Whisper it quietly but German wines are very much back in vogue, or at least they are amongst the cooler, hip and happening ends of the wine market, particularly amongst younger wine drinkers not exposed to some of Germany’s less flattering exports in the 1970s and 1980s. In fact Germany is enjoying such a renaissance that it can put on a tasting featuring 51 producers (and their 150 plus wines) that are not currently represented in the UK. Producers that have been selected by a pre-tasting panel made up of UK buyers, merchants and sommeliers, some of whom have kindly shared what we can expect at next week’s Get It On tasting on October 25.
If you have some gaping holes on your wine list for German wines then stop all plans and head to Wines of Germany’s Get It On tasting on October 25 and you will be able to fill your boots on wines yet to find a home in the UK.
We all have different reasons for attending generic wine tastings, but pick through them and being able to find something new, and undiscovered is probably high on most people’s list. So on paper Wines of Germany’s Get It On tasting is ideal. It only includes producers that don’t have representation in the UK. But wanting to come to the UK and having the wines that can compete in this market are two different things.
Which is very much what the Get It On tasting is all about. All the wines on show have been pre-tasted and selected by a panel of UK buyers, importers, sommeliers and critics with the brief of only picking out wines that they feel have a fighting chance of working in the UK based on three key criteria; their quality; pricing; and packaging. A panel made up of Nic Rizzi (managing director, Modal Wines), Merlin Ramos (head sommelier, Flat 3), Imogen Bowen-Davies (German buyer, Majestic), Gergely Barsi Szabo (fine wine manager at Bibendum), and wine writer, critic and German specialist, Anne Krebiehl MW.
In all they have picked out 151 wines from 51 producers that they believe can make the grade. There should be something for everyone amongst them as they include:
- 19% organic/biodynamic wines
- a quarter of the wines are made from Pinot Noir
- a further quarter come from ‘other’ white grape varieties like Silvaner, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris
- and 11 of Germany’s 13 wine regions are represented
- there is even one winery that names all its wines after famous pop songs.
Why do you think merchants, restaurants and importers should be finding more space for German wine on their wine lists?
Gergely Barsi Szabo: German wines offer awesome value for a highly developed stunning wine culture that produces wine which totally match this market
Nic Rizzi: There is such a great diversity in German wines. In Riesling alone you have one of the most versatile grapes known to man. Times have changed and one can now find wines from producers that are pushing boundaries whilst respecting old traditions, or even producers completely re-writing the rule book. For people who haven’t delved into the new generations of winemakers I strongly urge that you do. Whatever your style is, I can guarantee there is a German wine for you.
Merlin Ramos: The quality of the wine making would be the one reason for considering German wines on your list.
Imogen Bowen Davies: There is so much variety on offer – from Riesling alone there is so much variety
Anne Krebiehl MW: Because they have inherent flavour and balance and are wonderful for contemporary cuisine.
What styles of German wine do you think are best suited for the UK market?
Rizzi: It all depends on the context. A zesty and aromatic Riesling can be an absolute by-the-glass winner for its versatility, refreshing character, and overall crowd-pleasing qualities. A creamy, leesy Pinot Blanc (Weissburgunder) can hit the spot with certain styles of food, whilst a more left-field, textured, bone-dry, naturally produced Riesling with low to no sulphur and left to undergo malolactic fermentation can really work wonders on pairing menus.
Ramos: Aged Rieslings can often surprise the customer and take them away from the past stigma of overly tight, linear or sharp styles or heavily sweet styles with intense residual sugar. With Aged Rieslings from great producers the complexity and depth you can find is incredible, but for me it’s about the specific producers in all cases.
Bowen Davies: Classic styles – Riesling, Spätburgunder, lesser known varieties; classic grapes, but more experimental techniques.
What makes German wines so different/unique compared to other countries?
Rizzi: Unique is an overused word in this trade. It’s hard to find genuinely unique wines or unique regions anymore. But I don’t think that’s the point. Germany offers world class winemaking looking back on centuries of tradition and a truly distinct identity in its Rieslings. It’s hard to think of a more versatile, age-worthy, complex, and tongue-tingling grape, and Germany still does it best.
Merlin Ramos: It’s about the terroir. The Rheinghau and Mosel are great examples of unique aspects, the ancient and varying slate-based soils and relationship with the river.
Barsi Szabo: Their clean and elegant structure and precision. Simple as that.
Which prices of German wine do you think offer the best value?
Rizzi: I really do believe there is great value to be found at all price points. At the entry level there are some really well made, wonderfully balanced and expressive whites that still show pure varietal character whilst at the premium end you can find some absolute stunners that are up there with the best white wines in the world at a fraction of the cost. Not to mention they will keep getting better and better with time.
Even looking at the sweeter end of the spectrum there are few wines that dazzle as much as German Rieslings can and to be able to find different levels of sweetness in the entry to mid-priced range is less common in other parts of the world.
What trends stood out from you doing the judging that you found the most interesting?
Ramos: The entry level was stronger than I expected, making Germany a strong competitor on the global market against newer European growers of the same varietals.
Barsi Szabo: The quality of the Spätburgunder wines and the field blends.
What is your desert island German wine and what are you eating with it?
Rizzi: It would definitely be a Riesling, probably a very hands-off style produced with minimum intervention for maximum satisfaction. A Staffelter Hof Madcap Magnus 2014 from the Mosel comes to mind (I’m biased, I import it, but it’s truly sensational). Seeing as I’d be a on a desert Island I suppose my pairing options would be limited: fresh fish and wild herbs, with a side of grilled coconut.
Ramos: Pündericher Riesling GG Fahrlay 2006 from Clemens Busch with a buttery mussel sauce and lobster oil. It’s a dish we did for a wine dinner with Clemens at Flat Three and was an outstanding combination.
Any tips on getting the most out of the Get It On tasting?
Rizzi: Come with an open mind and you will be rewarded. There is a wide range of styles on show, from the usual suspects to some true surprises across all price points.
- To find out more information about the Wines of Germany Get It On tasting that takes place on October 25 at the Moonchu Hall in Chinatown in London click here.