Hallo nochmal, meine feinen, weinliebenden Freunde! (Hi again, my fine, wine-loving friends!)
Before we kick off our San Francisco private tasting with the visiting German winemakers, I thought I’d prep you with a quick post about Riesling – Germany’s iconic grape – and its various levels of sweetness and quality.
As of 2009, the system of classifying German wines got a terroir-based makeover. If you know any of the earlier terms, you’ll still recognize many key players. (Trockenbeerenauslese, anyone?)
Let’s bypass the inexpensive table wines (Tafelwein, Landwein), and the light-bodied Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete (QbA) – which are required to come from one of 13 specific regions – in favor of the higher-ranking styles we’ll be sampling later today.
These wines belong to a broad category now called Prädikatswein (previously Qualitätswein mit Prädikat (QmP)). Ranging from bone-dry (or nearly so) to some of the sweetest in the world, this designation includes the very best that Germany has to offer.
In general, Riesling typically shows powerful aromatics (especially apple, citrus, peach/nectarine/apricot and sometimes tropical fruit; plus mineral notes such as slate, wet stone and even “petrol.”)
The tangy acidity that results from Germany’s cool climate balances out any residual sugar in the wine, and can also enable it to age for decades.
In addition, the crisp acids make Riesling a wonderfully refreshing partner for a wide range of foods – including hard-to-pair sweet, spicy and salty cuisines such as Chinese, Thai and Indian. (We’ll be able to test this out during our tasting, here at the E&O Kitchen & Bar, as we nibble pan-Asian goodies from the buffet while we sample from the various winery tables.)
Prädikatswein-quality Rieslings are classified according to the ripeness level of the grapes at harvest:
• Kabinett – The lightest style; can be dry to semi-sweet.
• Spätlese (late harvest) – Usually semi-sweet, but can be sweeter.
• Auslese (select harvest) – Usually semi-sweet, but can be sweeter; the very ripe bunches, which sometimes have botrytis (noble rot), are selected by hand.
Beerenauslese (berry select harvest) – Very sweet dessert wine; the very ripe grapes are hand-selected individually.
Eiswine (ice wine) – Very sweet dessert wine, made from grapes that freeze on the vine. When they are pressed, the ice stays behind, and the sugars, acids and flavors become concentrated.
• Trockenbeerenauslese (dry berry select harvest) – Very sweet dessert wine; the very ripe grapes, which are shriveled like raisins and sometimes have botrytis (noble rot), are hand-selected individually.
Got it? Great – the tasting is about to start!
Let’s head up to the mezzanine at E&O now, and put all this new info to good use as we get to know the wines.
And as I hinted last time, we’ll be tasting much more than Riesling today – starting (for me at least) with this lovely Spätburgunder – German for Pinot Noir; literally, “late Burgundy” – from Weingut Volker Schäfer. (See pic, left.)
See you there, my friends!
Cheers and happy tastings,
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Cheers once again, my friends,