The Art of Pairing
Pairing food and wine is an art rather than a science. There are no hard and fast rules, but instead some some broad guidelines. Even those, like reds with red meat and whites with seafood and poultry, can be ignored with delightful results.
Three things we’ve found can really benefit your food-wine pairing adventures: lower alcohol wines, higher acidity and… Riesling!
We had a chance to test our mindset with a pair of outstanding German wines: 2014 Burg Ravensburg Weissburgunder, Baden, and 2014 Kruger-Rumpf Munsterer Rheinberg Riesling Kabinett, Nahe. To boil down the German nomenclature, we had a 2014 Pinot Blanc from Baden and a 2014 Kabinett Riesling from the Nahe region.
The pair of German wines were guests at our Thanksgiving meal – but should certainly be considered for any holiday guest list. The Kruger-Rumpf Riesling comes from the Nahne region that produces outstanding Riesling, but isn’t as well known as Mosel and Rheingau. German Riesling can be sweet, but the wine also has vibrant acidity that can counterbalance the sugar.
A good rule of thumb to help determine the sweetness of a Riesling is to look at the alcohol content. Since fermentation takes sugar and converts it to alcohol, a higher alcohol content means more sugar has been converted and it isn’t as sweet. Conversely, a lower alcohol Riesling has a greater sugar content that hasn’t been converted to alcohol. It’s sweeter. Do remember that Riesling can be finished as a sweet dessert wine or bone dry. The versatility is what makes it one of the world’s great grapes.
Riesling is a classic pairing with turkey (ham as well). The Kruger-Rumpf has an alcohol content of 9% compared to a typical wine which might have 14%. As you surmise, it has a nice ripple of sweetness. This is a light, balanced wine with delicious fruit notes and notes of minerality. It will be appreciated by occasional wine drinkers as well as wine aficionados. At only about $20, this is an outstanding value.
What’s Up With Weissburgunder?
While our guests dug into turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes and a variety of side dishes – I was uncorking Weissburgunder. One of the peculiarities of wine is that one grape can have multiple names. In this case, Weiss (white) burgunder is Pinot Blanc. For trivia buffs, Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) is the most planted red variety in Germany. Grauburgunder is Pinot Gris and is also called Rulander in Germany.
The Burg Ravensburg vineyards were first mentioned 1251, making them among the oldest in the world. The Burg Ravensburg Weissburgunder is a distinctive wine, somewhat more exotic than Pinot Gris. This wine threw me a curve ball. I had been expecting a sweeter glass. This was lower in sugar and alcohol and was offbeat enough that I refilled my glass at least a couple times trying to decipher it.
It has a nice rounded texture with notes of apple and perhaps nuttiness. It paired brilliantly with everything on my plate. It can be found for $20 or less and represents another great bargain.
German wines are a great choice for holiday events. They appeal to a wide spectrum of guests, pair well with a variety of festive meals, and do so without breaking the bank.
Full disclosure: We received these wines as marketing samples.