When you think fall, you think of gorgeous colors, football and Oktoberfest celebrations. And when you think of Oktoberfest, you naturally think of German food and drink. While Oktoberfest is known for brats and beer (a lager style beer is best), German wines are also a staple and worth exploring.
Germany’s two Rs – Rieslings and Rotweins (red wines)
Germany has a long tradition of quality wine making. This is somewhat surprising due to this country’s northern location. Located in the 49-51 latitudes, Germany is on par with Newfoundland. Because of this northern climate, the Germans learned to position their vineyards with Southern exposures (for maximum sunlight), sloping into river valleys (to capture the warmth and moderation of water) and plant in soil and rocks that reflect sunshine (like slate). This approach is all designed to give their grapes the best chance to ripen. This has become less of a factor lately, as the Earth’s climatic shifts have given Germany warmer weather for the past decade.
Most of Germany’s vineyards are located in the Rhine and Mosel river valleys, with the Rheingau, the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, the Rheinhessen and the Pfalz regions being the most important. Rieslings are Germany’s most famous (white) wine, ranging from bone dry to super sweet. Their high acidity and sugar levels allow for long term ageing. Only 20% of Germany’s production are Red wines, and are not as noteworthy.
Everyday German table wine is designated as QbA. Quality wine is termed QmP (Qualitätswein mit Prädikat). This category is broken into 6 grape ripeness levels. The Germans harvest their grapes at different times in the Fall/Winter, which determines the grape juice’s sugar content. Kabinetts are the driest wines and Eiswein generally the sweetest wines. Look for the term Trocken if you prefer a very dry style.
German wines tend to be low alcohol with high acidity. The benefits are the wine is food friendly and more quaffable. A glass of German Riesling may have an alcohol content of 7% versus a New World Chardonnay with 13-14%. The sweetness and good acidity of Rieslings are a favorite foil with spicy Asian dishes.
Two red varietals of distinction are Dornfelder and Spätburgunder. Dornfelder is an increasing popular wine due to its light and fruity character. They also have good acidity, are aromatic and easy to grow. Being light, they pair well with rich, heavy German food. Spätburgunders are Germany’s Pinot Noir. This wine tends to be more complex, higher quality and more difficult to grow. Germans pair this with nicer meals, including pork and beef dishes.