05/02/06 – Germany pt. 1 (Riesling)

By Jesse on May 1, 2006


I got good and sunburned yesterday. I was laying up on the roof of my house since it was such a gorgeous day, and I went and got myself mighty sunburned. Even my eyelids are sunburned, which is weird, but which also actually hurts a lot. My advice to all of you is to do whatever is necessary to avoid getting sunburned eyelids.

Maybe the sunburn is affecting my judgement, because I had a crazy epiphany about a different direction we could take things at this point. I know there are a few French regions we didn’t do — Languedoc-Roussillon, Provance, etc. — but I’ve begun to perceive an antipathy among certain group members to the exhaustive searches that these smaller regions sometimes require, so maybe we’ll skip those two, having already done Rhone, Loire, and Alsace. None of these regions are very “supermarket-friendly,” and although that’s certainly not our top priority, we admittedly have been in Europe for quite some time, and it’s a big world out there. Also, we haven’t covered Champagne yet, of course, but I was thinking maybe we’d revisit that storied region as part of a larger examination of sparkling wines in general. We haven’t yet done much of anything in the way of sparkling wines, and it would be a shame to go out and buy the very best without having some context upon which to base our analysis.

So lets move on to Germany, which is the last country I think it makes sense to visit in Europe (wine is made in Hungary, Austria, etc., but sweet lord, you have to draw the line somewhere). As recently as the nineteenth century, Germany was the only other country in the world besides France to produce what were considered quality wines. Spanish, Italian, and non-European wines just didn’t have the prestige of France and Germany until the last hundred years. Germany also makes a lot of sense as our next destination because most of its wine is produced right over the border from Alsace, so it’ll be a nice comparison.

Although Germany has several major wine regions, I thought an interesting way to split things up might be by varietal (grape type). I know this isn’t how we’ve been doing it in other countries, but from what I’ve read, it sounds like there might not be as much difference in taste between the various German regions as there is elsewhere in Europe. So what if we divided Germany into two days: on the first day, we’ll do Riesling, which is Germany’s most famous and prestigious wine. And on the second day, we’ll do the rest: Gewurtztraminer, Pinot Gris, and the delicious blend they call Liebfraumilch. Unlike many European countries, German wines typically say the grape type right on the front label, so it’ll be easy to divide things up this way.

So for Tuesday night, bring a nice bottle of German Riesling — any region will do. Riesling from Germany will taste different from those we had in Alsace, and will probably tend to be sweeter. But the hallmark of top German Riesling is a precision and clarity of flavors, coupled with a careful balance between natural acidity and crisp fruitiness. They can be really, really good. When checking the label, look for the word “Riesling” — it will usually appear after the town and vineyard names, as in “Piesporter Goldtropfchen Riesling,” or something along those lines. (The best ones will have another word after it which indicates the ripeness of the grape. The six possible words are Kabinett, Spatlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, Eiswein, or Trockenbeernauslese… I’m not making this up. Don’t worry about what they mean just yet — any of those words appearing on the bottle is a good indicator of quality.)

We’ll be meeting at Leah’s house in Santa Monica.

German Riesling has to be one of the world’s loveliest whites. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to drink some in a fashionable Santa Monica domicile. Remember to chill your bottles, and we’ll see your ass on Tuesday night at 9:00.