Trip to Germany Planned - Printable Version

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- zakam - 10-01-1999 05:28 PM

Hi All, I am new to German wines and my husband will be traveling in Germany in November and would like some direction and advice on buying German wines. We are strong California wine buyers and our cellar is full except for German wines. I do not like a very sweet wine and have been turned off by some of the german wines suggested to my by local salesmen. Any suggestions and/or comments would be appreciated. Thanks, Lori

- Randy Caparoso - 10-02-1999 01:15 AM

Lots of information is available through the German Wine Information Bureau in New York. Their phone number is (212) 896-3336. Address is 245 Fifth Ave., Suite 2204, NY 10016.

The best German wine country guide that I know of is A Traveller's Guide to Germany by Kerry Brady Stewart, published by Interlink Books in New York (you'd have to call information for numbers).

Finally, for a good introduction to the classics, take a peek at my brief summary in the Novices section ("Afraid to Experiment"). It always helps to stick to the best vineyards, which are very well known. As you will find when you get there, virtually all the vineyards in Germany were first planted by the Romans, or at least by the 12th century. Riesling has ruled in the best vineyards since the 18th century. So the best German wines are really no secret; and the great winemaking families still there have generally been in business for 100 to 300 years!

- Thomas - 10-02-1999 08:42 AM

I'd like to add that you will discover how the locals over the centuries learned to pair their cooking with their wines, or the other way round.

Keep an open mind; from dry to sweeter, the German wines are generally delightful food accompaniments.

- Randy Caparoso - 10-02-1999 11:22 AM

Well, one thing I discovered recently about Germany: you'll never eat so much pork and sausages in your life!

In the Mosel, however, I had this great fresh trout in butter (with a Halbtrocken Riesling) at the Marienburg, a restaurant situated on a precipitous loop near Zell with the most breath taking view of the winding, snake-like river and its spectacular vineyards around the postcard pretty town of Piesport. Check it out!

Riesling also goes great with curry; which is why, Johanes Selbach had related to me, the best wine list in the town of Bernkastel is in an Indian restaurant (which I didn't try -- I get enough curry in Hawaii!).

- Thomas - 10-04-1999 07:07 AM

When I was younger, and just learning about wine, I shunned Riesling. Over the past fifteen years I have discovered that it is, perhaps, the most versatile wine on the planet, when it comes both to food pairing and to just sipping for enjoyment.

- Randy Caparoso - 10-05-1999 05:03 PM

Hear, hear! Especially Germany's. I don't care what they say in Alsace, the Clare Valley, or anywhere else. In virtually every "taste test" I've done, German Rieslings turn out to be the crispest, most harmonious, and food friendliest styles of all!

- Thomas - 10-05-1999 06:52 PM

Randy, you are now talking with a guy in the Finger Lakes, and he begs to differ on that one. (Bucko will be on my side on this; right Bucko?) Hell, maybe even JDM will agree that FL Rieslings are quite superior products, and that they stand right up there as food friendly as any German Riesling.

And many FL producers charge less money than the Germans, you just can't find the wines outside of New York State.

- Robban - 10-06-1999 02:43 PM

Zakan, You will find that these days they are concentrating on more on producing dryer wines. Unfortunate for me but good for you.

Randy is of course right in saying that you get the best at the best vinyards (what else) but don't exclude other visits. I have found excellent wines in the smaller places, friendly people willing to show you quite a lot when they realize you appreciate their work. Doesnt matter if you are buying a bottle, a case or a car load. There is a lot of good wine not always found on the wine lists they will show you. Show interest in quality and they will show you quality.

Books? The best are in German, of course. Far from all vinyards speak English so brush up on your German or bring a friend.

While most of the wine districts are well known It may be of interest to drive west to the Dresden area where you will find the often ignored Elbtal district, ignored in that this was EAST Germany until recently. Not many Rieslings there if that is what you are after. Muller-Thurgau is predominant. I cant say I have found great wines there - but I think they have potential. And anyway, its fun over there. Take a look in Dresden while you are there, finally being refurbished after the fire bombings of '45.

Drive down to Pfalz and follw the "Deutsch Weinstrasse" and you will find many many good and great wines and many fine memories.

October is the big tourist month - and the harvest is goung on at the same time so most vinters cant show you around. November is also pretty hectic.

Take your time and you will have a great trip.

I'm not the expert that some of the good folks in this group are - so they can give you better wine advice. Travel advice I CAN give you having been there many many times. Need some names, just drop a line private or put it in the group and i'll see what I can do.

Good luck.

To Foodie: If FL is charging less than the Germans on site I feel sorry for you people not making any money. Raise your prices and you WILL find them outside of NY State!

- Thomas - 10-06-1999 07:01 PM

Nah, in the FL two problems exist: not enough product and not enough marketing savvy.

The locals are making money on the price of Riesling, at home. They get the full retail price at the tasting room having bypassed the wholesaler's take, but they also have no market outside the state, which means their growth potential is limited -- many of them do not think bigger than that, but they do produce absolute wonderful Rieslings, from dry to late harvest, with a couple of ice wines thrown in.

As for your travel advice in Germany, wish I had some cash lying around so I could follow it...

- Randy Caparoso - 10-06-1999 10:14 PM

Foodie: You are, of course, speaking sacrilegiously. I have never tasted a Finger Lakes Riesling, and so I can only go by what my palate tells me -- and by what Hugh Johnson and zillions of other Riesling lovers say.

- Thomas - 10-07-1999 07:06 AM

Randy, I never clocked you for a guy who believes only what others tell him...
I'll bet Hugh Johnson hasn't tasted a FL Riesling.

Did you know that two FL Rieslings recently won high awards in Alsace, against Alsatian Rieslings? Vinifera Wine Cellars and Fox Run are the winery's names. And of course, not that I subscribe, but the Wine Expextorant or Wine Enthusiastic, can't remember which, gave Glenora Rieslings truly high grades -- and that wine even persuaded Bucko to sing FL Riesling praises.

Send me your address and I shall see if I can find an intrepid winery or two to send you samples. I know some would love to sell to a restaurant out your way, if feasible.

- Randy Caparoso - 10-10-1999 03:51 AM

Well, I was talking about German Rieslings; not to be confused with Alsatians, which do not even come close to the German classics in overall finesse, grace and delicacy (the top Alsatian Rieslings are much harder, firmer, and aggressive -- but of course, elegant in their own way). But still, any Riesling looking favorable in that context doesn't say much to me; so I'd have to withold judgement until I see for myself.

- Thomas - 10-10-1999 09:27 AM

True enough, I was just pointing out that the FL Rieslings can compete on the world stage. And I happen to like both German and Alsatian for their own reasons, of course.

In fact, you find with FL Rieslings often an acid/fruit relationship different from many German ones, if only for the climate differences. But for sure, aged FL Rieslings become quite Germanic (petroleum and all). One producer whose young and old Rieslings can be the closest in Germanic style is Vinifera Wine Cellars on Keuka Lake. That winery is the legacy of Dr. Konstantin Frank, the European pioneer of East Coast vinifera plantings.

FL styles run the full range of Riesling possibilities--even sparkling wine -- which is of course what makes the grape so wonderful, all those style possibilities.

OK Randy, so when are you planning to taste the FL Rieslings? Glenora is on this forum at times. Perhaps the winery can get you some Riesling -- trade to trade. If I take care of the transaction, you are likely to have to drum up money for my defense in court, what with all the madness going on about felony laws and such. And Glenora: where is my commission?

- Randy Caparoso - 10-11-1999 12:45 AM

Is there some kind of FL wine association. If so, perhaps they can get a sampler pack mailed to me; c/o Roy's Restaurant, 6600 Kalanianaole Hwy., Honolulu, HI 96825. Tasting is believing!

- Thomas - 10-16-1999 08:58 AM

Have you got that, Glenora?

- glenora - 10-20-1999 02:26 PM


I have been traveling so just caught up with this--I expect that since Halloween is coming up I can find a witch or two to make a delivery--so consider it done