Body and Mind
“Eating and drinking keep mind and body together.” Old German saying.
If you want to put on a few pounds in a short time, visit Germany. It’s not that the food is rich or heavy — quite the opposite — but it is so delicious and varied that you can’t stop eating. And it doesn’t help that German wines pair so well. After visiting the Rheingau, Pfalz and Baden regions, I came home thoroughly impressed, if a tad rotund.
I never knew that 60 per cent of the world’s Riesling vineyards are in Germany or that the country is the third-largest producer of Pinot Noir after France and the United States. That wouldn’t be newsworthy if all the wines were like the off-dry, fruity, low-alcohol sippers (think Blue Nun) available here, but, fortunately for us, they are not.
Germany produces a plethora of stellar, lip-smackingly dry Riesling — seriously great stuff from robust vines grown on mineral-rich, sunny hillsides — and a Pinot trio. Pinot Noir is coddled and cajoled into mouth-watering companionship with meats and cheeses, while Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc are coaxed to crisp greatness. These are world-class, single-varietal dry wines with charisma and style.
The wines take their personality from their vineyards, but also from passionate winemakers and owners who believe in bottling the best. Many wineries are organic, use biodynamic practices or just interfere as little as possible to allow natural yeasts and gravity to play their parts. They are the future of German wines, which explains why it was so easy to keep body and mind together on my visit.
von Winning Win Win Rotwein Cuvée Trocken 2009 ($19)
Win Win indeed. This is a well-structured combination of Dornfelder (40%), Pinot Noir (35%), Cabernet Dorsa (15%) and Lemberger (10%). Cherry colour, aroma and flavours, mixed with blackberry and a hint of coffee bean. Unusual, well balanced, delicious and totally at home with a saddle of veal crowned with a Parmesan crust and surrounded by gnocchi in a rich brown sauce.
Burg Ravensburg Husarenkappe Riesling 2011 ($28)
Husarenkappe (the grand cru vineyard and the wine from it) pays homage to a famous hussar major who brought Riesling seeds to the area in his cap in the early 1800s. Despite its reference to a male soldier, this wine is all lady. Beguiling with a soft, spicy, floral perfume, she delivers mineral flavours (vines grow in gypsum limestone) accented with mango and pineapple. A touch of salt with spicy herbs play on the long finish. Dry, well structured and absolutely delicious now, she will be all the better with a few years of experience (aren’t we all?). Organic.
A. Christmann Idig Riesling 2008 ($47)
Steffen Christmann, passionate president of the prestigious VDP (Die Prädikatsweingüter — a group of producers dedicated to producing wine of the highest quality from the best vineyards), says that Rieslings need varying times to age as they go through a period of intense acidity before the ripeness of the fruit kicks in. We tried his 2008 Riesling. It has mellowed to soft, round quaffability. Scrumptious. Everything works together perfectly in this food-embracing wine.
A. Christmann Gimmeldingen Riesling 2011 ($24)
From his premier cru vineyard. Seductively rich, the aroma of this wine makes my mouth water. I want to dive into the glass. This all-mineral delight is so soft that it wraps around food like a silken shawl. Balanced. Lovely.
Michael Fröhlich Lump Riesling 2011 ($24)
Soft candied pineapple nose. Delicious crisp wine with a looong finish. As strongly expressive as Donald Trump, this wine needs a flavourful tamer on the plate to take on the acidity and win. Bring on Singaporean or Thai food and watch this guy strut his stuff.
Georg Mosbacher Pechstein Riesling 2011 ($36)
Sandy soils from the northern part of the Pfalz region produce wines with more fruit than mineral flavours. This one is indicative as pineapple, guava and white bread aromas lead to big fruit flavours, lots of well-integrated acidity and a long finish. Really good. Take this one home to meet mother. Pad Thai would be so happy next to this.
Wittmann Kirchspiel Riesling 2011 ($42)
Outgoing, flavourful and friendly, but with an acerbic wit. Needs an appreciative audience, like chicken in a cream sauce or homemade mac and cheese. Drink with comfort food. Often.
Dr Deinhard Grauer Burgunder Trocken 2011 ($9)
Grauer Bergunder is Pinot Gris. This wine was served to me with a raw marinated beef filet with horseradish crème fraîche and salad dressed with the same sauce. I swooned over the dish and gulped the wine with it. A wonderful combination of acidity, minerals and soft fruit was just what the beef needed.
Meyer-Näkel Blue Slate Spätburgunder 2011 ($25)
A delicious and elegant Pinot Noir from 20-year old vines. From a touch of smoke on the nose it moves to friendly fruit, fading tannins and woody overtones from spending 11 months in used French oak barrels. Mineral flavours from the vineyard are overshadowed at this point but may emerge later.
Klumpp Alte Reben Riesling 2011 ($23)
Made by a husband-and-wife winemaking team, this romantic offering is a favourite for weddings in Germany as the wine is called Hand-in-Hand. An aroma of biscuits and ripe pineapple slide into more fruit flavours. Oak from barrel aging is present to add a complexity to the wine, but does not impose. Dry with a happy freshness. Serve with love.
Fritz Haag Juffer Sonnenuhr Riesling 2011 ($33)
Biscuits, lemon and pineapple nose lead to huge mingled flavours of stones and stone fruit. Grill spicy shrimp and nectarines and taste the magic this Mae West of wines brings to the dish. She will shine alongside foods with personality.
Dr Bürklin-Wolf Wachenheimer Altenburg Riesling 2011 ($24)
The limestone vineyard in the lee of an altenburg (old castle) gives the wine a creamy pineapple-peach-spicy minerality and a delightful crispness. A perfect match for the salad of wild herbs and foraged mushrooms with apple-ginger chutney I had at the winery restaurant.
Dr Bürklin-Wolf Forster Ungeheuer Magnum Riesling 2005 ($38)
Riesling ages very well, and this is an example of a perfect-now wine. Round, smooth, complex and very tasty, it is honey without the sweetness. Petrol, fruit and honey aromas are the preamble to an elegant charmer with a long finish. Fruit, minerality and acidity have mellowed and matured. Serve with a free-range organic chicken braised with citrus and thyme.
Gies-Düppel Pinot Blanc Sekt 2009 ($16)
Sekt, German sparkling wine, is extremely popular with Germans. This slightly off-dry Pinot Blanc is made in the traditional method at a family winery that now has Volker Gies, the youngest generation of winemakers, at the helm. Elegant with fruit and nut aromatics, it is crisp with fine bubbles and flavours. Clean and fun to drink, you’ll want a second glass with appetizers.
Kranz Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé Brut 2010 ($18)
Only 2000 bottles are made each year by young winemaker Boris Kranz. A pretty pale pink, this fresh sekt has a captivating aroma, fine bubbles and soft flavours that deserve to be invited to brunch.
Heymann-Löwenstein Schieferterrassen Riesling 2009 ($40)
This wet-straw-coloured wine from slate terraces has grapefruit/peach/mineral nose and mineral flavours with a touch of white peach. The slight sweetness, combined with its delicious acidity, makes it an extremely good match for sashimi with a daub of salty-sweet sauce, spicy squid salad and crunchy shrimp in panko.
Gut Hermannsberg Steinterrassen Riesling 2009 ($20)
Stone fruit and stones are the flavours and aromas of this wine, which makes sense as it hails from a stony terraced vineyard. Its flavours and great acidity make it a dance partner to pepper-crusted black cod with miso, spinach and shiitake mushrooms.
Dr Loosen Erdener Treppchen Riesling 2011 ($30)
Pineapple and jasmine aromas are strong and appealing. This is a big mouth-filling wine with lots of freshness and tart pear, jasmine and mineral flavours. A satisfying finish. Beautiful. Tasty with Thai.
*Photo of Oliver and Wilhelm Haag