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The best book on waiting tables that you have never read – yet

Tag Archives: German wines

Cookbook of the day – Wine

Christian Callec

Wine: A Comprehensive Look at the World’s Best Wines

by Christian Callec

  • Publisher  (October 7, 2003)
  • ISBN 10: 0517221659
  • ISBN 13: 978-0517221655
  • This book is one of those books that was designed from the outset to be marketed as a “remainder”, those less expensive books that you find on the budget tables of bookstores. It’s a handy source of wine information, but its great virtue, and the reason that I’m specifically recommending it this morning,  is the copious amount of photos of actual bottles that illustrate the various winemaking regions. Using top producers as visual examples, you’ll get a look at the labels of many great  producers and the bottles that hold their product.  There are plenty of labels in lieu of bottles as well as the usual panoply of vineyard and “behind the scenes” shots.

    Visually, this is real blessing for any dedicated wine enthusiast and is worth digging around for. As of this posting, has about 15 copies in both new and used condition, and they range in price from .99 to $21.95.

    If you want a visual tour of the great bottles of the world, this is your round-trip ticket.

    Wine topic of the day – German wine regions – The Mosel pt. 3

    German wine has a bad rap among some of the wine-drinking public. “Too sweet”, they moan. “I don’t like dessert wines”, others declare.

    In a lot of ways, Germany only has itself to blame. Thanks to the popular brands like Blue Nun and Liebfraumilch, German wines were known as  cheap sweet white wines popular with unsophisticated young people and lovers of white zinfandel. Because of the high yield of Riesling and Müller-Thurgau, they were able to put those two brands in every cheap liquor store’s reach-in cooler.

    But in the 80s, they started to turn this around. And the Mosel region was typical of this German resurrection. Even though they weren’t guilty of the above two wines, they recognized that the easy large yields of Riesling-based wines, coupled with the use of ller-Thurgau and Elbing, diluted the great character that could be achieved in the region. As the wine-drinking public became more sophisticated and discerning in the 80s, this allowed the Mosel wine community to be able to justify pulling up Müller-Thurgau vines and replant with Riesling,while simultaneously thinning the existing vines to cut down the huge yields, all with the aim of increasing quality. Having several of the most recognizable vineyards in history help Mosel hit its stride with the increasingly sophisticated wine public.

    Vintners also started to produce Trocken (dry) styles as well as reducing the sweetness and trying to preserve the natural acidity that Riesling exhibits. They were also given a big shot in the arm by the incredible three years of ’88, 89, and 90.

    Today’sMosels have become far more consistent in their quality, although there are still some that pander to the old style of big, sweet and flabby. You don’t have to buy a Trocken style to get something that works well with food. If the acidity is there and the sweetness backed-off a hair, you can enjoy a Mosel with many dishes. It especially works well with shellfish. It also works well with cheese selections, creamy soups, glazed foods like ham or carrots, Asian foods with spiciness like Thai, Indian, Vietnamese, and certain Chinese dishes.

    Mexican food works somewhat well if you decide that you want to drink wine instead of beer or tequila, and salads but i find that the food is generally a little too heavy for Riesling to work well.

    Obviously most fish dishes work well, although I prefer to pair it with lighter, flakier white fish like grouper, halibut and sea bass, leaving such darker, steakier fish as tuna and salmon to pinot noir and chardonnay. This is just a personal preference though – Riesling works just fine with those fish. Fruit sauces and fruits incorporated in dishes work well, especially when you pair a Riesling with a certain fruit flavor like apple or peach with its corresponding fruit. I tend to avoid using anything less than a Beerenauslese with desserts. Some people like using Auslese with desserts, I’m just not one of those, unless I’m having berries. I just think that there are better choices.

    Avoid heavy meat dishes with rich veal stock-based sauces, but feel free to pair with grilled meats.

    I actually like to drink Mosels by themselves. If they have sufficient acidity, they can be very refreshing, especially in the spring and fall.

    In the next installment, we’ll list some specific wines to look for.

    I hope that these short essays give you the push to dig deeper into the world of wine. Obviously, they are only thumbnail sketches. And, don’t forget, if you’re just getting into waiting tables, or you’ve been in the business for years, your income can depend on how well you can describe and sell the wines that are available to you.


    Picture from the very good wine blog, Rambin’ Wino’s Wine Guide. You can find a well-worded entry from March 29th about pairing Riesling and Asian food here:

    Wine topic of the day – German wine regions – The Mosel pt. 2


    Let’s talk Riesling.

    There are other grapes in Germany, but none with the exalted status of Riesling.

    We were going to discuss Riesling globally. By that, I mean that we were going to talk about the role of Riesling in all of Germany, not just in the Mosel. However, in this installment, we are going to only describe the characteristics of Rieslings from the Mosel and we’ll discuss the other regions as they come up, as I want to keep the installments as short as possible. 

    First of all, let’s put it up there with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc as one of the top white grapes of the world. And it’s the very characteristics of the plant that makes it possible to produce great wines in challenging conditions. Its wood is hard and long-lasting, the grape is late to bud and fairly early to ripen, but it’s not picked until at least October, which allows for a good development of flavor. It’s very frost resistant and has a very high yield without sacrificing quality.

    In earlier years, Riesling represented a far greater percentage of Mosel plantings. However, the amount has been reduced a bit due to an increasing emphasis on quality, as well as in-roads from other grape varieties.

    You’ll find vines planted on the steepest southern slopes of the Mosel. This allows them to get the necessary sun needed to flourish in such a northern climate. Grey flat shale further heats the vineyards.

    Riesling isn’t dominate in all regions of Germany. Baden scarcely bothers with it, for instance, possibly because of the increasing warmness of the climate due to it stretching all the way to Switzerland.

    One of the advantages of Riesling that helps it reduce in its wines the tendency of some sweet whites to veer toward the insipid and flabby is its ability to deliver acidity, although this are the very Riesling characteristics of poor years and bad yield management. And Riesling is particularly terroir dependent. So, you’ll see some differences of wines from the same vineyard that aren’t only the result of different production techniques. fortunately, Germany has had a string of good to great years since the trifecta years of ’88, ’89’ and ’90. Quality declined a bit the next four years, but since ’96, the quality has been very strong.

    So, what can one expect from a very good Riesling? Some of the notes that you can expect are apricot and peach, honeysuckle and apple, orange and lemon zest. Some people describe lychee nut, but frankly, I’m somewhat unfamiliar with what a lychee nut note in wine should taste like. You’ll sometimes see candied fruit bandied around, and, oddly enough, a hint of gasoline isn’t a negative unless it’s overpowering (I can hear you snickering right now). Rieslings can have a tropical fruit overtone to them. They can also emulate figs. The better Rieslings from the Mosel will have a minerally and stony/flinty quality. To my nose, this is wrapped with a hint of sulphur. It’s also common to have spicy, racy notes, with touches of honey and especially floral notes.  But one of the keys to a great Mittelmosel is a slightly oily mouthfeel. It’s hard to describe to someone who has never experienced it, but you’ll know it if you encounter it. In the Upper Mosel (remember, this is the southernmost part of the Mosel which includes the Saar and the Ruwer because “up is down”),you’ll find more deviation from the great balance and acidity that typlifies the Mittelmosel. Saar wines can, on occasion be a bit too acidic, for example. The wines from the Central Mosel are generally more powerful and livelier than their more southern brethern. Downstream from Zell and on to Koblenz, fine wines are made but aren’t nearly as famous as those from the Mittelmosel despite the use of the picturesque name Terrassenmosel, so named because of the extreme steepness of the slopes and the use of terraces. Less acidy and more rounded, there are fine wines to be had from this last stretch of the Mosel.

    Here are four simplified maps of the region, from Upper to Lower. Just to get your bearings,Wasserbillig is on the Luxembourg side of the Mosel and Oberbillig is on the German side.





    All maps are found here and are courtesy of:

    You can find great information about travelling in the region from this web site. this page is in German, but there’s a link at the bottom to their English page.

    Wine topic of the day – German wine regions – The Mosel pt. 1



    Wine has been cultivated in Germany since the Romans left outposts of their advancing armies and created settlements in the Mosel River, Rhine River and Eifel Mountains region. As the vineyards of Germany are about the most northerly of the world’s vineyards, the varieties of grapes that can be commercially grown for wine are limited. This is also the reason why all of the regions are based on rivers, which act as moderating influences, adding humidity, reflected heat and helping to create a variety of micro-climates. There are 13 official wine regions (Anbaugebeit) of which 6 are consider primary, Nahe, Rheingau, Pfalz (formerly known as Rheinpflalz),  Mittlerhein (Middle Rhein), Rheinhessen and Mosel. The other 7 are considered “minor regions” (with the possible exception of Baden, which is, by volume, the third largest wine producing region in Germany), unless of course you’re a fan of those wines or you actually live there. The thing is, those of us in the Northern Hemisphere will rarely, if ever, see any product from those regions. 

    The Anbaugebeit is then divided into different Bereich, or districts. 

    The next official division down from Bereich is Grosslage, which is roughly similar to  the French appellation (although Bereich could also be called similar as well, with Grosslage being an even smaller sub-region such as a town name)  , followed by Einzellage (single vineyard) of which there are approximately 500, less than a fifth of which are of any real significance.

    While there are a few examples of red wine, the predominate grape grown in Germany is white. 

    During this month, we are going to concentrate on each wine-growing region (Anbaugebiete) in Germany, starting with the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region, named for the three rivers that provide the slopes and banks for growing.

    The Mosel, known by the French as the Moselle is a river that runs north from the Vosges Mountains in southeastern France, forming the border between Germany and Luxembourg and finally emptying into the Rhine River at Koblenz.

    The Anbaugebiete Mosel is informally divided into thirds, the Upper, Middle and Lower Mosel, athough there are five official Bereich of which  the Bereich Bernkastel is the best known outside of Germany and of generally higher quality than the other areas . If you’re looking at a map, down is up – remember, the Mosel actually flows north to the Rhine. So, the Lower Mosel is actually at the northernmost part of the Mosel. while theUpper Mosel is at the southernmost German part of the river and also comprises the smaller Saar and Ruwer tributaries. Obviously, the Mittlemosel lies between these two regions, centered between roughly Trier and Zell, with Bernkastel about midway. This is where the Mosel is at its twistiest and carves its most picturesque landscape through the Eifel and Hunsrück Mountains.  This is also where its wines are the most magical. Due to the very steep, grey slate strewn slopes, the sun is captured at its most optimal and the best producers have set up shop there, growing on every patch of sun-soaked slope that it’s possible to get a row of vines planted (many of these slopes have a 26% grade).  This is a map of the section of the river where the greatest vineyards lie and the finest wines are produced:

    mapgermanymosel2Map courtesy of  

    Here you’ll find such famous vineyard names as Doctor, Sonnenuhr, Himmelreich and Würzgarten. But don’t be fooled – a vineyard designation doesn’t necessarily mean that all grapes from that vineyard have the exact same characteristics or quality, as micro-climate is extremely important in German viticulture.

    While other varieties such as Müller-Thurgau and Grauburgunder are grown in the region, it’s Riesling that’s king of the mountain.

    In the next installment, we’ll talk about the characteristics of Riesling. Since Riesling is the predominate grape in all of the major regions in Germany, we’ll discuss it globally, i.e. we’ll address the main characteristics and then discuss the differening characteristics of Riesling in the varied regions, so we don’t have to repeat ourselves as we survey the various regions.