Thirsty Writer, Libations Marketer
Originally published in the Sept/Oct 2013 issue of Northshore magazine.
Don’t worry – I can’t pronounce them either, but I do love the taste of many German wines. On an inspired Oktoberfest mission, I learned about German wines from siblings Sam and Tina Messina at the The Wine ConneXtion in North Andover. Below is an excerpt from my article to help you decide what to drink, or you can read the full print version here.
“People have difficulty understanding German wines because they are labeled by region (there are 13; Rheingau, Mosel, and Baden are a few), then by the town in which the wine is produced, then by degree of sweetness (Kabinett, Spätlese),” says Sam Messina. The grape is also usually listed, and while hundreds of varietals exist in the region, most of us only recognize the name of a few popular ones, like Riesling or Gewürztraminer.
In fact, Riesling and Müller-Thurgau grapes account for 35 percent of Germany’s vineyards, while over 11 percent consist of a red varietal called Spätburgunder, or Pinot Noir. This German Pinot Noir is the darling of critics and connoisseurs around the world at the moment, so expect to see more popping up on wine lists and retail shelves.
Beyond the tongue-twisting translations, German wines have also (wrongly) been labeled as sweet. Interestingly enough, two-thirds of wines produced in Germany are actually dry in style. The Messina siblings say this distinction is a good starting point for learning what type of German wines you prefer. “First, know if you like your wine dry (Trocken) or fruity (Spätlese or Auslese). This will help you to choose your style of wine. There are seven levels (or grape ripeness classifications), ranging from very dry to very sweet, and understanding these styles will direct you to the right wine for you, regardless of the varietal.”
A few more reasons to add German wines to your repertoire: They’re easy to drink, lower in alcohol, and high in acidity, which make them a match for many foods. The Messinas recommend pairing German wines with spicy cuisine, like Chinese, Thai, Mexican, or Spanish, and with seafood or mild cheeses.