Germany Beyond the Label
Posted on March 30 2022
Saying Auf Wiedersehen to the bag, gallop on a thoroughbred, visit the seaside and discover why Germany is usurping Burgundy.
If I had just a pound for everyone who has said, ‘I don’t like German Riesling’ and another pound for everyone who has asked, ‘Is it sweet?’, I would probably be the wealthiest man in London: the James Dyson of The Good Wine Shop, if you like. But would that amount of money make me happy? If the changing attitudes of wine consumers accelerated at the pace of the Dyson business model, I would be ecstatic.
Surely, together we could bust all the myths surrounding Riesling and German wine and quote Dyson by saying, “Goodbye to the bag” irretrievably, whilst drinking German wine for evermore…
Following that ever so slightly desperate plea, I am settling further into my utopian shoegazing trance to introduce you to Bianka and Daniel Schmitt's ‘Wild Pony’ – I found it helped me enjoy the ride even more and create this exciting piece. It is their wildest, funniest, craziest horse of a lo-fi wine and is made from infusing Gelber Muskateller, Pinot Blanc, Silvaner and Pinot Gris. It has aromas of ripe peaches – from gnarly old lichen-coated trees, of course – and flecks of caramelised orange zest and wildflower honey. On the palate it has a prancing acidity; it avoids a potentially leg-breaking kick of tannin and it bears a thick, hirsute, natty mane. Harmonise with mother-nature by trying this skin-contact thoroughbred, even though it is just a pony!
Leaving the hipster brigade to out-hipster one another, how about something more classically structured, like Burgundy… Burgundy, not from Burgundy, but Burgundy from Germany? Burgundy from Germany has a lovely ring to it, does it not?! (Just a side thought Ed, for all those BBC Radio 4 fan boys and girls out there, I’d be hopeless at playing ‘Just a Minute’, wouldn’t I?)
Extinction Rebellion’s campaign to decelerate the increase in plantings of Burgundian varieties in Germany, such as Spätburgunder (aka Pinot Noir), Grauburgunder (aka Pinot Gris) and Chardonnay, has not worked to date. Tongue lodged firmly in cheek, possibly irreversibly, here: such is the emergency that climate change could catastrophically wipe out Riesling by 2100 and I would be devastated for my great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren! (You’ve buzzed in for repetition again, haven’t you?)
However, in the Rheinhessen, the two young activists Knewitz brothers, Tobias and Björn, have embarked on a campaign to make minimal-intervention wine as sustainably as they can. They head up the sommeliers’ ‘most wanted’ list having transformed their family estate and now making some of the greatest Chardonnays in Germany. They rival the equivalently-priced village Côte de Beaune, outdoing Burgundy. Limestone-rich soils, just like the best sites in Burgundy, formed from an ancient coral reef, inform the road sign giving the direction to their winery: ‘To the sea’. Additionally, an upbringing in French oak barriques and a comparable climate, all, naturally, draw comparisons to that great, aforementioned region. (Ed – No-one could buzz in there, could they Nicholas?)
Sticking with trying to out-Burgundy the Burgundians, you really should try this Ahr Valley Pinot Noir from Josten and Klein (in store only). It was my top wine in a recent blind tasting which included some much more expensive wines. The aromas exploded out of the glass and it was perfectly integrated and ready to drink. There is an elegant, ethereal style with super savouriness, notes of red cherry and raspberry, and would match magically with a roast duck or a vegan beetroot bourguignon.
So, next time you are in store or online think about this. Those fancy, recognisable labels all too easily fall into wine baskets without much thought or effort… but if we were all to drink the wine and not the label, the world would be a much more diverse and interesting place, would it not? (I have beaten this same drum before, so buzz now for the repetition!).
Raise a glass of German wine with me and say ‘Prost’.