Last month I had the honor and pleasure of sampling some of the great wines of Germany when the “Riesling & Co. World Tour 2012” came to New York and made a stop at 360 in Tribeca. Presented by Wines of Germany, the tasting had been billed as an opportunity to try some of the first samples of the 2011 vintage, but there were a large number of wines from 2010 and other vintages, including some as old as 1989, which was quite a treat. According to the Deutsches Weininstitut, 2011 was a strong year with production being around the ten year average and a 30% increase over the stingy harvest of 2010. Quality from across Germany and across varietals was reported as very good.
Some of my highlights from the tasting – all of which are definitely worth seeking out – included:
- St. Laurentius Sektgut – This was my first stop, and a lucky one at that, since I love to start a tasting with sparking wines. They make méthod traditionnelle Sekt from Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay. While the Riesling and Pinot Noir were very good, I thought the Chardonnay was terrific, deeply flavorful and with a foamy, lasting texture.
- Weingut Dr. Heger/Weinhaus Heger – Represented by Markus Mleinek, their knowledgeable and eloquent winemaker, the stars at this table were the three Spätburgunders (Pinot Noirs), each an excellent representation of the varietal. Weingut Dr. Heger produces a mere 8,000 cases annually and 40% of it is Pinot Noir, so they have developed expertise here.
- Weingut Jean Buscher – A couple of remarkable points. First, this was the only winery to present a Schwarzriesling. Don’t know what that is? Don’t feel bad. I had to look it up. It is the German word for Pinot Meunier, one of the red grapes that is allowed in Champagne. Second, winemaker Jean Raphael Buscher looks so young, I had to return to his table to find out more. Essentially, he was born into a family that has been making wine since 1850. After completing his enology studies in 2008, he returned to work at the family winery. I am sure we will see many more great wines from him. Also, the Weisser Burgunder (Pinot Blanc) is very good: dry, fruity, and flavorful.
- Weingut Eva Fricke – Eva worked for many years at Weingut Leitz (a favorite of mine) and now has her own vineyards and winery. The three excellent Rieslings at the tasting demonstrated depth of flavor and a minerality from the slate-dominated soils in which they are grown.
- Among the other wineries that stood out were Weingut Prinz von Hessen, Domänenweingut Schloss Schönborn, and Weingut Leitz.
While I love Riesling, I enjoyed tasting the other varietals just as much. There are so many stunningly elegant, delicious, food-friendly wines being produced in Germany. More of them need to be brought to market in the US and be stocked in wine shops and restaurants. A good place to start is the Burgundian varietals; Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder), Pinot Blanc (Weissburgunder), and Pinot Gris (Grauburgunder), especially when labeled with their French names, are all well within the US consumer’s comfort zone. Sylvaner, Müller-Thurgau, and Dornfelder will probably take longer to catch on, but hopefully more of them will be imported as well.
The tasting’s organizers offered a generous accompaniment of Asian food, featuring four sushi chefs, who seemed to be continuously putting out more and prettier samples. Certainly a nice nod to what has become conventional wisdom, that German Riesling pairs well with Asian cuisines. I had imagined – perhaps longed for is a better expression – that, if there was any food, it would feature little bratwursts, spätzle, sauerbraten, and sauerkraut, but I certainly was not complaining!
I want to thank Wines of Germany for inviting me to attend this incredible sampling of Germany’s many enjoyable and interesting wines. It was a great presentation and cross-section of what this amazing, and in my opinion, often underrated country has to offer in terms of wine. As the Summer of Riesling 2012 approaches,I look forward to drinking not only more Riesling, but rosés, Sylvaners, Weissburgunders, Grauburgunders, and Spätburgunders as well!