Like anyone, we were craving an adventure but given the times where adventures aren’t a possibility, we called upon our friend Erin Henderson who transported us to Germany through a Wines of Germany wine tasting.
Erin is the founder and Head Sommelier at The Wine Sisters, which offers private wine tastings and tours as well as has a public wine school where anyone is able to purchase tickets and attend a wine tasting. Erin is joined by a team of “sister” sommeliers who support in running the wine tastings and helping you along your wine education journey.
Wines of Germany – Canada provides marketing communications and media relations support for all German wine products as well as communications support to the producers and exporters of German wines that operate in this market. They also collaborate with the many industry partners and wine trade associations across Canada to promote wine appreciation and better access to German wines.
Tell us a bit about the legendary German Riesling and why it is so popular?
German riesling holds a cherished place in any sommelier’s tool box. With an incredibly diverse range of bone-dry to Ice wine (Eiswein auf Deutsche) there is a Riesling for every dish out there from delicately flavoured fish, to spicy Asian, to rich desserts. There aren’t many wines that have that same incredible flavour and style range.
Is all Riesling sweet? How can we tell on the labels what is sweet and what is dry?
NOOOOOOOO! This is the biggest misconception about Riesling. In fact, one of the tastings we offer at The Wine Sisters, is a fun blind tasting of wines that people totally misunderstand. Riesling is part of that workshop and every single time, our guests are blown away. But even if your Riesling is off dry, that is so fine. In many cases slightly sweeter wines are brilliant with food pairings especially spicy heat.
German wines are ranked on the level of ripeness in the grapes at the time of harvest. Generally speaking, the less ripe the less sweet. Kabinett is the level for the least ripe grapes, so that could give you an indication. You can also look for the word “trocken” which means dry in German. But a number of German wine makers are making it easier on us, and using the English word dry on the labels for easy identification.
And finally, a really good rule of thumb: the lower the alcohol usually the sweeter the wine. So if you are really hoping for a dry wine look for wines that are 12% abv or more. But I must say, don’t rule out off-dry wines. Like I said above, they’re brilliant with many foods.
What makes German wines so good for a variety of food pairings?
Wines with high acid (that puckering, mouth-watering feeling like you just sucked on a lemon) and low tannin (tannins make you feel like you have a dry mouth full of cotton balls) are the easiest to pair with food.
Why? Because the acid and saliva inducing effect cleanses your palate and gets you ready for the next bite. It freshens up fatty foods or dishes with creamy or oily sauces (like squirting lemon on fried calamari), it supports delicately flavoured foods. And low tannin gives more flexibility as well as there’s enough body to support richer red meats, but smooth enough to pair nicely with roast chicken or turkey and full flavoured fish like salmon.
Germany’s biggest white and red wines are Riesling and Pinot Noir (Germany is the third largest producer of Pinot Noir in the world), both wines have higher acid, and the Pinot Noir is not a very tannic red wine.
What do we need to know when selecting a German wine?
I think it’s helpful to know what you like and go from there. But also have a sense of adventure – you may surprise yourself! There’s a lot of German producers that are making Wien shopping very easy for the Canadian consumer by using very easy-to-understand labels, and a lot of these wines are at terrific price points, often well under $15.
What’s the best value German wine in your opinion?
That’s a tough one.
There are so many great choices available and value can mean so many different things.
At one of our recent Instagram Lives we tried the Clean Slate Riesling, a totally delicious and crushable dry wine perfect for heat waves and poolside sipping. At only $13 it’s a steal for backyard entertaining.
We also tried a fantastic Sekt – a German sparkling wine that’s made in the same style as Champagne. The Graf Neipperg Wurttemberg Riesling Brut 2016 is $30, but enticing and elegant and vibrant, and I think $30 is a steal for that yummy bubbly! And even for the $70-plus Rieslings coming out of the Mosel – these are age-worthy, finessed, intriguing wines made in precarious – even dangerous – ways (seriously, the staggeringly steep slopes the best vineyards are teetering on are no joke!) so while certainly, these pricey wines are an investment, they still offer really good value to those who can appreciate it.
But regardless of where your budget is sitting, the best news is there’s something delicious at all price points.