08/29/07 – (sweet?) German whites

By Jesse on August 27, 2007


First and secondmost, big props to everyone who came on the extremely worthwhile Sonoma trip this weekend.  We had an awesome time visiting the wineries, drinking some excellent Russian River and Alexander wines, and enjoying the unspoiled beauty of pastoral countryside as bucolic as an old batch of collard greens.  Big thanks to Jason and Kristen for volunteering their cars for the long ride up to wine country.  We’ll plan to do at least one more trip before the end of the year, likely another of our famous day trips for people who can’t take a whole weekend away — perhaps a return to Santa Barbara for round two?

Second and foremost, we’ve had a request to devote a meeting to light-bodied, sweet-ish wines that are accessible either on their own or with appropriate food.  What better place to find wines like that than in Germany?  A vast majority of German wine is white, as the combination of Germany’s cool climate and high altitude with its propensity towards refinement and precision have resulted in a reputation for producing whites with extreme clarity of flavors and a careful balance between natural acidity and crisp fruitiness.  It should be the perfect region to discover some off-dry to sweet whites that still display complexity and structure.

Here’s how we’ll do it: please bring any varietal you want, including Riesling.  However, if you do bring Riesling, lets make sure we’re getting a good one.  The way to do that is to look for six specific qualifier words after the word “Riesling” on the bottle.  These words refer to the harvest of the grape and tend to indicate sweetness level.  The words are:

Kabinett — picked at normal ripeness; wine will be off-dry or possibly sweet
Spatlese — late harvest; will be sweeter and more intense
Auslese — means “selected harvest,” will be lush and sweet, and more expensive
Note: the following three will be quite expensive indeed
Beerenauslese — individual “noble rot” grapes selected by hand; deep honeyed richness
Trockenbeerenauslese — the richest, sweetest, rarest, and most expensive of all German wines; you become president of the Young Winos if you bring one
Eiswein — made from grapes which have ripened into winter and then frozen; incredibly intense flavors

I assume we won’t find anything besides Kabinett or Spatlese in our price range.  However, even those two classifications will indicate a very high quality of Riesling, so definitely bring one if you find it!

The other option is to bring any other varietal of German wine.  Just make sure you talk to your friendly neighborhood wine dealer and indicate that you are looking for one that errs towards the sweet side, since some German whites are definitely dry.  Good bets for other German varietals include Gewurztraminer, Rulander (Pinot Gris), Scheurebe (pronounced SHOY-reh-bay), Silvaner, and Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc).  Any of those should be interesting additions to the tasting.  Of course, as always, you can bring a $10 donation instead of wine.

**Lets stay away from Liebfraumilch if possible.  We’ve had this inexpensive German quaffing wine at previous meetings, and it’s never anything more than simplistic and sweet — basically the Rhineland’s version of White Zinfandel.  Liebfraumilch is a good wine for the beach and that’s about it.  (But it’s definitely a good wine for the beach… I encourage all of you to see for yourselves before the summer’s over.)

We’ll be meeting at Leah’s house in Santa Monica.  Summer’s not over yet, and there’s still plenty of time to sip delicious and complex sweet German whites on your porch in mid-afternoon when all of your friends are at their various jobs.  Hopefully we’ll discover some wines at this meeting that will allow me to do just that.  See y’all on Wednesday at 9pm.