That First Sweet Sip
Many calendar pages ago, I was a crusading newspaper editor and reporter in West Virginia. I wanted to impress my beautiful date by taking her to a classy event – a wine tasting.
That young lady was the Green Dragon, my future wife. To say that we were wine newbies would be an overstatement. This one evening would be the beginning of a lifelong love affair – that includes my wife too.
We attended a wine tasting hosted by Les Amis du Vin – the friends of wine – held at the Paramount Arts Center in Ashland, Kentucky. A wine distributor was there and with a wide array of German wines. He also handed out a booklet, “A Short Guide to German Wines.” As I was going through some old boxes last week, I found the booklet after many years – like a miner finding a large gold nugget.Those wines and that booklet made us lovers of German wines to this day.
Our palate wasn’t well developed, but we knew what we liked – sweet white German wine! We started there and the little booklet, featuring a cartoonish character in lederhosen, gave us excellent information on how to enjoy the wine and the different quality levels.
Evolution Of German Wines
Germany is consistently among the top 10 wine exporters in the world. Globally, tastes change – just like our palate gravitated to drier wine. Winemaking in Germany has evolved too – today about two-thirds of the country’s wine production is dry.
Although Germany produces many wines, it’s reputation is built upon world-class Riesling. These wines are complex with the ability to age – a rarity among white wines.
I’ve gained an even greater enthusiasm for German wine (if that’s possible) with my recent discovery of VDP wines. This is the designation for the Association of German Pradikat Wine Estates (for which the German acronym is VDP). The group, founded in 1910, is an organization of Germany’s leading wine estates. In 2002 they announced the first classification system for vineyards, modeled after Burgundy. We recently tasted two VDP Rieslings: 2015 von Winning Ruppertsberger Reiterpfad Riesling Trocken, Pfalz, and 2014 St. Urbans-Hof Nik Weis Riesling Kabinett, Ockfener Bockstein, Mosel.
A Satisfying Pair
Mosel is the most famous German wine region, known for its high acid Riesling. The St. Urbans-Hof winery uses traditional methods that have been customary in the Mosel and Saar valleys since Roman times. This includes the “heart-binding” trellis system whereby the canes of the vine are tied into heart shapes.
This Kabinett is golden in the glass. On the palate the wine has a rich texture, thicker than most still wines. The flavor notes are all citrus with lemon at the forefront. This is a sweet wine. A good way to get an indication of the sweetness of Riesling is to look at the percentage of alcohol. The lower the alcohol, the sweeter it is because the winemaking process basically converts sugar to alcohol. This is a satisfying bottle that retails for $22.
The Von Winning Trocken (dry) Riesling is from Ruppertsberg, which is known for producing some of the finest Riesling in Pfalz. We were fans of this winery based on their “Winnings” Riesling, an exceptional value we tried last year.
While the Bockstein is all citrus, the Ruppertsberg Trocken is all about tropical fruit. The lower residual sugar and precisely balanced acidity makes this a standout wine. It is a rich and opulent wine with flavor threads of honeysuckle and pineapple. We enjoyed this with some bratwurst during a cookout. The Von Winning paired outrageously well with the sunny afternoon, brats, music and dancing on our patio! It retails for $35.
German Riesling is one of the world’s best wines. Grab a glass. Like us, you may find a new passion that will last decades.
Full disclosure: These wines were received as a marketing sample.