Where The Wind Blows
Germany is home to some of the world’s coldest-climate vineyards, well north of what is generally considered prime territory for growing grapes. The temperatures are lower during the growing season and the vineyards get less sunshine. The good news is that the cool climate allows the grapes to ripen slowly and retain their hallmark acidity. The resulting wines are crisp and expressive. We found a pair just right for summertime drinking.
The best vineyards in Germany are on southern-facing slopes on the north side of a river. The orientation allows for more sunlight hours and the river reflects sunshine onto the vines. Rheingau, produces just 2% of Germany’s wines, but has a reputation for producing Riesling that is second to none. The region has the most favored position on the Rhine and benefits from red slate soil. The slate absorbs heat from the sun and radiates it back during the night.
The King Of White Wine
Some consider Riesling the king of white wines. It certainly is the most versatile, with Riesling being produced from bone dry to sweet dessert-style wine. Who ever heard of a late harvest Chardonnay? Riesling also pairs perfectly with a variety of foods. (Can you tell Riesling is my favorite grape?)
We opened a bottle of Furst von Metternich 2014 Schloss Johannisberger Riesling Feinherb Gelblack from Rheingau. Johannisberg is renowned for producing wonderfully refreshing Riesling, so much so that wineries in the US were producing “Johannisberg” Riesling until international trade agreements put the kibosh on that marketing ploy. Feinherb indicates that the wine is off-dry.
We paired the Riesling with mahi-mahi with peach salsa and tri-colored carrots. This is a classic Riesling with fragrant aroma of white blossoms. On the palate there is fresh apple and pear. There is a subtle fruit sweetness that is balanced with juicy acidity. This is a wine that will appeal to those with a dry palate as well as those who prefer more sugar. It was a nice match with the sweet and spicy salsa and our fish.
You Need To Know Spätburgunder
Spätburgunder is the most widely planted red wine grape in Germany. That makes more sense when you know that Spätburgunder is also known as Pinot Noir. Even so, I was surprised to learn that Germany is the world’s third leading producer of Pinot Noir (behind France and the US).
We enjoyed a meal of mushroom ravioli on the patio while enjoying the Becker Family 2012 Pinot Noir from Pfalz. German Pinot Noir is less tannic than warmer climate Pinot and this bottle offers wonderful fruit flavors of blackberries and strawberry.
Pfalz is a region that in years past was know for producing bulk-style, inexpensive wines. That has changed and no German region has shown a more drastic improvement in quality. The packaging of this bottle is unintimidating to US wine consumers. The grape variety is prominently shown without a confusing (to some) array of German words for villages, vineyards and quality level.
The Becker Pinot was an inspired pairing with the ravioli dish. The savory mushrooms blended seamlessly with the swirling fruit of the Pinot Noir.
Germany is one of the great wine producing countries of the world. It’s reputation is built on world-class Riesling – but surprises are in store. More than one third of German wines produced today are reds, including delicious Spätburgunder! White or red, Germany wines are a good pick for your summer meal.
Full disclosure: These wines were received as a marketing sample.