Very early in my wine experience, I was exposed to Riesling. However, it was only recently that I learned that not all Rieslings are sweet.
I also learned that Riesling is the best wine to pair with almost any Asian-inspired dish. As someone whose favorite food is Thai, I should have known that. Believe it or not, I have never enjoyed a glass of Riesling with my Thai dish. Oh my, how quickly we learn! Riesling has a lullabying effect on those spicy Asian/Pan Asian dishes, and the various types of Riesling have just as much variety as the spices and flavors of most Asian dishes.
Due to the varying temperatures and rainfall in Germany, many of the wines from that region are susceptible to noble rot -- a fungus that can enhance and sweeten the grape's flavors -- which helps Germany make some of the best late-harvest Rieslings in the world. Riesling is the "it" grape for Germany.
German wines are divided into two categories: table wine and quality wine. Within these two categories there are many German wines that range from mouth-puckering dry and acidic to syrupy sweet luscious wines with candied fruit flavors.
Deutscher Tafelwein is the lowest classification. These wines must reach a natural alcohol level of 5% and the use of chaptalization (adding sugar to increase the final alcohol content of the wine).
In the early 80's, Landwein ("country wine") was introduced as the equivalent of the French Vin de Pays. The wines must come from one of the specified 19 areas of production and they can be either Trocken (dry), Halbtrocken (off-dry) or Classic, which is middle of the road dry.
If you are shopping for a German quality wine, make sure that there is a QbA on the bottle, which stands for Qualitätswein bestimmer Anhaugebiete ("quality wines produced in specified regions"). This indicates that the wine is from one of the 13 quality regions and the wine has not been blended with any other wines. The label will show the region and the style of wine that it is.
Prädikatswein ("quality wine") is the top classification of German quality wine. It was formerly referred to as Qualitätswein mit Prädikat ("quality wine of distinction) and abbreviated to QmP.
There five styles of Prädikatswein:
A very delicate Riesling that is made light in body with crisp acidity. Kabinett is known for their green apple and citrus fruit flavors. The finest Kabinett Rieslings come from the Mosel region of Germany. The wines from this region will have a greenish coloring with flinty and citrus notes.
This is a late harvest Riesling that has slightly more body and can have more pineapple or exotic fruit aromas and flavors. Spatlese can either be Trocken or Halbtrocken.
This is the highest Padikatswien because it is made from individually selected, overly ripe grapes, but it is still considered a dry wine with richer fruit flavors than Spatlese. I find that some Auslese have a longer finish.
Rare expensive wines made from grapes affected by noble rot, which produce a highly acidic, flavorful wine.
This wine is literally made from freezing the grapes until all of the juice is solid. When the grapes are crushed, we are left with a syrupy wine that is high in fruit flavor and high in acidity, without the assistance of noble rot. I have only had the privilege of trying Canadian Eiswein, and let me tell you: I love sweets just like the rest of us, but I was not expecting that kind of sugar cane sweetness.
Please note: Do not pour this wine as you would any other white wine. In this case, "a little dab will do ya."
The grapes have been so affected by noble rot that they turn into raisins and produce very sweet wines from individual grapes but only from the finest vintages.
Although Germany is widely known for sweet wines, their focus recently has been on producing dryer wines to satisfy the needs of the consumer and resume their place in the hearts of many.
Prost! (That's "cheers!" in German.)
Join Francis Sanders and David Griffin for these upcoming wine tasting events, featuring our Corked the comic tie-in wines:
Saturday, May 5, 4-7 PM
Spring Fling, Ralph's Derby Street Wine & Spirits
94 Derby Street, Hingham, MA 02043
The fond memories of time spent over a glass of bubbly need not end when you empty the bottle. Keep a little something from a special holiday celebration – a token reminder of the wine you shared with friends or family on a memorable occasion. Build your own Champagne chair keepsake!
1. Untwist the wire and remove the cage from the bottle.
2. Put the wire that attached the cage to the bottle neck, in the center of the straight wire section and pull it carefully out from between the main cage wires to leave a stool.
If you prefer not to have twisted wire at the top of your chair back, cut the wire on one side of the twist instead of in the center of the straight wire section (as shown in the photo).
3. To shape the back for your miniature wire patio chair, use pliers to straighten out the piece of wire you cut from the base of the chair in the previous step. Some people prefer to shape the back of the chair into a heart. If you want this style, you need to cut off the twisted wire so that you are working with a straight piece of wire. In these directions, the twisted section of wire at the forefront of the photo below was not used as the design at the top of the chair back.
4. When you have straightened the wire, bend the wire down to form the sides of the chair back.
5. Line up one side wire from your chair back with the twists on the back leg, and twist the wire into the back leg so that the wire twists blend together instead of crossing over each other.
6. Repeat this twisting process with the wire on the other side of the leg. In the chair shown, the top of the back was set to a height one inch above the seat before the back wires were twisted into the back legs.
7. To finish the miniature chair, cut any extra wire at the base of the champagne cage legs and file the cut edges of the wire and the ends of the twisted wire at the back, so that the wire does not catch on clothing or skin.
8. Squeeze the legs slightly onto the metal seat cap to keep the seat cap in place. You can add a cork seat cushion or back, or set wires/paper clips in the back of the chair to fill it in (a heart shape of wire works well).
9. Sit back, relax, sip and admire your work.
"Like" us on Facebook and let us know how you did. We'd love to see a photo of your completed chair!
Sauvignon Blanc the way it’s supposed to be! This Bordeaux blend delivers the finest price/value ratio anywhere in Sauvignon Blanc or in a SB-based blend. We located some acceptable less expensive wines, some better more expensive wines, but for beaucoup bang for your wine buck, this pushed all of the world's competitors off the table in innumerable blind tasting flights.
Napa Valley, Lake County, the Loire, Graves, Pessac-Leognan, New Zealand, South Africa, Chile, Northeast Italy ... it didn’t matter, this Entre-Deux-Mers from Bordeaux Blanc's value central outperformed them all. The family-owned Cheval Quancard brokerage house '08 white took the planet to school and taught it a winemaking lesson.
Sauvignon Blanc (70%) fruit from the Saint Vincent de Paul commune delivers structure and assertive herbal, grapefruit and pineapple flavors. Semillon (20%) tempers that assertiveness and lends creaminess to the blend. Muscadelle (10%) tweaks the wine's balance, weight and aromatics.
Vinification and ageing for six months in oak, two-thirds new, further concentrated the wine while providing a background of toast and wood to the floral herbal, grapefruit, pear and peach aromas and flavors. I plan on sipping this one with smoked salmon the entire holiday season.
This just-arrived award and review from the 2010 World Wine Championships independently confirms what I've written:
"Silver, Highly Recommended, Best Buy. Pale golden silver color. Bold fruity aromas of honeyed banana nut bread, dill hollandaise, and tropical fruit salad with a silky, dryish medium body and a buttery roasted whole nut, baked green apple and citrus finish. A very nice aperitif; serve with oysters Rockefeller."
I've been a fan of Pine Ridge going way back to when it was the Gary Andrus/Stacy Clark show. But until recently, I missed the boat on their Chardonnays. To me, the winery identity was affordable Chenin Blanc, which became affordable Chenin Blanc/Viognier, and those magnificent Cabernet Sauvignons, Merlot, Malbec and especially their sublime red Bordeaux blends.
Here to tell you precisely how far I originally missed the Dijon Clones Carneros Chardonnay mark by is some of the press on this sold-out-at-the-winery feature:
California Grapevine: "Medium-light golden yellow; attractive, floral, lemony, nectarine and tropical fruit aroma with notes of vanilla; medium-full to full body; plush, citrusy, peach and baked apple flavors with a slightly creamy mouth feel; well-balanced and structured; crisp finish; lingering aftertaste. Very highly recommended."
The Wine News: "Light pineapple aromas with hints of vanilla and apple butter. Ripe pineapple and apricot flavors with very fresh, crisp acidity. Dry, racy finish with a youthful citrus peel bite."
Wine Spectator: "Elegant and smooth-textured, with creamy lemon-citrus, ripe pear, mineral and light, hazelnut-shaded oak. Drink now."
Finally, Connoisseurs Guide: "Straightforward in its Chardonnay credentials of ripe apples tinged with the slightest hints of tropical fruits and taking on a veneer of creamy oak, this midsized bottling has a touch of oily smoothing to its texture before firming up in the latter palate. Clean, direct and wholly reliable."
Learn from my mistakes and get a few bottles while we've still got some to offer.
Fattoria La Torre 2006 Guinzano, Rosso, San Gimignano DOC, Italy
This is the Super Tuscan value of the 2010 holidays season, and the wine we use at home when feeding our inner guidos (while not feeling flush enough to open the devilishly delicious '05 Tenuta San Vito Madiere, Rosso Toscana IGT).
I know all of the category's more famous wines ... Sassacaia, Separello, Solaia, Tignanello, Ornellaia and the like; I put award-winning wines in the bottle for a living ... but when you taste the the entire category blind, side-by-side, skilled tasters like Ann, Peter van Hoof and myself score all the best wines on the table in the same elite point range, pedigree, insane price or no. The wines that score closest to the top and are at a fraction of the trophy wine prices are the smartest choices, unless over-paying is your thing.
Certainly the San Gimignano DOC augments the '06 La Torre Guinzano price/value ratio. The village is known for Vernaccia, a crisp, vibrant citrus and herbal white. The village red is the undervalued commodity, though the '06 La Guinzano is a textbook Super-T blend: 70% Sangiovese, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, already with some age on it.
It exhibits all the buzz words the food and wine press loves to type; international in style while remaining essentially Tuscan, that "seasoned" Sangiovese salty illusion, extracted berry fruit while less tannic than Cabernet Sauvignon, supported by vibrant acidity – it almost dances on the palate, Old World elegance…
The '06 La Torre works well with an encyclopedia's worth of foods and appeals to both the New World wine novice as well as the trophy wine buyer, in addition to the Old World sophisticate. And when compared with '06 Ornellaia, which I also like very much, it's about one-quarter the price.
The judges at the 2010 World Wine Championships concur:
"Gold, Exceptional. Deep garnet black color. Interesting aromas of wild strawberry compote, prune, licorice gum, and buttered spice cake with a supple, dry-yet-fruity medium-to-full body and a spicy toffee, cherry skin, incense, and earth finish. A complex beguiling wine; aerate well and serve with boar."
Have a happy, healthy and prosperous holidays season!
Holiday Food & Wine Pairing GuideNot sure which wines to serve with your holiday feast? Download a free PDF copy of our Holiday Food & Wine Pairing Guide!
Here is a fun fact: Did do you know that Alsace was not considered a part of France until after World War I? Up until that time, Alsace was still considered a part of Germany.
|Map of Alsace, France|
Alsace is separated from the rest of France by the Vosges Mountains. At the base of the Vosges Mountains lies the Rhine river, which gives Alsace a very complex variety of soils that are evident in the wines from this region. So when I started studying Alsace Riesling, I immediately likened it to their German counterparts. I was in for an education in topography once again.
Out of all of the regions in France I've studied thus far, Alsace has the least complex appellation system, with only two Appellations d’Origine Contrôlées for "still wine" (non-carbonated) and one for sparkling wines. Excuse me as I breathe a sigh of relief! Alsace wines can be labeled as Alsace AC or Alsace Grand Cru.
Alsace Grand Cru wine can only come from one vineyard, and it has to be made from one single noble grape variety with the exception of three, which DO allow blending. The four noble grapes of Alsace are Riesling, Muscat, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris.
Riesling is a sturdy grape variety that is golden, dry but has good body with crisp fruit flavors of peach and apple. This wine generally does not have high alcohol content. I thoroughly enjoyed the 2008 Louis Reffelingen Riesling with Pepper Jack cheese. Yummy!
Gewürztraminer has a higher alcohol content than most Rieslings. Whenever I have Gewürztraminer, I immediately smell lychee and I know that I am in for a good glass of wine. I like my wines on the spicy side, so this wine always goes well with Thai food, which is my favorite.
Muscat grapes are no longer grown widely in Alsace because they produce low yields and have a tendency to develop rot. Muscat has a very dry, heavy grape taste.
Each Grand Cru has a dedicated committee that is responsible for making sure that the production of the wine meets the criteria. Grand Cru labels show the name of both the vineyard and the grape, whereas most of the Alsace AC labels show only the individual grape varietals.
Late-harvest wines, known in France as vendanges tardives, must be made from one of the four noble grapes and can be either dry or sweet, as long it has a certain percentage of residual sugar. If you see Selection de Grains Nobles on the label, note that this will be an exceptional vintage of sweet wine due to a fungus called botrytis, or "noble rot".
Pinot Gris, Sylvaner and Pinot Noir are used for sparkling and rose wines. Although they are not widely planted, they can make excellent "young" wines that you can drink early.
In my next post, I'll explore the quality wines from Germany. Until then...
Dave Griffin and I produce Corked the comic in the cracks of our schedules. It pokes fun at the California wine industry -- admittedly an easy target. I write and blend the medal-winning tie-in wines; Dave draws and designs the award-winning labels.
The most recent tie-in wine is the 2009 Red Brick Cellars, Tough Dame Cabernet, our classic film noir poster homage label. Dave's originals are in collections throughout the U.S., and a few in Europe ... more private collections than wine companies, but in some wineries.
Our earliest supporters were Isotope the Comic Lounge in San Francisco's Hays Valley, and metro Boston's New England Comics chain. The late Bay Area cartoonist legend Phil Frank (Farley) was a mentor. He arranged that we should occasionally use his characters from his old Wine Spectator strip, Chateau Dafitte, who were last seen in Corked episode 6.
We are now well into our busier-than-usual holiday season tastings schedule. Some are generated in anticipation of -- or perhaps in the procrastination of -- converting our online strip to a traditional comic book format with the help of our publisher.
Besides on Winetasting.com, which has been exceptionally supportive, we flog the strip and the wines through the comics convention circuit and via a very select group of like-minded friends and supporters. They display our wines in comics shops, galleries, vintage book and magazine shops, wine bars and restaurants. See below for a sample of our recent and near-future tasting events. Chicago is next ...
Metro Boston Area
New England Comics, Quincy; The Raven’s Nest, Walpole; Frame Center, Hanover, 1-4 p.m., Dec. 4; Tastings Wine Bar and Bistro, Patriot Place stadium complex, Foxboro, Feb. 22, time TBD.
New York City
Posteritati Movie Posters, The Art of Noir tie-in coordinated around the Film Noir Foundation’s Noir City 9 below, 6-8 p.m. Jan. 13 [date changed]; Illustration House, January 2011; Sony Dining Room, January 2011; Comic Book Legal Defense Fund; Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art; Society of Illustrators; American Illustrators Gallery.
Film Noir Foundation's Noir City 9, for us, the ultimate compliment, Jan. 29-30, 6:15 - 7 p.m., then at intermission, Castro Theatre; Isotope Comic Lounge, Jan. 28, 6:30-8:30 p.m.; Kayo Books, working around the Noir City schedule, but space is an issue; Cartoon Art Museum, Jan. 27, 7-9 p.m.
Essentially, we bring the Corked tasting room to each event. We pour our three tie-in wines (hopefully four by the time you read this, if the wine-in-bottle gods remain with me) and teach attendees briefly about each wine. Our trade-show-esque (my own word) display includes poster-sized Corked labels, plus samples of the wines and tie-ins available through Winetasting.com: T-shirts, aprons, the new Corked wine trio and the Tough Day Rescue Kit (coming soon!).
Takeaways for guests include notes on the wines and the kid-friendly episodes in a booklet. When practical, we bring laptops for guests to view Corked online. Dave draws caricatures at no charge for interested guests. The remaining original art may be viewed in a portfolio, if people are interested, which we do sell at these events, along with "mini posters" of the labels as events-only exclusives.
We are prepared to take orders for wine, wine sets and clothing at the event, but we try to drive customers to the Winetasting.com site unless we have additional staff available to help. We normally rope guests into taking photos and e-mailing them to us.
Usually guests find the strip funny, like the wines, endure the pitch and go home happy with their takeaways. We do get lots of fanboy requests on the comics convention/comics shop circuit for more T&A, though Dave knows his Elvgren and Vargas pretty well. We do get the usual few that we're forced to teach the difference between a tasting versus a drinking, and those that start to walk away with a bottle or a laptop. No dancing on tables -- though we can always hope -- and no brawls.
The most excitement we’ve had thus far was last Friday in New York. Flush from our successful Posteritati showing, we started to make our future New York City tastings appointments. Every event appears to generate more requests than we can honor, so we like to follow up each request with a visit to the potential new venue.
Working our way further uptown, right after confirming with the Society of Illustrators, our cab was hit by another -- me on the death side -- alongside Central Park East. We decided right there that there would be no more hustling Corked after the "incident en route appointment" until dinner that evening.
Mostly, we're gratified knowing people enjoy the strip and the tie-in wines, and that the wines and their labels continue to win awards. And finally, that we can now count some of the finest working writers, artists, illustrators and experts in both the wine and comics worlds among our fans.