Have you explored the varied wines of Germany?Germany is a country whose wines have become synonymous in American minds with sweet. This often comes from college days of drinking Liebfrauenmilch [LEEP-frow-mihlkh] and Blue Nun. The wines of Germany are much more subtle and varied than people assume. Many of the wines available in the US are drier than many Americans drink.
Germany produces many quality white wines and only a few red wines. The jewel in the German wine crown is the Riesling grape. The overall wine production of Germany is about sixth in the world. Germany produces about 20% as much wine as France.
One of the reasons many Americans have not explored German wines is that California Rieslings haven't been stellar. German Rieslings can be dry. They also offer layers of flavors not available in many domestic sweet wines. German wines are an exceptional way to introduce your white zinfandel friends to better wines.
When shopping for German wines the labels can provide you with valuable information:
- Tafelwein--literally "table wine." It is the lowest quality of wine.
- Qualitätswein bestimmte Anbaqugebiete (QbA)--Middle quality wine. This indicates quality wine from a quality region. Unless the label indicates that the wine is a Riesling, then it is made from another variety or varieties. This may include Sylvaner, Müller Thurgau (a cross between Riesling and Sylvaner), and Gewürztraminer [gaa-VERTS-traa-MEE-ner].
- Qualitätswein mit Prädikat (QmP)--The highest quality wine. The label offers more information about the wine than the other categories. The Prädikats indicate the sugar level at harvest. Chaptalization, the addition of sugars to increase the alcohol content via fermentation, is not allwed in QmP wines.
- Kabinett--Normal, fully ripe grapes (9.5% minimum potential alcohol)
- Spätlese--"Late harvested" grapes, which may produce slightly sweet wine.
- Auslese--Individually selected, very ripe bunches used to make sweet wine.
- Beerenauslese--Individually selected, very ripe grapes used to make very sweet dessert wine.
- Trockenbeerenauslese--Individually selected, Botrytis afflicted grapes used to make the sweetest, most expensive German dessert wines.
These wines can be a great value and match well with Asian or Mexican foods. The slight sweetness pairs well with spicy-hot foods.