Posts Tagged ‘Riesling’
On the heels of my first ever “Germans are the Best” taste challenge. I thought it would be interesting to take a closer look at how Germany actually classifies its white wines.
In Germany, a single wine estate will in most cases, make several different individual wines – mainly utilizing the native Riesling grape. These wines can run the spectrum of being off-dry to tasting rich and very sweet. For this reason, German wines are classified by law based upon the ripeness or “sweetness” level during a given harvest. All German white wines can be broken down into three categories:
Light and Off-Dry – These wines will have low alcohol content, be light in body with some degree of residual sugar to give it a clean and refreshing taste.
Dry and Full-Bodied – These wines produce higher alcohol content (somewhere between 11 and 13%), the body of the wine will begin to get heavier and the wine will also be more assertive and aromatic.
Rich & Sweet – These German wines will display the highest alcohol content because the berries are left to wither on the vine to the point of becoming raisins. These raisin–like berries are then individually selected and hand-picked to produce some of Germany’s finest dessert style wines.
Taking this ripeness level concept one step further, Germany designed a wine classification system which would further break down its white wines into specific categories of ripeness.
When shopping for a German white wine – which in most cases will be a Riesling wine, you’ll see one of these German wine terms listed below on the bottle label. These terms are meant to be a road map to help guide you towards a German wine that will either be light and somewhat dry or to a wine that is super rich and sweet. Here are the options you’ll encounter when considering the purchase of a German white wine:
“Tafelwein” or Landwein” – This just means “German table wine”.
“QBA” – When a German label lists “QBA”, its telling you that this particular wine is a basic level “quality wine”. It will possess a degree of sweetness, but look for this wine to be more on the drier and lighter side.
“QmP” – this German wine term literally means, “Quality wines with distinction”. This classification is meant to tell shoppers that this German wine is of “superior quality”. These superior quality wines are broken down into 6 “Prädikats” or wine classifications to provide consumers clues as to what style of wine a particular German wine might taste like.
“Kabinett” When a German wine labels lists the word “ Kabinett”, it’s trying to tell you that this particular wine will be light bodied with some degree of residual sugar to give it a touch of sweetness. “Kabinetts” are best drunk alone or with light seafood and shellfish.
“Spatlese” When you see this term on a German wine label, it means that this particular wine may be either dry or sweet (Consult your wine retailer to ask if they’ve tried the “Spatlese” you’re considering to find out if its on the drier or sweeter side). Good food choices for the sweeter ones are spicy dishes.
“Auslese” This means that the grapes used to make these wines were very ripe and a fraction of them were almost “raisin-like” before they were hand-picked off of the vine. Again, a German wine label that indicates “Auslese” may be either dry or sweet. I would recommend talking to the wine clerk to ask if they’ve tasted the wine that you’re considering. “Auslese” will however be a richer, more complex style of German white wine.
“BA” or “Beerenauslese” This wine term is meant to tell you that the particular wine that you’re looking at is a rich, sweet, dessert-style of wine where there hand-picked berries (“Beeren”) were left on the vine until they achieved a rainsin like state.
“TBA” or “Trockenbeerenauslese” This German wine term means “very rich and sweet”. Just think of honey when you see this on a German wine label.
“Eiswein” This German wine term literally means “Ice wine”. German Eiswein is a super sweet and rich dessert – style wine made from grapes that have been left on the vine until they have shriveled up like raisins. These berries are hand-picked in the winter and pressed into wine while still frozen. Many Eisweins will even tell you when they were harvested. Look for “St. Nikolauswein” which means harvested on December 6th or “Christwein” which means harvested on December 24th or “Dreikonigswein” which means harvested on January 6th.
As a final word of caution, all German white wines classified from “Table wine” to “Auslese” can be dry to bordering on sweet. Try asking the wine clerk for assistance if you’re not sure whether or not the German white wine that you’re considering leans towards one or the other.
For more information about the German Prädikat System and other interesting stuff about the Riesling grape, visit the Riesling Rules website and request a free copy of the Riesling Rules book. This paperback book is chock full of terrific Riesling information and helpful information.
Germans are the Best?! There’s a simple explanation for this peculiar title:
It all started about 15 years or so ago when I first used the phrase “Germans Are The Best” in a conversation with a friend of mine. (Please note: I have no clue where this phrase came from, but I’m fairly certain that I heard it somewhere.) You see, I’m German. I mean – I was literally born in Germany. Then there’s my very dear friend on the other hand, who is Irish. She’s really an American though – since she was actually born in the United States and not Ireland. Nonetheless, she’s convinced that she’s a true Irish gal. If you live in the United States, then you’re probably well aware that folks of the Irish persuasion are a very proud bunch of people and want the whole world to know that they’re Irish. My good friend is no exception to this “Irish rule”. She embraces her family’s Irish heritage and celebrates it every day of the year – not just on St. Patrick’s Day.
Being proud of my own heritage, I thought that it would be great to share with her all of the wonderful things about being German – such as “being the first people to do anything and everything first”. Over the years, she and I have watched several programs together about historical inventions or things that mankind couldn’t live without, had it not been for the divine intervention of German ingenuity. Upon being made aware of each of these history making factoids, I without fail turn to my proud Irish pal and mutter these familiar words to her every single time, “But of course, that’s because Germans are the best…” A simple phrase that is derived from the idea that Germans have had a lot of “firsts” throughout history and that right about now friend, you should be thanking your Irish arse for those German pioneers that have made your life today so much frickin’ better.
One day, having heard enough of my “Germans are the best” rants, she called me out on one very important fact. She asked me this simple question, “If Germans are the best and were the first people to do everything…then why don’t you drink any German wines??? – You “deutsch” bag!” Ouch! The truth sometimes hurts. But, she made a valid point that made me think long and hard about the silly little expression that I often rammed down her throat like a plate of leftover sauerkraut and bratwurst in the middle of October. Up until that very moment, I rarely drank German wines. I conceded to her point, but I also told her that I would be up for a little wine challenge to set the record straight. We both agreed that the only way that this German craziness would be put to rest, would be through a series of taste challenges that would pit Germany’s finest liquid gold against “The Rest Of The World”. In this winner takes all wine challenge, it would prove or disprove once and for all whether or not “Germans are the Best!” – or at least in this case, at winemaking than the rest of the world. We thought that we’d raise the stakes and only use the mighty Riesling grape in our taste challenge in order to give “the Germans” a fighting chance at winning. Plus, the bonus in all of this craziness is that we both love – I mean really love the mouthfuls of gold known as Riesling. Furthermore, Germany is the ancestral homeland of Riesling – just sayin’… Historically, the Mosel, Rheingau and Rheinhessen have been recognized as the largest and premiere growing regions in Germany, while Pfalz and Nahe make up a smaller share of Germany’s overall production of Riesling.
Here were the rules that we established for our little taste off in a nutshell:
1. We would plan out several dinner parties maybe 10, 20, 30…to who knows how many. At each one of these dinner parties, we would take one German made Riesling and put it up against another Riesling made from somewhere else on the planet besides Germany and let the guests attending the party pick their favorite based only on taste.
2. Next, so that we could keep track of who was winning and who was losing in these taste challenges, we knew that it would be imperative to keep score. We decided on simplicity:
The Rest of the World
3. At some point in all of this madness, we would call, “Game Over!” and count up the score.
4. If in the end, the Germans had an overall higher score then “The Rest of the World”, it would earn me bragging rights forever. But if the Germans lost, then my Irish friend would have the opportunity to hold this shameful defeat over my big fat bratwurst filled head for as long as we both shall live. In other words, she would have an all-inclusive pass to make like Michael Flatley and give my German groin a River Dance that it wished it never had.
Like they say at the start of the Olympic Games – “LET THE GAMES BEGIN”!
They began…fast forward 10 years later mind you.
Believe it or not, it took us like 10 years to finally make this first ever Germans VS. “The Rest of the World” one for the history books.
So without further adieu, let’s get this party started and first meet the judges that will be scoring this first ever challenge.
This is my sister-in-law. While at a bar one evening, a gentleman tried picking her up with the line, “Hey baby – Did anyone ever tell you that you look just like Khloe ‘I’m in Miami trick’ Kardashian?” She also goes by the nickname “Hottie”. Khloe, I mean my sister-in-law, has confessed her love for white wine time and time again. But, the red stuff is still one big mystery to her.
This is my brother. My bro is definitely proud of his “motherland”. He’s even got some fine body paint to prove it. My big brother answers to several names like “Gunther”, “Sausage Man”, “Butcher Boy”, “Kaiser” or just plain old Larry. The liquid beverage that speaks to him, even in his sleep, is Wawa’s diet lemon-flavored iced tea. To sum it up, he doesn’t give two squats about wine, but throw a plate of grilled brats in front of him, and he’ll drink just about anything.
That’s a picture of me – Mr.WineLife365. I also keep several other aliases such as “Das Fish”, “Stephan”, “Marky” and “Pie Face”. My oldest son believes that I’m secretly the 80’s pop music star Falco after he watched the video “Der Kommissar”. I vow to do my very best to be impartial throughout this entire competition, even though deep down inside, I know that the German Rieslings will be better.
This is Mrs.WineLife365. She’s been told on more than one occasion that she looks like Bridgette Wilson, who is best known for playing the role of the hot school teacher in the Adam Sandler movie Billy Madison. These days in her circle of comrades she’s affectionately referred to as a “Cougar”, in spite of recently being linked to Chef George Perrier. Her tastes for wine are just as varied: She loves both red and white wines equally, and is definitely on board the Riesling Rules fan club.
Before beginning the wine challenge, we all thought that it might be a good idea to warm up our palates with a good old German inspired cocktail called a “German Bight”.
Follow this link to find out how to make a German Bight Cocktail.
We were all wondering the same thing about this strange concoction – “What the hell am I about to drink”! As it turned out, a German Bight cocktail is actually pretty damn good. Try one for yourself.
After knocking back a few German Bights, our palates were definitely cleansed and we were ready to turn our attention to both the grill and the stove to prepare some German cuisine.
On the grill as you can see, we’ve got the brats cooking.
While on the side burner, big brother is preparing some delicious looking German-style potato pancakes that he injected with diced japenpeno peppers. Click here for the recipe.
Now that our German meal is cooking, it’s time to introduce to you the two Rieslings that will be competing head-to-head against one another. Again, their sole purpose in this challenge is to receive a vote from one of the judges as being their favorite tasting wine – nothing more, nothing less.
As you can see in the picture, the German Riesling has a distinct height advantage over it’s US competitor from Oregon. But would that 1 -1/4” difference in bottle height equate to it tasting better than the noticeably shorter American Riesling? We’ll soon find out!
In this corner, is the German. Our German competitor is a 2007 St. Urbans-Hof Riesling. St. Urbans-Hof Winery is located in the village of Leiwen, Germany which is in the heart of Germany’s renowned Mosel Valley. Many wine experts believe that the Mosel produces Germany’s finest wines and is portrayed as the country’s benchmark for outstanding Riesling.
In the other corner, is the challenger – 2007 Edgefield Winery White Riesling. Prior to this taste challenge, I had personally never heard of this winery before. I received this wine as a gift from my good friend Bruce during a recent trip that he took to Oregon. Bruce loved this wine so much when he drank it in Oregon, that he was kind enough to bring one back to feed my ever growing Riesling addiction. I would pretty much pour an awesome tasting Riesling over my honeycombs cereal and have it for breakfast. Needless to say, I’m pretty excited about putting this lesser known Oregon produced Riesling up against what should prove to be a very good German, based on it’s pedigree.
Judges have you made your decision?
Judge #1 Khloe :
“This German is subtle, tasting orangey to me, man is this wine asleep. It’s like drinking lemon water with a packet of sweet –n- low or Splenda in it”.
What did you think about the 2007 Edgefield?
“Much more powerful and intense than the German. It’s nice, syrupy-sweetness is talkin’ to me”.
So after tasting both Rieslings, “Are Germans The Best!?”
“Not today Marky Mark. My vote goes to the 2007 Edgefield White Riesling as my favorite of the two.”
Judge #2 Gunther, how did you score it?
“The 2007 St. Urbans-Hoff Riesling is an Eye biter! This wine has a tart bite to it.”
Do these descriptors mean that you liked the German?
“Yes, I do like this German Riesling. It’s good”.
What did you think about the 2007 Edgefield Riesling?
“I thought that this wine was much more mellow than the German one. There’s no real bite to it”.
Do you have a favorite?
“Yes. I preferred the German in this case”.
Judge #3 Falco have you made up your mind yet?
“I’m not sure. I kind of like both actually”. “I like the fresh and clean sweet apple and pear taste of the German. But, I too am drawn to the bigger, higher acidity and more notably heavier US made Riesling.”
“Would you just make up your freakin’ mind Das Fish!”, cried out Judge #4. “I would like your answer before you put me to sleep”!
“I’m going to give my vote the German in this particular case. It just seemed better suited with food than the heavier tasting Edgefield Riesling. But, the Edgefield is very good though…”
Judge #4 asked, “Is that your final answer, Judge #3?”
“Yes, I’ve made my decision and I’m sticking with it – I think…”
Judge #4 Bridgette:
“Ok then. Here’s what I think about the German – “I don’t …(long pause) care for this Riesling. It’s ok, but nothing to write home about”.
How about the 2007 Edgefield Riesling?
“I like this Riesling much more than the German one. It’s bigger in flavors and I also liked that this Riesling had more acidity and sweetness to it than the German Riesling”.
So, are you saying that you reject this German?
“That’s what I’m saying. I reject this German and prefer to drink the 2007 Edgefield Riesling”.
There you have it folks, what an amazing finish in our first ever Germans VS. “The Rest Of The World” challenge – The two German born guys give a nod to the German Riesling, while the American born woman preferred the taste of the American Riesling.
Go figure…It’s a tie!
Join us again next time, when I will again do my very best to prove without a shadow of a doubt that “German Are The Best!” when it comes to making Riesling better than anybody else!
Cheers and Auf Wiedersehen!
Don’t turn around, oh oh. Der Kommissar’s in town, oh oh! It’s wasn’t the Commissioner that recently visited us, but it sure was a damn fine German doctor that made a house call to WineLife365.
“Dr. L”, as it’s known in wine circles, is a terrific “purist” style Riesling from Mosel, Germany. What I mean by “purist” is that this wine tasted like real crushed fruit, free of “special” additives that are suppose to enhance a wine’s natural flavors.
The 2008 Dr. Loosen Riesling is packed with apples and pears. However, all of this fruit does make this wine a tad sweet. Not too sweet though, but enough for me not to award it a 4 star WineLife365 rating.
I give the good doctor 3 Stars out of 4. If you dine on swine, this white wine is a perfect accompaniment.
Alles klar, Herr Kommissar?
WineLife365 Rating: 3-Star
How often is the BS on the back of a wine bottle right on the money!? More importantly, how often in life do you get entirely what you pay for and more? The Pacific Rim Dry Riesling (a mix of 20% German Riesling, 80% Washington Riesling) is quite possibly the greatest BFF that a grilled piece of tuna or sushi boat could ever have! It has a terrific apricot and citrus flavor that really matches up well with any grilled fish, sushi, or vegetarian dish – especially the spicy stuff. And the folks at Pacific Rim also seem to think so, based on the back of the bottle description. Try it for yourself!
If you really enjoy this wine, you may want to request a copy of the “Riesling Rules” book. Just click onto this link and follow the directions to get a free copy.
WineLife365 Rating: 4-Star