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GERMAN WINES AND OTHER STUFF

While Wino John may call me a “financial brainoid”, I’ve dabbled for years with tasting and collecting wines.  My very first group of wines which I grew to know and love was the German wines.  There were two reasons for my selection of German wines:  1) I read and speak German after six years of high school and college classes, and 2) I was dating a German-American who believed in living the home country culture.

The Germans have been making wines almost as long as their neighbors, the French.  However, they get far more credit for their beer than their wines.  Actually, their wines are quite good, particularly their whites.  What I liked about the German wines was that you can figure out the type of wine by its name since the Germans are strict about labeling.   The primary white wine grape is the Riesling.  Wines bottled on the Rhine River are bottled in brown bottles and wines bottled on the Mosel are bottled in green bottles.  Trocken is German for dry.  The dryer the better.  A Kabinett wine is your basic wine.  Wine with the Qualitatswein notation is a step better meaning that the wine was grown and bottled in accordance with strict German standards.  Auslese added to the wine name means that its derivation is from specific areas of the vineyard.  Spatlese added to the name means that it’s a late harvest and that the wine should be sweeter since there’s a higher concentration of sugars in the shriveling grape.  Beerenauslese is a designation which is only given to wines that are fermented with specific grape clusters designated by the vintner as he goes through the vineyard.  Eiswein is the rarest of German whites and is only made with grapes harvested at the first frost and picked by flashlight before the frost thaws.

Enough for the tutorial.  I was inspired to write this after a friend of mine visited the house for dinner.  This friend happens to co-host a weekly radio show (Saturday’s on WJHU in Baltimore) on wine.  He made a remark to my wife, S.A.W. Sharon, that his favorite wines are the German dessert wines.  Since it was after dinner and we were serving dessert, I announced that I had a few German dessert wines in the cellar and I asked if he would enjoy a glass.  What he didn’t know was that the reason I stopped collecting and drinking German wines was that S.A.W. Sharon thought the German wines were too sweet.  I journeyed down to the cellar thinking “boy, what a mistake.  I’ll bet those German wines are past their prime.”  I brought up a 1985 Kauber Rossstein Riesling, Beerenauslese.  The bottle still had the  price sticker, $34.99, from when I purchased it in 1987.  As I recall, the retailer told me to keep it for a few years, up to 10.  We opened it and watched as a deep, golden hue swirled in the glasses.  The first aroma was that of apricot and pear.  The wine had not exceeded its prime.  My friend thanked me for sharing a rare, sipping experience.  I enjoyed being able to do so.  

I have several more aging German wines, including a 1986 Eiswein that I intend to consume over the next few months.  If any of our readers have suggestions for serving the Eiswein, let me know.  I have another friend who shared an interesting story about Eiswein and his first wife, a German who he met while touring Europe in a rock and roll band.  I think I’ll share that after opening and tasting my bottle.

WinoWally 
July 13, 2001    

P.S.  Once in a while, the wine experience is enhanced by a review of the wine bottle itself.  Whether it's the label art, the shape or color of the bottle, the printing on the cork, something enhances the experience of that particular wine.  The German Beerenauslese that I opened with my friend was from the Rhein Pfalz which is a region in Germany on the Rhine River, not unlike regions in California like Napa and Sonoma.  However, what caught my attention was the phrase, "Seit 1550."  Since 1550.  This vineyard has been in business longer than anything in America other than the Native Americans.   Wow!  I may have to pay the vineyard a visit next time I head to Europe.   Wow!  And I thought the rug on Wino Bob's head was old!  Wow!  My ancestors came to Maryland in 1638 and this winery had been in business 88 years.


 

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