Become a Wine Expert.
The most important secret of German wine is that it is out of fashion and underappreciated, which means you can find very good wines from this country at excellent prices. And as in all wine regions, the best bottles come from the best producers.
German Riesling commanded higher prices than first-growth Bordeaux in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. German wines were considered the finest wines of Europe, but they declined in quality in the twentieth century and are now fighting their way back to a reputable position on the world stage.
German wine tends to be fairly light, racheting up only about 9 percent alcohol by volume.
German wines are generally light in alcohol because the climate is cold. In cold climates, grapes ripen less, developing less sugar for the yeast to convert to alcohol. The cooler conditions also create grapes and wines with higher levels of natural acidity—or sourness. Of course a wine's grape variety or blend also influences its final acidity levels.
The wines of Germany are mainly white and often show some sweetness. However, bone dry wines are increasingly available, particularly at the higher price points.
The word trocken appears on the labels of dry wines while the word halbtrocken is noted on those that are off-dry—or just slightly sweet. If neither trocken nor halbtrocken appear on a label, it's safe to assume the wine is sweet.
Wines labeled with the word trockenbeerenauslese are the German equivalent of the sweet wines of Sauternes in France. The grapes will have been affected by noble rot, imparting that delicious marmalade character on the palate. These wines age beautifully, and are often sold in half bottles. German trockenbeerenauslese wines are more affordable than their French counterparts, and are usually of very good quality. I can't think of a more charming gift.
Wines labeled auslese or beerenauslese will be sweet, with the former sweeter than the latter, but not as concentrated and luscious as trockenbeerenauslese.
Auslese and beerenauslese wines are often made from fruit affected by noble rot—called edelfäule in Germany.
Eiswein is the German equivalent of Canadian ice wine. These wines are made by pressing frozen grapes so the water remains in the form of ice crystals and the juice pressed is a thick nectar-like substance that's incredibly sweet, as is the resulting wine. However, unlike other sweet wines of Germany, these wines rarely show the lovely marmalade character imparted by noble rot.
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