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In support of German wines

by wrcstl » Wed May 17, 2006 9:55 am

Germany is one of the most neglected countries in the cellar but I may have to reconsider. A friend brought us a bottle of cheap (Sam's of Walmart) Spatlese Riesling. She brought it because it of a beautiful blue bottle. She is German but knows nothing about German wines but collects blue bottles. We opened it last night and really enjoyed it because of two things. First we had a somewhat spicey dinner and the semi-sweet, chilled riesling was a delight to drink. Not a wine to think about but to just enjoy. Second, after finishing the bottle I felt different. The wine was 8.6% alcohol. A bottle of wine is a problem with dinner. It is too much to drink in one night for my wife and I but usually only a glass or two is left and it goes to waste. There is a lot of difference in drinking a bottle of 8.6% wine vs 14.5% wine. Maybe I should stop thinking about German wine when I drink them and just enjoy.
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Re: In support of German wines

by John Tomasso » Wed May 17, 2006 10:14 am

I agree - I enjoy it so much and have so little of it in the cellar.

I have to rectify that.
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Re: In support of German wines

by Otto » Wed May 17, 2006 10:27 am

I couldn't agree more with the sentiment of your post. There is such a diversity of styles and terroirs available in Germany and, as you say, they often are low in alcohol (and high in acids and minerals). I'm happy to say I'll soon be receiving a shipment of Germans and Muscadets (another wine that should be praised like this): I'll then have a third of my cellar Germans (mostly Rieslings, a couple of oddities thrown in as well, LOL!!) and one fifth Muscadets. :D My cellar will finally start to look like what I would like for it to look like. Now, only where to find those Slovenian Ribolla Giallas....
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Re: In support of German wines

by David M. Bueker » Wed May 17, 2006 11:12 am

So 55% of my cellar in German wine is not enough?

I know my wife would say that 55% Germans and 45% Champagne would be perfect. I do need some red wine though.
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Re: In support of German wines

by wrcstl » Wed May 17, 2006 11:29 am

Otto Nieminen wrote:Now, only where to find those Slovenian Ribolla Giallas....


Otto,
I found mine in NE Italy
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Re: In support of German wines

by Dan Donahue » Wed May 17, 2006 11:55 am

Movia is a Slovenian Ribolla that is widely available in the US.(which doesn't help you much) I've seen it in a lot of stores and I've tried 2 or 3 vintages. I like it a lot--it is reasonably priced, a good representation of the grape and avoids the "off the wall" approach of Gravner and Radikon, which can be fun in the right situation.
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Re: In support of German wines

by Sam Platt » Wed May 17, 2006 1:09 pm

Despite the fact that I profess to prefer reds, we own and drink more German Riesling than any other wine. It's great with many foods that we prefer, and it stands up well on its own. German Riesling served as my introduction to the wine world.
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Re: In support of German wines

by Hoke » Wed May 17, 2006 2:30 pm

Sam Platt wrote:Despite the fact that I profess to prefer reds, we own and drink more German Riesling than any other wine. It's great with many foods that we prefer, and it stands up well on its own. German Riesling served as my introduction to the wine world.


Sam, I think Riesling, and especially German Riesling, served as an introduction to the joys of the wine world for many, many people.

It's a great place to start because most of the QBA and QMP Germans have some residual sugars that balance out the acidity of the grape, the flavors aren't "smack you in your face" bold and aggressive, and the alcohol levels are a bit more forgiving.

(An aside, but a fairly pertinent one: when I was a retailer in Texas we had a brand called San Martin from Santa Clara. Fairly MOR/jug brand, but they came out with what was then a brilliant idea: they brought in a German winemaker and developed a separate line of wines called "Soft wines". Pretty simple really: they'd take familiar varieties available then and make them so that they were fairly low alcohol and retained residual sugars....hence, the "soft"...while keeping all the varietal flavors. With the then just beginning trend for wine, with a lot of people trying to get into wine but not liking "sour", i.e., dry wine, the soft wines were a big seller, served as an introduction to wines to many. Who then went on to the other wines, of course.

Of course the "serious" wine drinkers sniffed and condescended at the soft wines...but who cared? They were already into wine. These were people who were trying to get into wine.)

If I had people just starting to get interested in wine, the German section was where I'd usually start, and then work them up from there.

Trouble was, even though they would often start with the German Rieslings, once they got into other wines they usually developed a "dry snobbism" and started dissing wines with any residual as not being "serious" enough. They also, almost inevitably, would get caught up with body and overstatement as the prime things they were looking for in wine....more oak, mor malo, mor tannin, more extration, more jam. They seemed to favor the bold (Cabernet Sauvignon) over the nuanced (Pinot Noir), the heavy (barrel fermented and barrel aged Chardonnay) over elegance (Riesling). So they moved away from Riesling.

But the interesting thing, to me, is that most wine lovers...eventually....come back to an even more full and nuanced appreciation of Reisling and its many attributes. And that's because it is, quite simply, a great wine variety.
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Re: In support of German wines

by Sam Platt » Wed May 17, 2006 3:45 pm

Hoke,

My wife said that Riesling is the wine we drink while we are making up our mind what wine to drink. Often, we end up not opening anything but the Riesling. If you caught me off-guard I would probably not name Riesling as one of my three favorite varieties. In sports jargon "scoreboard rules" and I have consumed more than twice as many German Rieslings as any other style. At present one third of my "cellar" is German, and some Alsatian, Riesling. I am trying to be a good "dry snob", but I cannot deny the facts; I am a Riesling drinker. :)
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Re: In support of German wines

by JC (NC) » Wed May 17, 2006 7:21 pm

Never, never be ashamed to be a Riesling drinker. It is indeed a noble grape.
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Re: In support of German wines

by Tom N. » Thu May 18, 2006 10:04 pm

wrcstl wrote: Maybe I should stop thinking about German wine when I drink them and just enjoy.
Walt


I love rieslings, especially German ones. My wife thinks they are the best wines because they are so smooth and elegant with low alcohol. About 10% of cellar is rieslings, mostly kabinetts with a few spatleses and ausleses thrown in for good measure. It is the only white wine I always have in my cellar. I even love sekt, the sparkling riesling made in Germany enought to try to keep one in my cellar at all times. It is definitely my favorite white and one of my top three wines. You just can't go wrong with a good riesling with food either. It is the most food friendly white, IMO. Riesling is just a great all around wine.
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Re: In support of German wines

by Mike Filigenzi » Thu May 18, 2006 10:43 pm

Hoke wrote:
Sam Platt wrote:Despite the fact that I profess to prefer reds, we own and drink more German Riesling than any other wine. It's great with many foods that we prefer, and it stands up well on its own. German Riesling served as my introduction to the wine world.


Sam, I think Riesling, and especially German Riesling, served as an introduction to the joys of the wine world for many, many people.

It's a great place to start because most of the QBA and QMP Germans have some residual sugars that balance out the acidity of the grape, the flavors aren't "smack you in your face" bold and aggressive, and the alcohol levels are a bit more forgiving.

(An aside, but a fairly pertinent one: when I was a retailer in Texas we had a brand called San Martin from Santa Clara. Fairly MOR/jug brand, but they came out with what was then a brilliant idea: they brought in a German winemaker and developed a separate line of wines called "Soft wines". Pretty simple really: they'd take familiar varieties available then and make them so that they were fairly low alcohol and retained residual sugars....hence, the "soft"...while keeping all the varietal flavors. With the then just beginning trend for wine, with a lot of people trying to get into wine but not liking "sour", i.e., dry wine, the soft wines were a big seller, served as an introduction to wines to many. Who then went on to the other wines, of course.

Of course the "serious" wine drinkers sniffed and condescended at the soft wines...but who cared? They were already into wine. These were people who were trying to get into wine.)

If I had people just starting to get interested in wine, the German section was where I'd usually start, and then work them up from there.

Trouble was, even though they would often start with the German Rieslings, once they got into other wines they usually developed a "dry snobbism" and started dissing wines with any residual as not being "serious" enough. They also, almost inevitably, would get caught up with body and overstatement as the prime things they were looking for in wine....more oak, mor malo, mor tannin, more extration, more jam. They seemed to favor the bold (Cabernet Sauvignon) over the nuanced (Pinot Noir), the heavy (barrel fermented and barrel aged Chardonnay) over elegance (Riesling). So they moved away from Riesling.

But the interesting thing, to me, is that most wine lovers...eventually....come back to an even more full and nuanced appreciation of Reisling and its many attributes. And that's because it is, quite simply, a great wine variety.


My first wine experiences were very much in this vein. When I was in college, there was a liquor store near campus that ran a seemingly endless "special" on a variety of German wines. I don't remember who made them, but they were bottled in tall, narrow, ceramic-looking bottles. They bore names like "Piesporter Goldtropfchen" and "Zeller Schwartze Katz", and they were all $2 or $3. We went through many gallons of these when we weren't feeling like beer. They were tasty, easy to drink, low-alcohol, and the liquor store rarely required an ID.

I didn't drink much in the way of German wine for many years after college but now, as you say, I'm finding my way back. Although I'm not drinking much Zeller Schwartze Katz these days....

Mike
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Re: In support of German wines

by wrcstl » Fri May 19, 2006 10:15 am

Tom N. wrote:
wrcstl wrote: Maybe I should stop thinking about German wine when I drink them and just enjoy.
Walt


I love rieslings, especially German ones. My wife thinks they are the best wines because they are so smooth and elegant with low alcohol. About 10% of cellar is rieslings, mostly kabinetts with a few spatleses and ausleses thrown in for good measure. .


Tom,
We agree. The problem I have with German rieslings is auslese and above. I only drink kabinet and spatlese. Actually most of what I drink is trocken and halb trocken. Significant RS is something we just do not enjoy even if it is balanced with acid. The acidity is what makes Spatlese OK plus it goes so well with highly flavored dishes. My other nit is not being able to understand the labels. Understand the labels are very informative but the fonts and busy labels are very confusing even though many German wine drinkers on this forum do not agree. Maybe they speak German.
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Re: In support of German wines

by David M. Bueker » Fri May 19, 2006 11:22 am

wrcstl wrote:
Tom N. wrote:
wrcstl wrote: Maybe I should stop thinking about German wine when I drink them and just enjoy.
Walt


I love rieslings, especially German ones. My wife thinks they are the best wines because they are so smooth and elegant with low alcohol. About 10% of cellar is rieslings, mostly kabinetts with a few spatleses and ausleses thrown in for good measure. .


My other nit is not being able to understand the labels. Understand the labels are very informative but the fonts and busy labels are very confusing even though many German wine drinkers on this forum do not agree. Maybe they speak German.
Walt


For what it's worth...I don't speak German. I can't even order a meal or ask directions in German. Speaking German has nothing to do with understanding the labels.
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Re: In support of German wines

by Bill Spohn » Fri May 19, 2006 11:29 am

The German wine labels, while actually fairly descriptive, appear cryptic to non German speakers and the mess they made of theri wine laws starting in the 1970s would make the Italians seem organised in comparison.

But there is a very good argument to be made that Riesling is THE noble grape (depending on personal taste, of course), and as Johnson so archly observed in his delightful book recently, they do it without need of the addition of anything foreign to the wine like oak. While many white chards would be something quite different without oak treatment of one sort or other, Rieslings 'go it alone'.

Sort of like asking what is the greatest French Fry and saying "Well, if you have to add catsup, you aren't really a purist..."

My cellar is sadly devoid of any 1971, but I still have a few bottles of 1975 and 1976 Rieslings that I pull out whenever I need to put things in perspective, not to mention marvelling that a nation that seems to exist entirely on beer can produce such nectar.


Walt, I am pretty much on your side about sweet wines (don't get me started on a favourite rant), but with German wines I love them IF they are well balanced with acidity, and even the sweeter wines lose sweetness with age, so you can always wait a decade or two.

Interesting thought - I suppose I've never wondered exactly what chemical process makes these wines lose sweetness over time - any chemists out there?

A 30 year old Beerenauslese can present at apparent sugar levels of a much younger Spatlese.

[img]http://e4u.deltait.com.au/dressed/bek166.gif[/img][img]http://e4u.deltait.com.au/dressed/bek166.gif[/img][img]http://e4u.deltait.com.au/dressed/bek166.gif[/img]
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Re: In support of German wines

by wrcstl » Fri May 19, 2006 11:46 am

Bill Spohn wrote:The German wine labels, while actually fairly descriptive, appear cryptic to non German speakers and the mess they made of theri wine laws starting in the 1970s would make the Italians seem organised in comparison.

But there is a very good argument to be made that Riesling is THE noble grape (depending on personal taste, of course), and as Johnson so archly observed in his delightful book recently, they do it without need of the addition of anything foreign to the wine like oak.


Bill,
We are in total agreement. I have had some older german Auslese and like you say they loose the sweetness and gain much complexity. Can't argue about riesling being a noble grape and I am a major fan of Austiran Rieslings but they are a totally different bird. I still have problems with the fonts and labels. Think the German's are their own worst enemy, something like "if I make it hard enough only the dedicated will prevail" Regardless, I will be looking to improve my cellar selections of German Rieslngs.
Walt
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Re: In support of German wines

by David M. Bueker » Fri May 19, 2006 12:19 pm

wrcstl wrote:I still have problems with the fonts and labels. Think the German's are their own worst enemy, something like "if I make it hard enough only the dedicated will prevail" Regardless, I will be looking to improve my cellar selections of German Rieslngs.
Walt


If it makes you feel any better, most German producers have gone to simplified fonts. The rest of it (beyond the pradikat, which you seem to understand) is no different than Burgundy. Let's take a case in point from Selbach-Oster.

Selbach-Oster=The producer (no different than saying Louis Jadot)
Zeltinger Sonnenuhr=the place and the vineyard (no different than saying Gevrey Chambertin Clos St. Jacques)
Riesling=the grape (let's just say this is more helpful than saying Bourgogne for those who don't know that Burgundy is Pinot Noir)
Kabinett=The pradikat (ok, you've got me there, but clearly you understand it)

Now in the case of Selbach-Oster this is all in nice block letters. There's fewer and fewer scripts labels every year. Donnhoff (a much cleaner script now than 10 years ago) and Muller-Catoir are the two most prominent estates that are lagging behind. Just about all the rest of the big boys are using easy fonts. I don't see the continued complaining. I really think that people have been willing to invest time and energy into understanding French wine labels, but then won't spend a second on a German label. It's not that hard.
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Re: In support of German wines

by Tom N. » Sat May 20, 2006 3:45 pm

wrcstl wrote:Tom,
We agree. The problem I have with German rieslings is auslese and above. I only drink kabinet and spatlese. Actually most of what I drink is trocken and halb trocken. Significant RS is something we just do not enjoy even if it is balanced with acid.
Walt


I agree that most of what we drink is kabinett (I just purchased 6-2004 Gunderloch riesling kabinetts - my house white). and spatlese, with kabinett being favored about 4:1. Ausleses are only special event wines to go with a fruit salad or special dessert. You even have to watch out for spatleses occasionally depending on vintage. I brought a 2003 Gunderloch riesling spatlese to Easter dinner with my family and it was really sweet. It must of been a declassified auslese or beerenauslese. My brother James told me had no use for the wine with the ham based dinner. He loved it with dessert, however.
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