Archive for the ‘Germany’ Category

Great Growth! BJ’s Now In Richmond!

February 28, 2012

Grosses Gewächs, the great growth-grand cru wines of Bassermann-Jordan have popped up in our city.  Now is everyones chance to drink something that represents the top tier of all German wines.

Grosses Gewächs, GG, are classified terroir driven wines from single vineyard sites that have historically produced exceptional fruit.  These sites need to be approved by members of the Verband Deutscher Qualitäts- und Prädikatsweingüter (V D P).

“The Association of German Quality and Prädikat Wine Estates”

The wine growers associated with this group must practice organic and sustainable farming, only use grapes associated with the area, must farm low yields, cannot chaptalize, and can only use natural wine making techniques.  They are all about the preservation and acknowledgement of Germany’s finest vineyard sites.  To be a member of this association growers have to be voted in.  Right now there are only about 200 members that have the right to label their wines with the V D P insignia.

There are over 10,000 wine producers in Germany, this does not mean V D P wines are the be all end all.  Many fantastic growers choose not to fool around with this association (look at wines from the Mosel!).  Still wines with the Grosses Gewächs-GG label will most likely give you an ass kicker of a Riesling!

2009 Bassermann-Jordan Jesuitengarten Riesling Grosses Gewächs.  $65 (gulp).  Imported by Magellan Wine Imports.

The Jesuitengarten vineyard has been a source for wine since the 18th century.  Once owned by the church, the 7 hectare site is now divided between several different estates.  The soil is made up of sandy clay with lime, sandy loam with limestone shingle and basalt.  The wine is full bodied, highly complex and elegant.  This is Bassermann-Jordan’s most prestigious offering and will reward those with the will to age it for a few decades.  Fans of Grand Cru Burgundy take note.

2009 Bassermann-Jordan Trocken QBA Riesling.  $20 (much better).  Imported by Magellan Wine Imports.

This basic, high-level wine is sourced from 20 different vineyards along the Rhein river valley.  Trocken means dry.  Tongue piercing acidity is balanced by apple and pear fruit, it is lively and fresh and will pair with anything.  Try it with a hot dog.

The labels of Bassermann-Jordan have a lot in common with the Virginia State flag…

Here is Attorney General and Defender of Freedom Ken Cuccinelli’s redesigned Virginia friendly label…

A Salute to the Liter!

November 2, 2011

Did you know that there are a lot of big bottles of Riesling out there?  Big liter bottles! 1000 milliliters, that’s 250 more milliliters, meaning you get a whole extra serving of juice!  The best part, they cost about the same as a regular size 750 ml bottle!  Let’s hear it for quantity!

This isn’t jug wine, this is thoughtful and versatile wine from the most noble grape of them all, from one of the best wine producing areas in the world.

2010 Weingut Günther Steinmetz Riesling. $18.  Imported by Mosel Wine Merchants.

From the village of Brauneberg in the Middle Mosel (Mittemosel) Stefan Steinmetz grows and hand harvests this entry level Riesling from two steep vineyard sites, Mandelgraben and Sonnenlay.  The gray and blue slate rich soil produced a big and nervy wine from the  2010 growing season with more than usual high levels of acidity that stand against its powerful must weight.  Ripe and mineral, this exceptional delight will make any breaded and pan-fried meal all the much better.

2010 Weingut Klemens Weber Riesling Halbtrocken. $13. Imported by Potomac Selections.

The Pfalz region is the second largest wine region in Germany and one of the warmest.  The summers are long and hot with some vineyards reaching a near Mediterranean like climate.  The Haardt Mountains protect vines from frost in the winter.   Needless to say ripeness is not much of a problem here.  Though Riesling is the most planted grape you will also find a large amount of the easy to grow Müller-Thurgau.   Other varieties that thrive include Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) Scheurebe, Weißburgunder (Pinot Blanc) and Traminer.

Weingut Klemens Weber is located in the village of Burrweiler on the outskirts of the Palatinate Forest.  The combination of sunny weather and the well draining sand, stone and clay soil make the wines reliably fruity, fresh and harmonious. The nose is tropically herbal and a little grassy.  You might need more than a liter.  If you happen to be in the town of Burrweiler you can stay with the Weber family and rent one of their rooms for 50 € a night.  They might even give you some free wine.

2009 Weingut Darting Dürkheimer Nonnengarten Riesling Kabinett. $18. Imported by Michael Skurnik Wines.

Kurt Darting also located in the Pfalz, farms 17 hectares of vineyard area with some recently acquired Grand Cru sites. Though most known for his Rieslings he also produces Weissburgunder,  Rieslaner,  Scheurebe,  Portugieser, Muskateller ,Ortega, Spätburgunder
and even Chardonnay  (not all German wines are Riesling).  Total production is around 12,500 cases.  Low in alcohol, plump and piquant, this wine is meant for the long haul against salty and savory dishes.

These wines are meant for everyday drinking and are an easy way to introduce yourself to the wonderfully complicated world of German wines.  They are easily accessible, both in taste and on the wallet and they aren’t so weird and austere to scare you back to oaky Chardonnay.  What’s cooler than a liter of Riesling?

How to Decipher German Wine Labels

April 21, 2011

“I don’t read German!  How the hell am I supposed to know what I’m drinking?”

The Germans produce some of the best wines in the world and the language of their labels can give you a pretty good indication of what’s in the bottle.  It can be complicated and confusing but also endlessly fascinating, a wine region so vast and varied cannot be generalized by some kind of simplification.

For the most part you will encounter two categories of wines…

Qualitätsweine mit Prädikat (QMP)

“Quality wines with special attributes”

This refers to ripeness levels in grapes, or at what stage the grapes are picked.

Kabinett-lightest wines, first picked from the main harvest.

Spätlesea bit fuller bodied, means “late Harvest”.

Auslese-very ripe, “select harvest”,sometimes the grapes have the noble rot-super concentrated sugars (botrytis).

Beerenauslese (BA)-grapes are affected with botrytis, made into dessert wines.

Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA)-“dry berry selection”, overly ripe, dried up raisony grapes reserved for powerful dessert wines.

Eiswein-made from grapes of at least a Beerenauslese ripeness that have been naturally frozen on the vine.

Within this category you will see…

Trocken-meaning “dry” meaning all of the sugar has been fermented into alcohol.

Halbtrocken-meaning “Half dry” or not all of the sugar has been fermented into alcohol.

So you might see a “Kabinett Trocken” label indicating it is light and dry.  Or “Spätlese Halbtrocken” meaning full bodied and rich.  Sometimes you will come across “Auslese Trocken”, bone dry, tart and steely.

Qualitätsweine mit Prädikat (QMP) wines cannot have the artificial addition of sugar (chaptalization).

The other category…

Qualitätswein (QBA)

“Quality wine”

The wines are from a specific wine-growing region with approved grape types.  These wines may be chaptalized (the good producers don’t).  Generally meant for everyday enjoyment.  Trocken and Halbtrocken appear on these labels as well.

Finally got that all figured out but… “What about all that VDP nonsense?  What do those letters mean?  I don’t see the above stuff on those labels as much?”

Verband Deutscher Qualitäts- und Prädikatsweingüter (V D P)

“The Association of German Quality and Prädikat Wine Estates”

The wine growers associated with this group must practice organic and sustainable farming, only use grapes associated with the area, must farm low yields, cannot chaptalize, and can only use natural wine making techniques.  They are all about the preservation and acknowledgement of Germany’s finest vineyard sites.

You will find three catagories here…

Gutsweine (house wines), labeled with a proprietary, village or regional name.

Klassifizierte Lagenweine (wines from a classified/superior vineyard site), labeled with a vineyard site name.

Erste Lage (wines from a top site-Grosses Gewächs-“Great Growth or Grand Cru” look for the “GG”), labeled with a vineyard site name and the super vineyard site logo…

either in print or embossed on the bottle.

Some examples and some further notes…

“Selbach-Oster” is the wine estate. “Zeltinger” is the town, “Schlossberg” is a single vineyard site.  “Riesling” is the grape.  “Kabinett” is the level of ripeness.  You can see that it is a “Qualitätsweine mit Prädikat (QMP)” wine. “Gutsabfüllung” is a very important word, it means “Estate Bottled”.  “Weingut” means winegrower, also important. “D-54492 Zeltingen” is the address of the estate.  “L-AP. NR 2 606 319 011 07” is the official tasting number that indicates where the wine was approved, what village the producer comes from, the code number of the wine grower, the wine growers application number and what year it was approved. Then under that you see some shit about sulfites.  “Mosel-Saar-Ruwer” is the wine growing region where this wine comes from, Mosel is the main river, Saar and Ruwer are tributaries.  The “9,5 % vol” tells us there is some residual sugar in the bottle (a fully fermented dry wine will be around 11-12 %).

You can see the same language on Peter Lauer’s bottle.  “Steillage” means steep vineyard sights, “Handverlesen” means handpicked.  You won’t see these terms on many wine labels.  Peter Lauer happens to be a super star.  Notice “Qualitätswein”.  The “alc 12% vol” means this wine is not going to have much residual sugar.

“QMP”.  Müller-Catoir has been growing wines since 1744.  They are part of the VPD business.  This wine is labeled with a superior site name.

Emrich-Schönleber is also part of the VPD.  This is one of their entry level “house wines”.  “Trocken” means dry. “Nahe” is the region.

“Ratzenberger” is the estate.  “Steeger St. Jost” is a single vineyard site, “Spätlese” ripeness, “Trocken”, fermented dry.

“Feinherb”????  -A term that means the wine is trapped between Halbtrocken and Trocken.  You don’t see it very often.  Basically the wine has some sugar but the acidity is very prevalent.
Just for fun here is a Riesling from the French side (It’s all the same wine growing area).  “Alsace” is the place, in Alsace they alway label the grape varietal.  “Herrenweg” is a single vineyard site.  “Mis en bouteille au Domaine” or “Estate Bottled”, is super important in French wines, it means that the same person grew the grapes and made the wine.  You can also see Barmes’s address.  A real couple of people are responsible for this wine!

This wine comes from a place, “Rheinhessen” and has some guys name on it.  It tells you that it is “Refreshing Crisp” and “White”.  It doesn’t tell you much else.  What does “Sichels Superiour Vinification” mean?  What are they vinifying?  How are they vinifying it?  Blue Nun is sold in over 100 countries around the world.  The United Kingdom alone consumes 5 million bottles of the stuff a year.  This brand and several others like it have helped hurt Germany’s wine image.  Stay away from Blue Nun.

German wines are meant for people with higher IQ’s.  It is a fact.  Smart people drink them and by drinking them you become smarter.  When reading German wine labels– or any region’s wine labels– the most important thing to look for is who grew the grapes and where, and who turned the grapes into wine.

How to pronounce German Wine!

March 1, 2011

From   ( doy-chuh-vine )

Welcome to Richmond Wine Culture

February 27, 2011

There are a lot of ways to make wine.

The number of methods makes it seem like wine can be made anywhere in the world. One can easily create a vineyard on a plot of land (away from trees) with well-prepared soil (through tilling, weeding and composting) that has good drainage and a steady flow of water (either by rain or irrigation) ample sun (from Spring through Fall) and enough dry air (or chemical spray) to keep rot and mold away.

If owning and maintaining a vineyard is too costly or labor intensive, one can easily source grapes from differnet growers and have the fruit delivered
to his/her newly constructed, state of the art winery. There, one can fill the mechanical hopper and crusher-destemmer (to separate leaves and twigs and such) to prepare the grapes for a brief, chilly stay in a heat exchanger.  After this, the grapes will get blasted with sulphur dioxide (to prevent fermentation and to slow down oxidation) then move on to a full-on mechanical stomp in a pneumatic press to produce the juice. The juice is then pump pump pumped into settling tanks (add some carbon dioxide in gas form) and then pumped again into the fermentation tanks.

Added here are some specially selected yeast strains intended to impart special characteristics into the finished wine.

The colder the fermentation, the fruitier and more aromatic the wine; the hotter the fermentation, the quicker the tanks can be refilled with the next batch. From there, the wine can be refined in new, more costly oak barrels, or, to keep it cheap, oak chips and saw dust can be thrown into the fermenting wine. After a run through the sheet filtration system the wine is ready to be bottled and slapped with a label!

These are generalized steps of course. One can easily buy the juice already crushed to ferment at will, or buy finished wine and manipulate anyway wanted. The easiest way to make wine, though, is to hire a consulting oenologist to do it all…

There are ways to grow wine, as well.
Wine is an agricultural product and comes from longstanding cultural traditions. Many Artisan growers uphold responsible farming and reflect a sense of place through their wines. When wine is grown rather than constructed, the process honors the land, natural growing cycles, and the integrity of heritage. And, it often tastes better, offering more complex and fresh flavors.

Richmond has access to all kinds of beautiful, real wines. Richmond Wine Culture will let you know where to find these special wines in local shops and restaurants. Join us online for discussions with wine distributors, restraunteurs, and wine shop owners to explore our city’s wine culture. Here, you will find information about noteworthy wine events around town (and notes on which tastings to avoid.)  To thoughtfully think about wine, Richmond Wine Culture will not provide unclear tasting notes like “Stewed gooseberries” or “Asian-spice box” or “Peruivan tree bark” or other ultimately senseless descriptors.  Instead, we’ll talk about how a wine is used to complement cuisine. Richmond Wine Culture will explore off the beaten path wine regions and direct you to wines that celebrate those regions.  We’ll cover the best ways to enjoy these special wines.

We look forward to tasting with you!