Tuesday, October 17, 2006

AstroVino #4: The German Whites, Riesling & Gewurztraminer

This week we tried out the German white wines, specifically, four Rieslings and two Gerwürztraminers. In general, while all of the wines were good, the ones from Germany were by far the best. I think I'm coming to the realization that it's not that I dislike white wine, but that I dislike the white wines I've had before this class.

German wine names are ... long. The four Rieslings we had were: a 2004 Joh. Jos. Christoffel Erben Urziger Würzgarten Rielsing Kabinet from Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany; a 2005 Wente Riesling (made in the Kabinet style) from Monterey, CA; a 2004 Pikes Clare Valley Dry Riesling from South Australia; and a 2004 Willi Haag Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Spätlese, also from Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany. With the two hailing from Germany itself, the long part before the word "Riesling" (a type of grape) is a name, probably of the winemaker, and the part after "Riesling" tells you about the style of wine. A Kabinet (from the winemaker's "cabinet") wine is a dry wine with less sugar than the Spätlese ("late vintage"). Other such adjectives include "Auslese," or "selected." The take-away message from the possible list of modifiers is that if anyone ever offers you a "Trockenbeerenauslese," take it and do whatever they say. A very rare, very expensive, deep golden wine, it's "the elixir of the gods."

All of the wines this week were slightly fizzy (or even spritzy!). The two wines from Mosel-Saar-Ruwer were quite excellent and somewhat sweet. The Australian one ... was fizzy, with a hint of rock. We tried all of the Rieslings with Granny Smith apples since the combination of sugar and malic acid often conjures up fruity connotations. If I had ever wondered what granite would taste like in liquid form, now I know it tastes exactly like the Pikes Clare Valley Dry Riesling after a bite of apple.

We also had two Gerwürztraminers: a 2005 Fetzer Valley Oaks Gerwürztraminer from Mendocino, CA and a 2003 Machmer Bechtheimer Stein Gerwürztraminer Spätlese from Rheinhessen, Germany. "Gerwürztraminer" literally means "spice from Tramin;" it forms a rich, spicy wine that apparently stands up well to food. (It definitely did a good job cutting through the heaps of goat cheese I was filling up on.) Especially recomended was Gerwürztraminer with fatty poultry, such as duck or turkey. As for the two we tried, again, while the Californian variety was quite potable, the German one was intensely interesting (in a good way). The Californian was an interesting example of achieving tartness without simultaneously screaming, acid!!

Bottom line: German wines are better when from Germany, even if you can't make heads from tails of the label.

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