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German Wines - A Language of Their Own

by Daniel Rogov » Thu Oct 21, 2010 6:41 pm

Note: I am now writing two wine columns weekly in the Hebrew edition of HaAretz. Because only one of those appears in the English edition, I shall be posting my second weekly article on the forum each week shortly after the piece appears in the newspaper. The following piece was printed in HaAretz on 21 October 2010. Prices quoted are those currently available in Israel.




German Wines- A Language of Their Own
Daniel Rogov


Considering that beer and not wine is the national drink of Germany, it surprises many to learn that German white wines are among the finest in the world. It surprises even more to learn that the most superb German wines come from the noble Riesling grape. Unlike the somewhat pathetic Emerald Riesling grape (which is a hybrid between the Johannisberg Riesling grape and the Muscadelle grape and which has never and will never produce a truly serious wine), true Riesling grapes produce wines of incomparable bouquets that are flowery and full-bodied, and which hint of peaches, honey, and daffodils. At their best, the taste of these wines is rich and full, showing great depth and almost magical finesse
.
Other white wine grapes commonly found in Germany include Muller-Thurgau, Weissburgunder, Scheurebe, Huxelrebe, Traminer and others, all of which are capable of producing fine wines but be there no question that Riesling is the crowned king of German grapes. Many German wines are sweet, but this should not be held against them for winemakers strive diligently to achieve that sweetness which, by law, must be entirely natural, that is to say, with no sugar added to the wine.

The two major wine growing regions within Germany are along the Rhine and Mosel Rivers. These are easy to tell apart because Rhine wines come in brown bottles and Mosel wines come in green bottles. Beyond that, however, understanding German wines can be a fairly complex affair, partly because the language of German wines is so different than that used everywhere else in the world. Those new to German wines need not be discouraged, however, for all that is needed to enjoy them is the knowledge of a few basic terms.

Wines labelled "Tafelwein", for example, are pleasant and make for everyday enjoyment. Rarely exported, these wines are generally consumed in the area in which they are grown. Labels marked "Qualitatswein" indicate wines made from ripe, very ripe or overripe grapes. The finest wines, however are those labeled "Qualitatswein mit Pradikat", indicating that these wines have special characteristics or distinctions. More than this, according to new regulations that went into effect in 2006, wines from those vineyards acknowledged to be among the finest in Germany may carry the titles "Erstes Gewachs, Erste Lage or Grosses Gewachs".

German wines fall into six categories:

- Kabinett wines are usually light, fine wines that are excellent with or without meals. Can be dry, medium-dry or sweet.

- Spatlese are late harvest, superior quality wines and tend to be more intense in flavor and concentration. These wines may or may not be sweet and are good with rich, flavorful
foods or by themselves.

- Auslese wines are made from specially selected very ripe individual grapes or very ripe bunches. These noble wines are almost always sweet and are exceedingly rich in bouquet and flavor. Like most sweet wines, these are good when drunk without food, with first courses that contain goose liver or smoked salmon or with desserts.

- Beerenauslese wines are also made from a special harvest but because they consist only of overripe grapes, they are always sweet. Sweetness should never be held against German wines for winemakers strive diligently to achieve that sweetness which, by law, must be entirely natural, that is to say, with no sugar added to the wine.

- Eisewein (literally meaning "ice wine") is made from grapes that have been harvested and pressed while frozen. These unique and very highly valued wines have a remarkable concentration of fruity acidity and sweetness.

- Trockenbeernauslese wines are harvested by individually selecting overripe grapes that have dried almost to the point of being raisins. These rich, sweet, luscious, honey-like wines are sometimes compared favorably with the finest wines of Sauternes.

Oh yes, two more… wines labeled as "trocken" are dry and as "halbtrockern" wines are off-dry. Interestingly, because these wines have a very high level of acidity many off-dry and even semi-sweet wines remain very lively and despite their sometimes high level of sugar they seem crisply dry on the palate.


The wines reviewed below can be obtained directly from the importer, Giaconda. Best contact is by telephoning 03 6022746.

Langwerth von Simmern, Riesling, Kabinett, Erbacher Macrobrunn, Rheingau, 2007: Gold with orange reflections, generously sweet and intense with appealing dried peaches and pineapple fruits, fresh citrus and citrus peel and generous minerals on the background. Long and generous. Drink now-2022. NIS 110. Score 93.

Weingut Joh. Jos. Prum, Riesling, Kabinett, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Mosel, 2007: Light golden straw in color, half-dry, with its sweetness set off nicely by lively acidity. A touch of botrytis funk here to support aromas and flavors of apples, summer fruits and limes. Lingers nicely on the palate with a clear note of minerals rising. Drink now-2022. NIS 150. Score 92.

Muller Catoir, Riesling, Spatlese Trocken, Burgergarten, Pfalz, 2007: A fine example of a German Riesling categorized as off-dry but as crisp and fresh as you could want on the palate with only the barest trace of sweetness creeping in to enchant. On the nose and palate ripe peaches, green gage plums, citrus, those matched by peppery and mineral notes all coming together as an elegant and coherent whole. Drink now-2017. NIS 160. Score 92.

Okonomierat Rebholz, Riesling, Spatlese Trocken, Von Rotiegenden, Pfalz, 2007: A full-odied white, deeply aromatic with light botrytis notes highlighting aromas and flavors of white peaches, pears and citrus, all on a background that hints at one moment of minerals and at another of peppered honey. Elegant and long. Drink now-2022. NIS 160. Score 91.

Egon Muller, Riesling, Kabinett, Scharzofberger, Mosel, 2008: So tightly wound that this is a white that deserves decanting. Opens to reveal apricot, orange and pineapple fruits, those on a background of spices and earthy and stony minerals. Off-dry, with its moderate sweetness set off nicely by fresh acidity. Not so much a lively wine as one that is rich and elegant. Approachable and enjoyable now but best from 2012-2022. NIS 130. Score 90


H. Donhoff, Riesling, Nahe, 2008: Bright gold with a hint of bronze, a generously sweet but very well balanced wine, with fine balancing acidity and notes of white pepper to highlight aromas and flavors of peaches, apples and citrus. Refreshing and mouth-filling. Drink now-2014. NIS 90. Score 90.

Weingut Peter Jakob Kuhn, Riesling, Trocken, Rheingau, 2009: Now full certified as a biodynamic winery, Kuhn is one of Germany's best producers. Light gold in color with orange and green reflections, a medium-bodied, crisply dry wine with notes of pineapple, peaches and green apples, those supported by light floral, petrol and mineral notes. Drink now-2013. NIS 100. Score 90.

Gunderloch, Riesling, Fritz' Riesling, Trocken, Rheinhessen, 2009: With a label that can best be described as "hip" and a wine that is so lively you might think it would be tempted to break into song, a wine for the young and young at heart. Fresh and flowery, with fine acidity and minerals to keep the wine vibrant on the palate and bursting with passion fruit, pineapple and apricots. A wine that shows both quality and fun. Drink now-2012. NIS 90. Score 89.





Reading German Wine Labels

Until recently, most German wine labels featured gothic typefaces and, because those are the 15th century letters devised by Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press and these letters are, to say the least, difficult to decipher. Although several wineries continue with this tradition, an increasing number of wines are labeled with modern typefaces and are far easier to understand.

As complex as they may appear at first glance, there is nothing really difficult in reading a German wine label. The first thing to keep in mind is that Weingut is a wine-producing estate and Weinkellerei refers to a winery.

In this case of the label that follows, for example:

Donhoff is the name of the producer; Niederhauser indicates the name of the village in which the grapes grew; Hermanshohole is the name of the vineyard; Riesling is the name of the grape, and Auslese tells us the level of ripeness of the grapes that were used; 2006 denotes the vintage year; and Nahe is the name of the region in which the winery is located.


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Alexander F

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Re: German Wines - A Language of Their Own

by Alexander F » Sat Oct 23, 2010 4:52 pm

Thanks for posting, not only the wines look impressive, but also the price tag is reasonable.
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Craig Winchell

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Re: German Wines - A Language of Their Own

by Craig Winchell » Sat Oct 23, 2010 11:42 pm

Many German wines are sweet, but this should be held against them for winemakers strive diligently to achieve that sweetness which, by law, must be entirely natural, that is to say, with no sugar added to the wine.


Daniel:

Now you're holding sweetness against German wines (grin)? I think you may need a new proofreader. Plenty of other typos, too. I hope this wasn't what went into print.
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Re: German Wines - A Language of Their Own

by Daniel Rogov » Sun Oct 24, 2010 2:39 am

Craig, Hi....

That one is corrected....thanks.

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Rogov

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