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 Müller-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: