German Wines: Expect the Unexpected #WinePW

Our Wine Pairing Weekend group is closing out 2018 with a look at German wines. I am thrilled to use this opportunity to share with you some of the fabulous food and wine pairings I enjoyed in Pfalz this summer.

As explained in my Snooth article, “This Must-Visit Wine Region Is Full of Surprises,” I expected my week in Pfalz to be filled with Riesling, sausage, and sour krat. I was wrong. I cannot speak of all of Germany, but Pfalz is a dynamic region with fantastic food and a variety of wine.

German Wine Styles and Classification           

Overall, German wines seem less familiar to the United States consumer than other European countries. To be sure, the labels are hard to decipher and their wine classification boggles the mind. Here is a breakdown of German wine styles and regions.

The dry styles are often labeled Qualitatswein. These wines range from light and fruit to rich and concentrated. The best quality are labeled Grosses Gewachs (GG), as indicated by a bunch of grapes and the letters GG embossed on the neck of the bottle.

Conversely, nearly all wines labeled Pradikatsweine will contain some residual sugar; however, some may be made in a dry style. Here is a brief break down of the styles:

  • Kabinett: most delicate; Rieslings made in this style will have light body, high acidity, green apple and citrus balanced with residual sugar (RS); sweeter styles will range in alcohol between 8-9%; whereas the dryer styles will reach 12% ABV.
  • Spatlese: Made the same way as Kabinett, but more concentrated, riper, and with more body and alcohol; citrus and stone fruit notes dominate.
  • Auslese: Individually selected grape bunches; richer and riper than the previous two styles in both dry and sweet expressions; noble rot can play a part in the flavors of these wines; last category where the wines may be dry.
  • Beernauslese (BA): Combination of late harvest vine dried grapes and grapes affected by botrytis; sweet wines, not made every year; low alcohol percentage, honey, dried stone fruit, candied fruit peel, and flowers.
  • Trockenbeernauslese (TBA): To reach the minimum must weight these wines are made exclusively made from botrytis; same flavors of BA; not made every year; rank among the best sweet wines in the world.
  • Eiswein: Rare; varietal purity is the key eliminating the need for botrytis grapes; healthy grapes are left hanging on the vines until winter where they freeze, concentrating the sugars and resulting in a sweet wine balanced with acidity and sugars.

German Wine Regions

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  • Nahe: a wide area between the Mosel and Rheinhessen, with the best vineyards located on the banks of the Nahe River. Riesling is the most widely planted grape here; the slightly warmer climate results in Riesling with pronounced acidity and slightly riper fruit characters.
  • Rheingau: Small but prestigious wine region with its best vineyards located on the north bank of the slopes of the Rhine River. Riesling dominates here with the most prominent style being dry, with medium to full body, and ripe peach characteristics. The Rhine River creates humid conditions that lead to some of the highest quality BA and TBA being produced here.
  • Rheinhessen: Germany’s largest vine growing region; Riesling and Muller-Thurgau are the two most planted grape varieties; within Rheinhessen, the area known as Rheinterrasse is known for producing some of Germany’s fullest-bodied Rieslings; it is also an area gaining a reputation for modern innovation.
  • Pfalz: Germany’s second largest wine growing region. It is largely seen as a continuation of Alsace since it lies just east of the French border. It is the driest of the German wine regions. Riesling dominates and has a long reputation for high quality wines. As in Rheinhessen, young winemakers making a name for their innovation and quality. Most of the wines made here are dry.
  • Baden: This is the warmest and most southerly wine region in Germany. As a result it produces the most full-bodied wines with the highest alcohol. The vineyards are spread over a large geographical area. Spatsburgunder (Pinot Noir) is the most widely planted variety here and has top quality reputation.
  • Franken: This region is dominated by white wine making but it is not Riesling. Silvaner is the grape of choice in Franken. Here it is able to achieve a concentration not found in the rest of Germany.
  • Mosel: This regions stretches narrowly from the French, Luxembourg borders to the Rhine River. Riesling dominates. Production is concentrated in the center of the region, known as the Middle Mosel. The best vineyards are found on very steep slopes next to the river with slate soils. Rieslings here are light in body and low in alcohol but comparatively high in acidity. Flavors of green fruits and floral notes are characteristic.

German Grapes

Best known as the home to Riesling, Germany also produces lovely wines from Dornfelder, Müller-Thurgau, Spätburgunder, Grauburgunder, Portugieser, Weißburgunder, Kerner, Gewürztraminer, as well as international varieties such as Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Okay, enough with the jargon, on to the food and wine pairings. Here is a collage of the many wonderful meals I enjoyed in Pfalz. You’ll notice there are many wines other than Riesling and a wide variety of food, including salad.

Take a moment to continue the German wine exploration by reading my fellow #WinePW friend’s articles:

  • Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla will be tempting us with “Feasting for Sankt Nikolaus Tag: German Sips, Schweineschnitzel, Spätzle, and Sauerkraut”
  • Kat from Bacchus Travel & Tours will share “A German Holiday Celebration #winePW”
  • Sarah from Curious Cuisinière is pairing “Chicken Schnitzel and German Riesling”
  • Deanna of Asian Test Kitchen will discuss “German Riesling: The Default Asian Food Pairing #winePW”
  • Jade of TastingPour will tempt us with “Coq Au Riesling #winePW”
  • Jeff from FoodWineClick discusses “50 Shades of Kabinett Riesling”
  • Jill from L’Occasion will “Outfit Your Holiday Table With German Wines”
  • Jane from Always Ravenous will share “Food Pairings with German Riesling #winepw”
  • David of Cooking Chat has prepared “Chicken Sausage and Veggie Bowl with German Riesling”
  • Gwendolyn from wine predator will enjoy “German Riesling and Fun Fondue With Friends for #WinePW”
  • Cindy of Grape Experiences has you covered with “Your Party Planning Checklist: Must-Have German Rieslings”
  • Rupal from Journeys of A Syrah Queen will share “Rieslings For The Holidays”
  • Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm will be “Celebrating St. Nicholas Day”
  • Jennifer of Vino Travels – An Italian Wine Blog will share “Everyday Pairings with German Riesling”
  • Nancy and Peter from Pull That Cork will share “Two Styles of German Wine and a Meal for Both #winePW”

Join us tomorrow morning to share your thoughts on German wine at 10CST on Twitter using #WinePW. Have a happy holiday season. Cheers!

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