13 August 2013

Riesling Road Trip, day 1 - Rheinhessen (and Tequila)

Off to the Rheinhessen! This area is diverse in their farming, with cows, wine, and grain as the major players in the agricultural scene. As a comparison, the Mosel's only crop is wine grapes. Between 1840 & 1860, Mosel suffered from poverty, where the Rheinhessen did not. While I applaud the various cash crops, I'm really only interested in what we're drinking, so we'll focus on that:

This morning we took a stroll around Wagner Stempel with Oliver, the vineyard manager. I knew I liked him immediately because he was wearing his "tractor pants" instead of a suit. I love people who focus on the dirt and not the fancy talk! Wagner Stempel has been around since 1845 and the current winemaker has been there since 1992. Fairly established, eh?? Most VDP estates are their size, at around 150,000 bottles a year (that's 12,500 cases for any non-math whizzes) 50% of what they grow and Oliver made it clear that "we drink DRY". (they have for 30 years).

Let's talk about the WS wines for just a second. They're awesome, for starters. But more specifically,they're dry but still full, organic, savory, and rich. Their style here is fruit-dominated with refreshing acidity and "just a kiss of wood." "Simple wine that's not simple." Can't say it better myself, so I won't. What I WILL say is that I was impressed by the spicy sleekness the wines showed. A fave of mine was the Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc), the "red wine killer." Intense and concentrated, it's similar to a Grand Cru in style but not in price. It was like ambrosia,pineapple, and vanilla. . . followed by acid to cleanse the palate.

This was the road to the Nahe. Can't tell you how excited I was to travel to my favorite wine region in Germany! But first, can we talk about acid for a minute? After all, we Riesling fiends are called acidhounds for a reason...

p.s. Even the car parks in this part of the world are fantastic! Look at these beautiful flowers! About that acid...

Winemakers do not like to talk about deacidification, but isn't positive or negative--in super high acid years, it is a necessary thing to make the wine palatable. For instance, in 2010, all the wines had too much to begin with. Oliver said "so we had to deacidify in 2010; the French have to ADD acid EVERY year!" (funny, right? it gets better!) He ran into the supplier for citric acid in St Mauritz because the dude had such a great year selling the acid to Condrieu in 2011 that he went skiing!

This was a wonderful restaurant, Weck, on the way to the Nahe. It's named "Hermannshole" after a famous vineyard we'll see on the next blog, but for now, what a cute place, right?

We're about to have smoked salmon, herb creme fraiche, beef with mushrooms and potato cakes, along with Jakob Schneider Niederhauser Hermannshole Trocken (2010 in a mag, no less), but I digress... I promised a tequila story, after all.

Oliver also reminded us that dry extract (solids in wine) acts in an interesting way: it oscillates between acidity and salt in what it does to your brain (extract technically is sour). So the brain doesn't know which receptors are firing. This is, amazingly enough, why you can "pump down horrible tequila" because your brain has no idea if it's sour or acidic. You never know what you'll learn about drinking habits at 10 a.m.!

We took a moment to enjoy the scenery just outside the restaurant. I think we could have all stayed an extra 3 hours--but we need to get to Donnhoff, and Kruger Rumpf is next on my calendar!!!

Next on the blog will the the Nahe, with loads more info for you... here's the view on the road in between. With one missing picture: our cabbie explained about a seriously steep slope: "here's where people go to commit suicide." (us: whaaaat???? then: man, that was the best thing anyone's said this trip!!)
more to come, people!

- Emily Garrison, Shiraz Fine Wine & Gourmet

23 June 2013

German VDP Classification

The Germanicsystem defines its wine by sugar levels, ripeness, production and varieties.
Oechsle,which classifies the levels below, measures grape RIPENESS.
It's indicated by concentration of dissolved compounds in juice or must
since 90% of the dissolved solids in grape juice are sugars (plus acids, ions, and a host of other solutes) any measurement of these solids gives a indication of the grapes' ripeness, and therefore potential alcohol
**very important! 2 words: Trocken and Feinherb. Any wine can be dry if it is fermented all the way through to dryness. Therefore, a Spatlese Trocken is a dry, ripe, complex wine.

-kabinett: light, slim body, low alcohol.
-spatlese: ripe, more complex.
-auslese: very ripe fruit.
-beerenauslese: very ripe fruit, with botrytis. (sweet)
-eiswein: very ripe fruit, no botrytis, from naturally frozen grapes, minus 7 C. (sweet)
-tba (trockenbeerenauslese): dried fruit, botrytis, sweet, honey. (sweet)
*0.13% of production in Germany is ba and tba.
*tba is the rarest of the german wines, not eiswein

Why is German wine complicated? Compare to Burgundy:
C├┤te d'Or: 5,500 hectares, 75% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay
Germany: 102,000 hectares, 11 white & 17 red major grape varieties in 13 regions in 2 climate zones

(with French counterparts and label examples)
like Grand Cru
wines from Germany's best vineyard sites
dry wines are designated GROSSES GEWACHS
ex: Kiedrick Grafenberg GG Trocken
like Premier Cru
ex: Kieddrich Turmberg Trocken
like Village
ex: Kiedricher Trocken
like Bourgogne AOC
ex: Rheingau Trocken
*GG is private predicate--the wineries decide what their best vineyards are.
Kabinett, Spatlese, etc. are predicates by law--Oechsle levels have requirements.
- Emily Garrison, Shiraz Fine Wine & Gourmet

Location:Rheingau, Germany

11 June 2013

Asian Flavours / German Wines

German wine and Asian food class with MW Jeannie Cho Lee

Gew├╝rztraminer "goes with all chinese food" but it is one of the strongest profiles in the wine world, so not always!. Riesling works well, we know, but what about other wines to diversify options?

3 levels of pairing:
1. complementary (easier with european food because the flavor spectrum is narrower)
2. an accompaniment rather than an enhancement (*below)
3. contrast (like sweet with spicy chilis. tannins bring out more firey flavor)
*Taiwanese beef noodles or Peking duck - does wine make them more tasty? as compared to steak and potatoes .... the wine is good alongside it but it already has so many complex flavors on its own

Here's a typical Chinese menu: tofu; napa cabbage, abalone, sea cucumber, jellyfish, seaweed; tripe; chicken feet - different ingredients that all have umami. they have TEXTURE.
Umami is involved in sauces and broths, plus appreciation for textural components

*with asian foods you really have to take into consideration the condiments. palate sensation is affected. black bean sauce with noodles - with chicken or vegetables, the main flavor component is still the sauce.

Pickled veggies: they have a sharp vinegar note, so go moderate on the pickles when pairing with wine; sparkling wine is the savior for anything pickled. The finer the wine and more delicate the flavor the more you should back off of the pickles. "like a dance--don't have 2 dance partners who are leading" Find good accompaniments that will FOLLOW the lead of the sharpness--highest acid wine style you can find, it also cleanses the palate

With strong flavors, find a wine that doesn't try to be dominant (not too high alc or oak, fruity or young pn, soft pgr)
bbq meats without the strong flavors can pair with more mature, fine wines

Let's talk about salt--or lack thereof:
Asians use fish sauce, oyster, hoisin, soy--fermented condiments, not salt; they have umami that salt that doesn't have, plus depth and texture that is not added by salt alone
A very dry Pinot Blanc or Volnay style Pinot Noir--great for sashimi because it's about texture rather than about the fish.
Try this with salt and try with soy sauce.
Soy sauce will go much better with the Pinot Noir because it has more layers of texture than salt; if you use just salt it's better with the Pinot Blanc.
Think of wines that are all about the texture, for a fairly high umami content
Wines with longer lees contact will always have more umami content, so more barrel aging gives a way to bridge asian flavors.
(Spatburgunder--one of the most versatile red wines in the world)

If you have 12 courses and only 2 wines:
1 neutral white, 1 Pinot Noir. both from the beginning: Asian meals typically start with duck, goose, etc. Go from red to white. Common to go from heavy full strong--then to fish--all over the place. rhythm of the asian banquet is undulating volumes, not linear. (european is linear) asian goes in circles. diversity and contrast are better than something simple.

a pairing guide:
*sweetness. late harvest etc: overwhelmes delicate dishes or umami richness. choose dessert or fatty dishes,
medium-sweet or off-dry wines with salty or spicy;
sweet wine with foie; moderately sweet is a good foil for hot or salty
*acidity: champagne, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Italian whites, neutral Italian red, red or white Burgundy: crisp acid allows for versatility and balance with rich creamy, fatty, or salty; adds refreshment and cuts heat in spicy food while holding up well to sour/sharp notes
deep or stir fried foods work with sour ingredients because acid cuts through oil
*tannin/oak: Rioja, California Chardonnay, young Bordeaux or Barolo: complement red meat, fatty, grilled, rich stews.
grilled/bbq meat. With rich food. avoid spice. tannins work with protein and fat
*alcohol/body: Australian Shiraz, Amarone, Chateauneuf du Pape: overwhelm delicate flavor, exaggerate heat. not very versatile. heavy foods, rich with full flavor stand up.
maturity: 97 or older: highly compatible with the umami-rich. Refined, delicate dishes are best; avoid overly spicy or flavorful which overwhelm delicate nuances in mature wines. they have heightened umami flavors from bottle aging
*salty: soy, oyster sauce, shrimp/bean paste. accentuates tannins. soft tannins, crisp acid, and vibrant fruit are the answers.

- Emily Garrison, Shiraz Fine Wine & Gourmet

Location:Rheingau, Germany

19 May 2013

Geisenheim University classes!

Today, I went back to school! Geisenheim is where most of the Enology degrees in Germany originate, and we sat through a long and interesting day full of seminars. But first, we took a bus ride with the German Wine Queen (left) and the Rheingau Wine Queen (right)

I want one of these! Awesome large wine chiller with the white wines we are to taste during the seminars.

I loved this seminar! Jeannie Cho Lee, the only female Master of Wine in Asia, led a seminar on pairing German Wine with Asian food. I thought she was amazing. I took so many notes that I'll actually follow this up with a post devoted to the topic.

Professor Schultz, the Director of the University, gave us a talk on some of the advancements that they have been working on to improve the industry for the country. They've got a project right now to see how grapes will react to the increased C02 in the air with global warming. It's a FACE system (Free Air C02 Enrichment) can you see the picture on the top left? the FACE spikes surround a small patch of vines.

They are also developing robots to harvest grapes on the slopes too steep to use a tractor--which is a lot of them. It's becoming increasingly difficult to find people who want to do this terribly difficult work. The robot looks like a drum with spikes to dig into the ground. He had a great point: "the only way to maintain heritage is to use technology." The University was founded in 1872!)
One heck of a lunch buffet in the cafeteria!

Billy Wagner, a sommelier from Rutz Weinbar in Berlin, guided us through 16 different Pinot Blancs, Pinot Noirs, and Pinot Gris. He's also an expert on Riesling--his wine list has over 400!

This was a fun 6 hours of seminars!
Look for some info to come from the VDP classification chat.
- Emily Garrison, Shiraz Fine Wine & Gourmet

Location:Rheingau, Germany

What is "Wines of Germany"?

I was grateful that Day 1 on this Germany trip included a seminar on German Facts & Figures by one of our hosts, Steffen Schindler of Wines of Germany. After all, they were the group that brought us all here--so I wanted to know more about them!

My goal with this blog post is to cram the most fascinating information I learned in 1 1/2 hours and give you a quick 2-minute read. So here goes:

-Believe it or not, Germany is #7 in the world in wine production! They are #4 in consumption per capita (we are #2, by the way)
-Only 35% of the wines made in Germany are sweet (I've been telling you!)
-Point of reference: German acerage is the same amount as Bordeaux
-64% of the wines grown here are white.
-Germany is #3 in the world in Pinot Noir grown! (#1=France; #2=USA)
-They're #3 in the world for Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris) and #2 for Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc). You'd be amazed how good they are too!
-7% of German wines are organic. The biggest group, Ecovin, has 217 members.
-another weird point of reference: The Rheinhessen, which produces half of Germany's wine, makes 1.9 million Hectaliters a year. Gallo makes 1.8!
-We talked about "the dreaded L word"--Liebfraumilch is ONLY exported. NO one in Germany has ever sold it.
-THERE IS A RIESLING RENAISSANCE IN GERMANY. Modern cuisine is lighter, with herbs spice, more fish & chicken, with a focus on Asian food worldwide. This is perfect with Riesling.

Wines of Germany is a organization to promote German wine in all other countries, by the way--it's like a tax for the wineries. And boy, do these guys work hard to spread the gospel! Many thanks to their including me--and we can't wait to participate in the 31 Days of German Riesling this July!

- Emily Garrison, Shiraz Fine Wine & Gourmet

Location:Rheingau, Germany

30 April 2013

Germany 2013 Day 1

We've finally arrived in Germany!! After 2 years, I'm thrilled to be back.
Schloss Vollrads in the Rheingau is the first stop on the tour, and a great way to get started.
This was my first time here, and I have to say I was impressed. Check out the castle:

Look in the back of this picture for some of the vines. They grow one thing here: Riesling.

This winery has been selling wine for 801 years! and they have been growing grapes since the year 850. That makes it one of the oldest wineries worldwide; how many things do you know that were founded in the first century??
It's an amazing property, and the winery arranges cultural events around their wine tastings--or vice versa. Selling the wines actually ensures that they maintain the castle well.
Here are a couple shots of the inside:

Wine waiting for us at the entrance. The "summer wine", Sommer Riesling Trocken, was described as a crisp easy lunch style at 11.5% alcohol--as in, "you can go back to work after 2 or 3 glasses." I like this place!

Above is a picture of their "Manor House Hall," where they frequently conduct events. The fireplace was built in 1684 for you history buffs. Below is a room in the Manor House where the pre-1700s leather wallpaper is painted in gold. Note the pattern is grapes and Griffins (family crest) on the bottom border. There is only 1 other room in the world with wallpaper like this, and it''s a palace in Cordoba not open to the public, owned by the royal family.

This is the salon. I just liked it because it was fancy. Oh--and they were pouring us Riesling.

Our gracious host, Rowald Hepp. He's currently explaining that "only people in their 70s want to hear the 'pop' of the cork." When they switched to the vinolock system that they only lost 1 customer out of 2700 - once people took the wines home and saw how much fresher they were. Another great fact he pointed out: with supply and demand, vinolock is the opposite of cork; the more people use it, the more the price goes DOWN.

The entrance to the Manor Restaurant for a lovely dinner. Charming, no??

Don't worry about reading the menu; I'll describe. What I loved about our setup for this was we had refreshing dry wines in between courses to cleanse our palate before the next food was served. It was refreshing--both literally and figuratively.

Only time I think i've ever had tuna in Germany! Tartare with snow peas, wasabi cucumber, and soba reduction, with a Kabinett Feinherb

Veal ramp with ginger carrots, potatoes and thyme jus--with "Jubilaumswein" Riesling, a technique from 1765 with spontaneous mesh fermentation, like carbonic maceration. Called "Jubilee". It was smoky and meaty--perfect with the veal.

Appletarte with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce. Wonderful with their Auslese.

Then we visited a castle tower that housed their sweet wines; in the years they make the wines that need noble rot, they make 1 12 liter, 3 6 liters, 6 3 liters, 12 1.5s, and 24 750s. If you purchase a 6 liter, you have an exclusive on it for 10 years before they release another one! (and they are GOOD)

Our host was warm and enthusiastic, with a few closing comments I want to include here:
-The designation of Kabinett came from this Estate in 1716. Compare that to the year Bordeaux was defined, which was 1855.
-Spatlese was first defined in 1775, FYI
-He says the heartbeat of a winery is passion. And sustainability for the vineyards is imperative if you want to establish and maintain traditions.

Location:Rheingau, Germany