In other words, it has to be made in one of 13 official German wine regions (look for Rheinhessen, Pfalz, Mosel, etc.) using regional grapes like Riesling, Silvaner, and Pinot Noir. Extra points if you find bottles labeled Winzersekt, which means it’s an exceptional single-varietal (usually Riesling), estate-grown German sparkling wine. These bottles are always vintage dated as well.
Regardless of whether you’re unwinding and enjoying these coveted warmer months at the beach, a picnic or your patio at home, I hope that your ice buckets and coolers are filled (properly with ice and water!), your wines are chilled and ready to drink them when you are, and I hope your glasses are raised in toasts to new beginnings.