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Posts Tagged ‘Wine Dictionary’

The German Way of Classifying Wine

german-flagOn 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:

 

  1.  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.
  2. 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.
  3.  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.
    1. “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.
    2. “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.
    3. “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.
    4. “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.
    5. “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.
    6. “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.

 

Wine Dictionary – Muscadet

Muscadet is a white French wine made from the Muscadet grape, which is formally called Melon de Bourgogne, often referred to simply as melon pronounced “meh-Lawn”.  This French white wine is primarily made at the western end of the Loire Valley, near the city of Nantes in the Pays de la Loire region of France.

 

All muscadet wine produced in France will have an “AOC” designation stamped on the label. “AOC” stands for Appellation d’origine contrôlée, which translates to “controlled term of origin”.  France has a very strict law that stresses that AOC products shall be produced in a consistent and traditional manner with ingredients from specifically classified producers in designated geographical areas. The products must further be aged at least partially in the respective designated area.  In this particular case, Muscadet has three “AOC’s” which are:

 

1.) Sèvre et Maine
2.) Coteaux de la Loire
3.) Côtes de Grandlieu 

 

Much of the best Muscadet comes from the Sèvre et Maine AOC area and all labels from this particular AOC will say “Sur Lie”, which means that the wine stayed in contact with its sediment for a period of time to give the Muscadet more complexity of flavors.

French Muscadet is a fairly light tasting style of white wine.  However, most possess a zippy tart lemon-lime flavor that is great for sipping on a sizzling summer day.  Muscadet is a terrific companion with shellfish-especially oysters and clams.  If the raw bar is your thing, a French Muscadet is the perfect marriage.

 

When shopping for Muscadet, make sure to purchase the youngest ones that you can find because this white wine in most cases, does not age well. 

 

Chill well and enjoy!

 

Wine Dictionary – Viognier

viognierMany guides differ slightly when giving the pronunciation of this native Rhone Valley white grape.  Some say vee-own-yay, while others say vee-on-yayVee-on-yay with a short o is actually the correct way to pronounce it.  But hey, it’s all good no matter how you say it.

 

 

This awesome white grape that was originally born in the Rhone Valley of France is now being planted all over the globe.  In it’s native France, the majority of Viogniers are sold as  “Vin de Pays“, or “country wine” in the Languedoc wine region of France.  In the Rhone wine region, the Viognier grape is often blended with other native French white wine grapes like Roussanne, Marsanne, Grenache blanc, and Rolle.  Finally, in Northern Rhone, Viognier is sometimes blended with the Chardonnay grape.

 

Most Viogniers exhibit a rich, flower shop aroma that is similar to the Torrontes white grape from Argentina.  Most also have an apricot and citrusy flavor.  They’re usually made in a dry style with a hint of sweetness, and leave the oak in the woods where it belongs.

Viognier is a great summer sipping wine.  It partners very nicely with a variety of different foods and I really think it goes great with spicy ethnic dishes, too.  In addition, this white wine is also pretty darn good with soft French cheeses, such as Brie.

One piece of advice to remember when considering purchasing a bottle of Viognier – buy the youngest ones that you can find.  Most Viogniers don’t typically age very well.  

 

Wine Dictionary – Rose

roseHey, is that Kool-Aid that you’re drinking?  Nope, its Rosé wine.

 

So what the heck is Rosé wine anyway?  Well, it can be a simple mix of white and red wine.  But, in most cases, a Rosé wine is just the by-product of a red-skinned grape.  Rosé wines are usually made by removing the skins just before the juice is a deep ruby red color.  This contact period with the juice is usually about 2-3 days to achieve its “pretty in pink” color.

 

Rosé wine is usually on the lighter side and exhibits some strawberry-like flavors.  Here in the US a lot of consumers enjoy White Zinfandel.  However, this popular pink concoction is not considered a true rosé, but rather a “blush”.

 

Rosé wine is a great hot weather wine that matches up well with BBQ sauce slathered chicken, ribs, fried fare, and believe it or not – Easter ham.

 

If you’re in the market for the real deal in Rosé, I highly recommend trying one from Spain, Portugal, or France.  Chill well before drinking.  

 

 

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