Take another look at German white wines.

 


German Riesling is a go-to pour for novice and expert wine lovers alike. It’s a wine (one of very few) that bridges generation gaps. Millennials are sipping German Riesling with their parents – and their grandparents, too.

But our zeal for German Riesling can be blinding. There are a ton of terrific German white wines out there that we tend to overlook. I get it – Riesling can be distracting. It is that good. The signature aromas and flavors on a dry German Riesling make palates sing. But here’s the thing:

Germany is producing a bunch of fantastic white wines from a variety of varietals. And they are available in the United States at mind-bogglingly accessible price points. “Are you sure you don’t want to charge more for this?” is the question I’m often asking retailers after trying one of their German bottles.

There are few wine producing nations that can put together a pack of four world-class wines for under fifty bucks. I sampled this pack with Los Angeles-based sommelier/wine director Matthew Kaner during our most recent virtual tasting. Members of the wine media joined in as we tasted through four different German white wine grapes. (Yes, we did include a Riesling.)

There’s a lot to unpack in German wines these days. Here we go, grape by grape.

Müller-Thurgau

This cross between Riesling and Madeleine Royale (a grape that’s hard to find in a varietal bottle) is named for its creator Herman Müller of Thurgau. As Mathew pointed out during our tasting, it is “sophisticated in its simplicity”. It was Germany’s most-planted varietal until the year 2000 when Riesling claimed the title. Lightly aromatic (think florals) with bright peach and citrus fruits, Müller-Thurgau embodies the term ‘easy-drinking’. Drink young with sea-sprayed oysters, light salads, or finger sandwiches.

Featured bottle:

Borell-Diehl Müller-Thurgau 2017, Pfalz

Experience it as one of the four in this pack.

Pinot Blanc

Matthew and I both believe German Pinot Blanc could gain momentum in the coming years. Germany is the world's largest producer of Pinot Blanc for a reason, and plantings within Germany more than doubled between 2000 and 2017. German Pinot Blanc is an approachable, medium-bodied wine that appreciates gentle touches of oak. Spice and tea leaf dance with fleshy white and pink fruit flavors. My first thought was to pair our featured German Pinot Blanc with schnitzel, but Matthew hit on something pretty genius: How about a pork tenderloin made in the apricot marmalade style? That dash of sweetness is a great complement to the wine’s naturally balanced acidity.


Featured bottle:

Koehler Ruprecht Pinot Blanc Kabinett 2016, Pfalz

Experience it as one of the four in this pack.

Pinot Gris

This is the full-bodied, aromatic one in the bunch. Pinot Gris is a mutation of Pinot Noir so it is a darker, richer grape. The wines can look grayish (hence ‘Gris’), pinkish, or even orange; it all depends on the winemaker. Germany is the third largest producer of Pinot Gris in the world. Plantings more than doubled between 2000 and 2017, as demand continues to rise. Pinot Gris is genetically related to Italy's Pinot Grigio – but you can expect something completely different from the German interpretation. Yields are tightly controlled, and the winemaking is executed with great care. Growing demand for German Pinot Gris has inThe bottle featured in our tasting explodes aromatically. Acidity is high. Tangerine pear, green apple and spice cascade across the palate. Pair this with charcuterie and cheese boards or traditional fish dishes.

Featured bottle:

Weinreich Basisweiss Pinot Gris 2017, Rheinhessen

Experience it as one of the four in this pack.

Riesling

Ah, Riesling. It’s Germany’s most planted grape, and we Americans have relished it for decades. But the big story here is dry Riesling. Back in the 1970s, just eighteen percent of German Riesling was produced in a dry style. Nowadays it’s around forty-seven percent, as demand for these mineral-driven gems continues to rise. Riesling aromas are iconic. That petrol note, as I like to call it, is recognized by millions of wine lovers around the world. And the grape is most at home in its native land, Germany. The bottle featured in our tasting exudes a paradoxically soft steeliness. Stone fruits meet zests of lemon and lime. This one brings a notable crisp acidity and solid structure. Pair with Chicken Francese or chickpea curry.

Featured bottle:

Von Winning 'Winnings' Riesling 2015, Pfalz

Experience it as one of the four in this pack

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